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NYS Assemblywoman Pat Fahy introduces package of bills to improve statewide trail access

New York Assemblywoman Pat Fahy speaks at Corning Preserve on November 16, 2023.
Alexander Babbie
New York Assemblywoman Pat Fahy speaks at Corning Preserve on November 16, 2023.

A Capital Region state Assemblymember is introducing legislation aimed at growing and improving statewide trail access.

Speaking at Corning Preserve in her 109th District Thursday, State Assemblywoman Pat Fahy says the “Greenway Trails For A Green Future” package will modernize and expand the statewide bicycle trail system, and provide for additional safety measures for riders. The Democrat notes the pandemic made people want to be outside, with more than 4.75 million riders on the 750-mile Empire State Trail in 2022 alone.

“It brings millions of dollars and has a huge multiplier effect into our local economies, launches businesses along the trail, and as well as many entrepreneurial ventures. Our New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli estimated that our outdoor recreation provides $21 billion and 240,000 jobs each year.”

The package seeks to provide for improved pedestrian and cyclist safety, expands the state’s trail systems, and addresses trail detours.

Fahy says better detour signage will be required, especially considering worsening weather.

“When the Dunn Memorial Bridge was out, pedestrians had no signage there for safer detours. We authorized the development of recreational trails along powerline corridors, which is critically important because we have these power lines often going through some of our most scenic areas and we can take full advantage of that to build better multi use trails there, and expand upon what we already have,” Fahy said.

Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Parks and Trails New York, says greenway trails are the spines communities use to build out local bikeway networks.

“It's a great way to build more wildlife refuges, outdoor recreation and tourism, economic development, right? From Middletown to Medina, communities are leveraging the economic development power of building their local economies, not just with tourism, right? Location, location, location, location,” Steely White said.

Ed Brennan, President of the Albany Bicycle Coalition, says it’s especially important as cars become more expensive.

“Many of our neighbors cannot afford motor vehicles or choose eco-friendly bicycling and active transportation over indebtedness. In 2019, the Capital Region transportation council released its capital district trails plan, it looked to expand the 89-mile hodgepodge of multi-use trails that we had, and bike routes in Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga counties into a 289-mile network of 18 connected trails. Some progress has been made. But we need legislation like the Green Trails for a Green Future act to facilitate funding and siting,” Brennan said.

Robyn Haberman, AARP’s Associate State Director of Community Engagement for New York, says the project provides critically needed open spaces.

“Expanding access to outdoor spaces would benefit New Yorkers of all ages and abilities. And it would also help New York further their commitment as the first state to join the World Health Organization and AARP network of age-friendly states and communities in making all of our regions more livable for people of all ages,” Haberman said.

Albany City Treasurer Darius Shahinfar says it builds on previous efforts, including the installation of a walking trail in the Tivoli Lake Preserve, connecting it with Livingston Ave and Patroon Creek.

“We created the city's first physically separated two-way cycle trail in the South End connector. Just this past summer we announced a new phase of the project that will add public amenities like better seating and outdoor gym space and designated spaces for food trucks and pop-up events,” Shahinfarr said.

Brennan rode his bike to the conference, and says he doesn’t own a car.

“My wife lost her car, and I decided, well, I'm gonna try to bike to work. And not only was I able to do it, but it saved us a car payment for 12 years. I was able to pump that money into my retirement and retire early. So it was a it was a it was a great bonus for me,” Brennan said.

He says that saved him well over $100,000.

He’s retired now, and has kept going.

“I had three different routes, I could make it if I was in a hurry, I could get there in five and a half miles going to, not from, like 10 miles. But typically, I would leave extra early just because I liked the ride to work so much that I could ride two miles the wrong direction, so I can enjoy the ride down the Empire, down the trail, the Albany County Rail Trail and along the Empire State Trail to get down here. And I would get into work. And I would be so much more at ease than all the people that were coming to work that were competing coming down the Northway and the like, and I would get there early. I was always the first guy there,” Brennan said.

“I always prefer rail trails and bike trails to stay away from cars and stuff," said Stephen Blosser, an Albany resident and avid biker. "I don't feel like I need to wear my helmet. I take it easy. I get to enjoy myself, enjoy the day. And my dog just loves to run with me,” Blosser said.

Blosser says normally he would bike to the Florida Keys and winter there, but this year, with a dog in tow, that’s not as feasible.

Other measures in the package would establish crosswalk right of way for trail users and would allow Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program- CHIPS- funding on greenway construction and maintenance.

Governor Kathy Hochul’s office says the Democrat will review the legislation should it pass both houses of the legislature.

A 2022 Siena College graduate, Alexander began his journalism career as a sports writer for Siena College's student paper The Promethean, and as a host for Siena's school radio station, WVCR-FM "The Saint." A Cubs fan, Alexander hosts the morning Sports Report in addition to producing Morning Edition. You can hear the sports reports over-the-air at 6:19 and 7:19 AM, and online on WAMC.org. He also speaks Spanish as a second language. To reach him, email ababbie@wamc.org, or call (518)-465-5233 x 190. You can also find him on Twitter/X: @ABabbieWAMC.