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Bike Boulevards & More, Coming To Rochester

The City just released a Request for Proposal to create a Bike Boulevard Plan. [PHOTO: Payton Chung]
Sorry it’s been so quiet in the subway for the past week. It got crazy busy with many things happening on many different fronts, and I had to force myself into a self-imposed digital detox program. But here’s a quicky update…

I just got back from the Genesee-Finger Lakes Active Transportation Summit; a conference (held in downtown Rochester) where mobs of cycling and transit advocates gathered for a day of discussion about moving Rochester forward… literally. Believe me, Spiderman external link isn’t the only one sporting the spandex lately. There’s an undeniable groundswell of support for walkable, bike-friendly streets, and transit options in this town. Maybe you were following the tweets coming out of Reconnect Rochester external link throughout the day? But if you were at the conference, you understand what I mean. The excitement was palpable, and contagious.

Businesses in Portland are clamoring for bike parking. [PHOTO: Lindsay Tyler]To start with, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (Portland, OR) gave an incredible talk external link about how Portland became the platinum-standard for “new” walkable and bike-friendly urbanism. While Portland may have been a very automobile-dependent city in the 60’s and 70’s, business owners in his district today are clamoring for the removal of parking spaces in front of their shops. And they’re asking for bike corrals instead. It makes sense when you think about it. Would you rather have parking for one customer who arrives by car, or ten who arrive on a bike?

He also talked about how Rochester—now a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community—can get get there too, with a little work. Eh, ok… a lot of work. Fortunately for ROC, the 300 or so people in that room today seem to be up for the challenge.

The City just released a Request for Proposal to create a Bike Boulevard Plan. [PHOTO: Payton Chung]
One case in point, Erik Frisch, Transportation Planner with the City of Rochester announced that a Bike Boulevard plan would be drawn up over the coming year. A Request for Proposals was just released here external link. Bicycle boulevards are low-volume streets that encourage bike traffic while discouraging automobile through-traffic using a host of traffic calming techniques, signage, pavement markings, and intersection crossing treatments. Look for the first of two public meetings in October 2013.

Erik also highlighted some of the progress that’s been made with the City’s bike master plan including new bike racks, corrals, lockers, 11 miles of new bike lanes and (some other number) of miles of shared-lanes added over the last two years. Have you ever heard of a bike box external link? Those may be coming soon as well.

Photo from a 'Tweed Bike Ride' in Rochester, October 2010. [PHOTO: Joe Philipson]
Public transit was a new topic at this year’s conference. Many people don’t think of public transportation as ACTIVE transportation, but if you use it, you know it is. We had a productive brainstorming session (together with representatives from RGRTA) on how we can break down some of the barriers associated with getting more people in our region to use transit. But I’ll share some of that and other tasty treats over the coming days… Including some exciting news from Reconnect Rochester external link.

Stay tuned.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 at 7:54 am and is filed under Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

44 Responses to “Bike Boulevards & More, Coming To Rochester”

  1. Patrick Chefalo says:

    I’m sorry; with all the other problems that Rochester has, I hope that bicycle improvements don’t take a large part of the mindshare in City Hall.

    Better bicycle accommodations will not make Rochester a destination or raise the quality of life in the Crescent.

  2. Matthew Denker says:

    I think bike accommodations, by and large, only take a large portion of mindshare in the press, because it’s something to scream about. The fact of the matter is that safer cycling does a great deal for the worst off people in Rochester. According to the 2000 census, Rochester was the 20th lowest car ownership city in the country, at 75% of HHs owning one. Considering I’ve run the numbers, and ownership on Park Ave is roughly 93%, you will quickly discover that the people without cars are in fact the people in the crescent, and that making it safer for them to be mobile should be a huge priority.

    Similarly, if we spent the kind of money on building bike infrastructure that went into one tax break, into a few homes worth of teardown, we’d have hundreds of miles of bike friendly streets.

  3. Zack says:

    Sorry Patrick, but you are wrong on both those counts.

  4. Joel Helfrich says:

    The more money that a city spends on bike lanes, boxes, and space, and other related bike infrastructure, the less money you will spend in street repairs and the more sustainable a city will ultimately become. That is just one way in which Portand and several other cities that quite honestly have less resources to begin with are seeing so many wonderful things happening at the neighborhood and community level. It benefits everyone to ride a bicycle. The great placemaking that we are seeing in some parts of Rochester should come as no surprise! It can be directly linked to the bicycle (and obviously other issues and concerns). Marketing and branding to the corporate folks; placemaking to the rest of us who actually care about Rochester. Either way, we would be smart as a community to link the history of bicycle riding in Rochester to the larger community history of Rochester. Even Susan B. Anthony would agree! See:




    * * * * *

    Excuse the advertising here, but please check out the awesome and awesomely funny bike stickers here:


    bumper stickers:
    — “Grant me the courage to sell my car”
    –“SUV: Superficial Urban Vanity”
    –“WARNING: This vehicle emits Carbon Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides, Sulphur Dioxide, Hydrocarbons, Benzene, Methane, Aldehydes, and VOCs. Causes respiratory disease and cancer. ESPECIALLY HARMFUL TO CHILDREN.”

    bike stickers
    –“Don’t Pollute – Bike Commute”
    –“I just broke up with my car. It was for the best.”
    –“I wish my husband [or wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend] was as dirty as my bike.”
    –“The road to hell is paved.”
    –“You can borrow my bike when you can pry my cold, dead fingers from it….”
    –“ELF torched my SUV”

  5. Joel Helfrich says:

    BTW, can anyone explain why so many bike riders in the U.S. need to wear spandex, even if they are just headed to/from work? Why do so many riders spend so much money here, as opposed to the rest of the world, on bike gear?

  6. Adrian says:

    Patrick – you see more bikes in the Crescent than you do out in Brighton. Cars are expensive, bikes are cheap, and so lots of poor people bike. When those people don’t get killed by cars as frequently, their quality of life will improve!

  7. John says:

    More bike parking would be great. City Hall has been doing good at adding it when doing street sidewalk projects, we just need to backfill into areas that won’t be getting sidewalk/road repairs for a while.

  8. Norm Swift says:

    @JoelHelfrich: Form follows Function. It doesn’t have to be “spandex” but, when bike riding, any of the new fabrics work much better than traditional clothing (e.g. padding, wicking, convenient pockets, odor-free, storage, aerodynamics). T-shirt and Gym Shorts work for short distances but give the new stuff a try. I’m sure Susan B. would have rocked some Merino wool jerseys if they were available back in the day.

  9. Patrick Chefalo says:

    Interesting that the usual suspects put up the usual mostly academic, sans-common-sense defenses of the same, minor-league, distracting proposals. If I was a politician instead of a student of life in the City, I would agree with y’all so you would support my proposals, but I prefer tough love.

    No one actually has any statistics or even a convincing argument that this will actually improve or change anything (it’s not like people are not riding bikes because of traffic safety: there’s no place to ride to ’cause there’s no job to ride to; the weather is not especially conducive; not everyone is in shape to ride a bike; not everyone has a safe place to store a bike; bike/motorbike riders in the Crescent ride on sidewalks because they don’t know any better, while they walk in the street: just spend some time here; there’s no bling to a bike; there’s no hip-hop cool to a bike: just spend some time here) but it will make the City look like its doing something, and shut a few activists up, and maybe they can get award from some boutique public improvement agency. Oh yeah, and it will interfere with car traffic, which the vast majority use; and it will cost some money, while NOT protecting the streets from the elements that destroy them, in truth.

  10. Matthew Denker says:

    Yeah, who cares if the numbers say the mostly poor people of Rochester are getting around by bike? Common sense says that we rich white people should totally get priority to driving and everyone else is invisible.

    Ignoring that, the roads of Rochester are so incredibly underutilized as to be pointless. Redistributing some of that unused space to bicycles won’t make a difference. If NYC can slough off lanes left and right with no actual change to traffic, I don’t see how Rochester is somehow too densely populated or traffic intensive to not be able to do the same.

  11. Patrick Chefalo says:

    It’s interesting that the addict groups (stoners, runners, skate-boarders, motorcyclists, bikers, sports fans and gun fetishists) all have the way to nirvana for everyone else, fueled by the high they get by participating: feed their addictions with public changes.

    Reminds me of Tommy’s Holiday Camp in the rock opera. What worked for Tommy didn’t work for everyone else. “Bike Boulevards” are just the latest version of the camp.

    Rachel B.’s blog attracts the detractors generally and they are not very sold on this concept.

  12. Matthew Denker says:

    So instead we are to advocate for driving? A group of people that is clearly not addicted to the power trip they get from piloting a 4000 lb death mobile down streets at whatever speed they are so inclined. Are we not missing the plank in our own eye?

  13. Mike says:

    Bike Commuter here: I ride to work every day from the South Wedge to my office on East & Alexander Street. I also own a Nissan Xterra (SUV) that gets 15-20 MPG with a 21.1 gallon gas tank. If I were to drive the truck every day to work I would have to fill up (2) times a month. Quick calculation,(20) X $3.80 (average cost of gas) = $76.00 per fill up which equates approximately to $152.50 a month. With roughly (6) months of warmer riding weather and subtracting (1) month for impossible riding weather (pouring rain etc.), I save +/-$760.00 a year on gasoline. Please note that this does not include substantial savings from reduced wear and tear maintenance costs which include, but are not limited too, brakes, mufflers, tires, and tune ups. Now with the extra money left in my pocket, I will probably spend it in a more local entertaining fashion like restaurants, festivals, or sporting events.

    So, if you have made it this far, here is my point: these types of city bike “investments” are smart and a no brainer. They don’t cost much to create and have a short pay back (unlike the wonderful short sited automobile “investment” called the inner loop).

    So, to Mr. Patrick from earlier comments, chill out. It’s not like the city is forcing a ferry down your throat…again.

    Did I mention that for (6) months of the year I don’t spend one second in a traffic jam. That alone is worth it!

  14. chase tyler says:

    My, what a debate!

    An overlooked part of the bike situation is the recreational factor, people.

  15. Patrick Chefalo says:

    I am a big ferry supporter, as a matter of fact. I saw it as an investment that all will benefit from, because it made the city a destination. Bike streets, not at all. For a privileged few, like those who brag about their Xterras.

  16. Matthew Denker says:

    Let’s confirm, then, the groups of people that bike lanes cater to:

    For a privileged few, like those who brag about their Xterras.
    The addict groups (stoners, runners, skate-boarders, motorcyclists, bikers, sports fans and gun fetishists)

    But I guess not people in the middle? None of these bike shares in any of these cities that are so very similar to Rochester are used by just the average person?

  17. Adrian says:

    I’ll weigh in as another bike commuter, I save about $120 in gas and about $200 in parking per year by biking instead of driving in the warm months. In my building, my bike is the only one that’s ever locked up on the bike rack. And we even have showers, locker rooms, we’re downtown right by the Genesee Valley trail, etc.

  18. Patrick Chefalo says:

    Self-awareness is fine: now we’re talking about public good. If you get your heads out of your self-interest you might get what I’m trying to say. Getting a bike to ride around town is not in everyone’s wheel house, and shouldn’t be. Just because a few like to do that the public needn’t support it.

    Y’all seem to think you’re the only ones who know that bikes don’t use gas, and that gas is expensive. Duh. Why would anyone use a car? ‘Cause automobiles succeeded (To come next in time or succession; follow after another; replace another in an office or a position) the bicycle because of their superior qualities; your choice of alternate means of transportation was done KNOWING the infrastructure. Now that you’ve made your choice, live with it. The rest of us shouldn’t have to support you, when there are more important things to spend money on.

  19. Matthew Denker says:

    So all the taxes paid by people who don’t own cars supporting roads is A-OK, but woah hey, not a chance some microscopic amount of money comparatively could go to alternate modes? Also, it wasn’t a free market decision that created the automobile-centric environment we have now. It was an active series of market manipulations to get here.

  20. Malcolm says:

    I am confused by a number of Patrick’s comments. Road maintenance is expensive. Roads and car traffic have resulted in countless health problems. It is all a crazy waste of resources.

    I just do not get it.

    BTW, I doubt that the ferry ever made Rochester a destination for folks from Toronto — and still would not have, even if it had been a free trip.

  21. Malcolm says:

    Oh, and by the way: is not a “public good” something that is non-excludable — something that is impossible to keep people from using — and non-rivalrous, meaning that one individual’s use does not reduce the ability of other people to use. Are not cars “private goods,” the opposite of “public goods”? The greatest good in the cars/roads versus bikes/bike infrastructure debate appears to be bicycles, then.

  22. Jeff says:

    It’s better for almost everyone when someone who would have driven decides to ride a bike instead. Less pollution, lower road maintenance costs, less dependence on foreign oil, more parking for those that need it, and that person is less likely to have high healthcare costs that the public needs to fund in the future.

    Right now, some people choose to bike to work or for certain errands, however, there’s probably plenty of others who don’t do it because they feel there isn’t a good route to where they need to go. This proposal would cost a minuscule amount when compared to roads budget, and get more people biking.

  23. @Patrick, there are a lot of smart reasons for adding bike infrastructure… many of them are listed here by other commenters. Personally, I like the one about personal savings. And at least two people shared exactly how much money they save on gas and other auto expenses (not to mention savings in healthcare and pollution). But those savings are real. And that’s money that ends up going back into the local economy. Money that benefits all of us over the long run. The alternative is we all continue to pump money into our gas tanks for every trip we take; and most of that money leaves the Rochester economy straight away. When you consider the very small sliver of the transportation budget being allocated to bike infrastructure, it’s a no brainer I think.

  24. Scott K says:

    Bicycle improvements wouldn’t help me in the city at all. The only way I can get my bike there, other than riding it all the way there from Hilton, would be on the bus rack. More often than not, the 2 slots on the rack are already occupied by the time the bus gets here in the morning.

  25. Matthew Denker says:

    But every person who decides to use these bike improvements is one less person in a car in front of your bus. I think that’s the benefit to society, no? I mean, I’ve never once gone to the emergency room, so it clearly doesn’t benefit me, but what if I did?

  26. Patrick Chefalo says:

    It’s a no-brainer to not smoke, Cost, health issue, public monies spent, etc. That’s why we don’t see PSAs showing dying and damaged people on PSAs any more, right?

    Substitute DUI, gun control, etc.

    Critical thinking called for, not answered.

  27. In Beijing, one of the most polluted and difficult of cities, 80% of citizens rode bikes in 1980. Today? 19.7%. On their 10th ring-road, and with 10 lane expressways in each direction, Beijing adds 10,000 cars a week.

    This is an extreme example, and a powerful illustration of the destructive force embodied in an undue loyalty to automobiles. Nonetheless, proportionate thinkers who have fair-mindedness as a goal might conclude that Rochester, where we have managed to destroy much in favor of the car, might be well served to move away from an undue bias for heavy metal, and move towards roadway justice, where peds and bikes can safely coexist with cars. Coexist, yes – cars are not going away any time soon. But at least coexist.

    So I’ll give you yours, Patrick – stay on the road if you wish. But you’ll have to give too – for other modes of travel. Rochester is certainly not in line to become the next Amsterdam or Copenhagen, or sadly even Portland. But let’s at least try for a bit of compromise for other modes, yes?

  28. John says:

    I ride my bike because I like to. The cost savings, health benefits, pollution reduction, traffic, and parking are secondary benefits. I’d bet a fairly significant number of people would pick up biking if these boulevards go in. I’d bet money those that think they have the right to drive as quickly as possible to wherever they are going and park within 10 steps of the front door will appreciate bikers being on other streets and not taking up parking spaces.

    I like biking, I pay taxes, I live and work here, I want bike infrastructure. Others in my age group feel the same, and if more of us move into/stay in the city its makes Rochester better.

  29. Peter says:

    @Adrian, do you ride to RGE on Scottsville Rd? RGE really by accident is a great place to ride to work, as it is right by the river trail and has the showers/locker rooms that the outdoor workers use.
    I was actually in Buffalo this past weekend riding around with a friend. They have created a bike boulevard on a formerly 2-lane one-way street that runs parallel to Main St. (http://www.buffalorising.com/2012/09/linwood-avenue—the-bigger-picture.html)
    It was great, there were almost no cars, but they would have easily been able to pass us. His wife made the great point that some people don’t seem to grasp – she said “It’s great, because there are no bikers on Main St.” Hear that, opponents? Making biking easier on one street can help you, the driver on another street.

  30. Adrian says:

    @Peter, I work downtown. And that Buffalo two-lane bike way looks awesome.

  31. John says:

    Does Probert St get the title as first “bike Boulevard? Now a northbound 1 way for auto traffic, but bike lanes for north and southbound travel?

  32. @John, I guess if it connects bike facilities on East and University, technically it could qualify as the shortest bike boulevard ever.

  33. Charles says:

    This guy Patrick has made it interesting.

    I don’t ride a bike and don’t know if I would.

    I agree that willy-nilly bike improvements at the appeasement of a group makes no sense. I also can see that demand for such improvements has increased and there are definitely more bikers out there. This increase forces city hall to pay attention.

    I think we should promote alternative forms of transportation. An old mayor once said the fastest way to slow sprawl and encourage smart growth is by just raising the price of gas (which has also now encouraged more efficient vehicles)

    Simply, if we are going to use all of our tax dollars than we should do it wisely and part of an overall plan – smart TOD communities have been a great success for both residents and investors.


  34. Eric says:

    I have been following this closely – Hoping Rochester becomes more bike friendly – I currently take Mt. Read to work in the morning and see 1 bike commuter every morning who other drivers on MR seem to HATE – I only have a 4.1 mile trip – but I see this man almost getting run off the road and it makes me nervous…. Thinking about trying next week when it warms back up.

  35. Jason Haremza says:

    Oh my. Just a few thoughts:
    – The City has a Bicycle Master Plan to help ensure we are not making bike improvements “willy-nilly”
    – The modern bicycle, the automobile, and the electric streetcar were all invented at about the same time. The fact the the car came to dominate our system of transportation was not by accident or some “invisible hand of the marketplace.” Conscious decisions throughout the 20th Century were made on where and what kind of public infrastructure to invest in. Too much was invested in automobile infrastructure. Not enough on bicycles and transit. Now we need to re-balance the investment.
    – Anyone who holds up the Fast Ferry as a good investment, one which was subjected to the rigors of critical thinking and a serious cost-benefit analysis, is simply wrong and loses credibility in the discussion.

  36. Michael Dempsey says:

    Some great info here on a great bike site for my hometown. I live in Fla now but Ive also lived in Europe where biking is very common and PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION is a priority.

    I am happy to see so many people “get it”…unfortunately there are always a few like Patrick that will never “get it”. I prefer to ignore them and just concentrate on progress.

  37. Patrick Chefalo says:

    I had forgotten the bike Mafia was around. Reminded when the latest moron snuck up behind me in the South Wedge, riding downhill on the sidewalk during a rain storm and endangering my wife and grandson under my umbrella with his juvenile mode of transportation. He was a twenty-something WASP: could it have been one of you? The policeman he rode by said not a word about his law-breaking.


    What you guys are advocating is worthless. Just a gang.

  38. This conversation is starting to make me sad. Let’s try to keep it friendly please.

    Just fyi: I think it’s only illegal to ride on the sidewalk in the downtown district. Though it should be discouraged everywhere.

  39. Patrick Chefalo says:

    Joel ? You are correct.

    Section 34:6

    [Amended 6-27-1967 by Ord. No. 67-205; 6-10-1975 by Ord. No. 75-208; 6-14-1988 by Ord. No. 88-216]
    A. (Reserved) Editor’s Note: Former Subsection A, prohibiting destruction or alteration of a registration certificate, was repealed 6-15-2010 by Ord. No. 2010-197.
    B. Bicycles shall not be ridden two or more abreast.
    C. Children under 12 years of age shall ride bicycles, velocipedes or tricycles only on the sidewalk and must walk bicycles, velocipedes or tricycles across all streets. All persons over 12 years of age may ride bicycles upon any sidewalk except in the Central Traffic District Editor’s Note: For definition of “Central Traffic District,” see § 111-2. but may not ride bicycles on any plot in the roadway planted with grass, flowers or shrubs or on any ornamental parkway in any roadway. The prohibition against riding bicycles upon sidewalks in the Central Traffic District shall not apply to police officers in the performance of their duties.[Amended 5-12-1992 by Ord. No. 92-155]
    D. Bicycle riders shall not pull or tow a sled, wagon or another person on skates.
    E. Bicycle riders must keep at least one hand on handlebars and both feet on pedals.
    F. No person shall operate a bicycle equipped with handlebars so raised that the rider must elevate his or her hands above the level of his or her shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.[Amended 2-14-2006 by Ord. No. 2006-22]
    G. Bicycle riding by children under 12 years of age is forbidden in the Central Traffic District. Editor’s Note: For definition of “Central Traffic District,” see § 111-2.

    This territory is to be described by the area bounded by the Inner Loop, but shall exclude the Inner Loop and its frontage.

    It’s not illegal, just stupid.

  40. @Patrick,
    I wouldn’t call it stupid. If there are bike lanes available it’s usually a better choice to use those. But depending on your level of experience it’s not always comfortable or safe to ride in traffic… as pointed out by your dutch friend’s video.


  41. Patrick Chefalo says:

    NYS does not even discuss the use of sidewalks for bicycles, I assert because it is not legal at the State level.


    Otherwise bicycles are supposed to obey ALL the rules of the road. Sidewalks, I don’t think so.

    It’s stupid to use a bicycle on a sidewalk if pedestrians are present; because it is inherently unsafe.

    The video btw prescribes dedicated infrastructure for bicycles: what Rochester is doing is generally characterized as useless.

  42. I don’t see where NYSDOT says it’s illegal to ride on sidewalks. NYS and city municipalities have their own jurisdictions.

    Anyway, I think you’re making too broad of a statement by saying “what Rochester is doing is generally characterized as useless.” The dutch guy was saying sharrows are useless because they offer no real separation from traffic; and that dedicated infrastructure is the way to go.

    The City of Rochester is doing both (where it makes sense to do so). And keep in mind, right now we have a very incompletely system… Bike lanes tend to go for a mile or two and then disappear because the network is being built piecemeal. So to call it stupid for someone to ride on the sidewalk is not taking everything into consideration.

    Can’t we just be courteous to each other?

  43. Patrick Chefalo says:

    To be RochesterSubway-correct: please substitute “Monrovian” any time I used the word stupid.

  44. Alright then, don’t let me catch you walking across the street unless you’re in a car. That would be Monrovian.

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