Connecting the Capital District: Local initiatives to provide pedestrian paths spring up

The Capital District is on the right path.

Connecting local municipalities together along with parks, riverfronts and other recreational areas by means of trails, bike paths and pedestrian pathways has become the norm in the area.

Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady counties all have initiatives to provide residents with walkable communities and have even started creating countywide pathway programs and inter-county pathway exchanges.

Pathway proponents say they improve the quality of life and provide affordable recreational opportunities, especially during an economic downturn when recreation often takes a backseat to heating one's home and putting gas in the car.

However, critics lament who exactly is going to pay for public pathways, especially during the same economic downturn when pedestrian works often take a backseat to paving municipal roadways, water plant upgrades, and other essential infrastructure projects.

Many local officials seek out grants, not-for-profit organization donations, and work with neighboring communities and county government to bring their pathway priorities to fruition.

Public safety has also been a concern with the local trail and bike paths, not only with the pedestrians taking advantage of them, but also with neighboring residents whose properties may border them.

Most of the paths incorporated by individual municipalities focus on recreational uses, but some towns, such as Colonie, Clifton Park and Niskayuna, are aiming to reduce vehicle traffic on busy roadways by creating pedestrian-friendly pathway plans that allow residents to walk to nearby amenities and local businesses.

Town officials contend it improves traffic flow and quality of life, but at the same time supports local businesses and promotes economic development.

Colonie drafted a pathway plan in March, which was prepared by the town's planning and economic development department and identified multi-use pedestrian paths as an important goal for the town.

According to the report, It very quickly became apparent that sidewalks are only one component of how people move about in the town without the use of a car. Children are bicycling to school, the trails of the Crossings of Colonie have become an important connector between Wolf Road and the neighborhoods to the north, south and east of the park, and workers use the Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail to bicycle to work.

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