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Welcoming Jahasia Cooper-Esgdaille!

Reconnect Rochester is excited to announce the hiring of Jahasia Cooper-Esgdaille, Community Engagement Manager!

We’re so glad that Jahasia has joined our dynamic and growing staff team that works day-in and day-out to improve mobility in our community. In her role, she will act as Reconnect’s conduit to the community by developing strong relationships with people and organizational partners, and by conducting on-the-ground outreach. Get to know Jahasia and find out what drove (no pun intended) her to this work in the message below.

P.S. You may recognize Jahasia from one of our Car Lite Rochester blogs

Jahasia Cooper-Esgdaille stands outside the Reconnect Rochester office door, smiling!
JAHASIA COOPER-ESGDAILLE

Hello friends and fellow advocates! I’m so honored to step into the Community Engagement Manager position at Reconnect Rochester. The mission of Reconnect Rochester very much aligns with my upbringing growing up in New York City as multi-modality was a part of my family’s everyday life, which I discuss more in my car-lite blog here.

My interest in advocating for mobility justice and transit equity initially began as an environmental sustainability steward where I focused heavily on the ways that I could reduce my personal impact on the planet by swapping car trips for walking, biking or taking the bus. This interest, and admittedly newfound passion, quickly grew into a more encompassing lens on how access to multi-modal transportation options affect everything from our environment to economic opportunities, and more.

I look forward to listening, learning, contributing to and advocating for a sustainable and equitable transportation system for all of our community members!

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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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Making Rochester Streets Safer for All: The 2022 Complete Streets Makeover of Orange & Orchard

Makeover team at Orange & Orchard
Photo Credit: De’Jon Washington

As we report out on the third successful Complete Streets Makeover project, let’s remember why we do this.

In the U.S., pedestrian fatalities have skyrocketed, increasing by 59% from 2009-2020. According to the latest “Dangerous By Design” report, between 2009-2020, drivers struck and killed 64,073 pedestrians in this country. Here in Monroe County, from 2012-2021, over 5,000 crashes involved bicyclists and pedestrians, and ten people die on our local streets every year as a result of these crashes.

Monroe County Crash Map
Reconnect Rochester Crash Map of Monroe County, 2012-2021

Responding to this growing epidemic was the impetus behind our Complete Streets Makeover project, created to bring attention to street design as one critical factor in the safe streets equation.

The Selection Process

We began this year’s project back in July 2021 by asking you (the people that walk, bike, and roll along our streets every day) to help identify the intersections and trouble spots where you live, work and play that could be redesigned to make them safer for everyone. The community response was tremendous, and we received a total of 76 nominations for 68 locations in Monroe County.

From these submissions, our Steering Committee selected the intersection of Orange Street & Orchard Street in the JOSANA neighborhood for this year’s project.

Complete Streets Makeover Steering Committee
The Steering Committee hard at work

The Orange & Orchard location presented the right mix of community support, evidence of safety concerns, and potential for a street redesign that would create real, transformative change for the community through this project. School 17 is located right at this intersection and was a strong advocate for implementing change. Last fall, the Rochester City School District eliminated the Walker-Bus Program that had provided transportation for students living within 1.5 miles of their school, which contributed to the school’s desire to improve safety for its walkers.

Getting Community Input

So what happened next? We connected with representatives of School 17 and the JOSANA neighborhood, and together we planned a community workshop held in February at the school. We invited school families and residents to come share their experiences at this intersection and ideas for how it could be safer. At the workshop, which was facilitated by the Community Design Center of Rochester-CDCR, attendees were first led through the basics of road safety statistics and complete streets. Then, CDCR volunteers helped translate the community’s thoughts and desires into actionable design elements that would improve the intersection.

Based on community input from this session, the Stantec team drafted a conceptual drawing of street design improvements. Their rendering focused on elements that could be brought to life in the temporary, on-street installation and then translated into permanent improvements.

Complete Streets Makeover Design Rendering

Making Magic at Orange & Orchard

After much planning with the JOSANA neighborhood, over 150 people came out to Orange & Orchard on May 14 to make the magic happen! Attendees were made up of people from the neighborhood, school community, and a team of community partners*. Together, we worked to make the intersection of Orange Street & Orchard Street a more vibrant, safer place for everyone.

Design elements to calm traffic and improve safety included enhanced signage, curb extensions, temporary speed cushions, and a street mural designed by local artist Shawn Dunwoody. The temporary design was created by Stantec, which donates pro bono professional engineering services for the project. Other elements to beautify the space, like fence art and flower planters, were done with help of 2nd graders as part of their class project.

Nothing captures the life of a project better than film. Reconnect Rochester is pleased to share this short film, produced by Floating Home Films, that tells the full story.

We hope you enjoyed watching a beautiful display of community! We will continue supporting the neighborhood in their effort to make these temporary street design improvements permanent.

The Impact

But did it make a difference? YES! Data collected before and after the implementation (April and July, respectively) shows a measurable decrease in vehicle speeds along Orchard Street. Let’s get specific.

Makeover speed data graphic

Since the implementation, the 85th percentile speed (the speed that 85% of vehicles travel at or below) declined 28% and the maximum speed declined 26%. It’s worth noting that the maximum recorded speed in July happened between 1:15am and 1:30am.  Other than that outlier, the maximum speed was only 32 mph!  Even the average speed dropped 20%, despite there being no school in July. This is particularly notable with the safe assumption that arrival/dismissal congestion suppressed the speed of a great deal of traffic during our April data collection.  Finally, the speed data showed only 13 of 1,017 vehicles were traveling over 25 mph.

When it comes to speed, each mile-per-hour a driver is traveling makes a difference for pedestrian and cyclist safety, and can be the difference between life and death or a person sustaining life altering injuries.

Impact of pedestrian collisions graphic
The impact of vehicle speed in pedestrian collisions (The Healthi Kids Coalition)

Learn even more about the Complete Streets Makeover of Orange & Orchard

Looking Ahead

Our awesome team is on board to continue our Complete Streets Makeover program in 2023 and beyond!  So keep taking note of the intersections and trouble spots you experience in your daily travels that could use a re-design, and keep an eye out for calls for public submissions. Together, we’ll keep advocating to design our streets for people, and we’ll keep making it happen one intersection at a time.

*Community Partners

The Complete Streets Makeover of Orange & Orchard was a collaborative venture with the following community partners:

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Stuck in a Bus Rut, But We Still Believe

Reconnect Rochester meets with the team at RTS on a regular basis. We listen and ask questions. We share feedback from transit riders and offer ideas. We seek to understand and strive to be a good community partner.

Many of you might be wondering what’s going on with all the service changes over the last few years. We want to share our latest understanding with the general riding public, and anyone else who cares about having reliable public transportation in our community. Read on for our take on what happened, what’s happening, and what to expect.

As an advocacy organization, it’s important for us to collect input and channel it to the ears of RTS leadership so they can better understand the impact of their decisions on transit users. To that end, we’ve constructed a survey to find out from RTS riders how your experience has changed (for better or worse) since the implementation of the Reimagine RTS system redesign last spring. We also want to hear from former RTS riders about why you have stopped riding and what it would take to get you back.

We’ll be collecting this input through the month of August online and in-person, and then we’ll collate it and pass it on to RTS leadership. Please help us out by sharing this survey with your friends!

_______________________

What’s the current situation and what can we expect?

We’ll give it to you straight first with no sugar added, and then add a dash of hope and sweetness later.

RTS ridership is still hovering around 65-70% of pre-pandemic levels with no sign of an upturn.

On-demand service in the mobility zones is exceeding demand, resulting in a service denial rate of 30-35%. The service management platform has been problematic. This combination has made service in the towns and suburbs of Monroe County often frustrating and unreliable.

Five (5) of the seven (7) 15-minute frequency routes in the core service area – the big promise of the Reimagine RTS system redesign – reverted back to 30-minute frequency. The result is worse service for some riders than they had before.

RTS doesn’t expect any of this to change or improve until at least January 2023, when new buses and vans arrive, enough drivers are hired, and a new on-demand technology platform is put in place. 

Who is impacted most?

The unfulfilled promise of Reimagine RTS of more frequent and robust service is a burden that falls squarely on transit dependent people in our community. It stands to reason that transit dependent folks make up most of the 70% of riders who are still on the bus. Unlike “choice riders” who were able to choose another way to get around, this group of folks don’t have another option than to rely on the bus. 

Bus Stop

With the system as it is, a commute time that was already long, is made longer. Those who live or need to get to work in the mobility zones are especially hard hit. Because demand is far outpacing service capacity, there is a new unreliability that is arguably worse than the service that existed before. At least then you knew a fixed route bus would be coming along at a set time, even if only every 60 minutes.

How did we get here?

The pandemic took a huge toll on RTS. In June 2020, the long-awaited Reimagine RTS system redesign launch was postponed as RTS focused on pandemic response, health safety on buses, and pitching in to meet emergency transportation needs. Reimagine RTS finally launched almost a year later in May 2021.

A few months later (Sept 2021), a shortage of private contract bus drivers created a crisis with RCSD school bus transportation. RTS stepped in and provided service so that kids could get to school. However, to free up buses and drivers, they rolled back the 15-minute frequent service that had been the hallmark of Reimagine RTS.

For the last year, RTS has been struggling to get the buses and drivers in place so they can add back the frequency in regular service and meet the unexpectedly high demand for on-demand service in the mobility zones. The good folks at RTS want to restore the frequent service as much as anyone and are working overtime to problem-solve the situation.

There are two things standing in the way: 1) Supply chain issues have prevented vans and buses, ordered more than a year ago, from arriving. 2) Steep competition in the labor market has made it more challenging to hire RTS drivers. In April 2022, due to ongoing equipment and staffing shortages, RTS announced service changes that included “pausing” the new Rt 42 crosstown, another rollback of the Reimagine RTS system redesign.

It’s little comfort, but we are not alone in this. Transit ridership is down everywhere in the wake of the pandemic. Equipment and bus driver shortages are plaguing transit systems across the country, and have led to even more severe service cuts in neighboring Buffalo and Syracuse over the past year. 

Bus Ridership
Dec 29 2019 – July 30 2022 National Data (APTA Ridership Trends dashboard)

Is there any good news?

Yes, there is plenty. 

A host of Reimagine RTS service improvements were successfully implemented and have made a big difference for many riders. Things like increased weekend service hours and frequency, the Rt 40 & 41 crosstown routes, newly added 30-minute frequency routes, and two 15-minute frequency routes (E. Main & Dewey Ave) that were reinstated.

This spring, the RGRTA Board approved a new service management platform in the mobility zones to replace the problematic one, so that fix is on its way.

Ridership data collected from the 15-minute routes has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that frequency = increased ridership. Unexpectedly high ridership in the mobility zones shows there’s a strong demand for public transit in the towns and suburbs. What’s the takeaway? When we can restore the promises of Reimagine RTS, we will see huge gains in ridership.

Thanks to advocacy efforts led statewide by NYPTA and locally by Reconnect Rochester, as well as our Albany delegation’s support for public transportation, State Transit Operating Assistance funding for RGRTA will be increased by 15.17%. This removes funding as a barrier to service expansion & restoration (the problem is that money can’t solve the immediate problem of staffing and equipment shortages).

Many would say the Transit App has been a bright spot. Anyone who uses it can attest to the awesome design and functionality to guide transit riders in moving around.

RTS is leading New York State in the conversion to electric buses and also just got State funding to add hydrogen fuel cell buses to its fleet in the coming years. That’s a great thing for the environment and the quality of the air we breathe.

Finally, there’s also hope for expansion of bus amenities to improve the riding experience. Reconnect Rochester just got 23 more bus stop cubes on the ground, bringing the total to 54 bus stops around the city. Even more exciting, the City of Rochester with support from RTS, is applying for a $2M State funding grant to make a sweeping investment in bus stop amenities. This could mean shelters, benches, and bus stop cubes installed at hundreds of stops in the city that currently have no seating. Keep your fingers and toes crossed!

Rochester Bus

What can RTS do?

We wouldn’t be a very worthwhile advocacy organization if we didn’t point out some ways that RTS can do better even under the current constraints.

We challenge RTS to acknowledge what its customers are really experiencing minus any positive spin. Be transparent and communicate what’s happening. As transit riders, we’d like to know what’s going on. Share ridership statistics and denial rates with the community and explain why. Tell us what you’re doing to resolve the service issues. How many drivers are in the pipeline? How many buses are on order? What’s the timeline for the new user management system for the mobility zones? You get the idea.

What can we/YOU do?

Fill out our survey to share your experience.

Whether you’re a current rider or a former rider that has stopped riding the bus, we want to hear from you. We promise to deliver your thoughts to RTS leadership in the hope that your voice will impact future decision making.

If you ride RTS regularly, keep sending them your feedback.

They might not be able to make major changes happen, but they have been responsive to small improvements when they hear a sensible adjustment that can be made. Positive feedback is important, too. If RTS does something that improves your situation, let them know! Also, driving a bus can be a difficult and stressful job. A friendly greeting to the driver when you enter the bus, and thanking them for getting you to your destination safely can make a difference. You can play a part in driver retention!

Ditch the car and ride RTS whenever it works for your schedule.

Mary at Reconnect talking here. My own personal commute improved significantly thanks to the new Route 41 crosstown, which gets me to the office in 17 minutes door-to-door. In those 17 minutes, I get to enjoy some fresh air and a little exercise, check my inbox, give and take smiles (even if only with the eyes) with fellow passengers, and save gas money leaving the car at home.

Bus Arriving

Wondering what your bus commute would look like? Visit myrts.com or download the Transit App to find out!

We still believe

Reconnect Rochester has long advocated for a public transit system that delivers frequency. We still believe that the Reimagine RTS plan – when fully implemented – will set us on a path to a more frequent and robust system. There are tradeoffs, yes, but it will be a net positive overall.

At Reconnect Rochester, we look forward to when we will see the full promise of the new system fulfilled, and can truly welcome in a new day for public transportation in Rochester. We look forward to bringing back our Roc Transit Day event to showcase the changes and attract busloads of new choice riders – because choice ridership enriches the whole system, making it better for everyone. We look forward to the day when public transportation can serve as an integrating, rather than segregating, force in our community.

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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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Sidewalk Cycling Explained

Arian Horbovetz

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

As early summer finally begins to grace the Northeast, residents of Upstate New York begin their annual euphoric embrace of life without snow, ice, and bitter cold for the first time in 5 months. Like a pauper who suddenly becomes a millionaire, hearty populations of places like Rochester immediately start thinking about what to do with the newfound possibilities created by sunshine and warmth.

For me, this is often the time when people reach out for recommendations on cycling, and specifically, tips on how to commute to work or run errands by bike. Record gas prices have, unsurprisingly, made these requests more frequent and even a bit more urgent than in previous years.

And since I live in a metro that was built to, first and foremost, accommodate the automobile, hesitant first time bike commuters often ask the same question: “is it ok to bike on the sidewalk?”

Thus begins the very multifaceted, multidimensional, and eternally context-driven debate that seems so simple and yet is so very complex. My hope is that this post, once and for all, addresses every perspective on sidewalk cycling and what first time bike-commuters should do, what long-time cyclists should advocate for and what urbanists today should encourage and discourage.

Person cycles on a sidewalk
Image Credit: Bellingham Herald

The Debate

In most of the U.S. the law is clear… bikes are vehicles and are thus supposed to be ridden in the road with cars. This oddity that equates a 20-pound bike with a 2-ton automobile in the eyes of the law is actually the result of cycling advocates decades ago who believed (and still do) that bikes and cars should be afforded the same rights.

But obviously, the bike and the car couldn’t be more different mobility solutions with regard to safety and comfort. For the parents who just want to ride with their kids, or for the new rider or new commuter who is understandably shaken by the idea of riding with traffic, the sidewalk is an appealing alternative to biking in the street. And while a majority of municipalities allow bikes on sidewalks, cycling advocates continue to encourage bike riders to ride in the road.

There are several reasons for this, and most of them have to do with driveways and intersections. A large percentage of car/bike crashes happen when a car turns into a cyclist while making a left or right turn, or when a car is pulling into or out of a driveway. For example, let’s say you’re riding your bike northbound on the left hand sidewalk. The road that is parallel to you is 4 lanes wide. You approach an intersection and while you may have the right away across the perpendicular street, a car turning left from the 4 lane road adjacent to you is looking to make their left turn across multiple lanes of oncoming traffic. In the 5-15 seconds that the driver of that car has been waiting for an opening in traffic to turn left, you, the sidewalk cyclist, have ridden up from behind and started to cross the perpendicular street. The driver who finally has space to move in between oncoming traffic turns quickly and a “T-Bone” crash occurs between the driver and the cyclist.

Two people with long red hair cycle in a Rochester street
Image Credit: Laura Mack

If the cyclist had been riding in the road, they would have been riding with traffic, thus alleviating the sightline issue from the driver’s perspective noted above. Cycling is safer when we eliminate the 90-degree points of conflict between cars and bikes, especially when the bike rider is on the sidewalk.

Also, pedestrians who use sidewalks dislike the presence of faster-moving vehicles like bikes and scooters for reasons of comfort and safety. While I would like to think that sidewalks can be shared space for all of those who navigate their communities without a car, I’ve listened to countless stories of pedestrians who have been struck or rudely surprised by cyclists invading what really should be a “safe space” for those traveling on two feet.

So with regard to a feeling of safety, cyclists are often left without a home. Drivers loath the inconvenience of navigating around road-riding cyclists, while pedestrians on sidewalks see cyclists like cyclists see cars… an uncomfortable point of conflict that needs to be addressed.

Safely Riding The Sidewalk

If riding in the road isn’t for you, here are sure-fire tips to lessen the conflicts that I described above when riding on the sidewalk. To ensure your sidewalk-riding experience is comfortable and responsible, you must be willing to adapt your speed and behavior in acquiescence to pedestrians… and assume drivers don’t see you.

  • When riding on the sidewalk and approaching an intersecting road or driveway, approach slowly, first checking to see if a car is approaching via this road or driveway. Next is what I call the “look-back,” which is the sidewalk cycling game changer. Turn your head to the parallel street to see if there is a car turning into the driveway or street you are about to cross. Look for slowing traffic with a turn signal, and if there is any doubt, slow your momentum until you are sure the driver sees you, or stop if you anticipate that the driver does not. Even if you have the right of way, DON’T EVER ASSUME that the driver can see you and navigate the intersection without this step. Use the “look-back” method multiple times as you approach and move across the intersection. If you do this for every intersection, you essentially eliminate one of the most glaring safety risks with sidewalk riding.
  • When riding on the sidewalk, give maximum priority to pedestrians by riding in the grass to allow oncoming walkers the entire sidewalk. When approaching pedestrians from behind, slow to 5-10mph or less, kindly announce that you are about to move around them on the left, and ride around them on the grass (if applicable). As a cyclist, it’s important to remember you are a guest on a right-of-way that is reserved for pedestrians. Pedestrian access is a sort of an urbanist “Holy Grail” and one that should not be besmirched.
  • Understand that, as a sidewalk rider, you become a pedestrian instead of a vehicle pilot. In other words, let’s say you approach a signaled intersection on bike while riding in the road with traffic. When the light changes green in your direction, you move forward with the flow of traffic. But if you are riding the sidewalk, you may have to press the crosswalk button every time you approach an intersection. If you do not do this, you are taking matters into your own hands. For example, let’s say that you are riding on the sidewalk and the road parallel to you has the green light, but the pedestrian crosswalk signal still says “Don’t Walk” until you press the button to cross the perpendicular street. You decide that the street parallel to the sidewalk you are traversing has the right of way, despite what the pedestrian signal says. If a car turns into you, despite the fact that you didn’t press the button to activate the walk sign, and hits you and a court case is the result, the fact that you did not push the button will likely mean that you are at fault and thus liable for damages.
  • I would HIGHLY advise against riding an electric bike on the sidewalk. As most ebikes are capable of speeds upward of 20mph, and weigh far more than the average bike, the threat to pedestrians is greatly magnified and chances that cars navigating cross street won’t see you is heightened. Sidewalk riding should not exceed the typical leisurely pace of 10-12mph.
  • Never ride on the sidewalk of a dense urban setting with many storefronts and apartment entrances. Few things make shop and restaurant owners angrier than when their customers have to look both ways before exiting their establishment to avoid being hit by a cyclist.

In Sum

Want to ride on the sidewalk instead of in the road with traffic? That’s fine, most municipalities allow it. And beyond that, I understand it. But if you’re going to ride on the sidewalk, know that you are basically giving up your legal status as a pilot of a vehicle and become a pedestrian, who is legally subject to crosswalk signaling, and who is physically responsible for ensuring that drivers see you when you traverse any intersection.

Also, it’s important to realize why bike advocates like myself encourage riding in the road rather than the sidewalk. We know that there is power in numbers, and that worldwide, the more cyclists there are, the safer the roads are for cyclists. Riding on the sidewalk, however, is seen in much of the cycling community as “giving in” to drivers and yielding the road to automobiles.

Person cycling in a city
Image Credit: Unsplash

As a daily bike commuter, I would strongly encourage you to consider finding alternatives to sidewalk riding. Parallel routes with fewer cars and slower traffic can be game changers, for example. And no matter where you ride, bright lights and a helmet can make you feel a little more in control of your own safety. But if you feel there are places you simply won’t ride in the road, remember the tips from this post. Even I have stretches of road I refuse to traverse on bike, so I slow my speed and take to the concrete, and I refuse to be shameful about it.

For me, I’d rather see someone ride a bike on the sidewalk than not at all. My hope will continue to be that the regular sidewalk rider will eventually transition to the road when they feel more comfortable. But if not, no worries… just take matters of safety and responsibility into your own hands and ride any way you can!

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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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A Resident’s Proposal for a New Mixed-use Trail in Irondequoit

If you’ve ever navigated the world without a car (whether that be for necessity or recreation), you’ve probably had a, “Why can’t I get over there from here?” moment. Guest blogger, Jack Rinaldo, had so many of these “moments” that he actually wrote up a proposal for a new mixed-use trail in Irondequoit, which would connect the eastern edges of Norton Street and Ridge Road. Curious? Read on for the nitty-gritty details in his own words.

Guest Blog by Jack Rinaldo

If you want to walk or bike to or from Southeast Irondequoit, you need to cross 104. There are only three locations to do so, highlighted in red in the picture below. Goodman Street and Culver Road have intersections with on/off ramps for 104. Both of these locations are dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, no matter if they are on the road or the sidewalk. The other option is Bay Shore Boulevard. This street is calm, but it has huge hills at either end of it, making it unusable for most people.

These barriers cut off the southeast side from the rest of Irondequoit. Would you let your kids use any of the three current routes? I am an experienced and confident cyclist and I will not ride on those sections of Goodman or Culver.

Current map, annotated

The proposed new trail would run from Norton Street north to Ridge Road. As seen in the picture below, the trail would start just east of the Norton Street/590 onramp. The trail could run very close to the 590 onramp, similar to the Brooks Avenue/390/Erie Canal Trail setup as shown below. It would then run north, connecting with the road that the new Irondequoit town Department of Public Works (DPW) is on. This half mile section would potentially be the only new construction needed.

Once connected to the DPW road, trail users could use that road to reach Ridge Road. Additional sections of trail to the side of the road could be added as well if they are determined to be needed.

This trail would be similar to other local trails near highways such as the Route 390 Trail in Greece, and the Route 104 Trail in Webster.

Proposed trail connection map
Example map
Brooks Avenue, 390, & Erie Canal Trail

This new trail would easily connect to the Sea Breeze Drive trail as seen in the picture below. Once at Ridge Road, trail users go 1000 feet west to Kane Drive. Kane Drive is a nice calm street. Once at Kane Drive, they would proceed north until they met the Sea Breeze Drive trail at the Titus Avenue roundabout.

The new trail would also easily connect to the City of Rochester’s Bicycle Boulevards. Heading south, traveling 700 feet west on Norton Street brings you to Helendale Road. Helendale Road is another calm street. Once in the Laurelton neighborhood, use Spencer Road and Whittington Road to directly access the Bicycle Boulevard system on Farmington Road.

To connect the new trail to the other systems above, all that would be needed would be signage directing users along the route.

Proposed trail connection map

The newly expanded trail system would also connect all six of the schools in the East Irondequoit School district. Students and families could use the trail to access school facilities for class and extracurricular events.

  • Irondequoit High School is 400 feet from the Kane Drive/Ridge Road intersection, and a path to the school’s athletic facilities is on Kane Drive.
  • East Irondequoit Middle school is 1200 feet west of the Norton Road/Helendale Road intersection, then 500 feet up Densmore Road.
  • Laurelton-Pardee Intermediate School is 1700 feet from the Norton Road/Helendale Road intersection.
  • Helendale Road Primary School is directly on Helendale Road.
  • Durand-Eastman Intermediate School is almost directly on the Sea Breeze Drive trail.
  • Ivan Green Primary School is 1 mile away by safe neighborhood roads from Kane Drive.

The newly expanded system would connect many parks such as Irondequoit Bay Park West, Tryon Park, Durand-Eastman Park, the Lakeside Trail, SeaBreeze Amusement Park, Irondequoit Bay State Marine Park, and the beach at the Irondequoit Bay outlet.

Here is a link illustrating the new trail and it’s connectivity to the town: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1CTSRzSTvziHLSrxeJaSAt5wvJEjHc9Sd&usp=sharing (best viewed with Google Maps’ cycling layer turned on)

Irondequoit can look at the successes other towns have with trails, such as the new Brickyard Trail in Brighton, as well as the continued use of miles of trail that already exist in the region. Creating the new trail would be a great opportunity for the town to take unutilized land and better connect residents and neighborhoods, while promoting healthy and environmentally friendly transportation. The half mile of construction needed to achieve all of this would be very worth it.

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Introducing: Car Lite ROC Blog Series

Think about the last trip you took in a personal vehicle.  Could you have taken it another way?  Maybe not.  But what about the last two, three, four trips?  Probably!

The truth is, having access to a car makes it really easy to get behind the wheel for all your short trips that could be completed via public transit, bike, scooter, etc.

It’s no secret that we live in a car-centric culture that is focused on everything happening NOW.  Losing a few minutes to travel seems like a big deal with our busy schedules.  Inclement weather sometimes makes opting for a bike ride less desirable.  Maybe the bus is running behind schedule and you have an important meeting to get to.  We get it: it’s hard to make the shift.  We’re hoping to help with that.

Introducing: Car Lite Rochester, a blog series that will highlight 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, follow along over the next few months.  Maybe you will be inspired to join our bloggers in living a car-lite lifestyle!

Wanna rep the car-lite lifestyle? Check out our newest t-shirt in our online shop.

From Transit-Spoiled in the Big Apple to Car-Lite in the Flower-City: How I Went from Car-free, to Car-dependent to Car-lite 

By: Jahasia K. Cooper

On August 28, 2021, I sold my 2008 Nissan Sentra and officially became “car-lite”. But this wasn’t an entirely new experience for me. Growing up in New York City, born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx, car-free and car-lite living was just a normal part of my family’s day-to-day life from going to school to getting groceries, we’ve never been car-dependent. Ever. So, selling my car ironically felt like I was returning to what was familiar to me, and taking the bus again was comforting. Admittedly, however, it was a little scary because the transit options in Rochester weren’t quite what I was used to back home. So, there was naturally a learning curve.

I started diligently planning out my days, noting when to take off so I could get to work on time or if I was taking a grocery trip to Wegmans, how long I had to shop before my next bus was on its way, and if I was really in a pinch and wasn’t on top of things I would borrow my fiance’s car. 

Going car-lite in Rochester took a lot more planning and organization than simply jumping in my car and getting from point A to point B, and I actually began to experience many of the small improvements that could be made for myself and others who were also car-lite or car-free, whether it was by choice or not. For example, it’s a lot more difficult to be happy about not owning a car in the winter when you’re waiting at a shelterless bus stop or when you have to stumble over a mountain of snow just to get on the bus. These are things that I never thought about when I had my car but something I began to advocate for after personally experiencing this. It’s something that’s a minor hindrance for me when taking the bus but it’s actually a major accessibility issue for people who rely on public transportation.

Although I saw much to be improved on, there were also many unexpected benefits that I’ve experienced from being car-lite here in Rochester. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Connecting more to my community. When I had the habit of jumping in my car anytime I wanted to get somewhere, I was flying by all of the small, local businesses that were right in my backyard that I never noticed before. When I went car-lite and decided to bike or walk to my destination it was like noticing a new world for the first time. On top of that, I noticed that getting out of your car and into the world means that you actually connect with other human beings. I can’t tell you how many interesting conversations and moments I’ve had with total strangers. Okay, maybe I’ll tell you one. I was chatting with a sweet older lady on the bus one day and she casually described my hair as “very artistic”. I have locs, and I’ve never seen it that way, but it’s stuck with me ever since, and it actually made my day! It’s the random moments, the ones that catch you off guard, that make you appreciate the unique characters in your city that you might just fly by in your car.

Going grocery shopping. Another unusual benefit that I’ve actually enjoyed is biking to get groceries. Once I sold my car, I wondered why on Earth I would drive to Wegmans if it was a 5-10 minute bike ride away. Of course, I can’t load up on two weeks worth of groceries on one bike trip. But I figured that gives me an excuse to exercise throughout the week if I make multiple trips to get groceries. So I found a milk crate at Cobbs Hill because no one ever buys a milkcrate, and bought a used pannier bag and started biking to Wegmans and Abundance Co-op 1-2 times a week. When the weather gets nice, I love seeing other bikers around Rochester heading to the co-op with cargo bikes, panniers, milk crates and their kids in the back to get groceries.

(Left photo: Using panniers at Wegmans. Right Photo: Getting grocery essentials with my milk crate at Abundance Co-op)

Lowering my carbon footprint and personal vehicle impact. When I sold my Nissan and opted for biking, walking and taking the bus as my primary way of getting around, I significantly reduced my personal carbon emissions. The average personal vehicle emits about 4.6 tons of CO2 each year, that’s a quarter of the emissions emitted by the average American annually. As someone who tries to live as sustainably as possible, owning a gas-powered car simply didn’t align with my values for the environment.

Since I sold my Nissan back in August and experienced going car-lite, I’ve actually bought my dream car, a 2008 Toyota Prius. But, that hasn’t changed my perception or behaviors of multi-modality and pedestrianization in our flower city, and I still very much consider myself car-lite. If the weather is nice, and I am definitely a “fair-weather-biker”. I’ll walk or bike to work which takes me about 20 minutes. In fact, if I have to go anywhere, I think about my options and whether or not I need to drive to get to my destination, even if it’s just to pick up a pizza for date night with my fiance, the proof is in the picture below! 

Contact Information:

jahasiam97@gmail.com

Instagram: @extracaramelfrap 

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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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Floshare: “EVening” the Playing Field

Guest blog by Bree-Ana Dukes, Floshare Program Manager at Mobility Development Operations & Board Member at Reconnect Rochester

According to the 2018 Transportation and Poverty in Monroe County commissioned by Reconnect Rochester, “most households (88%) in Monroe County have access to a vehicle (74% in Rochester). This leaves 12% of households in the county (35,000 households), and 26% of households in the city (22,000 households) without access to a vehicle,” about a third of all city of Rochester households.

Flower City Carshare (Floshare) is a partnership between Mobility Development Operations (MDO) and the City of Rochester and is the first electric vehicle (EV) car sharing program in New York. The carsharing program targets chronically economically distressed areas and neighborhoods where there are low rates of car ownership.

Happy Floshare Customers

“We had a BLAST with the car. My son told everyone everywhere we went that the car we were driving was ‘TOTALLY ELECTRIC MAN.’ Thanks again for helping me get this started, I cannot wait to rent it again.” (Rachael Boelens)

The lack of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) in many of Rochester’s neighborhoods echoes the historical disenfranchisement of marginalized communities and the disparities that have resulted from centuries of disinvestment. Carsharing services alone cannot solve the systemic issues around transportation for the poorest segments of the City’s population, but community-controlled EV carsharing will add a new mobility option to the transportation landscape for those without access to a personal vehicle. Through intentional collaboration with community based organizations, the transportation sector, and social service agencies addressing these EVSE gaps, Floshare hopes to better connect residents to the city and surrounding areas.

Carsharing means community residents have access to a network of electric vehicles located in close proximity to them everyday of the year at any time of the day. This certainly won’t solve our transportation issues, but while funding is on the table we have to consider the lack of car ownership and how marginalized communities are able to benefit from the EV movement from an economic, social, and public health perspective. Much can be debated about the state of transportation within Monroe County, but the fact is that accessibility is not equal for those historically disenfranchised, specifically, for Black and Indigenous people of color.

Targeting EV Investment to the Disenfranchised

Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations are a huge topic of national conversation following the Biden-Harris Administration’s release of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program Guidance. States will be responsible for allocating $5 billion toward electric vehicle charging infrastructure with the goal to “put the United States on a path to a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030 and ensure a convenient, reliable, affordable, and equitable charging experience for all users.”

The Administration’s Justice 40 initiative commits to allocate at least 40% of all funding and investments to “disadvantaged communities”. This is an important distinction because history has shown that without intentional investment in marginalized communities, subpar or disinvestment will continue to widen the racial inequality gap. Some opponents to this commitment will cite the lack of EV ownership as a reason to not invest in marginalized communities, but that is precisely why it is important to do so. Arguments about whether certain communities deserve targeted investments are tired! It is this type of rhetoric that continually blocks BIPOC from opportunities to benefit from social and economic development and revitalization.

A conversation that would be more productive is one that acknowledges the root causes of “carless” homes as well as the inability to afford an EV as outcomes of systemic racism. Centuries of genocide, slavery, Black Codes, Jim Crow, redlining, and a host of other discrimanatory acts continue to plague our organizations and institutions of governance. So, we must never forget what’s ever present in the zeitgeist that makes commitments like Justice 40 necessary.

Sign Up for Floshare’s Expanding System in ROC

The Floshare program provides access to fully electric vehicles and charging infrastructure for a low cost rate of $5/hour or $40/day. The program has been beta testing since September 2021, with locations at the Rochester Public Market and St. Mary’s Campus and more locations coming soon! About two dozen residents have gone through orientation to test the vehicles and its technology, in preparation for a launch event this summer. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to sign up by downloading the Miocar Networks app.

Charging Floshare Vehicle
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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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THIS is Why: How a Multimodal Lifestyle Makes You Immune to Rising Gas Prices

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

I didn’t start biking to work because gas was too expensive. I did it because I had this evolving sense of the world based around the central premise that the mode of transport I had spent my whole life worshiping was the very thing that was in conflict with everything I loved.

When I was 18, my friends and I made a stupid little club called “The Anti-Carpoolers Of America.” I made and printed badges on my computer, featuring a minivan with a slash through it, which we all taped to our dashboards. I purchased a brand new 2000 Honda Civic EX and after the Fast And The Furious series came out, I began modding out my ride with things like a cat-back exhaust, a cold-air intake, performance rims and tires and a bevy of visual additives that announced to the world that I was an immature kid who had no idea how to spend his money. I was born in Chicago and I loved public transit, but I hadn’t yet put together the whole “cars destroyed public transit” narrative that I know and tout today.

My buddy bought a Subaru Impreza WRX, maxing out his financial capacity just to have a car that made him the unquestioned alpha in our group of friends. A base model Impreza, a Dodge Neon with a cold air intake and a “grape fruit shooter” muffler, a lightly-modded out Nissan Maxima, my Honda Civic… they all became financed expressions of ego that propelled all of us forward as we tried to express ourselves in a “keeping up with the Jones’s” automotive mentality. I prided myself on the fact that I drove 100,000 miles in four years. To put that in perspective, I have driven approximately 100,000 miles in the last fifteen years. It’s March 8th of 2022, and I have driven a total of 600 miles this year. And that’s only because the snow has kept me from using other forms of transportation as much as I would like.

Mobility independence
One of my first bike rides to work in 2014

But now, there is more incentive than ever for me to flex my human and electric powered micro-mobility options. As someone who owns 4 bikes, 1 ebike, a Onewheel, an electric skateboard, 2 kick scooters, 2 electric scooters, and more skateboards than I would like to admit, I have been an advocate of micro-mobility for nearly a decade. When promoting alternative transportation to the general population (and not just urbanists), I have typically tried to appeal to the intangible “feeling” of independence, as well as the daily exercise. To this point, gas has remained cheap enough that it was impractical to include fuel cost savings in my advocacy argument.

Obviously, this has changed quickly and drastically. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused gas prices to skyrocket toward record highs in the US and even higher in Europe. There has never been a time more ripe for a louder dialogue around human powered transportation, electric micro-mobility and public transit. While much of the country is blaming government for the regulation of fossil fuel drilling and delivery, people like myself continue to advocate for an alternative to our dependence on a single form of energy that is also tremendously damaging to our planet. True energy and mobility security does not come from greater access to a finite supply of oil, but rather a diversification of power sources, including human power.

Steven Senne/AP

In short, THIS is what all of us crazy cyclists, scooter riders, and electric micro-mobility junkies have been saying for a long time. At some point, a day like this was going to come, where the price of gas would literally make people hesitate before using their car for this or that. People have made choices — like buying a large vehicle or a house that’s 30 miles from their job — on the assumption that driving a car was always going to be affordable, despite the truth that at some point, fossil fuels would become scarce, prices would rise or circumstances would change. One of the central tenets of urbanism is simply that embracing density means we are not at the mercy of any of these variables.

As I’ve stated in the past, my wife and I live in an apartment that is just a few miles from each of our workplaces. I went years without a functional car, just recently splurging for a used compact car. Still, most days you’ll see me using a bike, a scooter or any number of other micro-mobility options for my commute and for running errands. Living a couple miles from Downtown Rochester also means we are closer to stores, shops and entertainment options. Literally, everything we need is within a few minute’s drive, a walk, a bike ride, etc.

This was a conscious decision and one we made because, among other reasons, we did not want to deal with the temporal or economic costs of living far away from our jobs and resources.

Pumping gas

So gas prices went up. I am almost completely unaffected. Nor are my friends that share my desire for mobility independence. Even my wife, who drives every day, is impacted far less than most because of our close proximity to everything, including her job. Because really, we don’t necessarily need to be anti-car to limit the impact of variables like gas prices on our weekly budgets. Simply living a “denser” lifestyle ensures that we have everything we need with fewer miles in between.

I’m not a market economist, and I am certainly no international relations expert… who knows where this terrible conflict happening in Ukraine will end, and what will happen as a result. Back home, the fact that our worst fear lies in rising gas prices just shows how detached we are with what is happening elsewhere on our planet. And even more trivial is the notion that we continue to rely on a single form of energy for a huge percentage of our day-to-day mobility.

Living closer to cities, using public transit and micro-mobility means that market fluctuations have less of an impact on our wallets. It means that we can choose how to move about, rather than relying on the car alone. While the automobile has always been a symbol of American freedom, a simple market shift based on events elsewhere in the world means that freedom can quickly turn into a financial hurdle that many are struggling to afford. THIS is why we urbanists advocate for a life less dependent on cars, and thus, on fossil fuels.

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40 Years Car-Free in the Neighborhood of the Arts

By Joseph Struble

In 1975 I bought my first (and last) car: a gold/tan Mazda RX-3 with white bucket seats and that intoxicating “new-car smell.” I also bought a pair of prescription sunglasses, aviator style, and I thought I was so cool driving back and forth to Graduate School in Richmond, VA, windows open in summer and blasting “Country Roads, Take Me Home” on the radio.

In 1979 I was back home in Rochester and newly wary of my car. It had an unwelcome trick of suddenly losing power, slowing down and coming to a stop, no matter where I was (even on some of those country roads!). Very disconcerting. It also took 10 minutes to warm up in winter and even then I could only start to roll with the choke full out, so it was like holding the reigns of a bucking bronco (though it was a Mazda) for a while thereafter.

A car parked in a parking lot

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I sold it and never looked back.

I did not get my driver’s license until I was 22 and out of college, so the aviator-glasses cool notwithstanding, I think I may have been inclined to be a non-driver early on.

And I well remember how living on St. John Fisher campus for my last 2 years thrilled me in its own small way: “There is everything I want here: friends, food, a pub, a library, Sunday Mass, famous lecturers and even bands come here, candlelight vigils in protest of the Vietnam war…OK the girls were one mile down the road on another campus, but still, this was my “happy place.”

So I simply grafted that formula for a varied and contented life onto the Park Avenue neighborhood, beginning in 1980.

I like to walk. People always tell me how healthy that is, but it is not really exercise, I think, unless you make it so (get your heart rate up, sweat, etc. – and for that, I used to jog and once even ran a marathon).

Walking is merely my mode of transportation [the action of transporting someone or something] and for me, that someone or something is me, myself and I.

I have a good 3-5 mile walking range in all four directions from my place on Strathallan Park and like my college campus, there is everything I want here: The Memorial Art Gallery, George Eastman House (where I was employed for 26 years – a 12 minute walk each way), The Eastman Theatre, GEVA, Blessed Sacrament church. The Rochester Public Library – both Central and Monroe Avenue branches are in my range. I exercise at Harro East on Andrews Street, and love my early morning walk there as others are heading out to work.

A picture containing text, grass, outdoor, sidewalk

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I check out a variety of breakfast and lunch places in my walking range, all staffed with friendly people: wife and husband Evinn and Bill at Crumpets; Will at Calabresella’s Subs; Ramon, Wilfredo, and Erica at Palermo’s in the Mercantile; Jason at POP ROC; and the nice folks at the café in the Art Deco Times Square Building.

Oh and there’s my German class meet-up at Spot Coffee or Matilda’s every Thursday.

I shop at the East and Winton Wegmans, carrying a backpack which $85 of groceries usually fits nicely in. I walk there, but if there are people at the corner bus stop when I leave, I sometimes take the bus home.

I can extend my walking to Pittsford Plaza and even to Charlotte, but it has to be on a beautiful day. Otherwise, either the Monroe and Lake bus gets me there.

A word about RTS. It’s convenient enough. I love the new 41 Culver/Goodman Crosstown bus. I tell people that in my lifetime (73 years) I count three good “bonus” things coming along: Cherry Coke, Milky Way Dark, and the #41 Crosstown bus.

I think I could be very happy living in Manhattan (if I had the income). So I go there often and I have made the trip variously by plane, train, bus, and as a passenger in a car. Amtrak is the best for me, I think. More opportunity for movement, a café car break, and the leisure to read and just think.

Then there are times when a car ride is more essential than just for a psychological boost. I’m glad I have friends with cars and it’s wonderful to hit the road and head out into the country and those wide-open, blue-sky spaces (vs. interestingly cluttered city ones). 

This puts me in the “riding shotgun” seat and for that, I am grateful to GPS, since my map-reading and directional skills are abysmal.

Once in 40 years of non-driving, I borrowed my brother’s car to go to a wedding. It’s true, that like riding a bicycle, once you learn, you never forget. But a lot of things had changed about a car – the door locks, the ignition, other unfamiliar gizmos. So it was dicey. Then there was the violent thunderstorm on the way home.

I worry sometimes that I am so out-of-practice and would be very reluctant to take the wheel in case of any emergency or merely to relieve a fatigued driver on one of those blue-sky rides. I have kept up my license and even became a member of the Automobile Club of America “just in case” but I never really want to drive again. That’s not so good.

I really have no knowledge of the cost of car ownership (but the folks at Reconnect Rochester do!). For a few years, I went to the Convention Center for the Auto Show and yes, the stickers were shocking.

But I do know that since 2000, I have had some disposable income used for 6 flights to Europe where I spent 2 weeks each in a major city. Next time, I hope to take the Queen Mary II across the pond (not as pricey as you might think).

Edinburgh, Scotland, my last big trip pre-pandemic
My last trip to Europe (pre-pandemic) was a two week excursion to Edinburgh.

Although I recycle and dislike seeing a dirty truck belching black smoke drive by, don’t consider me a climate activist. I simply think that living simply with everyday pleasures at hand has been a satisfying lifestyle for me.

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Hey Albany!

Last week, Reconnect Rochester went on a “Virtual Trip to Albany” to champion public transit and safe streets for Rochester residents (and all New Yorkers). We spent the day meeting with state legislators and their staff and having great conversations about what needs to be done to move towards our vision of a robust and equitable transportation network. We’re fortunate to have many allies in our State delegation to push for better multi-modal transportation across New York.

We’d like to shout out Reconnect Rochester Board members Victor Sanchez, Bill Collins, and Jason Partyka for devoting their time to the effort, and and huge thank you to all the legislative offices who took the time to meet with us: Assemblymembers Demond Meeks, Harry Bronson, Jennifer Lunsford, Sarah Clark, Josh Jensen, and William Magnarelli, and Senators Samra Brouk, Jeremy Cooney, and Tim Kennedy. Check out more screenshots from the day!

Read our asks for Albany legislators below. Wondering what YOU can do to advocate for better transportation for all New Yorkers? Check out the links below from our partners at the New York Public Transportation Association and the NYS Safe Streets Coalition.

NYPTA Take Action and Toolkit
NYS Safe Streets Coalition Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act


New York State 2022-23 Transportation Priorities

Public Transit:

RTS continues to be a vital service for our region as we recover from the pandemic. While COVID relief funds have helped to cover revenue loss and increased expenses, robust long-term, recurring funding will be necessary to grow and sustain the system. Governor Hochul has shown strong commitment to public transit, and we urge the Legislature to build upon those proposals in the final budget.

    1. Increase State Mass Transit Operating Assistance (STOA) for upstate transit systems by 36% ($49 million). The Governor’s Budget only proposes a 13% increase for upstate systems.
    2. Include $159.5 million annual funding level for non-MTA transit through the entire proposed 5-year capital program ($698 million 5-year total) in the final budget.
    3. Continue the STOA hold-harmless for formula systems impacted by pandemic ridership loss.
    4. Support Rider Representation (S3559A/A7822) – requires the appointment of a transit dependent and para-transit dependent representative on various transportation authorities.

Bicycle and Pedestrian (Active Transportation):

Pedestrian and cyclist injuries and fatalities are on the rise, which is why Reconnect Rochester has been working with the NYS Safe Streets Coalition to prioritize legislation to address this silent epidemic. Consider sponsoring or co sponsoring the Crash Victims Rights & Safety Act (CVRSA) to make our streets safer:

    1. Statewide Speed Limit (S2021/A01007) – allow for lower life-saving speeds across New York State
    2. Sammy’s Law (S524/A4655) – allow for lower life-saving speeds limits in New York City
    3. Complete Streets Funding (S3897/A8936) – increase state funding where the municipality agrees to fund a complete street design feature
    4. Complete Streets Application (S8394/A08624) – require consideration of complete streets design for projects which receive federal or state funding
    5. Complete Streets Maintenance (S5130/A7782) – include complete street design features in resurfacing, maintenance, and pavement recycling projects
    6. Right to Safe Passage (S4529/A547) – require drivers pass bicyclists at a safe distance of min. 3 feet
    7. DMV Pre-Licensing (S1078A/A5084) – educate NY drivers about safely interacting with vulnerable road users
    8. Crash Victims Bill of Rights (S8152/A9152) – guarantee rights and a voice for crash victims and their loved ones in legal proceedings

In addition to the above legislative package, these are other bills related to bicyclists that we would encourage you to consider sponsoring or co-sponsoring:

    1. S920/A3104 – allow for what is known as an “Idaho Stop” which allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights like stop signs
    2. A8656 – repeal certain provisions of the vehicle and traffic law and would allow e-bikes to be ridden anywhere regular bikes can be ridden
    3. S3080 – establish the ride clean rebate program which would allow e-bikes and e-scooters to be eligible for a 50% rebate with a maximum of $1,100

Train and Long-Distance Bus:

Bus and train users tend to be lower income and people of color, and deserve equitable funding for their long-distance transportation that is comparable to the investments made in airline travel. Consider including funding for a bus terminal extension for the Louise Slaughter Rail Station in the new budget or when additional Federal funding is available. 

All Modes: 

Please sponsor or co-sponsor S4264A/A6967, the “Climate and Community Investment Act”, a Green New Deal for New York State. This would help create jobs and funding for carbon reduction and environmental justice programs.

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Deconstructing the Intractable Issue of Snowed-In Bus Stops

By Arian Horbovetz (The Urban Phoenix)

It’s a sound only heard on the coldest mornings.  The thunderous crunch with every step in my massive boots was deafening as I stumbled over the freshly plowed sidewalk snow.  Over a foot of newly-fallen snow glistened in the streetlight.  I peered through the steam from my latest breath and saw the bus stop in front of me.  But as I stumbled closer, I discovered that any chance of relief from the biting breeze was going to be a challenge.  The drifting snow, combined with the wall of white stuff created by sidewalk plowing made accessing the bus shelter a difficult proposition, even for a person like myself who is physically capable and adequately protected.

My aforementioned bus stop

Later that day, I watched as an elderly woman stood in the partially-plowed bike lane on East Henrietta Road, where drivers routinely reach 50mph.  The woman was waiting for a bus.  The sidewalk adjacent to the perfectly cleared roadway was not only unplowed, the road plows had slung an additional foot of dirty snow on top, making the sidewalk adjacent to the bus stop literally impassable, even for the most agile pedestrian.  With each car that passed the woman, I winced, knowing that a single distracted driver could mean disaster.

These observations are the norm rather than the exception in snow-stricken cities like Rochester.  Nearly 80 inches of snowfall annually, coupled with the tremendous lack of funding for non-automobile mobility, marginalizes and often endangers residents who rely on the bus.  For the 25% of Rochester residents who do not have access to a car, for the elderly who may not have adequate support, and for our disabled citizens, heavy snowfall means an inability to access essential resources.  

Whose Job Is It Anyway?

It’s important to note that the issue of bus stop snow removal is symbiotic with the issue of sidewalk snow removal.  The City of Rochester code 104-11 clearly places the role of sidewalk snow removal on the adjacent property owner.  But too often, property owners are unwilling, unable or unaware of their responsibility to maintain the adjoining public right of way.  And while infractions are reportable, they are often not addressed in a timely manner.  As in most cities, the snow melts before enforcement leads to a positive outcome.

A Rochester resident scales a snow pile

Additionally, the city provides “supplemental” snow removal of 878 miles of city sidewalk when storms deposit more than 4” of snow.  While this is a welcomed service that most cities do not provide, a lack of continued sidewalk snow maintenance means that private driveway plowing companies and icy walking conditions caused by the packing of snow by pedestrians, still makes for treacherous or impassable on-foot experiences.  

And finally, nowhere in the code is snow removal from bus stops or bus shelters mentioned specifically.  In a recent report by WHEC News 10, RTS Spokesperson Tom Brede “asks” that property owners clear a path to the adjacent bus stops as part of their responsibility to clear the sidewalk.  But with the ambiguity and subsequent lack of accountability, any regular bus rider will attest that this action is rarely taken.

How Does It Work In Other U.S. Cities?

As much as Rochester residents are frustrated by winter sidewalk conditions, a 2019 article by Streetsblog USA called Rochester the “clear leader” when it comes to sidewalk snow removal, citing the city’s aforementioned efforts to plow nearly all of its sidewalks in the wake of a heavy snowfall.  This is not to downplay the fact that far more needs to be done here in the Flower City, it is more to show just how few cities have the funding or the will to accommodate those who rely on sidewalks and access to public transit.

A snowy bus stop in Rochester

In a February 2022 WGRZ Buffalo, NY story, NFTA Spokesperson Helen Tederous stated that Buffalo’s code places the responsibility of bus stop snow removal on abutting property owners.  But a review of Buffalo’s Article VIII 413-50 “Snow and Ice Removal” resulted in no clear reference to this claim.  

While Syracuse has only recently begun taking partial sidewalk snow removal responsibility, The Salt City recently finalized an agreement with a contractor, and will spend up to $650,000 to plow 100 miles of sidewalk.

In Minneapolis Minnesota, if a property owner does not clear their adjacent public sidewalk, the city sends them a warning.  If the owner does not comply, a city crew is dispatched to do the job themselves, and a bill is sent.  If the bill is ignored, the cost is included in the owner’s next property tax bill.  City inspections also commence 24 hours after each snowfall, giving legitimacy to the requirement.  The fact that the city takes at least some responsibility in the process of reporting violators is a rare but welcomed level of sidewalk snow removal enforcement.

Our Neighbors To The Northeast

Montreal, Canada has long been heralded as the undisputed champion of snow removal.  As one of the snowiest large cities in the world, Montreal is faced with the same challenge that many major U.S. cities incur, but the process in removing the snow is just as robust.  A large piece of this process is based on the fact that the city actually removes the snow from streets, sidewalks and bike paths in large trucks and transports it to more than two dozen designated locations around the city.  This monumental task begins with signage and notices prior to the storm, warning residents not to park their cars and bikes in the streets or sidewalks.  Instead, residents are encouraged to use a system of parking lots and garages free of charge.  During and after the snow storm, a fleet of 2,200 snow removal vehicles are dispatched to clear the 10,000 kilometers of roads, sidewalks and bike paths.  Yes, that’s right, over half a million Montreal residents use their bikes for transportation rather than recreation, likely due in part to the fact that year-round bike commuting is made more practical by the Titanic snow removal efforts that Montreal employs.

Montreal Snow Removal, courtesy of Zvi Leve

When sidewalks and bike paths are cleared, this allows residents of all socioeconomic levels to access transit with greater ease, creating a more inclusive urban environment.  While Canada’s tax structure and municipal funding practices are very different from the United States in many ways, it is encouraging to see that effective snow removal is possible, and leads to better access.

Calming The Storm

While Rochester is considered a leader in sidewalk snow removal, there is still room for a great deal of improvement.  One of the key starting points is a more robust definition of who is responsible for bus stop snow removal, and a greater communication to property owners regarding this expectation.  Like Minneapolis, regular city-wide snow removal inspections coupled with greater enforcement would likely also improve outcomes.  Finally, advocacy is always an important factor in creating change.  Consider joining organizations like Reconnect Rochester in their efforts to make our streets, sidewalks and public transit systems accessible and equitable.  Together, we can make our city a place where mobility for all is accommodated and uplifted.

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Welcoming New Energy on our Staff & Board

Reconnect Rochester kicked off the new year by ushering in new leadership and energy onto our staff team and Board of Directors.

James Dietz joined our dynamic and growing staff team that works day-in and day-out to improve mobility in our community. He’ll be spearheading our advocacy activities, expanding our community outreach, and running the Complete Streets Makeover and Rochester Street Films programs. Find out how James landed here and what inspires him in the message below.

At our Annual Meeting in January, Victor Sanchez was elected our new Board President, taking over from Renée Stetzer who will stay on as an active Board member. We also welcomed three new Board membersBree-Ana Dukes, Bo Shoemaker and Erick Stephens. Get to know them and what they bring to the table in the profiles below.

Welcome James, Bree-Ana, Bo & Erick! We consider ourselves very lucky to have this kind of talent join our work to champion transportation choices in Monroe County.


JAMES DIETZ

I’m so excited to be Reconnect Rochester’s new Advocacy and Outreach Manager! Originally from Buffalo, I moved to Rochester in 2015 to attend the U of R, where I obtained my BA in Political Science. It was during my time in undergrad that I moved off of campus and began to call Rochester my home. I sought out opportunities to work with community organizations, which led me to become an AmeriCorps VISTA shortly after graduating. I spent a very rewarding year working on housing and economic justice with City Roots Community Land Trust, and urban agriculture with Taproot Collective.

Not having a car of my own, I quickly learned to navigate taking the bus and riding my bike to get around. It made me realize not only how important a good, robust public transportation system is, but also how much better Rochester’s transportation infrastructure could be, especially for those whose car-free lifestyle isn’t a choice but rather a necessity. I remember the first time I found myself in the old abandoned subway tunnels thinking to myself, “Why would they ever get rid of this?” My hope is that the work I do with Reconnect Rochester will bring us closer to a vision of Rochester that is more equitable, healthy, and sustainable for everyone.


BREE-ANA DUKES

Bree-Ana is a Rochester native and serves as the Program Coordinator for Rochester’s electric carshare program, Floshare. Bree-Ana holds a Bachelor degree in Social Science Interdisciplinary and a Masters degree in Higher Education Administration. She brings passion and experience in advocating for a good quality of life and the welfare of societies through accessibility to healthy food, transportation, education, medical care, and housing. In her role at Floshare, Bree-Ana coordinates the operations and member services of Rochester’s first 100% electric vehicle carsharing service. Bree-Ana is honored to be serving on the board of Reconnect Rochester and most looking forward to have the opportunity to further serve and engage the multi-modal transportation interests of Rochester residents.

BO SHOEMAKER

Bo is an avid trail runner, road runner, history run leader, cyclist, and triathlete. After completing law school at Syracuse University College of Law, he has worked as an attorney for Monroe County, the regional appellate court in Rochester, New York City, and now, Genesee County. Bo lives in the North Winton Village neighborhood of Rochester. He is currently leading a segment-by-segment running exploration of The Crescent Trail, is well into planning for his next run through Rochester History Runs, and after several Covid-related delays, plans on running the New York City Marathon this coming November!

ERICK STEPHENS

Erick is the Parent Engagement Specialist for Healthi Kids at Common Ground Health. In this role, Stephens provides technical assistance and support to schools to strengthen and improve parent engagement efforts. He also works directly with parents training them on advocacy and connecting them to opportunities to impact policy, systems, and environmental change in schools. Erick served as a Youth Service Assistant at the Phillis Wheatley Branch Library in Rochester’s Southwest and was the Parent Liaison at James P.B. Duffy School #12, where he now volunteers and runs a program to help develop leaders at the school through mentoring.

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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.