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!
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.”
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.
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
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.
Whatever is happening in Montreal, Rochester has great (and growing) bike infrastructure, too. Here Erik Frisch, a city Transportation Specialist and guru of alternative transportation, describes bike boxes, which allow for safer left turns at busy intersections around town.
“Sustainability Mobility Fair – Future Transportation Choices for Short Trips” Admission is free and open to the public.
When: Saturday, May 8, 2010 from 10:AM – 2 PM Where: The Center for Student Innovation at RIT, 1 Lomb Memorial Dr Rochester, NY 14623-5698
Attendees will be exposed to what is new and now available on the market and able to experience the latest choices in Electric, Hydrogen, Biodiesel, Natural Gas, Propane, Hybrid, Plug-In, Ethanol, Walking School Buses, and cycling transportation technologies.
All alternative fuel options will be on display. As more commuters become aware of travel choices, we expect to see more of them regularly choosing transportation alternatives because of the benefits. Sponsored by Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the Center for Environmental Information (CEI).
Few inventions have the efficiency, health benefits, affordability, urban design potential, safety features and environmental friendliness of the modern bike. It’s not your grandmother’s bicycle; it’s a revolutionary component in our future transportation portfolio. There have been bikes. There will be bikes.
Bikes started as glorified hobby horses (the walking machine), then got pedals (the velocipede or boneshaker), then rose up and sped up (the high wheel bicycle), then began settling down for speed and safety (the hard-tired safety), and now they are fast, sleek and efficient. It was a long (and sometime dangerous) haul; and, if you are quick about it, you can see the entire history of bicycles at the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum in Orchard Park, NY before it closes. (If enough visitors go, maybe it won’t close.) [http://www.pedalinghistory.com/]
Now, in many modern urban communities the bicycle is more than an old contraption made new and glorified by bike clubs and enthusiasts. Bicycles are not simply hangers-on, like horse-riding or Model T driving on Sunday. Bicycles are becoming an integral part of planned transportation systems throughout the country. Note how cities like Portland, Oregon and Boulder, Colorado are retrofitting their vehicle-dominated streets into bike boulevards (BTA: Bicycle Boulevards Campaign) where commuters and even kids off to school can get to their destinations year-round and safely.
Year-round and safely? In New York State? In the rain, the snow, heavy traffic, though the mud, across busy bridges, to grandmother’s house and still be presentable?
Become a believer. When more people bike more drivers accept them on our streets—which, of course, they have every right to be. In official studies: under 6.5 miles, the public prefers bicycling over mass transit. Bicycling produces zero greenhouse gas emissions, has relatively inexpensive repair bills, and because of the soaring cost of road and bridge maintenance our regional planners consider bicycles a serious component of our future transportation.
If we make our streets more bike accessible, protect bicyclists from fast-moving traffic, create innovative all-weather bike corridors, [http://rochestergreenway.org/]and provide convenient and comprehensive bike parking, the public will bike. Already, many cities have found a way to bicycle-friendly their streets, not because it is trendy, but because there is no faster, more efficient, environmentally and urban-friendlier way to get around than the bike. [http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/bicyclefriendlyamerica/communities/]
Too expensive, too radical, too dangerous, too slow, and just too much darn trouble? As opposed to what? Billions of dollars on maintaining our existing vehicular dominated streets? An obese society that spends zillions of bucks for insurance, parking, fuel, repairs, and the vehicles’ price (the ‘Clunkers for Cash’ program is drying up)?
The real impediment to creating a Rochester, New York that moves around in massive numbers on bicycles and renews our sense of community from our too expensive isolation tanks is Attitude. Everything else is there, the technology, the know-how, and the vivid examples of bike/transportation modes across the spectrum of world cities. Behold a healthier lifestyle.