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In Praise of the Improved Auburn Trail

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

A Major Upgrade

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

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

Our Journey

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

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

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

More About the Trail

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

End of the Line (for us)

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

Less than ideal bike parking at Moe’s

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

Bike racks at Barnes & Noble

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

Additional Notes:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Newly renovated Jackson Drive Bike Cage:

East Drive Bike Cage:

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

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


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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

Rochester’s Bicycle Boulevards

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

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

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

The Routes

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bonus!

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

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Fun New Bike Racks in Culver-Merchants Neighborhood

"Bike" rack on Merchants! [IMAGE: NeighborWorks]

This past spring NeighborWorks Rochester invited local artists to submit designs for new bike racks in The Triangle area of North Winton Village. The winning artists were announced earlier this summer, and the finished racks are now open and waiting for you to secure your bike…

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Rochester Shows Up

This is the focus area for the Center City Circulator Study.If you were at the Circulator Study Public Meeting tonight, THANK YOU! Turn out was good. It could’ve been even better… but there were plenty of people there asking questions and giving input and the room had a constant buzz. Even the media external link thought enough to make an appearance. There will be another public meeting in June/July to share the preliminary findings of the study so stay tuned and continue to share this story with friends and neighbors. We’ll need even more of you at the next meeting.

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