Hudson Valley cycling WordPress weblog

unhappy trails

  Here in the mid Hudson Valley we have reached an interesting milestone in trail development.With the opening of the Hudson Valley Rail Trail phase 2 east extension,to the west end of the Walkway,October 2,2010,and the opening of the pase 3 southern section of the Dutchess Rail Trail during the Memorial day weekend last year,the paved trailways of the old Maybrook line have become more popular than ever before.The phase 2 section of the Dutches RT,here in Poughkeepsie, remains an isolated 2.4 mile segment from the northern terminus at Morgan Lake to Overocker Rd.This part of the trail,which opened in 2009 before the opening of the Walkway Over The Hudson,will soon be linked to the 8.3 mile southern section.Phase 4 will involve the construction of a bicycle/pedestrian trail bridge over SR 55. Construction will begin this year.At the completion of this phase,the Dutchess RT,as originaly planed,will be complete.

The melee on the trailway

turbo jocks and diva at the east end of the Walkway

  We have also reached another interesting milestone due to the popularity of the area multi use trailways.Trail etiquette and safety has become enough of an issue that Fred Schaeffer has recruited me to help with this issue.I had been riding the Hudson Valley RT for a number of years and have not seen,or have heard of,any problems.Of course this was on the original 1997 section and was before the opening of the Walkway,and the phase 2 east extension.In those pre-Walkway days of the HVRT,there were not as many users of the trail as there are now.When phase 2 of the Dutchess RT opened here in Poughkeepsie,just before the Walkway,and I went for my first rides on this section of the rail trail,I was not ready for the number of people on the trail and the chaotic free-for-all ‘melee on the trailway’.It was a far cry from the well manered,orderly experience I had riding the Burke-Gilman RT in Seatle WA,26 years before.This was actualy my first experience of riding a rail trail.It would seem there have been problems with the more experienced fast bicycle riders,those I term as ‘turbo jocks’ and ‘turbo divas’.These riders are the racer wanabes who show up for a ride on a shared use trailway,with a carbon fiber pro team uber racing bike and are wearing enough Spandex to be extras for a certain superhero musical on Broadway.They use the rail trail for team time trials and seem to regard pedestrians as a nuisance.As reported in the Winter 2011/2012 issue of the Hudson Valley RT Association’s newsletter “Signals”(page 6 “New Signs Have Been Added to Rail Trail”) in regards to cyclist-pedestrian conflicts,there have been “near brushes and at least one collision with a pedestrian”. I should point out here that the bicycle in this state is regarded as a vehicle, and the cyclist that had collided with the pedestrian should have as per (Sec. 1230) of the NY state vehicle code have been given a traffic ticket for failure to yield to a pedestrian and possibly unsafe operation of a vehicle.

Hudson Valley Rail Trail Association’s sign alerting cyclists to pedestrians

  There is another group of experienced cyclists who may be causing trouble.The agressive,rules-are-not-for-me,’hot dog’ mountain biker.I actualy had an encounter with this type of rider,but not on any of the area trails and trailways.The encounter happened on the FDR Mid Hudson bridge north side pedestrian sidewalk about 5 or 6 BW (before Walkway).This bridge has a walk bicycle rule.As with the Dutchess RT years later at No. Grand Ave.,I had noticed skid marks at the east end of the bridge sidewalk.At the east end there is an old toll house and one has to move to the left and go through a very narrow archway to exit the sidewalk and brige.One day as I aproached this east end toll house,I heard the sound of a whistle behind me.I turned to look behind me and saw a mountain biker riding relatively fast toward me.I scrunched up against the railing along the roadway to allow the cyclist to pass.I then realized who may have created the skid marks.I think I may have seen this person on another ocasion at about the same time and so I had surmised that he may have been riding to work.In all likelihood he is no longer using the FDR Mid Hudson Bridge as part of his daily bicycle commute route.Want to guess which bridge he may be using now?

In New York State, all bicyclists under the age of 14 years old are required to wear safety certified bicycle helmets when they are operators or passengers on bicycles (Sec. 1238(5)). Children aged 1 to 4 must wear certified bicycle helmet and ride in specially designed child safety seats. Children under 1 are prohibited from being transported on a bicycle (Sec. 1238(1)(2)). Any parent or guardian who permits his or her child to violate the helmet law is subject to a fine of up to $50 (Sec. 1238(3),(6)(a)). – from the DOT website

  At the other end of the spectrum,cycling wise,are the inexperienced ‘newbie’ cyclists.They have very little,if any,experience riding public motor vehicle roads.They ride the rail trails for a ‘safe haven’ from the motor vehicles on the public roads and highways. Indeed these riders seem to have a genuine fear and disdain for the public motor vehicle roads.I remember one day at the east end of the Walkway, here in Poughkeepsie,seeing a family of cyclists wandering about looking lost and confused.I aproached the father.He had asked me where the Dutchess RT was.I should point out,the big signs at either end of the Walkway,with the map showing the nearby connecting trails,contributes to this confusion.The maps,which were in place when the Walkway opened in 2009,seem to show a future time,like 2015,when the rail trails on both sides of the Hudson are complete and are connected to the Walkway at either end. I then gave the father verbal directions,via public roads shared with motor vehicles,to the Morgan Lake trailhead on Creek Rd.His reaction was like as if I had sugested to him a ‘scenic’ bike ride in downtown Bagdahd or Afganastan.I had ofered to lead the way but he declined my offer.Without the cycling skills acquired operating their vehicle on a public road shared with motor vehicles,the perceived ‘safe haven’ on the rail trail might not be that safe.Without the proper skills they can be a danger to themselves and others on the trail. We (colectively) avid, experienced cyclists should set an example and be the educators for these riders.Of course,the best way for these ‘newbie’ cyclists to get the road riding,and even off road,skills needed is to participate in an organized group ride.


my proposed ‘SHARED USE TRAILWAY” signs to warn non-cyclists to cyclists or cyclists to other users of the trailway

close up of the Walkway east gate silhouette metal art depicting the multiple users
of the pedestrian bridge

  I had met with Fred Schaeffer on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at his law office in Arlington,town of Poughkeepsie.I had told him that I am well aquainted with trail etiquette from my XC skiing adventures (and mis-adventures),and so trail etiquette comes naturaly for myself wether skiing a back country trail in the Catskills,or riding my bicycle on a paved rail trail.One of the interesting things he had told me,was that he had a number of non-cyclists express their surprise that cycling is allowed on the Walkway.I had told him I have had the same experience.It would seem the non-cyclists are not paying attention as well.If they were to have looked up at the top of the bridge entry gate,they would have known that cycling is one of several activities for the Walkway Over The Hudson.Of course,there is the name of this 120+ year old re-purposed RR bridge, which is exclusive to a single activity – walking.If only way back when,the name for the organization and the re-purposed RR bridge had been given a more generic,non-exclusive to one activity,name.Perhaps “Skyway Over The Hudson”? I had told Mr. Schaeffer that we (colectively) avid cyclists must be the ones setting an example for all other cyclists.I had asked him if he had contacted the Mid Hudson Bicycle Club in regards to this issue.He had told me he had,and has had positive and favorable results.As operators of vehicles in this state we cyclists are held to a higher legal standard than pedestrians.We are required by law to obey all traffic signals and signs,signal for turns and yield to pedestrians.These rules apply wether riding a public motor vehicle roadway,or a shared use trailway.While the onus is on cyclists to be courteous,responsible,and legal trailway users,pedestrians also have a shared responsibility to be courteous trailway users.They must stay to the right side of the trailway,and be alert and attentive of their suroundings. One of the things I have observed of some pedestrians,when riding the area trailways,is a disregard to the fact that they are on a kind of road, albeit a special road that allows only certain vehicles,bicycles (or recumbents).On the Dutchess RT,I have seen a family setting up a picnic replete with blanket on the paved part of the trail.On the Walkway I have seen people sitting on the concrete deck.The pedestrians must,as best as is posible stay to the right side and not block the trailway.They must also be mindful of the fact they are indeed on a kind of ‘road’ and there are vehicles on this ‘road’

“Bicyclists must obey all traffic lights and signs and must signal for turns whether riding on a roadway, a bike lane or shared-use pathway with pedestrians.” – from the NY DOT website

the above is the special yield sign I had created for use on all of the Maybrook line trailways

With the recent acquisition of the CSX ROW property here in Poughkeepsie,from the east end of the Walkway to the current north terminus of the Dutchess RT at Morgan Lake,there will be a future phase 5 to link the Walkway with this rail trail.Once this rail trail ‘missing link’ is built,there will be nearly 18 miles of contiguous trailway from Hopewell Jct. to the current western terminus of the Hudson Valley RT.Therefore I have recomended common sinage for all of the Maybrook line trailways – the Dutchess Rail Trail,the Walkway Over The Hudson,and the Hudson Valley Rail Trail.



what the new caution signs might look like when mounted

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