Last week the City of Rochester decided it would not move ahead with a planned road diet along Lake Avenue that many had hoped would improve safety for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and those who depend on bus service in the area. The Lake Avenue Improvement Project would have replaced two automobile lanes with a center turning lane and bike lanes. Due to pressure from the Charlotte neighborhood and merchants associations, city engineers will be sent back to the drawing board, ordered to keep all four auto lanes…
In order to salvage the bike lanes, the only option may be to build a two-way cycle track and place it awkwardly on the west side of the street due to lack of room between St. Bernard’s and the road/utilities. The placement would be awkward because the Genesee Riverway Trail is on the EAST side of the street. Therefore cyclists would be forced to cross over Lake Avenue – twice.
In a letter to Mayor Warren, last week Dr. Scott MacRae, Professor of Ophthalmology at UofR’s Flaum Eye Institute explained why the 4-3 road diet made a lot of sense…
Dear Mayor Warren,
Congratulations on your successful inauguration. It was a couple of months ago that I met you at your reception prior to the final election and we talked about the huge multiple benefits of active transportation (biking and walking) for low income families, young people and the elderly. It was a great pleasure to talk with you.
These harsh winter days cast a cloud over biking and walking but the demand for better walking and biking facilities is growing rapidly in progressive Northern cities, (Minneapolis, Pittsburg, Boston, Madison, and Montreal) that want to grow in a robust, sustainable way. There are huge economic, health, social justice and safety benefits to building better biking and walking facilities. In Portland, Oregon, the metro economy saves $1.2 Billion annually because the average person drives 4 miles less/day. Because of this, the average Portland family is saves $2,500/yr. which is like having 4% less taxes. This is why both Portland and Minneapolis are competing to grow from 7 and 5% bike commuting (respectively) to 25% by the year 2020. The top 5 biking/walking cities in the US have 20% less diabetes and heart disease. Bike friendly Holland has an obesity rate that is 5X lower than the US. This statistic alone has profound implications on our future health cares costs where obesity is already eating 21% of our health care budget and this rate will grow unless we design our cities better. Active transportation is a key tool in making our cities healthier and happier.
One good way to promote more biking and walking is the use of a 4-3 road diet which converts a 4 lane road into three lanes with a center turn lane. This works very well in roads that have moderate traffic patterns like Lake Avenue. The Rochester Traffic engineers studied the traffic patterns and conclude that a 4-3 conversion was reasonable. These types of conversions have minimal impacts on traffic flow and even make it safer for cars because cars cannot race 45 – 50 MPH side by side and then have one suddenly turn left or right at an intersection. East Avenue is a good example of this where the traffic is moving in a more constant safe rate which makes it much safer for pedestrians and cyclist to navigate. Some local residents objected to the 4-3 road diet which is parr for the course because they don’t understand the diverse benefits of adopting a Complete Streets strategy.
I recently heard that the conversion of Lake Ave from a 4 lane road to a 3 lane road with bike lanes was cancelled. This is unfortunate for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists making it more dangerous and user unfriendly. The typical reason given for not proceeding is because motorist are concerned that this will cause traffic delays. In reality, a 4-3 road diet causes traffic delays infrequently and makes intersections safer for cars and non motorists alike.
In the future, I am hopeful that we can continue to develop better walking and biking infrastructure for our children’s sake. They are part of the one third of Americans who can’t drive. This group includes the low income, young, old and/or disabled. Rochester is making great strides in active transportation making our community safe and healthy for everyone, motorists and non motorists alike. Let’s keep up the momentum! Your vibrant energy is most appreciated.
Best regards, Scott MacRae, MD
Professor of Ophthalmology
Professor of Visual Science
Flaum Eye Institute University of Rochester
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You can join us and Dr. MacRae in support of safer streets for all Rochesterians
Sign this petition and call or email Mayor Warren and your city council representatives. Let them know you support the 4-3 road diet and the good work our City traffic engineers have been doing…