The announcement last week that the state Department of Transportation plans on resurfacing part of state Route 73 came as a bit of good news for Ironman athletes and cyclists who use that road. But there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, not only on state Route 73, but on all the state roads leading to and from Lake Placid.
The plan calls for an inch-and-a-half layer of asphalt to be laid for about 2.5 miles between Stagecoach Rock and the three-lane section west of Keene. The project is expected to be completed before the Ironman triathlon on July 26. Although this project will no doubt increase cyclists’ and drivers’ safety, this is just one short section of a narrow, heavily traveled road that is in poor condition overall.
Many drivers get frustrated this time of year with all the cyclists on the road training for Ironman. One of the reasons the resurfacing project is happening is because of State Police Troop B Commander Richard Smith’s concern over the safety of cyclists and motorists — and he should be commended.
What many drivers don’t realize is that it is oftentimes impossible for a cyclist to stay to the right of the white line and they must ride in the middle of the lane. (There is no excuse, however, for cyclists to ride two or three abreast; that is just unsafe and inconsiderate to motorists and they should expect to get honked at.) In some areas, the shoulder is either non-existent or in such poor condition, with broken asphalt, sand, frost heaves, and potholes, that it is an equally unsafe place to ride at the center of the lane.
What makes Lake Placid an appealing place to live and visit is also one of its drawbacks: It’s isolated. There are just three ways in and out of the Olympic Village — state Route 73 to Keene, state Route 86 to Wilmington and state Route 86 to Saranac Lake. All three are heavily trafficked. All three of these roads have “bike route” signs, yet all three are in deplorable condition. There is barely enough room on any of these roads for cars and bikes to share the road safely. In contrast, a shining example of a good biking road in excellent condition is the section of state Route 9N between Upper Jay and Jay, also part of the Ironman course. With wide shoulders and a smooth surface, it is one of the few roads in the region that can accurately be described as a “bike route.”
Like former CEO of Ironman USA Graham Fraser said last year, the sport of cycling in Lake Placid isn’t going anywhere; if anything, it’s growing. Lake Placid has always been a sports-oriented community. Because of these facts, and because winters here are harsher and therefore cause more damage to the roads than in other places, the state DOT should make it a priority to resurface and repair these roads more frequently than those in the rest of the state. The resurfacing project planned for the Cascade Lakes is a good start, but it is simply a Band-Aid on a bigger problem. The inch-and-a-half of asphalt the DOT plans to put down won’t even fill in some of the worst potholes.
Local government officials — and those who use these roads — should conintue to push for much-needed improvements to the region’s main thoroughfares.