The future for bicycling throughout the tri-cities is bright. Just ask anyone who attended Sunday's Fourth Annual Bike Expo in Albany's Washington Park.
The expo precedes National Bike to Work Day, an annual event across North America promoting the bicycle as a commuting option. Bike to Work Day is coming up on May 16th.
Cycling enthusiasts mingled with pedestrians and others at the Lakehouse gathering. People were invited to see what local bike shops have to offer, check out local riding groups and learn about the bike as a transportation alternative.
Albany Bicycle Coalition president Lorenz Worden encourages people to try bicycle commuting as a healthy and safe alternative to driving. "There are a few more cyclists all the time on the street. The city does a bike count - they've done it for - this is the 5th year I believe - every year it does creep up a little bit. The same two days every year at eight or 10 key intersections and they track the number of cyclists coming through during certain periods of the day."
A 2013 report produced by engineering firm Creighton Manning recommends options to accommodate cyclists including designating exclusive bike lanes on selected Albany streets.
Bicycle educators were on hand to teach street-safe riding skills and help new riders of all ages. Among the onlookers was a young man from Cohoes, Devon, recently drawn to biking.
Devon : "I met somebody who was interested in cycling and wanted to take me out biking, so now I'm learning more about it."
Dave Lucas : "So do you own a bike yet, or did you buy one?"
Devon : "No, I stole one from my parents house and I'm using that for now until I get one of my own."
Other than a sly smile, no comment from Devon's female companion.
There were bicycle tune-ups, bike maintenance lessons, and a parts swap. Eric Whelan is a partner at Downtube Bicycle Works in Albany. "We're finding that a lot of folks are wanting to get bicycles for utility use, whether it be going to work or perhaps grocery shopping, visiting friends... using the bike to substitute the automobile especially for those shorter distances, ten blocks here, a mile there, so bikes that are utility-based are real popular these days."
Whelan believes Albany is slowly but surely becoming more bike-friendly. Lorenz Worden says the Albany Bicycle Master Plan is centered on identifying major bike routes through town. "There's been the installation of shared lane markings, which are purely advisory, and we do have some bicycle lanes, almost one mile of bicycle lanes on Clinton Avenue. The plan is a 20-year plan, lays out a whole network of bicycle routes through the city."
Bike advocates have been touting cycling as a viable year-round transportation alternative in many North American cities: Dani Simons directs marketing and external affairs for New York City Bikeshare, which runs the popular CitiBike program. The program has nearly 7,000 bikes available to the public for a modest fee at 332 stations scattered from Manhattan to Brooklyn. She sees no reason why a similar bike sharing system couldn't be deployed in Albany. "Y'know it's worth giving a try! I think that there's a lot of interest in bicycling and I think that there's a lot easy ways to kind of make it just as comfortable in the winter as it is during the heat of summer. It just takes a little bit of adaptation and it can happen."