Route 260 Safety Concerns

by Will Haines, Clarkson Cyclist

Follow on Twitter @FixRoute260

Route 260 was repaved in the Spring of 2019, and when they repainted the road, it was painted “lopsided,” not centered on the pavement itself. The northbound shoulder is now significantly wider than the southbound shoulder, the side that Carrie Ray was cycling on. Both sides are now narrow for a 55 mph road that experiences moderate to heavy traffic daily; and the southbound side is, in my opinion, extremely narrow. So narrow, that the southbound shoulder is not really a shoulder at all.

In the opinion of someone who has logged thousands of cycling miles in Clarkson, it's very unsafe for cyclists. It's a high speed, heavy traffic road, with narrow shoulders.

This is a view of Route 260 northbound, just north of Deertrack Lane. The shoulder here measures three feet in width.

Northbound shoulder on Route 260.

Three foot shoulder width.

Southbound shoulder on Route 260.

Twenty-two inch shoulder width.

By comparison, just on the other side of the road, the southbound shoulder, measures 22 inches in width (less than 2 feet). This is too narrow for a 55 mph road with heavy traffic.

Google Street View photos, taken in 2012 and 2018, show the southbound shoulder much wider back then, BEFORE the repainting. And BOTH shoulders, before the repave and repaint, were wider.

Today, at the location where Carrie Ray was killed by a driver "who didn't see her," the shoulder measures just 22 inches wide. A standard adult bicycle has 19 inch width handlebars.

Compare the image below, to the image above. And yes, just across the street, the width of the shoulder is a foot wider.

Given the narrowness of the shoulder, the high amount of traffic, and the proximity to residential property, I think the 55 mph speed limit on Route 260, from Ridge Road to Route 18, should be reduced. Other North-South roads that run from Route 104 to Route 18 have lower speed limits, and wider shoulders (see below).

Furthermore, a repainting of Route 260 should seriously be considered. I recommend painting the route with adequate shoulder widths, similar to Route 19 (Lake Road). And if more pavement is needed to create adequate shoulder space, it should be added to this five mile stretch of road.

Similar North-South roads in the area, between Ridge Road and Route 18, and their speed limits:

Manitou Road has a 40 mph speed limit from Ridge Road to Route 18.

Lake Road (Route 19) has a 40 mph speed limit from Ridge Road to Route 18. Lake Road, seen here, also has a shoulder that is 5 and a half feet wide. On both sides of the road. This is achieved while having reasonable lane widths.

Route 259 has a 45 mph speed limit from Ridge Road to Peck Road, then changes to 40 mph to Route 18.

Clarkson Parma TL Road has a 45 mph speed limit from Ireland Road north.

Lake Road (Route 19) has a 40 mph speed limit and a five and a half foot shoulder width. Lake Road has 11 feet of total shoulder space, compared to less than 5 feet on Route 260. The lane widths of Route 19 are reasonable for the posted 40 mph speed limit.

At the very least, a reduction of the speed limit on Route 260 would allow motorists more time to identify cyclists in front of them, more time to react; as well as allow cyclists more time to respond and get out of harm's way. Increasing the shoulder width would give cyclists more room on the road for safe passage. For this five mile stretch of road between Ridge Road and Roosevelt, a decrease in the speed limit from 55 mph to 40 mph would only increase drive time by TWO MINUTES. I think that's a reasonable amount of time motorists can "sacrifice" to improve safety here.

The shoulder is NOT the designated bike lane, but it’s where cyclists are traveling. Cyclists have the right to be on the roadway just as much as motorized vehicles. Some drivers incorrectly think we are supposed to be riding our bikes on sidewalks, and this is not accurate at all.

On any given road, the cycling safety "equation" comes down to: line of sight visibility, motorist speed limits, traffic frequency, and shoulder width. I generally ride my road bike on roads that have less traffic and / or have a very good shoulder. Then how fast cars go factors in my decision to ride or not ride on a road. So for example, Ontario Parkway, which has a very wide shoulder and rumble strips along the edge of the white line, is a safer road to ride, in my opinion, than Route 260, which has a very narrow southbound shoulder, and traffic is moving just as fast.

In Monroe County, there were nearly 4,000 crashes with vehicles and bicyclists or pedestrians from 2010 through 2017. That’s an average of 1.3 crashes per day, 8 people dying per year. In New York State, the top two driver contributing factors in these crashes are driver inattention and failure to yield right of way. And in 94% of these incidents, it is the driver’s fault. Source: https://drive2bbetter.org/is-this-really-a-problem

Making the roads safer for ALL travelers, includes educating drivers on safe, distraction-free driving, and educating cyclists on how to protect themselves better, and be more visible. In addition, laws need to be amended to make roads safer. There is New York State Legislation currently for consideration (Bill A283) to mandate vehicles pass cyclists at a distance of at least three feet.

So what can be done to bring about change to Route 260? What government officials can be contacted?

Ultimately the New York State Department of Transportation has sole jurisdiction on the quality of Route 260, and the speed regulations imposed. Specifically, our NYSDOT organization is Region 4, and Kevin Bush is our Regional Director - contact info can be found here.

The Town of Clarkson town board can ask the DOT to review the safety of Route 260, and even make recommendations (and they have! see below). So can the County Executive. But ultimately it is up to the DOT to make changes.

In addition to the County and Town Supervisors, and the New York State Department of Transportation, the Genesee Transportation Council is the Metropolitan Organization of the Genesee - Finger Lakes Region. What is the GTC? The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) requires every metropolitan area with a population of over 50,000 to have a designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to qualify for the receipt of federal highway and transit funds. GTC is the designated MPO responsible for transportation policy, planning, and investment decision making in our area. The GTC has specific goals of its organization, including "Increase the safety of the transportation system for motorized and non-motorized users."

The GTC encourages "concerned citizens, to play a vital role in identifying needs and developing solutions. We want you to understand how transportation planning works in our nine-county region and actively take part in making key decisions." To that end their website, www.gtcmpo.org, has many resources, including a "Citizen's Guide to Transportation Planning in the Genesee-Finger Lakes Region."

Change does take awhile. I sincerely hope that officials, particularly the DOT, carefully review the Route's safety, and take in consideration my concerns that I have spelled out here on this webpage. I hope changes can be made before Spring 2020, when cyclists will again be riding the roads in full force (some cyclists, like myself, will continue to ride all winter).

If you think a change to Route 260 is in order, feel free to contact the DOT, or other local officials.

Letter sent by Town of Clarkson, Hamlin, and Sweden Town Supervisors and Highway Superintendents to Kevin Bush, Regional Director of the NYS Department of Transportation.


Letter from Kevin Bush, Regional Director of the New York State Department of Transportation, in response to my Route 260 safety concerns.

The Rochester Cycling Alliance recommends drivers slow down, scan for pedestrians and bicyclists, and give bicyclists at least three feet of space. The three S’s of safe driving.

The Drive 2B Better campaign is a community-wide collaboration of stakeholders interested in safety for all road users. The effort is sponsored by Common Ground Health and facilitated by Causewave Community Partners.

All this can't bring back Carrie Ray. Which is heartbreaking, and my heart goes out to her family.

But I sincerely hope that we can make this road, and others, safer for future travelers.