It’s no secret The City Of Utica has become one of my favorite hidden gems in New York State. Great people, terrific food and a local pride that is unwavering despite decades of economic hardship make it a regular stop for this urbanist.
I have, however, been openly critical of the lack of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in Utica, a city that begs to be a pedestrian paradise. Everything is in relatively close proximity and the major attractions and neighborhoods are only a mile or two apart.
While I’ve said many positive things about the city of Utica, I have to give it the dubious award for the worst bike lane I’ve ever seen.See that little solid green stroke with the red marker in the upper right hand part of the map? That, my friends, is downtown Utica’s only bike lane, which is just the first humorous part of this on-road disaster that is a few hundred feet of offramp glory. Yes, I said offramp.Here is the bike lane beginning as the offramp breaks away from Genesee Street over the Utica train yard. The irony of this Google Maps photo is that even the cyclist in the image wants nothing to do with the bike lane and chooses the sidewalk. But this gets better…Near the bottom of the exit ramp, the bike lane spontaneously disappears into a turning lane.Then, as if out of thin air, the bike lane resumes for a few more feet before ending again at the intersection with Whitesboro Street. And for the finale, the last few feet of the vanishing lane is blocked by an orange traffic barrel. So if you don’t get clobbered by a car speeding down the exit ramp, or a vehicle making a right turn into the disappearing bike lane, you’ll have tons of fun when you finally get to the bottom of the ramp and smash into a glorified road cone.
This is not a “shame on you” post about Utica, rather it’s a snarky “we can do better” plea for all cities to appreciate that this kind of design is not bike or pedestrian infrastructure. The fact is, there are bike and pedestrian disasters like this in nearly every city, this is simply one of my favorite, because it really is, sorry to say, a bit of a humorous piece of worthless infrastructure.
Let’s strive to design pedestrian and cycling amenities that are efficient, purposeful and prioritize the safety and comfort of people, not cars. It’s not how many feet of crosswalk we have, or how many miles of bikes lanes we boast, it’s how much these work to create an environment in which people want to use them.