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Get on That Bicycle and Ride

In honor of National Bike Month, we’re sharing this super fun and inspiring music video made by Rochester Cycling Alliance volunteer Laura Mack, along with her sister and partner.

Maker’s Note

by Laura Mack

I have found that during this pandemic, there have been times when I really don’t want to do much of anything. In the morning, I roll out of bed to my bedside table which I have made into my makeshift work desk. I spend most of the work day locked in my bedroom to create a private and HIPPA compliant space so I can talk to my clients who have SPMI (Severe and Persistent Mental Illness). There are days when the emotional toll of my work day is hard to leave behind. Social media and those fighting back against what the experts have to say have made tuning everything out all the more difficult.

I’ve found the cure to cabin fever, a cure I have known all along but sometimes it takes reminding, is riding my bike. Whether it’s riding by a friends house as they’re sitting out on their porch, or heading to the local 7-11 or liquor store to get a beverage for dinner that night, those quick trips make all the difference in my day.

I’m not suggesting you ride 25 miles down to Avon on the Genesee Valley Trail, or ride from Buffalo to Albany on the Erie Canal. I am writing this as a gift to you, to dust off your bike and take it for a ride down the street. Whether you have the intention to swing by a friend’s house to say hi and pick up tomato plants, or to the 7-11 to pick up a six pack of beer, I promise the satisfaction of giving yourself some fresh air while doing something practical and time enhancing will make all the difference in your life.

Your bike does not, and I repeat, DOES NOT have to be in the most perfect shape. Make sure you can come to a complete stop at a stop sign and make sure you’ve got a little air in those tires. If you do not own a bike, lots of folks in our community are selling great ones on Facebook Marketplace. Ask questions and look for something you like.

Decrease your excuses to increase your joy.  I hope our music video will encourage you to get on that bicycle and ride!

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Something to Learn: Cycling as Transportation

by Jesse Peers, Cycling Coordinator at Reconnect Rochester

Journey from Car Driver to Bike Educator

In 2012, I was just as car-dependent as anybody when Mike Governale’s Rochester Subway blog and ROC Transit Day caught my attention. It was Reconnect’s creativity and ROC Transit Day’s great buzz that got me thinking about getting to work without my car. When my uncle gave me his old mountain bike around that time, I gave biking to work a shot. I discovered it was just as quick as driving, but I wasn’t very comfortable and stuck to the sidewalk.

“I wanted to be less frightened on my bike.”

Confession time: Just ask my parents – I’ve always been a risk-averse, shy, non-confrontational person. When you conjure up the mental image of a macho, super-confident cyclist, that wasn’t me! I wanted to be less frightened on my bike, so when I learned my friend Tracey Austin was teaching a two-hour bike class at the Rochester Brainery in 2013, I jumped at the opportunity.

Bike Education Built My Confidence

Tracey, who had been trained as a bike patrol officer through IPMB (International Police Mountain Bike), was very knowledgeable and reached her students where we were at. No question was off-limits or too stupid. After a brief slide presentation on traffic law and best practices, we headed outside. We learned how to inspect our bikes to ensure they’ll operate properly, and we spent 20 minutes or so learning basic handling maneuvers such as the quick stop. Then came the best part: We navigated Rochester’s streets together on our bikes.

It was a beautiful late August evening, and together we made left turns in left-turn-lanes (!), something I had never done before and would never have done by myself, if not for riding in a group. I recall biking across the Pont de Rennes Bridge for the first time with a gorgeous sunset transpiring before our eyes. It felt like we were Hogwarts students riding broomsticks around the city. When the class concluded, something in me had changed. I knew what the simple bike was capable of and I was now confident enough to bike on most streets. That fall, I started biking regularly.

Ditching the Car for Good

Three months after that class, I got rid of my car and haven’t had one since. I’m healthier, I’ve drastically reduced my carbon footprint, and I’m saving over $6,000 a year. In the intervening 6 years, I took two more intensive bike classes that exponentially increased my confidence and knowledge. And in 2017 I got certified myself (alongside some friends) as an LCI – a League Certified Instructor – through the League of American Bicyclists.

“I’m healthier, I’ve drastically reduced my carbon footprint, and I’m saving over $6,000 a year.”

If I Can Do It, Anyone Can Do It

I talk to so many people who say “You’ll never get me on a bike.” “No way will I ever ride among cars.” Listen, I totally get it. I’ve been there. I understand how scary it feels. It took a class for me to get comfortable on my bike and I suspect that’s the case for many.

If you consider yourself “interested-but-concerned” when it comes to biking (most people identify in this category), I urge you to take a class. It’s not boot camp. It’s fun, cheap and some of the best money you’ll ever spend.

This isn’t about “getting rid of your car.” This is about taking opportunities to bike. The low hanging fruit: the majority of car trips which are under 2 or 3 miles. As I said in a recent podcast interview, “We’d live in a different world if we saved our cars for long trips, when the weather is bad, or when there’s more than one occupant in the car. If we only biked for short solo trips in good weather, it would change everything.” And honestly, even if you only ever intend to bike on our beautiful river & canal trails away from traffic, you’ll still benefit from a class: You’ll get more comfortable on your bike and cycling will become more enjoyable.

“If we only we biked for short solo trips in good weather, it would change everything.”

Staying Safe is Mostly Up to You

Top-notch bike infrastructure that makes people of all ages and abilities comfortable absolutely has a place in getting more people on bikes. Reconnect Rochester and Rochester Cycling Alliance volunteers are relentless in advocating for that infrastructure.

But I fervently believe that bike education has a crucial role too. Infrastructure alone isn’t enough. Even if Rochester becomes the Copenhagen of North America, there will never be protected bike lanes from your doorstep to your destination. You are going to have to mix in with traffic some of the time. You’re operating a legal vehicle and need to not only know traffic law, but abide by best practices a certified instructor can teach you.

Keep your eye out on the Reconnect Rochester event calendar for bike education class opportunities, like the “Getting Back on Your Bike” virtual presentation I’ll be giving on April 25 for the Central Library. This summer, we hope to have a couple on-bike classes similar to the one I took in 2013. A typical intro class includes a classroom presentation, basic handling drills and a short group ride where we navigate various infrastructure and intersection scenarios together.

Final Two Words: Just Ride

Beyond bike education, I urge you to just ride. Rochester has a wonderful bike scene and there are weekly rides for people of all ages and skill levels that will resume when we get the thumbs-up from officials. Send me an email to subscribe to the RCA’s monthly news, to be apprised of upcoming classes and rides, or if you have any bike safety questions.

A recent study found that people who drive to work would much rather teleport if such a thing were possible. Cyclists, however, the study found, wouldn’t teleport – because they actually find empowerment and joy in the journey.

Rochester's updated bike ordinances

On September 17th, the Rochester’s City Council approved changes to the city code in regard to bicycles. The bike ordinances hadn’t been updated since the 1960s! For a full listing, see below. Of particular note is an official prohibition for cars parking in bike lanes. The city is being very upfront that enforcement will be soft and gradual and that there must be some efforts towards changing the culture and educating motorists before the prohibition is strictly enforced. The RCA and Reconnect Rochester are eager to collaborate with the city on that educational work. In the meantime, go ahead and thank council members for moving us in the right direction.
 
Amending the Municipal Code with respect to bicycle riding and bike lanes
BE IT ORDAINED, by the Council of the City of Rochester as follows:
Section 1. Chapter 34 of the Municipal Code, Bicycles, as amended, is hereby further amended to:
a. Revise Section 34-1, Definitions, to read as follows:
BICYCLE: Every two or three wheeled device upon which a person or persons may ride, propelled by human power through a belt, a chain or gears, with such wheels in a line or tricycle arrangement.
BIKE LANE: The portion of a roadway that has been delineated and marked for the use of bicycles, not including any lane specifically marked for the shared use of bicycles and motor vehicles.
CENTRAL TRAFFIC DISTRICT: The area bounded by the Inner Loop, North Union Street, South Union Street, Howell Street and Interstate 490, but shall exclude the Inner Loop, Interstate 490 and their respective frontages.
CYCLE TRACK: A pathway in the public right-of-way that is physically separated from motor vehicle traffic and distinct from the sidewalk and that is marked for the use of bicycles. A cycle track may be configured for one-way or
two-way traffic.
b. Revise Section 34-6, Regulations, to read as follows:
A. Bicycle riding rules for persons 12 years of age or under. Unless accompanied by a rider over 18 years of age, children 12 years of age or under shall ride bicycles on the sidewalk, cycle track, Genesee Riverway Trail or other multi-use trail.
B. Bicycle riding rules for persons over age 12. Persons over 12 years of age shall ride a bicycle either on a usable bike lane or cycle track or, if a usable bike lane or cycle track has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along the bike lane, cycle track or right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. Conditions to be taken into consideration as potentially unsafe include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, in-line skaters, pedestrians, animals or surface hazards. Within the Central Traffic District, persons over 12 years of age shall not ride a bicycle on the sidewalk except where the sidewalk is identified as part of the Genesee Riverway Trail or other multi-use trail system, or if riding with a child 12 years old or under, or if reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions in a bike lane, cycle track or roadway. Outside of the Central Traffic District, persons over 12 years of age may ride bicycles upon the sidewalk, Genesee Riverway Trail or any multi-use trail. The prohibition against riding bicycles upon sidewalks in the Central Traffic District shall not apply to police officers in the performance of their duties.
C. Yield to pedestrians. The operator of a bicycle shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians when using the sidewalk.
D. Riding in groups. Bicycles shall not be ridden more than two abreast upon a roadway. Persons operating bicycles upon a shoulder, bike lane, cycle track or sidewalk may ride more than two abreast if sufficient space
is available. When passing a vehicle, bicycle, in-line skater or a pedestrian, persons operating bicycles shall ride single file.
E. Passengers and towing. No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped. The operators of bicycles shall not pull another person on skates, a skateboard or similar device and shall not pull or tow a sled, wagon or other item unless by the use of a bicycle trailer, trailing bicycle or other device designed and intended to be connected to a bicycle for that purpose.
F. Maintaining Control. Operators of bicycles must keep at least one hand on handlebars and both feet on pedals. The obligation to keep both feet on the pedals shall not apply to an operator who is unable to do so due to a condition or impairment that constitutes a disability within the meaning of federal. state or local law.
Section 2. Chapter 111 of the Municipal Code, Vehicle and Traffic, as amended, is hereby further amended to add a new subsection to Section 111-24, Standing or parking prohibited in specified places, to read as follows:
No person shall stand or park a vehicle, except momentarily to pick up or discharge a passenger or passengers, or when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic, or in compliance with law or the directions of a police officer or traffic control device, in any of the following places, unless otherwise indicated by official signs, markings or parking meters:
E. Within a bike lane, a cycle track or a trail designated for bicycles or mixed uses.
Section 3. This ordinance shall take effect immediately.

Image courtesy of New York DOT

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University of Rochester Bicycle Active Transportation Forum, Monday Nov. 15, 5:30pm SMH, Flaum Atrium Case Method Room

University of Rochester Bicycling – Active Transportation Symposium – Workshop

5:30 pm, Monday, November 15th, Case Method Room # 9576, 1st floor Adjacent Flaum Atrium off the Mezzanine

The University of Rochester Center For Community Health and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are sponsoring a forum on bicycling and active transportation with a specific focus on educating the audience on the successes of Northern cities like Minneapolis, Minnesota and Madison, Wisconsin as well as opportunities for Rochester.Dr. Brad Berk Strong Health Systems CEO, will be introducing a symposium on bicycling and active transportation. The City of Rochester is in the final stages of developing its Bicycle Master Plan that will be finalized in early 2011. The University of Rochester will play a critical role in the success of encouraging the Greater Rochester Community to promote bicycling and walking as economical, safe and healthy modes of transportation for adults and children.

The forum will present a concise overview of the safety, health, economic and lifestyle benefits of active transportation (bicycling and walking) and will invite the audience to comment on the barriers to promoting bicycling and walking both on and off campus. Transportation challenges of the University Master Plan and Rochester Bicycling Master Plan as well as logistics of bike commuting will be presented. The workshop is to educate and organize individual’s interest in promoting better access to biking and walking in Rochester.

This is the first of 4 progressively larger symposiums on bicycling and Active Transportation which will be held over the next 6 months.

For further information contact Scott MacRae via Scott_macrae@URMC.rochester.edu or Glenn Cerosaletti at Glenn.cerosaletti@rochester.edu

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University of Rochester Bicycle Active Transportation Forum, Monday Nov. 15, 5:30pm SMH, Flaum Atrium Case Method Room

University of Rochester Bicycling – Active Transportation Symposium – Workshop

5:30 pm, Monday, November 15th, Case Method Room # 9576, 1st floor Adjacent Flaum Atrium off the Mezzanine

The University of Rochester Center For Community Health and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are sponsoring a forum on bicycling and active transportation with a specific focus on educating the audience on the successes of Northern cities like Minneapolis, Minnesota and Madison, Wisconsin as well as opportunities for Rochester.Dr. Brad Berk Strong Health Systems CEO, will be introducing a symposium on bicycling and active transportation. The City of Rochester is in the final stages of developing its Bicycle Master Plan that will be finalized in early 2011. The University of Rochester will play a critical role in the success of encouraging the Greater Rochester Community to promote bicycling and walking as economical, safe and healthy modes of transportation for adults and children.

The forum will present a concise overview of the safety, health, economic and lifestyle benefits of active transportation (bicycling and walking) and will invite the audience to comment on the barriers to promoting bicycling and walking both on and off campus. Transportation challenges of the University Master Plan and Rochester Bicycling Master Plan as well as logistics of bike commuting will be presented. The workshop is to educate and organize individual’s interest in promoting better access to biking and walking in Rochester.

This is the first of 4 progressively larger symposiums on bicycling and Active Transportation which will be held over the next 6 months.

For further information contact Scott MacRae via Scott_macrae@URMC.rochester.edu or Glenn Cerosaletti at Glenn.cerosaletti@rochester.edu

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Bicycling Master Plan Meeting # 3

Things are getting interesting and exciting!

The Rochester Bicycling Master Plan had it’s third meeting on Thursday, Oct. 21nd with the Master Planning Advisory Committee and the Rochester Cycling Alliance members, Bill Collins and Scott MacRae participated. Sprinkle, the national consulting group gave a summary of the Draft Recommendations and Prioritization on Street Changes with weighting based on a customary fomulae along with the public & committee’s suggestions.

The target “Level of Service” for this project is to get roads up to a “C” level although we’d all love to get most of the roads up to a C or better. We’re currently at a D+ rating. There were some who argued that we should be shooting higher (for an A or B) but the Sprinkle group was confident once we get the process going then we can up our target level later.

The prioritization identified 4 major categories:

  1. Existing Bicycle Facility 4% of roads (6 miles) which have 4 foot bike lanes and meet criteria. This also includes roads that are programmed for next year as well.
  2. Target Bicycle Level of Service Met 29% (41 miles). These streets are typically low volume with infrequent parking which don’t require striping
  3. Roadway Restrip Candidates 46% (65 miles) These are streets where roadway restiping is the first option to meet the C level of service. Streets with minimally utilized on street parking are good candidates for high ranking in this category.
  4. Detailed Corri9dor Study Needed (DCSN) 21% 30 miles. These streets don’t lend themselves easily to the above criteria and restriping. These streets need more detailed extendsive and detailed operational -level investigations of the constraining factors and opportunities along these roads.

The exciting thing is that we will have about $400,000 worth of restriping and infrastructure improvements that the city will be acting on over the next few years. We will be seeing some bike symbols on bike lanes more and more over the next 2-3 years. It is very inexpensive to do this when a road is reconditioned. The $400,000 will be spent on roads that have already had repaving but need restriping depending on the priority score that was derived and the opportunity to do this in a cost efficient maner.

The mood of the meeting was definately upbeat and the engineers and designers from the city, state and county were very enthusiastic about what will be happening.

Sprinkle has identified Boulder, Colorado, Montreal, Canada, Minneapolis- St Paul, Minnesota and Madison, Wisconsin as our “Peer Cities” that have already made significant advances and can help us establish best practices for Rochester. More on this later. The Rochester Bicycling Master Plan Website is noted below

PS. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz of Madison, Wisconsin is coming to the Rochester Community Design Center Lecture Series “Reshaping Rochester” on April 26th, 2011, 7-9pm. He is a terrific bike advocate and gave a great talk at the National Bike Summitt in Wash. D.C. this spring on how Madison has became a bike friendly city despite being in a cold snowy enviroment. I spent some valuable time talking with him on the economics of biking and how it transforms communities. He went with his transporation team to Holland for a site visit on how they designed their infrastructure to encourage bicycling and active transportation. This is something we should consider when we meet our new mayor. Holland has programs which sponsors mayors and city leaders from around the world to visit to study their transportation system. Scott

http://www.cityofrochester.gov/bikeplan/

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Getting the word out

Mostly, I just wanted to hightlight the GRATS idea with the article below that I have posted in various venues–and to mention that I hope the next meeting of the RCA includes some time devoted to communications–getting the word out about RCA’s mission alternative transporation as a real option in our area.

So, here’s the article:

Rochester bike commuting, the tipping point

Remember when you were a kid and used to watch water drops form? You’d stare at a point where a water drop was building, then after a while a tipping point would be reached and the drop would, well…, drop. Magic didn’t cause it; it was physics and surface tension and (not to bore you) things were building up.

Something like that is occurring in Rochester, NY on alternative transportation. Things are building up. 1. The public’s desire to do something about Climate Change. 2. Rochester, NY’s location at the confluence of several major off-road trails. 3. Many influential organizations willing to work together to solve the transportation conundrum facing us. 4. A five-mile direct trail from Rochester Institute of Technology, Genesee Valley Park, the University of Rochester, and downtown Rochester. All of this is coming together in a new concept by Professor Jon Schull, interim Director, Center for Student Innovation at Rochester institute of Technology. The concept is called GRATS: Greater Rochester Active Transportation System.

Here’s the skinny on the GRATS project: “Rochester has an enviable network of bikeable and walkable trails and boulevards that connect neighborhoods, campuses, and natural attractions. Connect the dots and a few gaps, and give Rochesterians, visitors and businesses new options for local travel, regional recreation, and economic development. With intermodal links to bus stations, train stations, waterways and airports, GRATS gives us a sustainable transportation system. Over half of our trips are under 5 miles. Why not bike? Why not walk? HELP MAKE GRATS A REALITY.” GRATS.

What’s compelling about GRATS is the map. Instead of the usual busy road/bike map, you see a lean, instantly comprehensible grid that conveniently intersects our community north, south, east, and west. You spot your house, your job, or your local grocer and you see how close you are to GRATS. You and GRATS will get you to those important short distances without polluting the planet or costing you an arm or a leg.

Of course, there will be much resistance to the kind of changes needed to seriously change direction on transportation and mitigate its effect on our environment. Some resistance will come from those of us disinclined to change our driving habits. It’s convenient to simply hop or jump into our car and buzz down the road. But the personal fossil fuel vehicle is expensive. The sticker price is only a fraction of the cost of a car. You have to ask yourself: How much did your vehicles cost? The second car? How much does it cost to run it? How much of your taxes go for the upkeep of the infrastructure for your vehicle? How much for insurance? How much do you pay to park? Repairs? Inspection? Insurance? Accidents and deaths? How many jobs do you work to pay for your vehicle? Subsidies to the oil industry? What if gasoline prices start to reflect their true cost—some say $10 per gallon?

More resistance will come from the car and fossil fuel industries. They’ll feel threatened by a public willing to forgo the car for the bike, though that’s a great big hypocrisy: When you’re an employee and your job is being replaced by outsourcing or by new technology, they tell you to get over it. Get retrained and deal with it. But if you are an industry that pollutes and compromises our environment, they don’t succumb to reason and deal with it, they hire lawyers to fight it. They spend a zillion bucks on advertizing and influence peddling to convince you and your representatives that life without a car is unthinkable.

So, what’s the tipping point? What will it take for us to adopt an alternative transportation system like GRATS? What about bicycling in winter? What about getting sweaty and going to work? What about bike storage? The answer is: The tipping point is you. Get involved. Go to Rochester Cycling Alliance and chime in.

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Getting the word out

Mostly, I just wanted to hightlight the GRATS idea with the article below that I have posted in various venues–and to mention that I hope the next meeting of the RCA includes some time devoted to communications–getting the word out about RCA’s mission alternative transporation as a real option in our area.

So, here’s the article:

Rochester bike commuting, the tipping point

Remember when you were a kid and used to watch water drops form? You’d stare at a point where a water drop was building, then after a while a tipping point would be reached and the drop would, well…, drop. Magic didn’t cause it; it was physics and surface tension and (not to bore you) things were building up.

Something like that is occurring in Rochester, NY on alternative transportation. Things are building up. 1. The public’s desire to do something about Climate Change. 2. Rochester, NY’s location at the confluence of several major off-road trails. 3. Many influential organizations willing to work together to solve the transportation conundrum facing us. 4. A five-mile direct trail from Rochester Institute of Technology, Genesee Valley Park, the University of Rochester, and downtown Rochester. All of this is coming together in a new concept by Professor Jon Schull, interim Director, Center for Student Innovation at Rochester institute of Technology. The concept is called GRATS: Greater Rochester Active Transportation System.

Here’s the skinny on the GRATS project: “Rochester has an enviable network of bikeable and walkable trails and boulevards that connect neighborhoods, campuses, and natural attractions. Connect the dots and a few gaps, and give Rochesterians, visitors and businesses new options for local travel, regional recreation, and economic development. With intermodal links to bus stations, train stations, waterways and airports, GRATS gives us a sustainable transportation system. Over half of our trips are under 5 miles. Why not bike? Why not walk? HELP MAKE GRATS A REALITY.” GRATS.

What’s compelling about GRATS is the map. Instead of the usual busy road/bike map, you see a lean, instantly comprehensible grid that conveniently intersects our community north, south, east, and west. You spot your house, your job, or your local grocer and you see how close you are to GRATS. You and GRATS will get you to those important short distances without polluting the planet or costing you an arm or a leg.

Of course, there will be much resistance to the kind of changes needed to seriously change direction on transportation and mitigate its effect on our environment. Some resistance will come from those of us disinclined to change our driving habits. It’s convenient to simply hop or jump into our car and buzz down the road. But the personal fossil fuel vehicle is expensive. The sticker price is only a fraction of the cost of a car. You have to ask yourself: How much did your vehicles cost? The second car? How much does it cost to run it? How much of your taxes go for the upkeep of the infrastructure for your vehicle? How much for insurance? How much do you pay to park? Repairs? Inspection? Insurance? Accidents and deaths? How many jobs do you work to pay for your vehicle? Subsidies to the oil industry? What if gasoline prices start to reflect their true cost—some say $10 per gallon?

More resistance will come from the car and fossil fuel industries. They’ll feel threatened by a public willing to forgo the car for the bike, though that’s a great big hypocrisy: When you’re an employee and your job is being replaced by outsourcing or by new technology, they tell you to get over it. Get retrained and deal with it. But if you are an industry that pollutes and compromises our environment, they don’t succumb to reason and deal with it, they hire lawyers to fight it. They spend a zillion bucks on advertizing and influence peddling to convince you and your representatives that life without a car is unthinkable.

So, what’s the tipping point? What will it take for us to adopt an alternative transportation system like GRATS? What about bicycling in winter? What about getting sweaty and going to work? What about bike storage? The answer is: The tipping point is you. Get involved. Go to Rochester Cycling Alliance and chime in.