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Car Lite Rochester: A Lifetime of Multimodal Memories

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

Car Lite Rochester: A Lifetime of Multimodal Memories

By: M. André Primus

Car lite: Andre, his wife, and their daughter pose before a bike ride

I’ve always lived a car-lite lifestyle, but growing up in the hood we used to just call it “broke.” I suppose in Europe they don’t call it anything, it’s just normal. Whatever you call it, it works out to be the same thing: Do you make the majority of your trips with a car or without one? And what does that mean for how you experience your life?

Growing up, we could only afford one car, so I have very early memories of sitting in the child seat on the back of my mom’s bike, watching her standing up in the pedals to get us both up the hill over the train tracks on East Main, on our way to the Public Market. I remember a few years later, pedaling up the same hill behind her on a little bike of my own, my baby sister now taking my place on the back of the bike.

Rochester winters were colder and snowier then, the lead up and lag longer — practically a six-month progression of slush, then ice, then snow, then ice, then slush again. When our bikes were away for the winter, we trudged through the snow to the Sully Library, where I, homeschooled-kid that I was, would sit for hours and read.

Car lite: an adult pulls three kids on a sled down a snowy sidewalk

I remember finding a stash of old RTS tokens in some corner of our old house, undoubtedly uncovered by my mom’s continuous renovations. Even though they had been phased out of use by the mid-1990s, we used them to get on the bus for the next couple of weeks, the driver accepting them out of some combination of bemusement, kindness, and apathy.

The funny thing is, we did have a car for all that time! When gas fit in the budget, or our destination was too difficult for a single mother to haul her two children with alternative transportation, we drove. But I don’t have any memories of my time in the car with my mother, save for a few family road trips. Any day-to-day car travel was struck from my mind, while even the most mundane bike trips stand out with a sort of magical glow. I was a very imaginative child, and as soon as I sat in a car I checked out of this universe. I read a book, or explored the wilds of Hyrule on my Gameboy Color, or simply imagined a world of my own. But traveling without a car, I was present; I could see the world around me. 

As I got older, our life stabilized. My mom started getting higher-paying work, I started attending school, and we used our car more. But I retained a love for alternative transportation. By the time I got to high school I was walking to school every day and exploring the city with my friends, on foot or by bike. 

Once I graduated high school and began attending MCC I biked out to Henrietta daily, year-round. I was occasionally endangered by drivers on my way to school, when I reached the point where Mt. Hope became West Henrietta Road and the shoulder became narrow. More than once the rush of air from a passing truck shook me, or even knocked me off my bike onto the curb. But that couldn’t stop me any more than the snow could. I’d practically been born doing this.

Nowadays I have a family of my own. A wife and two daughters, one four and one six. I’ve worked to create memories for them, the same way my mother did for me. I hope that when they get older, they’ll remember being pulled through the snow in a sled to the Sully Library, or to New City Cafe. Maybe they’ll remember riding to the Public Market as a family on Saturday morning. Maybe they’ll remember how excited they were every time they got to ride the RTS 41 crosstown, how they would cry out and point every time they saw it around the city, “The 41 bus! Look!”

Car lite: Andre poses on his Onewheel in a suit, presumably on his way to work

And I’m still creating my own memories. I ride my Onewheel to work most days, with the exhilarating feelings of floating along powered by electricity and intention, of seeing the city, the people, of feeling the wind in my face. A feeling that, besides the visceral pleasure, provides the sort of feeling of freedom a teenager gets upon getting their license, but without the feeling of being tied down that same teenager will get once they begin dealing with gas, insurance, maintenance, and the inevitable lack of a parking spot.

When it gets too snowy for the onewheel, my mountain bike comes out. In the depths of winter, the effort of plowing through snow banks and navigating the maze of icy berms left by competing snowplows warms me up enough that I often have to remove my jacket, and certainly don’t miss a car’s heating. I’ve watched Rochester’s winters get milder and milder in my 30-odd years, so I take a sort of savage joy in wrestling with the winters we have left. 

I realize I could have made a case here, telling you all the economic, financial, environmental, and sociological reasons why you should consider using your car less, but at the end of the day, I think the emotional experience of living less of your life in a car is reason enough. Maybe you don’t need the monotony, isolation, and immobility of car travel in your life. Maybe, you could have something better?

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Car Lite Rochester: From Big to Midsize City

Logo: "Car Lite Brewed by Reconnect Rochester." Styled like a beer logo.

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: From Big to Midsize City

By: Chaz Goodman

Chaz Goodman (guest blogger) smiling on his bike. He's wearing a black helmet and red backpack.

I love biking. I do it for fun, and for about eight years it was the only way I got around. I love being a part of my surroundings instead of being isolated in a car. I love seeing a friend on a bike or on the sidewalk and calling a quick hello. I love hearing the birds sing and feeling the breeze. I love hearing a busker playing on the street or snippets of a conversation from outdoor diners on Park Avenue. I love that instead of finding time in my busy schedule to work out in a stale indoor space, I can get exercise during my commute. I love that when I’m not feeling active, I can take it easy, bike slower, and still get to work without much effort.

From Chicago to Rochester

I spent my twenties living car free in Chicago before my wife and I moved back to Rochester. Here our lives would be different. We now had a dog and we would be visiting multiple suburbs rather than mostly staying within the city. One of the first things we did was buy two cars, one for each of us.

I added my new car key to a key ring and put it in my back pocket. The key was large and hard to ignore when I sat back down. I shifted slightly and set off the alarm button on the remote. The symbolism of the moment was a little too on the nose for me. I started thinking about how I could get back to my car free lifestyle – or at least car lite.

Commuting by bike in Rochester wasn’t too much of an adjustment from Chicago. In warmer weather, I ride to work in gym clothes and keep my work clothes in a light drawstring bag to stay cool. When I get to work I splash a little water on my face and change in the bathroom. In the winter, I just throw on a jacket over my work outfit. I put my computer and lunch in my panniers. I take East Avenue which generally has a wide shoulder since cars can’t park there during work hours. It is quite spacious for a bicycle.

The shoulder on East Avenue
The shoulder on East Avenue

I am rarely carrying much so taking my bike to work is pretty easy. Even if I have to run multiple errands, I just make sure to bring my backpack. You’d be surprised how much stuff fits in those three bags (panniers and backpack). Due to commuter traffic, travel times are pretty similar on a bike vs a car (especially if I’m traveling within the city). I almost always bike when I go out for the evening and I never worry about where to park or how much it will cost.

Speaking of cost…that alone is a good reason to consider a car lite lifestyle. My bike initially cost me $200 and I’ve probably put about $500-$600 into it for repairs over the course of ten years. Imagine this minimal cost replacing how much you put toward car repairs/payments over even half that period of time.

Challenges & Allowances

I considered my other travel needs beyond commuting, night life, and errands. I’m a musician and I often play gigs where I have to set up my own sound. Here, I allowed that I would need a car to transport my full PA system and multiple instruments/microphones/stands/amplifiers.

My next challenge was visiting family in different suburbs. I started riding from my place in Brighton to my brother’s place in Irondequoit. It’s a long ride but I enjoy it. The only time I feel nervous on a bicycle is crossing under Route 104. There are a lot of drivers who are in a hurry to get on or off the highway and they just aren’t expecting a cyclist. Nonetheless, it’s definitely doable and 104 is only one small part of my ride. TIP: I stay safe by assuming a car doesn’t see me unless I have made eye contact with the driver.

My next allowance was to drive to my parents’ place in Webster because biking this route is unfortunately quite impractical. The Bay Bridge is obviously not built for bicycles and although Empire Boulevard has a wide shoulder, cars are often going upwards of 60 MPH. I’ve read a few sobering stories about collisions gone wrong there. Plus, biking in Webster itself makes me nervous.  

If I took public transit I would need to take three buses for an hour, without any delays. There isn’t a bus that goes to my parent’s neighborhood so I would need to walk an additional five miles to their house which is not in the RTS demand area. Or I could drive and it would take 20 minutes. I can hardly blame someone who chooses to drive when we have made it so much easier than the alternative.

I decided that other than these allowances, I was going to bike even in challenging circumstances. I have a raincoat for rainy days, staying active on my bike keeps me warm in the winter, and I have multiple lights for night riding.

Then my son was born. Now the lack of protected bike infrastructure I had been blissfully unaware of as an able-bodied adult became glaringly obvious. I’m in the process of putting a toddler seat on my bike so my son can join me for errands in the city, but it’s still nerve-racking to consider. His daycare is located on a particularly busy four lane section of South Clinton Avenue so I plan to ride on the sidewalk with him for safety.

South Clinton Avenue's four lanes
South Clinton Avenue’s four lanes

The Big Picture: Why Be Car Lite?

It’s hard not to feel a little frustrated at the decisions made for our communities. When I mention reducing car usage to people I often hear the counter argument: “don’t force your lifestyle onto the rest of us.” But we’ve already all but forced people to use cars with our street design and inefficient public transit.

Some people genuinely prefer driving and that’s fine. But there are plenty of people who would opt for transit or biking if they felt it was safe and convenient. Many people don’t realize how impractical cars are because they never considered a life without them. I was certainly one of those people before spending nearly a decade without a car.

Stock image of a frustrated driver and passenger, perhaps in a traffic jam

Beyond their environmental impact, cars are just inefficient for most of our daily needs. Go to any public area and look at how much space is devoted to parking. Imagine if we could reduce that. Imagine how much more space we would have and how pleasant it would be. Imagine if drunk drivers weren’t a concern because most people weren’t driving when they went out. Imagine if children could travel with classmates via buses to their various after school activities rather than relying on overtaxed parents to transport them everywhere. Imagine if you didn’t have to drive to work every day and you could spend your commute on public transit; reading or daydreaming or writing or texting or sending emails. Imagine not needing to spend every day operating a dangerous machine that requires complete focus to stay safe. Imagine not needing to worry about car repair bills or auto insurance. Imagine a world where road construction is less common because there aren’t thousands of cars degrading the quality daily.

For those who say it’s impossible: consider the fact that our cities used to operate this way with a multitude of pedestrians, trains, buses, bicycles, and cars sharing public space. Even now our public school bus system shows us this is far from a pipe dream. Systemic change is difficult to imagine and even more difficult to enact but it’s certainly not impossible.

Eventually my son will be able to walk to school and take his own bike to get around town. Then I can reduce my car reliance even more. I hope to eventually go back to being car free when it’s possible. For now, I will continue to support institutions such as Reconnect Rochester that are working to correct the imbalance.

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Car Lite Rochester: An Urbanist’s Perspective

Car Lite Rochester is a blog series that highlights the stories of Rochesterians living a car-lite lifestyle. The term “car lite” encompasses a variety of multimodal transportation lifestyles, featuring little dependence (but not NO dependence) on a car.  It typically looks like sharing one car within a household or only using a car when absolutely necessary.

So, we hope you’ll continue to follow along.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep it? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: An Urbanist’s Perspective

By: Arian Horbovetz, Creator of The Urban Phoenix

I remember the feeling of thunderous accomplishment as I dismounted from my bike and whacked my kickstand with exaggerated force.  I texted my girlfriend at the time, letting her know I had made it to work safely.  I took a selfie, and entered my workplace, where I immediately began bragging about what I had just done.  I sat at my desk and took yet another selfie, which I posted on my Facebook page.

selfie of white man in blue helmet; car lite rochester

For the first time, I biked to work.  I had researched for days, looking for the route with the least amount of car exposure.  I had to assure my partner several times that this was OK and I would be safe, and that this was something I really wanted to try.  Now that I had done it, it didn’t feel like such a big deal.  Sure, the hit of elation that came from light exercise and being outside on a late-summer morning when everyone else was frantically piling into their car was intoxicating, but honestly my 4-mile Rochester-to-Henrietta bike commute suddenly didn’t seem like the momentous event that I thought it would be.  Something I thought was an outlier of an experience suddenly felt very natural and approachable.  Later, I would realized that by biking to work one time, I had simply and swiftly demolished the construct that is so ingrained in our American persona from the time we are young… the idea that driving is the only way to move about.  For me, the simple act of powering myself to work on two wheels vanquished that concept forever.

So I biked to work the next day.  And the one after that.  And the full week after that!  Suddenly, the activity that seemed so “fringe” just a short time ago felt incredibly normal, almost routine.  I began to take different routes to work, just to see streets I hadn’t spent much time on and mix up the landscape.  I left home earlier and stopped for coffee and read the news.  Suddenly my formally A to B commute turned into a micro-sightseeing adventure on my way to work.  My car began to sit for days, even weeks at a time.  I began to bike everywhere… to the store, the market, out to meet friends.  I started to make use of Greater Rochester’s fruitful trail network, and memorized every low traffic street that would get me where I needed to go with minimal car contact.  My mom lived in Pittsford at the time, so I simply hopped on the Empire State Trail and visited her every week.  Sure, I had a car and sure, I still used it occasionally.  I just didn’t want to.  Or rather I felt like when I got on a bike, I was doing something better.  Not just for me and my health, but for the community and the planet.

Winter sidewalk. Rochester NY.

And it didn’t stop there.  As the winter weather began to creep in, I started riding the bus.  Having time in the morning to check emails on my to work, or simply relax while traveling to a meeting in the city became a joy, especially on those frigid and snowy Rochester days.  Even in good weather, I would throw my bike on the front rack of the bus and go “multi-modal” to countless destinations in the city and even the nearest suburbs.  I found the sense of community on the bus to be enjoyable as well, an aspect of transit that is easy to forget when traveling alone by car.

As far-fetched as it might seem, using a broad range of transportation modes helped to expand the focus beyond my insulated life, allowing me to see that I was part of something bigger and more interconnected… and something I could help to make a little better every day.  It made me realize the importance of urban density and mixed-use development.  It helped me understand that with every car trip turned bike ride or bus trip, I was one less polluter, one less car on the road that was stuck in the traffic jam, one less parking space needed, and one less safety concern for pedestrians and other bike riders.  These were the seeds that led me to create TheUrbanPhoenix.com, a blog that addresses urban issues across New York State, which now enjoys a national readership.

A decade after that first bike ride, I’ve become a full-fledged multi-modal transportation advocate.  With the persistent work by cyclists and transit riders, as well as organizations like Reconnect Rochester, I’ve seen our city slowly progress as we work to make our streets safer and more equitable.  There are tremendous hurdles we must climb to make alternative transportation a safer and more convenient form of mobility in The Flower City, but with the dedication of so many advocates who understand that life is better when you’re multi-modal, I am pleasantly optimistic.

I still own a car.  It’s a used sub-compact that is cheap, slow and completely unsexy.  I went car-free for over a year at one point, but the modern realities of American sprawl, combined with my recent introduction to the “everything suddenly hurts” phase of middle-aged awareness means that a car-lite lifestyle is the way for me.  And of course, with the lack of adequate snow removal from most trails and bike lanes in our community, having a car as a “backup” means that I can still get to where I need to go regardless of the conditions and how we maintain our infrastructure.  And for that I understand I’m privileged, as many in our community cannot afford that luxury.  Still, I bike and ride the bus far more miles each year than I drive, and that helps me feel like I am making a difference.

When I started biking to work, I felt accomplished.  When I started taking the bus to destinations across Rochester, I felt empowered.  When this became a routine, it transformed me into an advocate.  Today, it’s a way of life, and one that has helped me to understand how connected I can feel to my community, just by moving around it.

Today, using multi-modal transportation has become as practical as it is satisfying.  I have even added other mobility options to my “fleet,” such as an an Ebike, an Electric Scooter, a Onewheel, and several longboards (I taught myself to skateboard during COVID!).  All of these options allow me to adapt to nearly any trip, any condition and frankly, they make moving around a lot more fun.

I am relatively unaffected by the realities of stifling gas prices.  Finding parking for our numerous Rochester events like Jazz Fest and Red Wings games is not just easy, it’s always free.  And when others rant about the horrors of their adversarial morning commute, I can’t help but grin, knowing that two-thirds of my bike ride to work is along a trail through nature where I watch the sun speckle through the trees and “befriend” deer, rabbits, ducks, geese, foxes, giant turtles and even a pack of wild turkeys.

And that’s the realization that eventually comes from living car-free or even car-lite for an extended period of time.  Suddenly, you see the battleground of automobile aggression on our roads as you slowly move past it, through it and beyond it, unaffected by the anxiety of the masses who are constantly trying to shave seconds off of their journey.  It’s the wry smile you can’t contain, like knowing that you’re one of the few that have discovered a secret happiness that you wish others could experience, even just once.  I don’t do what I do for purposes of ego or politics… I do it because I know I feel like a better, more complete human being.  I don’t advocate for what I do for any other reason than I wish others had the opportunity to see mobility the way I do… and if they did, I truly believe our world would look very different.  And that “different” is the Rochester I would love to imagine for our future.

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Bike Access to Nature

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

I say this on my history bike tours a lot: If I could temporarily time travel back to one decade, it’d be the 1890s. In this decade, the up ‘til then economy-minded City of Rochester started a massive investment in the public realm: it developed its world-class park system and with the electrification and extension of the trolleys, residents could hop on a streetcar and visit our parks and beaches at their leisure. The 1890s is also renowned as the greatest bike boom in history and automobiles hadn’t yet dominated our streets.

Bike History Books
Rochester’s bike history is featured quite prominently in these four recent books

One of the bicycle’s greatest selling points at the time was the ability to access these newly developed parks and to escape the city into nature whenever you wanted. The world was at your fingertips – just a short pedal away! In the early twentieth century, Rochester cyclists would make that access to nature and the surrounding countryside even easier by pioneering a system of sidepaths through Monroe County. For a while, cyclists came to Rochester from afar to see top-notch bike infrastructure!

In Rochester’s early days, the city center was surrounded on all sides by “verdant nurseries and blooming orchards.” Visitors to the Flower City were awed by the “seemingly endless acres of blooming rose bushes, tulip beds & fruit trees, encircling the city.” Before those areas were taken over for housing, Rochester’s early Parks Commissioners proposed a park boulevard 300 feet in width encircling the city with a number of small parks scattered along its route. Instead, priority was given to two large parks straddling the river: “South Park” (Genesee Valley Park) and “North Park” (Seneca Park).

That original idea, though, kept resurfacing as subsequent mayors toyed with the idea of connecting the growing park system. Like many, we are mesmerized by this 1911 vision for Rochester. Because Rochester’s large parks were “comparatively remote,” planners felt their usefulness could be “much enhanced by narrow, extending arms reaching out into the surrounding territory and forming park-like approaches to them.” These connective parkways  would “multiply in effect the extent of park area conveniently available to the community.”

Map of Rochester

Sadly, the costs were too prohibitive and the project was dropped. (Two small beginnings though were made towards its realization: Seneca Parkway in Maplewood and Genesee Park Boulevard in the 19th Ward). For an example of a peer city that got much closer to achieving a similar vision, check out Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville Loop Overview
Though they are still working towards its full realization, Louisville, Kentucky’s Olmsted Parks are connected with Parkways. Learn more about the Louisville Loop.

With another bike boom happening, the recent adoption of Rochester’s Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, the expansion of the City’s Bike Boulevard network, and the simultaneous creation of Active Transportation Plans for the city and county, we thought it a good time to revisit this concept of bike access to nature and our parks. Using the 1911 vision as our guide, let’s examine our modern bike network as connective tissue to our stellar parks.

Rochester's Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights

The Highland Crossing Trail, which many residents don’t know about since it hasn’t been incorporated into Google Maps’ bike layer yet, was a unique collaboration between Brighton and Rochester. With the Erie Canal Trail, it connects Genesee Valley Park to Highland Park. These trails together with the Genesee Riverway Trail make a wonderful seven-mile recreational loop we recommend you try sometime.

Bike Route Map
Bike Route Map

Recurrent calls in the early twentieth century to secure the Pinnacle Hills as parkland connecting Highland Park and Cobbs Hill Park were unsuccessful but today’s Bike Boulevard through Swillburg and Upper Monroe does a good job of connecting them.

Bike Route Map
Bike Route Map

Connecting Cobbs Hill to Irondequoit Bay and what is now Ellison Park is harder. The 1911 planners called for an extension of Richs Dugway Road but today’s railroad tracks present a significant barrier, as does the area around Wegmans and the “Can of Worms” interchange. For now, Browncroft Blvd, Blossom Rd and Highland Ave can be used. Living in the Culver and Merchants triangle, my kids and I are a 10 minute bike ride away from Ellison Park – a ride we cherish, especially in the Fall. We turn off of Browncroft onto Shaftsbury and Corwin Roads for a low-stress approach to the Park.

Bike Route Map
Bike Route Map

Though a parkway or trail extending east to west “along the low land just south of the Ridge Road” and today’s 104 isn’t possible, the El Camino Trail and the new Bike Boulevard through 14621 can connect Seneca Park to Irondequoit Bay.

Bike Route Maps

To connect the Genesee River and Seneca Park to Durand Eastman Park, the 1911 plan called for a connection westward “up one of the little valleys” to the northerly end of Seneca Park. Check out this creative route by Pam Rogers.

Bike Route Maps

To connect downtown with Edgerton Park and further north, we all know Lake Avenue must be avoided at all costs by bike. But the new Bike Boulevard along Plymouth parallels Lake Avenue and gets you all the way up to Kodak Park in a low-stress manner through the gorgeous Maplewood neighborhood.

What are your favorite low-stress ways to visit nature by bike? Let us know! If you agree with the Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights declaration that every Rochester child should be able to “safely explore their community green spaces” and nearby parks, we’d ask you to advocate for continuous, high-comfort bike infrastructure for all ages and abilities for the City and County’s Active Transportation Plans this year.

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How should we grow Rochester’s bike infrastructure? Let’s ask the data.

Guest blog by Nate August (Data Scientist & Graduate, University of Rochester) and Doug Kelley (Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Rochester)

The year 2022 could be a watershed for active transportation in the Rochester region. The City of Rochester is writing a new Active Transportation Plan to update and extend its existing Bicycle Master Plan (completed in 2011). Meanwhile, Monroe County is writing its first-ever Countywide Active Transportation Plan. Both documents will lay out a vision and set priorities to guide transportation policy for years or decades. Their recommendations will literally be made concrete in communities’ sidewalks, bike paths, bus stops, and roads. Smart planning can improve equity and sustainability in everybody’s transportation – and can be empowered by data-driven insights.

Sharrows in Rochester

This spring, our team of graduate students and faculty at the University of Rochester’s Goergen Institute for Data Science, in partnership with the City of Rochester, set out to make data-driven recommendations for one key enabler of active transportation, the City’s bike infrastructure. We drew on a recent scientific study of bike networks in 62 other cities around the world, coauthored by researchers at the University of Rochester and the IT University of Copenhagen. We selected 86 points of interest around the City and calculated many thousands of routes among them, each along existing bikeways and streets, then located the street segments that currently lack bike infrastructure but frequently are part of the calculated routes. Those are places where new infrastructure would carry the most bike traffic and could most quickly improve users’ experiences of Rochester’s bike network. Here are the ten segments most important for bike transportation in Rochester, according to our analysis:

    • Monroe Avenue between Culver Road and Howell Street
    • Elmwood Avenue between Mount Hope Avenue and S. Goodman Street
    • Driving Park Avenue between La Grange Avenue and Saint Paul Street
    • Joseph Avenue between Cumberland Avenue and Norton Street
    • A connection between North Street and Central Park, either Davis and Scio Streets or Portland Avenue
    • State Street between Andrews Street and Smith Street
    • Smith Street between Lake Avenue and Saint Paul Street
    • South Clinton Avenue between Gregory Street and East Broad Street
    • Stone Street between East Broad Street and East Main Street
    • Saint Paul Street between East Main Street and Andrews Street

Our data-driven recommendations agree well with intuition and ongoing community conversation. Many of these street segments are also among the ten most obvious gaps in Rochester’s bike network, according to Reconnect Rochester’s Mind the Gap campaign. Many were recommended for upgraded bike infrastructure in the Rochester 2034 blueprint for growth and development, adopted by City Council in 2019. When different people using different methods tackle the same problem and find similar solutions, it’s a good sign that those could be the right solutions for the community – great minds think alike!

To learn more about the results and analysis that led to our recommendations, check out the interactive map below. It shows the data-driven recommendations along with existing bike infrastructure and the points of interest. You can pan, zoom, and toggle the layers. Altogether, these new segments span just eight miles (13 km) – short enough to be built rapidly and at low cost. As the map shows, they would link disjointed parts of Rochester’s existing bike network and connect it to more neighborhoods, bringing transportation equity to more residents.

Once these ten key segments have bike-friendly infrastructure, further construction would bring further improvements, and we used the same sort of analysis to ask what should come next. The animation below shows what the Rochester bike network could look like as infrastructure is added in 12-mile increments up to 60 miles. According to our analysis, communities are best served by prioritizing dense connections in the City center along with selected arterial connections to outlying areas.

Suggested bike connections in Rochester

There’s more good news when we rate the impacts of these recommendations in terms of directness. If you’re biking from, say, the Public Market to the downtown library, the directness of your route is the ratio of the actual distance you pedal to the distance as the crow flies. A more direct route is quicker and more efficient. By averaging over all the routes among all the points of interest, the directness of a whole bike network can be calculated. The scientific study found, surprisingly, that building new infrastructure during the early part of a bike network’s development can actually make directness worse because new neighborhoods are at first connected only by tortuous routes. But the good news for Rochester is that our strong foundation of roughly 75 miles of existing protected bikeways, bike boulevards and bike paths allows us to achieve steadily increasing directness. Here, bike routes will tend to get straighter and more direct with each new infrastructure project, as long as projects are chosen sensibly.

Our analysis is all about connecting points of interest, so the results depend strongly on how those points are chosen. We started with the City of Rochester Commercial Corridor Business Data, published as part of the 2034 Plan, which tabulates 1800 locations. By looking for clusters of nearby places, we reduced that long list to 86 points of interest, which constitute parks, museums, convenience stores, schools, and other businesses. We checked to be sure that the points didn’t unfairly favor any of the City’s four quadrants or areas with higher median income. In fact, we repeated our analysis with different points of interest, chosen with a preference for serving underprivileged neighborhoods and combined the results for our final recommendations. We’ve worked hard to make recommendations that promote equity and serve all residents.

Of course, recommendations alone aren’t enough. Concrete improvements to Rochester’s bike network will require, well, concrete – as well as public will. You can help make these recommendations reality. Use this interactive map to mark assets, opportunities, and concerns that should be considered in the Countywide Active Transportation Plan. Respond to the community survey for Rochester’s Active Transportation Plan. Encourage your community leaders to prioritize bike and pedestrian infrastructure, especially when they think about big projects like ROC the Riverway and the Inner Loop North Transformation.

Kids ride on a bike path in Rochester

You can also dig deeper into our analysis by reading the full report or adapt our tools and methods to other communities by downloading our analysis code. A similar study of Monroe County would be invaluable and would be easier now that we’ve added much of Rochester’s bike infrastructure to OpenStreetMap.

With more data and analytical processing power available now than humankind has ever before known, our society is in a position to devise and execute truly excellent plans for active transportation networks. Let’s make the most of the opportunity.

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Bike Week 2022

The cycling season in Rochester continues with Bike Week 2022, spanning two consecutive weekends from May 13 to 22 and offering cycling events for all ages and levels of expertise.

Example of a Bike Week ride
The purpose is to celebrate biking in Rochester and expand the use of bikes as practical, daily transportation. With many people taking up biking during the pandemic, Bike Week welcomes new riders and demonstrates the great community and infrastructure available to cyclists in Rochester.
Bike Week is put together by Reconnect Rochester but is truly a grassroots effort in that each event is organized individually. Information for the rides is below, along with a specific contact for each ride.

Friday, May 13

7:45pm: Light Up the Night Ride (131 Elmwood Ave)

This fun ride to kick off Bike Week begins after sundown and cyclists are encouraged to light up their bikes with glow sticks and bike lights. Gather at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex parking lot after 7pm; kickstands up around 7:45pm. The ride then proceeds through city streets and some trails, at a slow but enjoyable pace. Total distance 11 miles, but there will be shorter loops of 2-5 miles for younger cyclists as well. Dress warm and bring an extra layer for when the temperature creeps down after dark. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

Saturday, May 14

9:00am-2:00pm: Bike Sale (10 Flint Street)

R Community Bikes will have a good selection of ready-to-go bikes along with a huge selection of “project bikes” that need some TLC. They have no children’s bikes or 24″ bikes. Payment can be made by cash, PayPal or checks. Please note that this sale is at their Flint Street location, NOT their Hudson Ave location.

10:00am: George Eastman Bike Tour (900 East Avenue)

See Rochester in a new way. A nod to George Eastman’s own love of cycling, the George Eastman Bike Tour will take you to ten different locations related to the life and work of this pioneer of popular photography and famous Rochesterian. You will see buildings and sites that shaped Eastman’s life—or were in turn shaped by him. $25. Must register and pay beforehand to participate: eastman.org/biketours

Sunday, May 15

10:00am-11:30am: ROC Freedom Riders Kick Off Ride (East High School, 1801 E. Main Street)

Join ROC Freedom Riders for its 2022 season kick-off ride to support a new Black-owned fitness center founded by ROC Freedom Riders captain, Lakeisha Smith, owner of Inspired By Fitness. Meet at East High School parking lot for a ride around the neighborhood. This ride includes a tour of Inspired By Fitness and a fun warmup/cooldown activity facilitated by Lakeisha Smith. Contact: RocFreedomRiders@gmail.com

10:30am: Sunday Funday (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park at Manhattan Square, 353 Court Street)

Join Rochester Bicycle Time! for a leisurely cruise around our fine city during Bike Week. Explore fun hidden spots that will give you a different perspective on Rochester and possibly learn some history as well. Meetup at the park water fountain at 10:30am and rollout at 11am. Contact: Bryan Agnello bagnello@gmail.com

Monday, May 16

Nothing currently scheduled. Check back closer to this date for any updates!

Tuesday, May 17

7:30am-9:00am: Bike to Work Day Pit Stop, University of Rochester edition (Elmwood cycletrack, across from the main hospital entrance)

Our region’s largest employer is a wonderful bike destination! Situated along the Genesee River and near the Erie Canal, you’re sure to encounter some scenic spots along your route. The University of Rochester earned a silver “Bicycle Friendly University” award in 2018 and had Rochester’s most used bikeshare station during Pace’s tenure. To thank people cycling to the River and Medical campuses on May 17, they will have snacks to share in a safe manner. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with their staff and Reconnect Rochester volunteers. Contact: Tracey Austin, taustin7@parking.rochester.edu

6:00pm-8:30pm: On-Bike Smart Cycling Class, presented by Reconnect Rochester (Public Market, 280 N. Union St)

Many people like the idea of biking more, but don’t feel safe mixing with traffic. In this class, students will learn the rules of the road and proper roadway position. We’ll examine safe cycling techniques and ways to make cycling easier and more enjoyable. The class will incorporate classroom learning, parking lot maneuvering drills and a short group ride navigating different traffic scenarios together. Cost: $25 per person. Must register and pay beforehand to participate.

Wednesday, May 18

7:00pm: National Ride of Silence (Liberty Pole, Liberty Pole Way)

Join Black Girls Do Bike Rochester and Monroe County cyclists in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. This slow 8-mile ride with a police escort aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and government officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways. Registration starts at 5:30pm. Ride will commence around 7pm after ceremony. Contact: Kecia McCullough BGDBRochNY@gmail.com

Thursday, May 19

6:45pm: Rochester Bicycle Time! (Parcel 5, 285 E. Main Street)

RBT’s mission is simple: All riders, regardless of skill level. They meet at Parcel 5 every Thursday around 6:30pm and start rolling at 7pm. Expect a relaxed cruise around the City with an improvised route. This ride is a great way to know how to get around by bike. Contact: Bryan Agnello bagnello@gmail.com

Friday, May 20

6:30am-10:00am Bike to Work Day pit stop (Union Street cycletrack at East Avenue)

If you’ve never tried biking to work, this is the day! Rochesterians are very fortunate to have an average 4.1-mile commute to work, which is about 25 minutes by bike at a casual pace. To thank people cycling to work on May 20th, Reconnect Rochester will have munchies to share and celebrate those who get to work on two wheels. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with our dedicated volunteers. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

Saturday, May 21

MVP Health Care Rochester Twilight Festival

The MVP Health Care Rochester Twilight Criterium is back! This is the second race of the all new American Criterium Cup in the heart of beautiful downtown Rochester. Bring the family downtown for relentlessly high-paced racing on a short closed loop course that gives spectators plenty of access to the action! Grab a beer from the Rohrbach Beer Garden and grub from the array of Food Trucks! Details: rochestercrit.com

**Saturday, May 28** (postponed from 22nd)

10:00am-1:00pm Keeping It Classy Cycling Club’s Flower Pedal Populaire (Roundhouse Shelter, Genesee Valley Park)

Don your favorite outfit, decorate your bike, and pack up your picnic baskets! Meetup at the Genesee Valley Roundhouse shelter at 10am for coffee and a gracious welcome. Kickstands up at 11am for a short, leisurely group ride. Bring your mom and dad. Bring your Grammy and Grandpa. Bring the kids and dog! Just remember to keep it classy! Contact: Dan Slakes, danos.711@gmail.com

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Hey ROC, Mind the Gap!

In Rochester, bike riders have a lot to be grateful for: world-class trails, an average commute of 4.1-miles across mostly flat terrain, and a vibrant bike community. Something we need to work on, however, is the lack of connectivity in our bike network. Too often, road projects are done in a piecemeal fashion and little attention is paid to overall connectivity.

The new regional bike map from the Genesee Transportation Council shows just how fragmented our local bike network is. (Note: the map doesn’t consider sharrows on arterials as bike infrastructure). Reconnect Rochester wants to see continuous, non-interrupted, low-stress bicycle routes. As the City and County gear up for their Active Transportation Plans this year, we are advocating for “a fully connected spine of high-comfort bikeways” that can be built upon for years to come. When gaps are filled, ridership will increase and Rochester can eventually “level up” from bronze to silver in the rankings of Bike Friendly Communities.

With that in mind: Reconnect Rochester, in a play on words, is proud to present the first annual Mind The Gap vote campaign! We took a look and identified ten of the most obvious gaps in our bike network that, if filled, would be a huge connectivity improvement. 

Here’s where you come in, ROC cyclists. We want your vote! Take a look below at the locations we’ve nominated this year and tell us which gaps you think are the most important to fill.

The gap that receives the most votes will be declared the winner and Reconnect Rochester will give this segment special attention with our advocacy efforts. Specifically, we’ll approach the relevant municipality with our community support evidence in hand to make the case that it is a crucial gap to fill.

Some quick notes:

    • You’ll be able to cast votes for three gaps.
    • Think we missed something? There’s a fill-in-the-blank option that will help us with nominations for future years’ contests.
    • We didn’t nominate the Genesee Riverway Trail through downtown. The City is well aware of this obvious gap and through the ROC the Riverway initiative, is addressing it segment-by-segment as funding becomes available. (Someday we will have a continuous riverway trail through downtown to High Falls!)
    • Ideal nominations have somewhat comfortable biking on each end with a relatively short, awkward, or uncomfortable gap in the middle that can hopefully be remedied to have an enormous impact for a great number of riders.

(Ready to vote before reading on? We like the enthusiasm! Click here.)

Without further ado, here are this year’s nominations:

  1. EAST MAIN STREET BETWEEN UNION STREET AND DOWNTOWN The bike lanes between Union and Goodman are okay, though clearly not what was envisioned during the 2015 E. Main & Market District Plan. The cycletracks under construction further east between Goodman and Culver will be a huge step up. But once cyclists from the east side approach Union, reaching downtown is quite stressful due to the awkward 490 turn-off. Cyclists have to move left in the bike lane just as motorists next to them merge right to get on the Inner Loop. This weak spot – an intimidating tenth of a mile! – deters cyclists from what could otherwise be a decent bike corridor. Jurisdiction: City of Rochester
  1. ST. PAUL STREET FROM DOWNTOWN TO BREWER STREET Though there are bike lanes for much of this stretch, the Genesee Riverway Trail deserves better: Protected bike lanes on St. Paul Street from downtown to Brewer Street (or a tad bit further to Carthage Drive for those who don’t want to descend into the gorge only to ride back up), would open up this pride of Rochester to cyclists of all ages and abilities. As it is now, some bravery is required on St. Paul. This stretch is only one mile! Once cyclists reach Brewer Street, there’s comfortable biking up to Ontario Beach Park. Jurisdiction: City of Rochester
  1. WEST MAIN STREET FROM DOWNTOWN TO BULLS HEAD PLAZA Since 2015, Rochester cyclists have biked to Bulls Head Plaza on West Main Street to participate in the weekly Unity Rides. Though the ride itself is joyous and comfortable thanks to the escort, getting there is often a stressful experience. At the moment, there’s no bike infrastructure on West Main and motorist speeds are very high. From downtown to Bulls Head Plaza is only 7/10 of a mile! Fixing this stretch would also make biking to Susan B. Anthony house and Nick Tahou’s easier. Jurisdiction: NYS DOT
  1. MONROE AVENUE FROM CANTERBURY ROAD TO DOWNTOWN The City’s first bike boulevard was installed along Canterbury Road in 2015 to help cyclists approach downtown from Brighton and the southeast side. But once Canterbury ends at Monroe Ave, cyclists are forced to constantly meander left and right, in and out of bike lanes and sharrows all the way to Chestnut Street downtown. This stretch is only one mile. Jurisdiction: NYS DOT
  1. THE APPROACH TO MONROE COMMUNITY COLLEGE (HENRIETTA CAMPUS) Monroe Community College, our area’s largest institute of learning, is very uncomfortable to get to by bike. Though bike lanes have been installed on East Henrietta Road from Westfall south to 390, the bridge over 390 is terrifying. Students, faculty and staff approaching MCC from the north deserve a better approach. Jurisdiction: NYS DOT
  1. STATE STREET FROM ANDREWS STREET TO MORRIE SILVER WAY Trust us. Biking to Frontier Field is the best way to get to a Red Wings game. There’s ample, free bike parking right next to the gates and security guards are there the entire time – a huge deterrent to bike theft. When the game ends, you unlock your bike and ride. You’ll likely be most of the way home before those who drove get out of the congested parking lots nearby. Andrews Street is a wonderful east to west thoroughfare for cyclists, but once you get to State Street, you’re immediately uncomfortable. Steve Carter and Red Wings fans deserve better. The short stretch is only 3/10 of a mile! Jurisdiction: City of Rochester
  1. “THE JOSANA TRAIL” A critical connection the City intends to make someday is between the Colvin Street bike boulevard and the soccer stadium, where the Plymouth bike boulevard continues north all the way to Kodak Park. This is especially important as this area sees the most cyclist-motorist collisions. The intended connection is via the abandoned railroad tracks and would be called the JOSANA Trail. Things always get complicated when CSX is involved, but if this gap wins the contest, perhaps it’ll give the City a sense of urgency in acquiring right of way and finding the funding to implement the planning work that’s already done. This segment of the trail is only a half mile. Jurisdiction: CSX (City of Rochester in the process of purchasing)
  1. THE APPROACH TO EAST AVENUE WEGMANS Biking to the East Avenue Wegmans and locking up your bike next to the front doors is often way more convenient than driving there and searching for a parking space. But Wegmans could certainly be more approachable by bike on each side. From the southwest, cyclists can bike along the comfortable Canterbury/Harvard bike boulevard to Colby Street. But once you get to East Avenue, that short 1/10 of a mile to Wegmans is quite busy. Surely something can be done in this area too to better connect the Harvard/Colby bike boulevard and Wegmans to the future bike boulevard across from Artisan Works on Marion Street that’ll go all the way up to Tryon Park. Jurisdiction: NYS DOT (East Avenue) and City of Rochester (Winton and Blossom)
  1. UNION STREET FROM EAST MAIN STREET TO THE PUBLIC MARKET Riders of all ages and abilities enjoy the new Union Street cycletrack, but its shortcoming is that it’s too short and doesn’t connect anywhere. Though no doubt it’ll extend and curve northwest someday as part of the Inner Loop North transformation, it would make a huge difference if dedicated bike infrastructure continued a half mile north to the Public Market. We know from our marker campaign that the market is a popular desired destination by bike, but that short stretch of Union Street north of Main is intimidating. Jurisdiction: City of Rochester
  1. ELMWOOD AVENUE FROM THE CITY LINE TO 12 CORNERS Rochester’s second cycletrack was installed along Elmwood Ave in 2020 to connect the University of Rochester Campus to College Town. In 2022 and ‘23, the cycletrack will be extended to the Highland Crossing multi-use Trail just across from the Al Sigl Center. In June 2021, it appeared that the further extension of the multi-use trail along Elmwood all the way to Twelve Corners was a sure thing, but the project has since stalled and it’s uncertain whether it’ll proceed. Brighton residents definitely deserve this low-stress bike connection to Rochester’s largest employment hub. Jurisdiction: Monroe County DOT

So, what do you think?

p.s. We got some of our ideas from you with the informal polling we’ve done around town. Thanks for sharing!

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Bike infrastructure and bike education: Why it takes both to make a bike-friendly city.

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

Let’s be honest: there are few cities out there that attract a whole lot of bike ridership without protected bike infrastructure. Whether it’s bollards or curbs or planters that are used, it’s understandable that cyclists want something between them and car traffic besides a thin stripe of paint. When protected bike infrastructure is implemented and it connects people to destinations in a low-stress manner, people use it! It is true that “If you build it, they will come”.

This protected bike lane in Portland, Maine gets residents to their Minor League team’s ballpark. Wouldn’t it be great to bike to Frontier Field like this?

It’s also critically important to fill gaps in the bike network so it’s more usable for the average rider. As Brent Toderian notes, there’s a consensus emerging in the bike world that it’s more about quality of bike infrastructure than quantity (how many miles of bike lanes doesn’t matter as much as how safe & stress-free those miles are). The new regional bike map from the Genesee Transportation Council shows the gaps in our local bike network that lack real bike infrastructure (notice shared use lanes or “sharrows” are not counted as such) Where Rochester tends to score weakest in our regular assessments is in bike network analysis. Reconnect Rochester wants to see some continuous, non-interrupted bike routes as we approach 2034, the City’s bicentennial.

Rochester’s fragmented, piecemeal approach to bike infrastructure installation results in a disjointed “network”

Another key to creating safe roads for riding is messaging to motorists that cyclists have a right to the road. Obviously, drivers harassing cyclists, telling them to “get off the street” doesn’t lead to a very bike-friendly city! We’d love to see every municipality use Bike Month and Bike Week in May not just to tokenly celebrate biking, but a time to get mayors and supervisors in front of cameras and tell motorists this important message: “Cyclists have every right to the street. We want more residents on bikes. More trips by bike helps us meet our goals. Pass them safely and courteously.”

Order a free lawn sign from the Drive2bBetter campaign today!

So we’ve established that protected bike lanes are essential to a bike friendly city, and we’ll keep advocating loudly for them. But there’s no need to keep your bike in your garage gathering dust as you wait for Rochester to become the Copenhagen of North America. You don’t have to wait for some future version of Rochester to appear, and here are some reasons why:

Rochester isn’t a cruddy city to bike in. Many local riders concur and Dan Kamalic wrote a great blog last year observing how pleasant he finds Rochester to bike in compared to other cities he’s lived in. Rochester was rated a Bronze level Bicycle-Friendly Community in 2016 and 2020 (after making honorable mention in 2012), which means we’re a good/decent biking city already. Bronze is nothing to sneeze at; it’s a result of over a decade of intentional investment. We’ve made progress since the City made its first Bike Master Plan in 2011.

There’s absolutely room to improve (we’re not content to remain at Bronze) but cruddy cities to bike in don’t get ranked and recognized. Besides, there are parts of our report cards that Rochester scores very well in such as riding groups and bike events. We’ve got a great cycling community here! Plus we have some of the best trails in the country.

Painted, unprotected bike lanes are still very safe (even though they can be uncomfortable or obstructed at times). Most cyclists’ greatest fear, which is understandable, is getting hit from behind as they bike along the right side of the road. One would assume that with a city of bike lanes without physical separation from motor traffic, that cyclists getting hit in bike lanes would be a common crash scenario. Fortunately, such crashes are extremely rare, here and elsewhere. 

Though some bike lanes could certainly be upgraded, protected bike lanes aren’t necessarily required everywhere. It’s a good bet that our city of the future, like many cities, will feature a mix of protected bike lanes, cycletracks, unprotected bike lanes, bike boulevards and trails working together to form a network. Some highly respected figures in the bike planning world only insist on hard separation from motorized vehicles when speeds hit 30mph. Therefore reducing speed limits and keeping drivers accountable to that speed limit is a great, proven way to make cyclists safer and grow ridership.

In 2021, the City greatly expanded its Bike Boulevard network. There is now a usable low-stress bike network in Rochester that enables you to get around much of the City without the need to bike on busy arterials. The Bike Boulevards primarily stick to residential side streets that have been traffic calmed and connect to existing trails.

Protected bike lanes are awesome but they aren’t a substitute for some basic traffic negotiating skills on your bike. No quality level or amount of bike infrastructure will ever alleviate the need to follow the law, maintain traffic awareness, and abide by some best practices when riding. Even if protected bike lanes proliferate, there will never be protected bike lanes or trails all the way to your destination. You will have to mix it up with traffic some of the time.

That’s where our bike education classes come in. Cycling doesn’t have to feel like swimming with sharks! In our fun classes, you can get the knowledge and confidence to enjoy cycling more. And a big part of being less stressed as you ride is learning to ride in such a way that limits motorists’ most dangerous choices. You can take drivers’ most dangerous cards off the table much of the time. It took taking a class for me to get comfortable biking and I suspect that’s probably true for most people. 

You don’t need an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge to bike; just a handful of tips that really change road dynamics and interactions. I don’t believe a day will ever come when cyclist education isn’t necessary because the bike infrastructure is so awesome. The most bike-friendly cities and countries in the world do a great job of educating cyclists and it starts when they’re very young.

Another reason you should not wait for a city filled with bike lanes: Protected bike lanes and cycletracks aren’t necessarily cure-alls since they can still leave you vulnerable at intersections (where most crashes occur) and at driveways/parking lots. Again, this means that some traffic negotiating skills and awareness are still/always needed. We’ll explore at another time that there are ways to construct intersections much safer for cyclists, and we hope Rochester will pursue these kinds of bold design solutions in the future.

One future possibility for Rochester’s West Main Street: a protected intersection!

So when it comes to bringing about a better biking city, which is ultimately what my job is about, I’m a both/and guy. I’m both pro-protected bike infrastructure and pro-education. It takes both to move the needle and create a bike-friendly city. So get your bike out this spring, and I hope to see you at a great community ride or event. If you want to take one of our classes in 2022 to get more comfortable, reach out and let me know. We encourage you as the City of Rochester and Monroe County create their first Active Transportation Plans this year, to be engaged in the public input process and advocate for better bike infrastructure.

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In Praise of the Improved Auburn Trail

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

A Major Upgrade

Perhaps no place in the Rochester area epitomizes post World War II car-oriented development and suburban sprawl like Pittsford Plaza. Though Monroe Avenue is on a bus line, it’s always been a difficult, time-consuming or intimidating destination to get to without a car.

Several years ago I biked on the Auburn Trail to Pittsford Plaza and it was rough! The trail, a former rail corridor, was just too bumpy for most bikes. But with the recent improvements to the Auburn Trail, the plaza, its restaurants, shops, movie theatre, and of course places of employment are now quite accessible by bike! And because the start of the improved portion of the Auburn Trail is right next to one of the City’s Bike Boulevards (this connectivity was intentional), Pittsford Plaza is definitely bikeable from the City now. Once again, here’s Stefan Korfmacher’s stylized version of Rochester’s bike connections, only incorporating trails and bike boulevards.

Our Journey

On a warm, sunny weekend in October, I convinced our kids, ages 14 and 11, to ride out to Pittsford Plaza with me. Of course I resorted to bribery; they knew some surprise at journey’s end would make it worth their while. Hint, hint, it rhymes with “Joe’s.”

To begin, we biked from our home in North Winton Village to the ABC Streets neighborhood near Park Avenue. The City’s oldest Bike Boulevard is along Harvard Street and connects this neighborhood to Cobbs Hill via the bike/pedestrian bridge over 490. Bicycling along Rochester’s Bike Boulevards is a fun, relaxing experience. The traffic is sparse and slow due to the traffic bumps and the falling leaves on this day made it even better. Plus, regular signage helps cyclists find their way.

The pedestrian-bike bridge over 490 is so much fun! When you get to the other side, you can turn right to go to Cobbs Hill Park, Lake Riley, the dog park, and ball fields. The Rochester Chess Center is here, too, on Norris Drive. We went left on Hillside Avenue, which is another Bike Boulevard on a slow, comfortable, residential street. The boulevard continues past Winton and curves south, ending at Highland Avenue. This is where some brief on-street traffic negotiating is unavoidable. We had to take a left on Highland and bike just past 590. Even though there’s no bike infrastructure on Highland, the shoulder is plenty wide and comfortable and there wasn’t much traffic. When you’re on the other side of 590, the Auburn Trail begins just after Village Lane. The distance between the end of the comfortable Bike Boulevard and the Auburn Trail? 0.1 mile! Piece of cake.

More About the Trail

The Auburn Trail is a treasure! You bike past beautiful gardens, Council Rock Primary School, The Harley School, and the future site of Whole Foods. (TIP: As with all gravel riding, you’ll have an easier time and more stability by shifting into a lower gear on your bike so you can pedal faster.) The crossings at Elmwood, Allens Creek Road, and Clover were a breeze and motorists came to a stop every time to let us cross. A couple of the crossings feature Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) to make crossing easier.

End of the Line (for us)

We ended our trip at Moe’s Southwest Grill, where we grabbed lunch. Our entire trip from North Winton Village to Moe’s was less than 6 miles, about 35 minutes of fun, comfortable cycling. (If you’re starting from the Colby Street bike/ped bridge in the ABC Streets neighborhood, the trip would be just 3.6 miles, about 20 minutes by bike). The property didn’t have a bike rack so we just locked up to some signage; not ideal but it works.

Less than ideal bike parking at Moe’s

After some burritos and queso, we biked across the street, through one of the Monroe Ave intersections with a traffic light, to Pittsford Plaza and Barnes and Noble. B&N has bike racks right next to the front door. With a lot of eyes on the street and foot traffic, it’s a very safe place to lock up your bike.

Bike racks at Barnes & Noble

Thanks Rochester, Brighton, and Pittsford for making this bike trip so delightful!

Additional Notes:

  • Thank your Brighton and Pittsford leaders for this collaborative effort on the Auburn Trail.
  • Pittsford Plaza and its environs could certainly use more bike racks. Now that this popular destination is bikeable, it’s worth getting in touch with Wilmorite and politely requesting that more racks be installed throughout the plaza.
One of the few bike racks in Pittsford Plaza, at Trader Joe’s
  • Though we stopped at Moe’s and Barnes & Noble, the Auburn Trail does continue all the way to 96 and the Pittsford Farms Dairy! The trail ceases to be crushed gravel and becomes a narrow dirt trail. But it’s absolutely bikeable if the ground isn’t soggy. No special bike required. For riders seeking a longer recreational ride, try: the Auburn Trail out to Pittsford > the Erie Canal Trail west to Genesee Valley Park > the Genesee Riverway Trail north up to downtown; it makes a wonderful triangle.
In 2022, we’ll feature more blogs like this – hoppable trips by bike. We hope it inspires you to leave your car at home for some trips and that you gain an appreciation for our budding bike network and trail system.
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“Flower City Feeling Good” Summer Group Rides: Building Community & Learning Road Lessons Along the Way

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

After taking a bike class in 2013 which made me much more comfortable biking around, in 2014 I adopted the bike as my primary mode of transportation. Since biking short distances was easy and fun, it wasn’t long before I wanted to ride with other people. In May 2015 I took our son and we went on our first group ride: a tour of public art as part of RoCo’s Ride It exhibit. Riding in such a large group was euphoric! I knew I wanted more.

That summer I started attending the weekly Unity Ride at Bulls Head Plaza, then in its first season. The people, the diversity of the crowd, and the Unity Ride’s message – cyclists coming together to stand for non-violence and community – kept me coming back each week. I also started attending the City’s Tuesday Guided Bike Tours sponsored by the Recreation Department. That’s how I got to know Richard DeSarra, who was leading those rides at the time. For decades, Richard was the godfather of all-things-cycling in Rochester. If there was anything happening related to bikes, he had his fingerprints all over it. Most notably, he cofounded the Rochester Cycling Alliance with Jon Schull and was instrumental in the creation of Rochester’s first Bicycle Master Plan.

Richard was a perfect bicycle tour guide. Not only was he a natural at herding a large group of cyclists across the city, but he just knew so much about local history, architecture and culture that anywhere we went, I’d learn something new. It was through those Rec Dept guided bike tours that I got to know Rochester by bike, particularly the Genesee Riverway Trail and other scenic locations.

Eventually Richard’s health started deteriorating and he wasn’t able to lead the tours anymore, though his advocacy and leadership continued until he passed away in 2019.

For several years, Oscar Wilson led the tours and did a great job growing the community. As with many things, the pandemic threw a wrench in those weekly tours and this year, the Recreation Department felt it was time for a reboot of sorts. The City reached out to Reconnect Rochester to see if we’d be interested in organizing and leading the weekly tours. We jumped at the unexpected opportunity and asked longtime collaborator Exercise Express and R Community Bikes to help.

We changed the night to Wednesdays and decided to use these fun community rides to familiarize residents with bike infrastructure, and to focus the tours on the newly expanded Bike Boulevard network.

For those unfamiliar with bike boulevards, they are a low-stress network of mostly residential side streets that parallel busy arterials. Traffic calming measures such as speed bumps are installed to slow down and even deter car traffic, so cyclists have a better experience. Over time, wayfinding signage will be added for cyclists. Until this year, Rochester barely had any Bike Boulevards. Many are probably familiar with the first in the area: the Harvard/Canterbury boulevard from Hillside Ave/Cobbs Hill to Monroe Ave.

In 2021, the City added 20 miles to the network! When you include the next phase of boulevards (the yellow routes above, which are absolutely cyclable now!), the future Running Track Bridge connection, and pre-existing trails, you end up with a bike network like this:

Thanks to Stefan Korfmacher for creating this stylized map for us to generate interest and discussion. Click here for a key.

Here is the best thing about the Bike Boulevards: They are Rochester’s first and up to this point only centrally planned bike network. Whereas bike infrastructure on arterials is too often done in piecemeal fashion “where feasible” with no overall view to connectivity, the Bike Boulevards are the first instance of Rochester zooming out and implementing a centrally coordinated plan to connect the city. As a result, from one end of a particular boulevard to the other, there are no gaps. Keep in mind these boulevards cross major, busy streets but for the most part avoid cycling along them.

It’s important to note that the City views these bike boulevards as complementary to, not substitutes for, on-street infrastructure on arterials. But the boulevards in large part can get you where you need to go within the city comfortably as long as you’re willing to go a little bit out of your way. Someday the network could expand to look like this.

Our hope over the summer was to build up bike traffic along this growing network ahead of time and amp up excitement for construction. We rode from a different Rec Center each week and each ride was about seven miles so it could be comparable in length to other community rides like the Unity Ride. Over the course of the series, we were able to show how these various routes connect with each other to form a usable network. Here are all of our different rides over the summer combined in one image.

Map courtesy of Bob Williams at Genesee Transportation Council

Great emphasis was put on the City’s north side, where not much bike infrastructure is present and where many Rec Centers were kept open during the pandemic due to the vital support they provide to their surrounding communities. Participants enjoyed riding along the east-west boulevards in this area that serve as wonderful alternatives to Norton, Clifford, and Bay.

Though we weren’t able to ride every boulevard this summer, you can see how these low-stress routes really do connect the City! From our marker campaign, we knew residents wanted an easier way to bike to the Zoo and to the Public Market. Well, this bike network delivers! The El Camino Trail, which you can get to via bike boulevards, ends at the Seneca Park Zoo and the Public Market is approachable via bike boulevards from all four directions!

The best part of the series was having participants ride through neighborhoods they had never seen before. Maplewood and 14621 just west of RGH got a lot of love. To my surprise, participants’ favorite ride was the longest one with the most hills! To wrap up the series, we stopped by Exercise Express, which is situated on the Ames Street bike boulevard, for some treats. Along with some group photos, here is some of the neat stuff we spotted along our journeys:

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20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: University of Rochester

The Rochester area is famous for its 20-minute commute. For driving that is. Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are excited to ask a different question in this blog series: Where can you get within 20 minutes on a bike?

Presenting the sixth in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose the University of Rochester Medical Center on Elmwood Avenue and are showing how far out in every direction you can get on a bike at a casual but steady pace of 10 miles per hour. This means that if you live anywhere in this green area, you can get to U of R within 20ish minutes on a bike or scooter. Thanks again to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory surrounding the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), here’s Tracey Austin sharing her personal travel-by-bike experiences.


When I started commuting by bike 14 years ago, I didn’t realize how much ground a bike can cover in a short amount of time. And I’m not a fast rider! It was surprising to me that commuting by bike was almost as fast as driving my car to work. And when I started working at the University of Rochester, I was happy to find out I could save even more time and money on parking by biking to work.

Over the years, I have found that there is so much within reach while biking. There are many wonderful parts of Rochester within a very reasonable 20 minute ride to and from the University. Let me share with you a few of the discoveries I’ve made!

One of the best discoveries by far is that UR is only a 12-minute pedal away from the RTS Downtown Transit Center. Even better, this commute runs along the beautiful Genesee Riverway Trail! If you don’t have a bike or prefer not to bring one on the bus, you can rent a HOPR bike or scooter right at the Transit Center. Google Maps is a great navigating tool for this route. These photos show the Google Maps directions while also highlighting bike boulevards around the area. This is a very exciting prospective route for someone wanting to commute from a surrounding suburb who would rather take the bus for the first part of their trip.

I have driven my car to work only once since starting at UR. The annual parking pass can cost several hundred dollars on up. Also, UR has recently added a daily $5 occasional parking pass so you can just pay for the days you are not able to walk or bike. Not only do I love not paying for parking, but I’ve realized that I could save time by biking to work once I account for time spent walking or shuttling from my assigned parking lot!  This is definitely worth testing out to see if it may work for you, even if only in the warmer months of the year.

There’s no doubt UR is a hot spot for bikes! When Pace/Zagster was in our region, UR had the most utilized bikeshare station of the entire network. Now with 3 new HOPR hubs on our campuses, we are well on our way to being another great connection point—not only for students and employees, but for anyone needing to rent a bike in the area.

Having my bike at work adds convenience during the day, too: if I have to leave for a meeting, I don’t have to walk all the way to a car in a distant parking lot; my bike is parked right outside my office at an easily accessible rack. And I can go for a leisurely ride on my lunch break, because I am close to both the Genesee Riverway Trail and the Erie Canal Trail. These scenic trails also provide great commuting options and a way to get off the busy surrounding streets.

Speaking of lunch, taking the pedestrian bridge from River Campus over to the 19th Ward gives cyclists 10 minute access to Brooks Landing. Expand your horizons beyond just College Town! If you have 20 minutes, you can make it all the way downtown, to Corn Hill Landing, Fuego Coffee, the Foodlink Café at the Central Public Library, and more. And taking South Ave toward Rochester City Center lands cyclists in the South Wedge for any number of restaurant choices. And that’s just if you head north from UR!

Heading south you can easily reach the border of Henrietta and all the stores and restaurants at Park Point. Take the Lehigh Valley Trail (a superhighway for bikes!) from the South Lot and follow it all the way down to Brighton Henrietta Town Line Rd. From there you can easily head on over to RIT or down Jefferson Rd as well. This gives you so many awesome connection points to cut commuting time and stay off the major roadways.

Genesee Valley Park is also directly south of the River Campus and is a great access point: to the Canal Trail and all points west, plus the Greenway Trail, which can open even more commuting options for people in Scottsville and Henrietta (that would sometimes work out to be over 20 minutes, though).

Heading east from URMC, you can easily make it to 12 Corners in Brighton and all the parks in between. Highland Park is a mere 10 minutes by bike from anywhere at UR, and taking a short detour through Mt. Hope Cemetery offers a peaceful route coming from any direction.

The Memorial Art Gallery and surrounding Neighborhood of the Arts can easily be accessed by biking north on the Genesee River Trail on the east side of the river up to the Genesee Gateway Park where you can exit the trail and immediately cross Mt Hope Ave and be on Alexander St, taking that all the way to University Ave! Make a right on University and the MAG is one block up on the left.

 A similar distance to the Susan B. Anthony House neighborhood on the west side of the river can easily be achieved straight up Jefferson Ave from the Riverview Apartments on the river trail west. Not to mention all of the streets of housing that can be accessed in the 19th Ward from two pedestrian bridges and the Ford Street Bridge! 

The UR shuttle service is also a great resource for bike commuters since all of the shuttles have bike racks on the front. So if you are an employee or student and you live Downtown near Eastman School of Music, in the 19th Ward, or Southwedge you have access to a shuttle right in your neighborhood. Check out the shuttle schedules on the transportation website to see if you could even bike to a shuttle stop and then hitch a ride the rest of the way to work/school.

There are many other points you can reach from UR in 20 min by bike, some of which are:

    • Southwest YMCA
    • Parcel 5
    • Eastman School of Music
    • Downtown Rochester
    • Greater Rochester International Airport
    • Frontier Field
    • MCC
    • Brighton Town Park

Free covered bike parking on Library Rd on River campus, more of these solar-lit covered bike parking shelters to come!

If you’re pedaling to work, you can keep your bicycle safe and secure at one of our fully enclosed bike stations. The bike stations are located on the ground level of the hospital’s ramp garage, with one at Jackson Drive and the other at East Drive. Both bike stations offer:

    • 24/7 access
    • space saver bike racks
    • security cameras
    • weather-protection
    • self-service bike repair stations

For $40 per year, bike commuters can purchase a permit to either bike station which offers:

Permits for the bike stations can be purchased through the Transportation and Parking Management Center at 70 Goler House during regular business hours or at the Parking Office inside the main hospital garage after business hours. Appointments are now required if you are visiting the Parking Management office in person. Book an appointment online using the online appointment reservation form. For more information, please contact the Parking Management Center at 585-275-4524.


Newly renovated Jackson Drive Bike Cage:

East Drive Bike Cage:

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20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: Rochester General Hospital Map (+ a Bonus)

The Rochester area is famous for its 20-minute commute. For driving that is. Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are excited to ask a different question in this blog series: Where can you get within 20 minutes on a bike?


Presenting the fifth in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose Rochester General Hospital (RGH) and are showing how far out in every direction you can get on a bike at a casual but steady pace of 10 miles per hour. This means that if you live anywhere in this green area, you can get to RGH within 20ish minutes on a bike or scooter. Thanks again to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory surrounding RGH, here’s Dr. Gerald Gacioch sharing his personal travel-by-bike experiences.

I am a doctor at RGH and have been biking to work for the past 15ish years. I am not comfortable riding before sunrise or after sunset (despite bright lights and neon clothing) so my bike to work season is usually late-April to mid-September. There is really nothing like the feeling I get when my workday starts with a ride instead of the usual car commute on 490 (cycling is sort of a cross between Rocky running up the library stairs and a tranquil Zen master). I live on the border of Pittsford and Fairport. My route is Rt 31 to Schoen Place to Rt 96 past Nazareth to Fisher, left onto East Ave (GREAT new bike lane!) to University to Culver to Norton and Portland. The whole way is very safe and now has a bike lane almost the entire route.

Lessons Learned

Here are some of the lessons I have learned from now hundreds of days of bike commuting:

    • Pick a safe route. I tested out several routes when I started biking to work on a Sunday when roads were pretty quiet. I have used the same route since then and I now know the timing of the lights, where the potholes are, where people drive weirdly, etc.
    • Check out an e-bike. Still a great workout when you want it to be, but lots of fun to blast up a hill with little effort sometimes. I can cut 10-15 minutes off my commute when on the e-bike.
    • Enjoy the ride and be in the moment.

Rochester’s Bicycle Boulevards

One of the best things that Rochester has to offer in terms of bikeability is its ongoing Bicycle Boulevards implementation. Back in 2015, the City identified priority routes that could be used by cyclists to navigate the city. This year the City is implementing 20 miles of this network! Bike Boulevards are mostly residential side streets that parallel busy, sometimes intimidating roads. Over time, traffic calming measures like speed humps will be installed to slow down or even deter car traffic along these corridors, keeping the experience as comfortable as possible for cyclists of all ages and abilities. Wayfinding signage will also be added to help cyclists navigate. One of the best kept cycling secrets in Rochester is that you can use these routes now, even if they haven’t been technically converted to Bike Boulevards yet. See the purple dotted routes below.

As always, no quality level or amount of bike infrastructure will ever alleviate the need to have some basic traffic-negotiating skills under your belt. Sometimes biking on a major road is unavoidable for a block or two, and even if you stick to comfortable Bike Boulevards, you’ll still have to cross major streets. So stick to these general principles and if you want to get more comfortable and confident on your bike, take one of Reconnect Rochester’s classes sometime.

Biking (or scooting) to RGH along Bike Boulevards from the South, you get your own easy, private entrance to the complex! Northaven Terrace is a dead-end street for cars. But on your bicycle, just open the gate at the end and you’re there.

The Routes

This trip along low traffic, residential bike boulevards from North Winton Village is 3.6 miles (21 minutes by bike):

Here is a route biking (or scooting!) from the downtown Transit Center to RGH, primarily along Bike Boulevards. This is 3.3 miles, under 20 minutes! (TIP: Thomas Street, a great connection for cyclists wanting to avoid Joseph and Hudson Avenues, is one way between Upper Falls Boulevard and Clifford Avenue, so use the sidewalk for that brief section.)

Biking to RGH from the north above 104 is a little more challenging. Unless you can use the El Camino Trail to cross 104, as seen below, you’ll have to bike on Carter Street or Portland Avenue to approach the complex (Seneca Avenue is a less stressful alternative).

When you arrive on the campus, there are currently three places to lock your bike:

    1. Carter St Garage, where there is a locked bike cage (to gain access to it you go to the Parking Office located right in the garage near the entrance to the hospital).
    2. Portland Ave Garage, where there are bike racks next to security (stationed 24/7).
    3. Near the Emergency Department, where there are also bike racks.

RGH will soon be placing more bike racks by the main entrance. Cyclists can look forward to this custom bike rack in the shape of a stethoscope!


Bonus!

As a bonus, we’re throwing in a bike shed map of Rochester Regional’s other primary campus, Unity Hospital on the west side. Though outside the 20-minute scope for most people, Unity is approachable via the Erie Canal Trail from Spencerport, Gates, and the 19th Ward. It’s also not far from the City’s Maplewood Historic District. To get to Unity from Maplewood, we recommend taking Ridgeway to Latona to Welland, which takes you straight to the Unity entrance. Stay tuned for developments on the Eastman Trail, which will parallel Ridgeway Avenue. As you can see below, there are plans to connect these west side trails and we’re excited for that connectivity!

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Rolling Out the Changes: A Transit Ambassador’s View on the New RTS System

Guest blog by Nicholas Russo; an RIT graduate, civil engineer, & passionate urbanist

On May 17, 2021, a re-imagined Regional Transit Service kicked off in Rochester. As a hired Transit Ambassador for the first week of the rollout, I had a firsthand view of how the new bus routes and infrastructure were set up and how they functioned, and also got to hear the thoughts and experiences from transit users. In this post, I’ll recount my time visiting three of the new Mobility Hubs around the metro area, as well as my car-free week in Rochester! I am currently living in Massachusetts, so I was excited to have an excuse to visit my old college town, and get paid for it!

For those who may be unfamiliar, the Reimagine RTS initiative began several years ago, with the ultimate result of more efficient bus routes, including three new Crosstown lines (which I made extensive use of during the week), and an all-new On Demand service. The On Demand service is like micro-mass-transit, with shared vans that can be called for pickups and drop-offs anywhere inside specific On Demand zones. There are no fixed routes or bus stops in the On Demand zones. 

The existing fixed-route bus service is named RTS Connect. The RTS Connect fixed-route services that run to On Demand zones now terminate at Mobility Hubs. These are more formalized bus connection points that are all served by an On Demand zone, as well. Here’s the map to help you visualize the new system.

The Week Begins

My journey started at the Albany-Rensselaer train station, where I finally got to try the roll-on bicycle storage service. I packed a week’s worth of supplies into my camping backpack, and climbed on board the train. Once I arrived in Rochester, it felt great to throw my backpack on, hop on my own bike, and get myself over to my host’s house for the week. No waiting for an Uber or walking to the Transit Center. I was very grateful to also make it to the Flower Pedal Populaire Sunday bike ride to kick off my week. It was great to catch up with so many people, and see how the city has grown over the past few years!

On-board bike storage on the Empire Service

My RTS Transit Ambassador schedule for the week was one for the early birds: 5:00am-1:00pm for Monday and Tuesday, then 6:00am-9:00am the remainder of the week. Reporting for 5:00am at the Hylan Drive Mobility Hub meant that I needed to plan my alarm time for the 45-minute bike ride to Henrietta with a little buffer time, and time to get out of bed and get ready for the day. 3:30am it was. My bike rides took me mostly on a straight line along Winton Road, which was eerily quiet at 4:00 in the morning.

The standard Ambassador uniform for the week was a blue RTS-branded apron, black RTS-branded mask, and a lime green RTS-branded visor. Hopefully it was clear that I wasn’t someone just loitering all day at the bus stop. Each Ambassador also received a small swag-bag with sunscreen (thank you!!), sanitizer, and information about the new bus lines and On Demand zones.

Showtime

Monday morning started quiet, dark, and empty at the Henrietta Transit Hub on Hylan Drive, where I was assigned. The Hub consists of two metal and plexiglass shelters facing each other across the street at the Wegmans driveway entrance. The shelters are enclosed on three sides, with the side that faces the street open except for a center plexiglass slat. 

For being on a suburban arterial, it was incredibly quiet and peaceful watching the sunrise and listening to the hundreds of seagulls and geese making their morning rounds. As the way went on, though, the traffic and noise levels became dangerously high at times as cargo trucks zoomed by at 40 miles per hour no more than twenty feet away from my seat. I would honestly suggest flipping the shelters around and having the opening face away from the street. Keeping the noise and fumes out would create a much better ride experience.

My home base for the first half of the week

The first customer of the morning was a recent graduate from RIT, and an even bigger fan of transit than I was. He informed me as he walked up to the bus shelter at 5:50am that he wanted to be the first customer to try the new On Demand service. The On Demand hours begin at 6:00am, and at that hour two RTS-branded passenger vans drove up and staged at the far edge of the Wegmans parking lot. The customer boarded and went off to continue riding the new bus system for the day.

I was also happy to be joined by fellow Ambassadors across the street, and an RTS supervisor who was on duty for the day at the Hub to make sure things ran smoothly. As the morning progressed, I was extremely grateful that he was there and had direct access to dispatch communications, as I’ll explain.

Connection Hub-Bub

Many of us are used to having first-day jitters, bugs, and hitches with new programs and initiatives, and Reimagine was no exception. Being a completely new service, On Demand had a quiet start on Monday morning. Those who did try out the passenger vans sometimes found themselves waiting at the Hub long beyond their scheduled pickup time, but with no clear reason why. When someone called customer service, the representative found that they were indeed scheduled to be picked up at the Hylan Connection Hub at their specified time. But the On Demand vehicle was nowhere to be seen. 

Luckily, RTS’s supervisor who was assisting us that day was able to speak directly with dispatch and the operators. It turned out that the location of the Connection Hub was incorrectly placed on the vans’ GPS units as being at the terminus of the bus routes (at Walmart on Clay Road), and not at the Hylan Drive shelters. So, operators were driving to Walmart when instructed to pick up a passenger at the Hylan Connection Hub. This was ironed out as the week went on.

Another change that was unexpected by some passengers was RTS Connect bypassing the Marketplace Mall entrance, which was where the fixed-route buses previously would pass through. The new routes were laid out to run directly down West Henrietta Road to Hylan Drive, without diverting into the mall property. While this was more efficient from a bus scheduling standpoint, the change proved to be less efficient for many passengers who were taking the bus to the mall. They now had to walk from the Hylan Drive Hub, and then halfway around the outside of the mall, to get inside. This feedback was passed along to operators who then updated the route by Tuesday morning to once again pass through the mall entrance.

Hopping Around Hubs

I offered my flexibility to the Ambassador supervisors during the week, and they took me up on the offer. Besides Henrietta, I helped to staff the Connection Hubs at Dewey Ave & Ridge Road, and Irondequoit Plaza. Each offered their own unique logistics that show just how diverse the neighborhoods around Rochester are. 

On Wednesday and Thursday morning, Dewey Ave proved to be an important Connection Hub for commuters who work at the industrial centers on the west side of the city. This hub really served as a stress-test for the On Demand service, which had an On Demand zone comprised of all of the industry on the west side between Ridge Road and Lyell Ave. The flexibility of the On Demand service meant that pick up and drop-off times were not guaranteed, and it became apparent early in the week (before I was at that hub) that passengers would need to book additional “buffer” time for pick-ups and drop-offs to be on time for work. It was an evolving situation as the week went on. 

Another piece of the puzzle involved the “long” and “short” fixed-route lines that served the Dewey Connection Hub. The long and short lines are basically overlapping bus lines, with one line running all the way to the far end of Dewey Ave at Northgate Plaza, and another stopping short at the Dewey Ave Connection Hub at Ridge Road.

My bike at a bus stop with a Reconnect Bus Cube

Irondequoit Plaza was the quietest hub of the week in my opinion, mostly since I was stationed there on a Saturday morning. There were not any commuters to speak of in this bedroom neighborhood, and a smattering of early-morning Wegmans shoppers did alight from the fixed-route buses that terminated here. It was a good opportunity to chat with some of the bus operators as they laid over at the hub.

Finally, I ended my week on Sunday morning back where I began, at the Hylan Drive Connection Hub in Henrietta. 

As I reflected on the week during the sunny and quiet Sunday morning, I was grateful to be on the ground to see how this system worked in the real world. As someone from a city so small that our buses only run once an hour, it was so much fun to get fully immersed in a city-wide bus system serving thousands of passengers a day. I’m looking forward to my next return visit, when I can be a full-time passenger on the RTS buses, and remember how vital our public transit is for a healthy and strong city.

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20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: Brighton Map

The Rochester area is famous for its 20-minute commute. For driving that is. Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are excited to ask a different question in this blog series: Where can you get within 20 minutes on a bike?


Presenting the fourth in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose Twelve Corners in Brighton and are showing how far out in every direction you can get on a bike at a casual but steady pace of 10 miles per hour. This means that if you live anywhere in this green area, you can get to Twelve Corners within 20ish minutes on a bike. Thanks again to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory in Brighton, here’s WomanTours’ Jackie Marchand sharing her personal travel-by-bike experiences.

One of the many things I love most about living in Brighton is its bikeability. It seems I can ride my bike to nearly everywhere I need or want to go. You’d think with more than 50 years of living here that I’d be able to find my way around without Google’s help. However, it’s become a game. Do I know my community better than my phone does? Can I find a safer, quieter and prettier way to bike to my destination than Google can? Or will it surprise me and show me a hidden bike trail?

Yesterday, I had a breakfast meeting at Morgan’s Cereal Bar on East Avenue. I used the bike feature on the Google Maps app and it sent me down Monroe Avenue. That wasn’t bad because it has a bike lane. Then I was supposed to turn down Alexander, but I knew there was a beautiful new bike path on Union Street. I went one block further than Google recommended and reveled in cycling the former Inner Loop on my way to East Ave.

I left my house ten minutes earlier than if I’d driven, and managed to complete a 20-minute bike ride before breakfast. The best part of all was that while others had to pay the meter, my parking was free!

When I grocery shopped at Tops last week, my phone sent me straight down Elmwood Avenue for one mile to the store. I always avoid cycling down Elmwood Avenue, as the lanes are too narrow for both a car and a bike. Fortunately, that could change in the future. There are plans to extend the Elmwood Avenue cycletrack from South Avenue to 12 Corners, which will be fantastic but is still years away.

For now, I have to find my own safer way. I know there’s a small trail behind Temple B’rith Kodesh to quiet Ashley Drive. At the end of Ashley, another trail connects to Brandywine and then another short trail connects to Lac De Ville into the Tops parking lot. I arrived at Tops in 15 minutes by cycling only one block on Elmwood Avenue. Google – 0, Jackie – 2. 

Last weekend, I wanted bagels from Bagel Land at 12 Corners, the cornerstone of Brighton. In addition to the fastest route straight down Elmwood Avenue, Google offered me the longer but better route through side streets to the back of the plaza. There was even a bike rack waiting for me. It took one minute longer but was well worth it. Thanks Google.

It’s actually pretty easy to navigate around 12 Corners using the small side streets to avoid the tight busy intersections. If traffic is low though, I’ll choose to cycle through it rather than around it. All the stoplights keep vehicles moving slowly.

Now that the Auburn Trail is improved, my favorite after-office ride is to the Pittsford Wegmans on my way home. Google actually found this route for me. My office is just over the Brighton/Henrietta line and an easy half-mile to the Canal Trail. After a mile on the trail, I linked to the unpaved Railroad Loop Trail that took me behind Pittsford Plaza all the way to Wegmans. Google even told me how long it would take – just 18 minutes. Google – 2, Jackie – 2.

After shopping, I crossed Monroe Avenue to hop on the Auburn Trail. Google didn’t know about this trail yet – it’s that new. I exited the trail at Elmwood Avenue and then meandered some calm streets through quiet neighborhoods to my house. It felt safe and relaxing. When was the last time you called a trip to Wegmans relaxing?! 

In search of some comfortable biking clothes last week, I googled the bike route to Sierra Trading Post from my office. Most of the 16-minute trip to the store was on roads, but there were shoulders and the traffic was light, so I felt safe. Google even knew to take me around the back of the stores where the loading docks were to avoid the busy parking lot. Surprise – there was a bike rack waiting for me in front of the store! Google – 3, Jackie – 3. 

Examining the ride home after shopping, I learned that my phone wanted me to take the Canal Trail to the Brighton Town Park, but from there Google failed me. It was sending me on Westfall to South Clinton to Elmwood Avenue for a total of two miles on busy thoroughfares. 

When I zoomed in, I saw that there was a small path connecting Westfall to Schilling Lane in a small residential neighborhood. It allowed me to cut out the hilly intersection at Westfall and S. Clinton and cycle nearly the entire two miles on a mix of quiet roads and paths. Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have found the trail without Google, so I gave us each a point. Google – 4, Jackie – 4.

Finally, I already knew that the two newest trails in Brighton are not recognized by Google as bicycling routes. The one-mile long Brickyard Trail recently celebrated its fifth anniversary and connects Westfall and Elmwood Avenues. It’s a stroll through wetlands where I’ve regularly spotted foxes, turtles, owls and turkeys. The Highland Crossing Trail is less than two years old and also connects Westfall and Elmwood Avenues, but then continues north through Highland Park, ending at the Genesee Riverway Trail. Its highlight is an elevated boardwalk through a forest.

Jackie on the Highland Crossing Trail

The two trails are my favorite place to go when I don’t have anywhere I need to be. I tried the loop the other day, incorporating a couple calm bike boulevards that Google suggested. So I gave Google two points for the bike boulevards, and myself a point for each trail. Google – 5, Me – 5. I’m going to have to keep cycling so I can get ahead!

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The Expectation of Speed

Written by Arian Horbovetz and originally published on The Urban Phoenix blog

Hop off the New York State Thruway at Syracuse, head South on the I-81 expressway and you will understand. Cruising above the city’s downtown, you see the urban streetscape as if you’re flying over it, past it, like it’s something you want to avoid on your way to another more rural destination. Lost on most who travel this vehicular express route is the truth that bypassing cities with above or below-grade highways was a principle element in the demise of American cities. Indeed, the worst thing that happened to our urban culture was creating the expectation that you, the driver, can speed through it, past it and around it.

From expressways to 4-lane one way streets, we have fostered a belief that any urban corridor should be traversable by car quickly and easily, even if the result is an erosion of walkable streets and small business interests. Fast cars mean less street level activity, simply because we as humans are averse to environments that are loud and dangerous… even if we aren’t always aware of it.

Today, I was almost hit by a car while legally riding my electric scooter on a city street. The driver accelerated around a slower car into the bike lane, and missed me by a foot as he sped away in his 2-ton pickup truck. The street in question has multiple lanes of traffic in either direction, giving the driver the sense that he is in control, and that this environment is built for speed. Anyone who stands in the way of this construct should be dismissed, even if it means the potential injury or loss of human life. This kind of street design doesn’t just empower drivers like this one to drive fast, it justifies it. The design of urban right-of-ways sends a clear message to everyone about what’s important, who is prioritized, and more importantly, who isn’t. Speed limit signs mean little when we create environments where the potential for speed is high and the risk of speeding FOR THE DRIVER is extremely low.

Our insanely overbuilt American roadways have created an expectation of automobile speed, while the byproduct is far too often severe injury or loss of life for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Nearly as costly is the effect that the expectation of automobile speed and convenience has on cities, communities and the way we prioritize space. When forty-four foot wide roads create a loud and uncomfortable pedestrian experience, the shops, storefronts, parks and street level amenities that rely on pedestrian prioritization fail as well.

The impact of speed on pedestrian loss of life is clearly highlighted by the fact that while vehicle miles driven was significantly reduced in 2020, the rate at which pedestrians were killed by cars actually went up. In fact, pedestrian deaths are at their highest rate in 30 years. And as always, we are quick to protect our children from any and all potential threats to their safety, and yet car crashes are the leading cause of death in children and teens.

The expectation of automobile speed, convenience and prioritization must be challenged as we begin to realize the nauseating metrics of car-centered communities. The importance of seeing cars as dangerous, exclusive and community-killing vehicles has never been so important.

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A Naturalist’s Ode to Urban Density

Guest blog by Doug Kelley, Associate Professor at University of Rochester

I grew up doing a lot of hiking and backpacking in the woods of Alabama. Being outside connected me to a world that seemed more fundamental, more enduring, less corrupted by the mistakes of humankind. I felt empowered by the ethos of backpacking especially, that my own two feet could take me through the world from one beautiful place to another, and when I was gone, I would leave no trace, so others might enjoy the same beauty. I could forget daily stresses in favor of long conversations with friends, basking in sunshine and endorphins. I was (and am) a naturalist. I chose a college in the Appalachian mountains, and spent summers back in the Alabama woods, a counselor at Camp McDowell, quick to volunteer to lead kids on hikes.

Over time, my passion for being outdoors led to an idea that seemed surprising at first: for a naturalist like me, who wants to spend as much time outdoors as possible, the best place to live is not in the woods but in a densely-packed city center. Urban density allows me to live close to my workplace and commute by bike or public transportation, so I’m outdoors for an hour every day, routinely, without committing extra time. Urban density means there’s a small market a block from my house, a pharmacy two blocks beyond, a library within five blocks, a hardware store and supermarkets easily accessible by bike, and a huge number of restaurants, cafes, bars, and coffee shops nearby. In a city center, sidewalks and bike lanes and bus routes offer dense connections. When traveling to all these places and more, I can be outdoors, enjoying the same sunshine and exercise as on those Alabama trails, years ago.

Headed home from work on the River Trail, I enjoy fantastic views of downtown Rochester daily. (Credit: Doug Kelley)

Without urban density, neither I nor my neighbors — who I see often on sidewalks and porches — could benefit from so many amenities. If lots were bigger and residences weren’t arranged with as much density, our destinations would be pushed further away, often too far for walking or biking. In fact, many destinations would cease to exist. Markets and restaurants and shops are businesses that rely on having enough feet cross their threshold daily. Urban density puts customers close. Or, from the customers’ point of view, urban density puts businesses close.

A naturalist’s first instinct might be to live far outside the city center, near trails and hills and streams. Wistfully I can imagine myself stepping out of a house abutting Mendon Ponds Park, a favorite place to ski and hike and cycle, ready to start an outing without even getting in a car. But to gain that privilege, I would have to trade away countless hours of outdoor time enabled by my city life. Living by those trails, I’d be cooped up in a car every time I commuted, every time I needed groceries, every time I wanted a restaurant meal. RTS buses don’t go that far out. Altogether, that life would allow me far less time in the outdoors I love. Much better to drive to the trails and live in the city.

A favorite hiking destination at Camp McDowell was St. Christopher’s Pool, at the head of a canyon and beneath a waterfall near the edge of the property. But in those years, St. Chris’s was badly defaced, its rocks and water turned a sickly shade of orange by runoff from the coal mine upstream. The Rev. Mark Johnston, executive director of Camp, waged a legal battle that ultimately brought the mine’s owners to remediate the stream, largely restoring St. Christopher’s. Mark also reminded campers and staff often that though the mine owners were culpable for property damage, all people are responsible for being good stewards of shared resources, and we ourselves contributed to the damage when we used the electricity produced by that coal. It was a tough lesson, and an important one.

That lesson, too, leads naturalists to value urban density — because it seriously reduces our own contributions to the human damage of natural places. New York City has the highest population density of any large area in the United States, with 27,000 residents per square mile. New York City also has a vastly smaller per-capita carbon footprint than typical American places: in 2015, an average resident produced emissions equivalent to 6.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide, less than a third of the national average of 19. Likewise, an average New York City resident uses far less energy and produces far less waste than an average American. It’s no coincidence that urban density reduces carbon footprints, energy use, and waste. Density enables car-free transportation, which burns little or no fossil fuel. Density also makes residences more efficient, because apartments are insulated by their neighbors, and because smaller residences almost always require less heating and cooling. And as anybody who’s cleaned out their garage knows, having more space inevitably leads to accumulation of more stuff — not all useful!

Reflecting more deeply, the lesson of stewardship and the naturalist’s leave-no-trace ethos are fundamentally about equity, and urban density promotes equity, too. Beyond leaving natural places untrammelled and less-damaged by climate change, density makes healthy and pleasant lifestyles available to all, even those who never spend time in the woods, either for lack of interest or for lack of opportunity. Regardless of social and economic status, almost everybody can walk and bike, which opens a myriad of possibilities in a well-designed city center. Public transportation is more broadly affordable than personal automobile ownership. And density matters even more for people with disabilities, for whom nearby amenities are no mere matter of convenience.

Rochester, NY (Credit: Joe Wolf on flickr)

Obviously, Rochester is not as dense as New York City, but at 6100 residents per square mile, its density exceeds many American cities, including Austin, TX (3200), Cleveland, OH (5100), and even the famously bike-friendly Portland, OR (4800). Most of Rochester proper and some suburbs boast sidewalks and gridded streets, making walking and biking easier and more enjoyable. Gems like the Canal Path and River Trail connect pedestrians and cyclists to more amenities over greater distances. Regional bike infrastructure is being steadily improved and expanded. Many neighborhoods in our region are great places for the urban naturalist lifestyle.

Some of Rochester’s density was automatic, because the city predates personal automobiles. But now, building and maintaining people-friendly city centers requires conscious choices, good policies, and ongoing input from citizen-naturalists. Reconnect Rochester has made major efforts to encourage urban density and make outdoor city life more pleasant and equitable. The work continues, and you can help. For starters, Rochester’s zoning laws have put limits on density, but are now being reviewed for revision, so leave a comment supporting urban density. Urge leaders to implement and expand bike master plans. Nearly every local municipality has one, thanks largely to the Rochester Cycling Alliance (for example, see the City of Rochester plan). Or get involved with Complete Streets Makeover for hands-on projects making outdoor urban spaces more practical and beautiful. Get plugged in to Reconnect Rochester’s work so you can learn about opportunities to volunteer for hands-on projects, attend public meetings, sign petitions, and be part of the effort.

The tulip trees on Oxford Street are among the many everyday delights of my bike commute, made possible by urban density. (Credit: Doug Kelley)

In the end, my bike commute may not have the same grandeur as summiting one of the Adirondack High Peaks, but doing it every day makes it more important to my life, health, and peace of mind. On the River Trail in the morning, I see groundhogs and rabbits frequently, and also deer, turkeys, hawks, and occasionally a fox or heron. In the afternoon, I enjoy a grand river vista of the Freddie-Sue Bridge with downtown buildings towering beyond. For one precious week every spring, I revel in an explosion of color when the Oxford Street tulip trees bloom. And knowing that urban density not only helps me enjoy the outdoors, but also helps me leave no trace and allows many others the same benefits — that makes these natural experiences sweeter still. 

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20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: Irondequoit Map

The Rochester area is famous for its 20-minute commute. For driving that is. Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are excited to ask a different question in this blog series: Where can you get within 20 minutes on a bike?


Presenting the second in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose Irondequoit’s “central square” – I-Square – and are showing how far out in every direction you can get on a bike at a casual but steady pace of 10 miles per hour. This means that if you live anywhere in this green area, you can get to I-Square within 20ish minutes on a bike. Thanks again to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory in Irondequoit, here’s Pam Rogers sharing her personal travel-by-bike experiences.

Introduction

I’m so excited to share with you my personal recommendations for cycling in my favorite area of Rochester, which also happens to be my local neighborhood! Forgive me if it turns out to be an homage to Irondequoit, but it’s my way of letting you know all the best reasons to find yourself cycling here.

If you’re looking for places to ride, no matter what kind of cycling you enjoy, you’ll find something to love here in Irondequoit. It’s full of hills and flats, roads and trails, natural beauty, local history, family fun, and great places to stop and rest for food and drink. Whatever you’re looking for, it can be found between the shores of the Genesee River, Lake Ontario, and Irondequoit Bay!

How To Ride Here

The best route into town are as follows:

  • From the Northwest – the LOSP trail that follows along the parkway is the best, and it drops you out right by Pattonwood Dr and will take you over the river and into Irondequoit.
  • From the Southwest city environs – come on up St Paul St and then hop on the El Camino Trail that begins at Scrantom St and takes you north all the way up to Navarre Rd and across from the Zoo entrance – you’ll love the old railroad bridge that takes you over 104 without worry
  • From the Northeast – Well, when the swing bridge is available it’s easy peasy, but when it’s not you’ll need to approach from the south of the Bay and come around by way of Empire Blvd. Yes, busy with traffic and a very challenging hill to climb – bail out as soon as you can, on Orchard Park Blvd, if you don’t mind a few more hills to climb with a bay view, and then follow Bay Shore Blvd to get you to Ridge Rd and turn right at Kane Dr before it ever gets busy, that will take you right up to Sea Breeze Dr!
  • From the Southeast – The only way to get over the 104 expressway is to take Culver Rd but there are plenty of side streets to stay on south of it, and just north you can turn right on Brower Rd and cut through the neighborhood to come out on Ridge at Walnut Park, then quick jog over to Kane Dr to get to Sea Breeze Dr.

All Roads Lead To/From I-Square!

If you live in Irondequoit, you know our town’s “central square” is now I-Square. It was developed with a vision, to not only improve quality of life for town residents, but also to be a role model for green, environmentally responsible and energy efficient building projects. It’s a destination unto itself with restaurants, rooftop gardens and dining, outdoor amphitheatre, the Imaginarium, Art Gallery and Science Center. 

From here, it will take you less than 20 minutes to ride in any direction and find our other local treasures. West to the zoo and the river, north to the lake, east to the bay, and all wonderful tree-lined neighborhood streets along the way. When riding in town, and you must cross busy intersections, it’s safest to pick the crossroads with lights. For example, riding in northern neighborhoods divided by Hudson Ave, you can cross safely at the light using Brookview Dr to Diane Park.

You can find steep hills, nice flats, and occasional rollers. You’ll find most of the steep hills along the shores of Irondequoit Bay. There are serene and quiet neighborhoods tucked away in all corners of town: check out Rock Beach Rd off Lakeshore Blvd in the North, follow Winona off St Paul Blvd, or discover Huntington Hills nestled up against Durand Eastman Park by taking Pine Valley Rd to Wisner, and be sure to take a fun ride down Hoffman Rd behind the Irondequoit Cemetery to the end where it stops at a trail you can take through the Durand Eastman Golf Course. There, you’ll find an old hidden road overgrown with weeds that you can ride from Kings Hwy N, where Horseshoe Rd stops being a maintained road, and you can ride it along the northern edge of the golf course, across the creek, and back up to Lakeshore Blvd.

There are off road trails to explore as well. You can follow a dirt/stone trail along the east side of the river from Seneca Park Zoo all the way to the lake, which follows the old Windsor Beach Railroad line started in 1883 that traveled from the city’s Avenue E all the way north to Summerville. You can ride challenging single track trails along the west part of the bay in either Tryon Park or Irondequoit Bay Park West. Don’t forget the nicely paved pathways too! There’s one along the shore of Lake Ontario from the corner of Culver and Sweet Fern (right next to Parkside Diner) and extending to just across from Camp Eastman on the lake shore. The other one is Sea Breeze Dr along the northern section of 590 from Titus down to Culver Rd and Sea Breeze.  

Nature/Water/Parks

You may not know this, but Irondequoit, by its very name of Iroquois origin, means “where the land meets the water.” And there’s just nothing like being close to water and natural spaces, is there? The views are beautiful and varied. Some of my personal favorites I’ve already mentioned, and there are smaller parks dotting all the neighborhoods for kids to enjoy too.  A completely hidden gem is Densmore Creek Falls, accessible from the back parking lot of the Legacy at Cranberry Landing at the very eastern end of Norton before it crosses over 590 and drops down by the bay.

Food & Drink

I-Square has plenty of options for food and drink, and beautiful outdoor seating on the roof as well, so if you’re in the neighborhood you can cycle on over and enjoy! Right around I-Square you will also find the Cooper Deli, Titus Tavern and the Irondequoit Beer Company.  At the very northern end of Clinton Ave there’s a little-known but exceptionally unique eating experience that awaits you called Atlas Eats, and it’s the best for a weekend breakfast. Another hidden treasure for you ice cream lovers would be Netsins Ice Cream Shop on Culver Parkway.

If you love to ride farther afield, and take a break from your spinning wheels along the way, our waterfront taverns abound. I love to make routes that include these special stops in the neighborhood for that. Summerville has Silk O’Loughlin’s (Olie’s). Sea Breeze has Marge’s Lakeside Inn (sit on the beach!), Bill Gray’s, Shamrock Jack’s Irish Pub, and Union Tavern (it’s haunted!).  There’s Murph’s Irondequoit Pub, a neighborhood staple, now down by the O’Rorke bridge, and across the way take Marina Dr down to the end and you’ll find Schooner’s Riverside Pub, an open air only open in the summer fun kind of place.

Family Fun

You could plan a day of cycling with the kids in the small neighborhoods in Sea Breeze, stop by Parkside Diner, play a round of mini-golf next door at Whispering Pines, then head down to the Sea Breeze Pier and Beach. Need I say, Sea Breeze Amusement Park? Or ride the little neighborhoods off St. Paul Blvd. around Winona, and at its southernmost tip, take the sidewalk connecting to Maplehurst Rd, turn right and there’s paved access directly into the Seneca Park Zoo.

Routes You Might Enjoy

Feel free to use these as a starting point to create your own adventure!

I-Square to Aman’s Farm Market 3.5 miles see the RWGPS map here.

I-Square to Sea Breeze – 5.6 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

I-Square to Seneca Park Zoo – 2.4 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

I-Square to Parkside Diner and Whispering Pines 5.6 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

I-Square to Stutson Bridge Plaza and Riverside 3.2 miles see the RWGPS map here.

Town Tour from I-Square – 15 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

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Irondequoit Gravel Growler Beer Ride – 25 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

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Bike Week 2021

The cycling season in Rochester continues with Bike Week 2021, spanning two consecutive weekends from May 7 to 16 and offering cycling events for all ages and levels of expertise.

The purpose is to celebrate biking in Rochester and expand the use of bikes as practical, daily transportation. With many people taking up biking during the pandemic, Bike Week welcomes new riders and demonstrates the great community and infrastructure available to cyclists in Rochester.
For the second year, Bike Week will present a new themed Ride of the Day (ROTD), with a suggestion for a destination, group ride, or photo op. This is your chance to just get out there, using your own creativity and bikes. Look for our ROTD posts every day on Instagram and the other social media platforms.
Bike Week is put together by Reconnect Rochester and its cycling arm, the Rochester Cycling Alliance, but is truly a grassroots effort in that each event is organized individually. Information for the rides is below, along with a specific contact for each ride. Once again, masks will be mandatory at each event.

Friday, May 7

7:45pm: Light Up the Night Ride (131 Elmwood Ave)

This fun ride to kick off Bike Week begins after sundown and cyclists are encouraged to light up their bikes with glow sticks and bike lights. Gather at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex parking lot after 7pm; kickstands up around 7:45pm. The ride then proceeds through city streets and some trails, at a slow but enjoyable pace. Total distance 11 miles, but there will be shorter loops of 2-5 miles for younger cyclists as well. Dress warm and bring an extra layer for when the temperature creeps down after dark. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

ROTD Bike to a Body of Water. Kick off #rocbikeweek with our the first Ride of the Day! Bike to a body of water. Use your imagination! Lake Ontario. Genesee River. Erie Canal. Mendon Pond. A fountain in a local park.

Saturday, May 8

10:00am: ROC Freedom Riders 2021 Season Kick-Off (Franklin High School)

The ROC Freedom Riders organize big, intentional, action-oriented rides highlighting Black spaces, Black places, and acknowledging Black faces, in the spirit of the original Freedom Riders of the 1940s and 1960s. Contact: RocFreedomRiders@gmail.com

ROTD Bike to Dessert. Are you ready for today’s sweet ride of the day? Ride to dessert! Enjoy an after-meal treat, and bonus for getting there in fresh air and under your own power.

Sunday, May 9 

10:00am: Black Girls Do Bike Mother’s Day Ride (REI parking lot)

Join Black Girls Do Bike Rochester for their first annual Mother’s Day Women’s ONLY Bike ride. Meet in the REI parking lot, where their casual paced canal pathway bike ride will start. Contact: Kecia L McCullough, bgdbrochny@gmail.com

10:00am: Flower City Family Cycling Mother’s Day Ride

Join Flower City Family Cycling on Sunday, May 9 at 10am for an all-ages, family-friendly, social ride to kick off our season! This will be their 4th Annual Mother’s Day ride and they’ll be meeting up in Perinton for a short wetland walk before they hit the trails on their bikes. For details on this ride and a schedule of all their 2021 rides around the Rochester area, join them here: www.facebook.com/groups/flowercityfamilycycling. Contact: Brooke Fossey, brooke.taylor@gmail.com

ROTD Mother’s/Parents’ Day. How about a ride with your kids, or with your mother, or grandmother? Or to your mother’s house? Or meet your mother for brunch. Or any parent, actually. What a nice excuse to ride.

Monday, May 10

7:30-9:00am: Bike to Work Day pit stop, University of Rochester (Elmwood cycle track across from main hospital entrance)

Our region’s largest employer is a wonderful bike destination! Situated along the Genesee River and near the Erie Canal, you’re sure to encounter some scenic spots along your route. The University of Rochester earned a silver “Bicycle Friendly University” award in 2018 and had Rochester’s most used bike share station during Pace’s tenure. To thank people cycling to the River and Medical campuses on May 10, they will have snacks to share in a safe manner. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with their staff partnering and some of our dedicated volunteers. Contact: Tracey Austin, taustin7@parking.rochester.edu

ROTD Bike to Work or School. Start the work week with a practical ride, which you are already heading to anyway. Ride to work or school. If you are working or learning from home, ride around the block back to your “office” or “classroom” and create a new fun commute.

Tuesday, May 11

ROTD Bike to a Susan B Anthony or Frederick Douglass Statue. Celebrate Rochester’s most famous citizens and honor them with a bike ride. Visit any SBA or FD statue and ponder the great things they did for our community. Since it’s Tuesday, traditionally Election Day, may we remind you to make sure you are registered to vote.

Wednesday, May 12

5:30pm: GROC Pizza Party Ride ( 230 Tryon Park)

Come for a chill ride at Tryon/Bay Park West. No drop ride, all are welcome! Just bring a good attitude, a desire to ride bikes and eat pizza and have a beer after! Thanks to Lindsay Card for setting this up and donating pizza afterwards! Schedule: 5:30 to 7:30 – Meet at Tryon Parking Lot for a ride. 7:30 Pizza and beverages after at Salvatores on Main!

7:00pm: RBK Wednesday Night Cruise (Ice Rink, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park)

The Rochester Bike Kids are a dynamic, informal group of mostly young people who bike together regularly. All bikers are welcome. Their signature ride is the Wednesday Night Cruise (WNC). They congregate around the ice rink at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in downtown Rochester every Wednesday at 7pm and roll out at 7:30. More info at https://www.facebook.com/groups/rocbikekids Contact: Bryan Agnello, bagnello@gmail.com

ROTD Run an Errand by Bike. Do something by bike you needed to do anyway: a grocery stop, the bank, pharmacy, etc. Feel the freedom of finding easy parking right at the front door.

Thursday, May 13

ROTD Bike to a Bridge. As a way to “bridge” the work week and the weekend (see what we did there?) we suggest Pont de Rennes, one of Rochester’s most scenic, with a spectacular view of the falls. If that’s out of your distance ability, choose another bridge – over a path, stream or highway.

Friday, May 14

6:30-10:00am Bike to Work Day pit stop (Genesee Riverway Trail, just south of the skate park)

If you’ve never tried biking to work, this is the week! Rochesterians are very fortunate to have an average 4.1-mile commute to work, which is about 25 minutes by bike at a casual pace. To thank people cycling to work on May 14th, the Rochester Cycling Alliance will have munchies to share and celebrate those who get to work on two wheels. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with our dedicated volunteers. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

7:45pm Light Up the Night Ride redo (131 Elmwood Ave)

This fun ride begins after sundown and cyclists are encouraged to light up their bikes with glow sticks and bike lights. Gather at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex parking lot after 7pm; kickstands up around 7:45pm. The ride then proceeds through city streets and some trails, at a slow but enjoyable pace. Total distance 11 miles, but there will be shorter loops of 2-5 miles for younger cyclists as well. Dress warm and bring an extra layer for when the temperature creeps down after dark. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

ROTD Bike to a Park. Pay homage to the Flower City with your choice of destination, as long as it’s got flowers. A park or garden or even a cemetery. Stop and smell the roses! 

Saturday, May 15

9:00am-noon Exercise Express Bike Ride & Wash (200 West Avenue)

Come celebrate Bike Week with Exercise Express LLC at their first annual bike ride & wash. Kickstands up at 11am. They will ride through the 11th & 19th Wards promoting unity and community engagement. Towels, buckets, soap and water provided by Exercise Express. Donuts & water will be served. Contact: Karen Rogers, krogers@theexerciseexpress.com

10:00am-noon George Eastman Bicycle Tour (900 East Ave)

See Rochester in a new way. A nod to George Eastman’s own love of cycling, the George Eastman Bike Tour will take you to ten different locations related to the life and work of this pioneer of popular photography and famous Rochesterian. You will see buildings and sites that shaped Eastman’s life—or were in turn shaped by him. $25. Must buy a ticket to participate: eastman.org/biketours

3:00-5:00pm Beechwood Community Ride (530 Webster Ave)

Please join us for the 4th Annual Beechwood Bike Ride — a community bike ride around the Beechwood neighborhood! It’ll be a slow and leisurely ride around our neighborhood lasting about 1 hour and followed by a picnic in Grand Ave Park. Route details coming soon to https://www.facebook.com/events/170554108260366 Those who aren’t able to ride are encouraged to join afterwards for the picnic at 4:00pm. Snacks and beverages provided! We have a small number of bikes available to loan out for the ride, so comment if you’d like to use one. Ride kicks off at the Ryan Center and ends at Grand Ave Park. Please spread the word to your Beechwood friends and neighbors!

ROTD Bike to Someplace New. Find a new trail or neighborhood you’d like to visit.

Sunday, May 16

11:00am: Keeping It Classy Cycling Club Flower Pedal Populaire

Rochester Bike Week 2021 culminates with this 10-13 mile fancy-summery-dress themed ride, which will depart at 11am and take a leisurely pace through and around the city. Plan for a picnic afterward in one of our lovely local parks and fun with local cyclists! For more details, check out facebook.com/KICCCRochester Contact: Dan Slakes, danos.711@gmail.com

ROTD Choose Your Own Bike Adventure. It’s about the journey, not the destination. As a close to Bike Week, find a friend to ride with and just enjoy the glory of getting around on two wheels.

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20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series Kickoff: Downtown Rochester Map

Rochester is famous for its 20-minute commute. For driving that is. Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are excited to unveil a blog series to ask a different question: Where can you get within 20 minutes on a bike?

We chose the 20-minute benchmark for two reasons:

  • Nationally, half of our car trips are within 3 or fewer miles, which equates to a 20-or-so-minute bike ride at an easy, casual pace. If we could save our cars for cruddy weather, when the distances are too long or when we are transporting multiple people ౼ and biked the rest of the time (only for short solo trips in good weather!), we’d live in a different world. We’d be physically and financially healthier. The planet would be healthier. The air would be cleaner. There’d be less wear and tear on the roads. Our streets would be safer for everyone.
  • To inspire people to “shift modes” and choose to walk, bike or use public transportation some of the time – we’ve gotta start with the low-hanging fruit. Though longer distances are absolutely attainable eventually, most people experimenting with biking-as-transportation are going to start with nearby destinations. And that’s totally fine!

This isn’t about getting “into cycling” or becoming a “cycling enthusiast.” You don’t even have to consider yourself a cyclist to hop on a bike and get to a nearby destination. Biking is simply “assisted walking” – it takes the exact same effort as walking and propels you 3 or 4x faster. So even if you’re thinking, “I’m not a cyclist,” we’d encourage you to try biking to a nearby destination sometime. If you want to get more comfortable on your bike, let us know.

So where can you get on a bike in Rochester within 20 minutes?

VIRTUALLY ANYWHERE!

Presenting the first in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this first map, we chose an arbitrary centralized point in downtown Rochester – Parcel 5 – and are showing how far out in every direction you can get on a bike at a casual but steady pace of 10 miles per hour. This means that if you live anywhere in this green area, you can get downtown within 20ish minutes on a bike. In the months to come, we’ll unveil similar maps for surrounding municipalities and popular destinations. Big shout out and thank you to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory surrounding downtown, here’s our Cycling Coordinator, Jesse Peers, sharing his personal travel-by-bike experiences:

When my family and I moved to North Winton Village in 2007, we were 100% car-dependent for every trip, the default lifestyle most Americans are handed. We didn’t discover until later that we had landed in one of Rochester’s sweet spots for car-free or car-lite living: The 42 & 38 RTS routes could get us downtown in a few minutes, and as I eventually learned, the following destinations are within a 15 or 20 minute bike ride from our house:

Ellison Park, Donuts Delite, Culver Ridge Plaza, the Public Market, Wegmans, Downtown, Frontier Field, Cobbs Hill, 12 Corners, RMSC/GEM/MAG/Strong Museum, Highland Park & the Little Theatre. RGH too, which isn’t a leisure time destination. But it is a big hub of employment.

North Winton Village, we love you!

After I took a bike class at the Rochester Brainery and wanted to start biking-as-transportation, I started with my workplace, which was (fortunately!) 1.5 miles away – an easy ride which takes less than 10 minutes. When that trip got to be routine and comfortable, I gave biking to church a shot – 3 miles away (20 minutes). Once that was no problem, I started biking to the RCA’s monthly meeting, which at the time was 5.5 miles away. Once I got comfortable with and physically capable of biking 5 or 6 miles, the world opened up. As the RCA’s Susan Levin said on a recent Connections show, “Biking is freedom. Everything else is a bonus.”

One of the greatest things my family and I have discovered when traversing Rochester by bike, is oftentimes you don’t have to stick to primary arterials, which can be uncomfortable by bike. Getting to destinations via less busy, residential side streets is quite possible, and that’s a big impetus behind the City’s Bike Boulevards program, which will be substantially enhanced this year.

Take my three-mile bike ride to our church for instance. Because I’ve learned to bike confidently over many years and the trip has become routine, I frequently take the most direct way: Culver Road, the bike boulevard on Canterbury Road & Field Street.

But if I have our kids with me, or the weather is cruddy, or I just want to avoid Culver Road, I can ride through Beechwood, EMMA, the George Eastman Museum, and the Park Avenue neighborhood instead. Virtually the same mileage and we avoid major, high-traffic streets (with the exception of Monroe Ave – but for only one block).

Another example: getting to a Red Wings game, one of my family’s favorite activities. When you bike to Frontier Field, you get the best parking: right next to the gates! When the game ends, you’re most of the way home before most fans are out of the adjacent parking lots. The simplest way to get to Frontier Field for us would be to bike down Main Street all the way to Plymouth. 

That route is 3.4 miles. Believe it or not, my kids have biked this with me and it took 24 minutes to get to the ballpark. Not bad, especially when there’s no hassle searching for a parking spot and we don’t have to walk from the “car park” to the ballpark.

But if we take the upcoming Garson Bike Boulevard route, which is lower-stress and much more fun, it is still 3.4 miles! Granted it’s a more squiggly way of getting there, but we get to experience the Public Market, High Falls & the Pont de Rennes bridge on the way there – and all the streets are comfortable.

Other thoughts and tips about navigating ROC by bike:

Cities can get a bad rap for biking but they’re often safer than biking in many suburbs and rural areas. There are many reasons for this: In Rochester and other cities, speeds are lower, traffic lights are more frequent, and buildings are closer to the street. All these tend to result in calmer traffic conditions. Plus, bike lanes are becoming pretty standard in the City of Rochester.

Across the U.S., there is much room for improvement in terms of achieving a culture of respect on our shared roads. But as local cyclist Dan Kamalic pointed out in a recent blog, Rochester drivers are nice and respectful overall, especially when compared to other cities. That doesn’t mean on rare occasions you won’t get honked at or receive some verbal abuse. But as we say in our bike classes, “If they yell at you, they see you. The danger is in not being seen.” Stick to these best practices while riding and if you want to gain confidence, take one of our classes sometime.

When we’re talking distances of less than three miles, biking is pretty much the same amount of time as driving. Sometimes it’s even faster. The best part about biking to downtown destinations is that there’s an abundance of bike racks right next to many popular destinations. You don’t need to worry about the hassle and the cost of parking garages. Parking is free. Just be sure to bring a good bike lock.

Try biking downtown for these fun activities: riverside picnics, the Central Library, Movies with a Downtown View, 4th of July fireworks (we’ll never make the mistake again of waiting an hour in a parking garage to move after the fireworks have ended!), Fringe Fest, The Strong Museum of Play, Knighthawks or Amerks games at Blue Cross Arena, Dinosaur Barbeque, and a movie at The Little.

Join us next month for a look at biking in Irondequoit!

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The Great Bike Boom of 2020

A Behind the Scenes Retrospective

As bike advocates in dialogue with federal, state and local officials about safe spaces to ride, Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance often cite the “bike boom” that took off during the COVID pandemic, using it as justification for open streets concepts and investment in top-notch bike infrastructure. But the bike boom that was creating so much buzz nationally was hard to quantify: Yes, we saw that new bikes were hard to find (hence the enormous interest in used bike sales) and we heard that shops had a hard time obtaining common parts like bike tubes. But what did that look like at the micro level? So we reached out to our good friends at DreamBikes and asked Paul and Eric for a boots-on-the ground perspective of what they saw in Rochester during one of the strangest riding seasons ever. Here’s the story they told us.

All images were provided by and belong to DreamBikes.

2020 was a strange and unique year for us all, and this especially rang true for the bike industry. At the end of 2019, we at DreamBikes put together a plan of action for the coming season; how many bikes would we need to have refurbished and ready to roll at the beginning of the season, how many additional bikes would we need on hand to maintain stock throughout the year, what parts and accessories would be the hot sellers of the year, etc. While we thought we were well prepared and on track for a stellar 2020 cycling season, we did not know what was to come. 

As Covid-19 started to spread into the Greater Rochester area and lock-downs were put into place we initially thought we would be “dead in the water,” and that the spring season was going to be chalked up as a lost cause. Fortunately, State Officials saw how imperative bike shops are and we were quickly deemed an essential service that is necessary for transportation. Hope was not lost, but we quickly had to adapt and change operations not only to be in compliance with state guidelines, but to also be able to provide our customers with the level of support and customer service that we pride ourselves on. We put together a new plan; offering sales though various digital facets and service on an appointment only basis. This plan was continuously modified throughout the year, but it made for a good starting point when we did not know what was going to happen next. It was only a matter of weeks, if not days, before the craziness commenced.

In the early stages of the pandemic we immediately saw a huge boost in the number of children’s bikes that we were selling. With kids out of school and many families now working from home, parents were looking for any way to get the kids out of the house, and what better way to do so than with a new bike? In the first couple of weeks of lockdown, we had already sold through a huge chunk of our kids bike inventory.

Then came the second wave of bike sales. With gyms closed, many people were looking for other ways to maintain their fitness and stay healthy; again, what better way to do so than by riding a bike? Sport-hybrid and road bike sales started to take off. If you thought you saw more people out riding bikes last spring, you were right. Spin classes may have been cancelled, but you don’t need a large group and a stationary bike to keep those legs moving.

As the weather started to break and the traditional riding season for most Rochesterians was kicking off, bike sales continued to skyrocket. We were now seeing entire families looking for bikes. Parents and kids all needing new bikes meant that we were flying through our inventory and we started to realize that the game-plan we put together back in the fall of 2019 may not have been sufficient. Hybrids, cruisers, and kids bikes were the hot sellers at this point, much as they are almost every spring, but this time we were selling 3, 4, 5, even 6 bikes on a single transaction. While our inventory was starting to take a significant hit, it was so awesome seeing entire families getting out together for a fun family ride!

New bike sales continued to hold strong and steady and we were ready to kick things into high gear with our usual “the weather has finally broken” rush on tune-ups and service. We saw many familiar faces at this point as well as many new ones, but did not think too much of it as service orders generally tend to take off right around this time. We were in a groove and cruising now with service and sales, but really this was just the start of the chaos. Usually in the bike industry, service work starts with a boom that tails off a bit after the first few weeks of nice weather. This year, that tail-off never seemed to arrive. A steady flow of bikes were being dropped off to the shop for repairs and the service queue continued to grow. 

By mid-May, bikes were in short supply across the nation. Folks were looking to purchase any bike that fit them, and those that could not find a new bike were digging their old bikes out of their garages and basements. Service queues grew and grew and even with our mechanics doing their absolute best, it seemed like we could never get ahead of the game. Soon, DreamBikes was booked out 3 weeks for repair turn-around and we heard rumors of some shops across the country utilizing multiple shifts to keep their mechanics wrenching 24 hours a day and still having lead times of several weeks. Little did we know, the service work was not going to slow down.

By mid June, it was nearly impossible to find a new bike. The show-floor at DreamBikes was sparse at best, with just a couple of oddball bikes in stock, and some bicycle manufacturers had already run out of stock that they expected to last throughout the entire 2020 season. People were willing to buy any bike regardless of style, size, color, etc; if it had two wheels and could be pedalled around, they would buy it. We saw an influx of bicycles being brought in for repair that had not been ridden in years or even decades, but the owners just wanted something, anything, to ride. This was the case across the country, and soon distributors were running out of stock on repair items just like they had with complete bicycles. It started with innertubes, then it was tires, then chains, soon after brake and shift cables, brake pads, patch kits, you name it and we probably could not get it; bike shops were unable to order the parts necessary to complete repairs. This was perhaps the most depressing part of the entire season for us; having to turn away a customer just because we could not get the parts we needed to repair their bike.

By August, we slowly but surely got back to a more normal pace and practice around the shop. While new bike supply was still very low, we were able to salvage many bikes and pilfer parts from other bikes that were beyond repair. It was still a challenge to get bikes on to the show floor as they seemed to sell almost as soon as we added them to inventory, but we were starting to gain some traction. Parts and accessories were finally coming off of back-order and making their way to the shop. Our shelves were filling back up and our service queue was back to our standard 48 hour turn-around. We could finally catch our breath! 

The entire summer was a bit of a whirlwind and every day posed a new challenge for us. We kept our heads high and our noses to the grindstone and did our absolute best to ensure that we could get as many people on bikes as we possibly could. The ripple-effect of the pandemic will likely be felt in the bike industry for some time still, but hopefully the chaos of the 2020 cycling season is behind us for good!

Reconnect Rochester is optimistic that the bike boom will continue into 2021 and beyond. Whether it’s kids getting out of the house, adults riding to stay healthy, or residents biking to work, riders of all ages and abilities are discovering the joy and freedom of getting around on two wheels.