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Biking My Kids Around Town

By: Chaz Goodman

I adore biking. I have always preferred it to driving. I spent most of my adult life car-free or car-lite until my wife and I had kids. Then I started driving all the time to take them to daycare because I didn’t feel safe traveling with my infant on a bicycle. After a few years, they were toddlers and I finally felt comfortable returning to bicycle commuting.

I opted to transport them in a Burley Bee bike trailer so my kids could sit side by side instead of adding seats to my bike and potentially putting too much weight on the bike frame itself. It’s lightweight, user-friendly, and comfortable to use. I did worry about visibility because the trailer is low to the ground so I got two flags to put on the trailer. They are bright orange with high visibility reflective stripes.

I took my kids on a few practice rides and words cannot express the joy I felt sharing the bicycle experience with them. On a sunny day, you don’t need to roll your windows down to enjoy the weather because you’re already outside. We say hi to our neighbors. We hear kids playing. We can observe the flowers and gardens by peoples homes. We are a part of our environment.

The other day I heard my son in the trailer saying, “Happy. Sad. Mad. Mad. Sad. Happy. Sad.” and I realized he was observing the facial expressions of people in their cars. He said sad and mad a lot and it got me thinking about how dehumanizing it is to be stuck in a car. If someone cuts you off, you feel rage. You don’t think about them as a person. You just see the big machines that you both have to operate. You’re angry because you could have easily been hurt. Driving is a very high stakes activity. 

This is especially clear when we see the remnants of car crashes, which are everywhere. Crashes are cleaned up quickly to keep traffic flowing. You don’t really notice the evidence when you drive by but it’s easy to see the bits of broken window and smaller plastic bits when you’re on a bicycle. Being on a bicycle is a constant reminder of how we have normalized road violence with a street design that prioritizes speed above all else. 

With this in mind, I worked out the best route to bike to daycare. Fortunately I could bypass Monroe Avenue (which in Brighton is a high speed, four lane stroad) by cutting through neighborhood streets. From there I went on the sidewalk on Elmwood Avenue. I am thrilled that the town of Brighton added a bike lane to Elmwood Avenue. When I bike on my own, I use it often. I just don’t like it with my little boys in a trailer. Ironically I had spent some time defending this bike lane on NextDoor neighborhood threads. I’m happy we have it, I’m just eager to keep improving bicycle access.

The final part of the journey is the one my wife and I spent the most time discussing and the part of the journey that makes me the most nervous. It is such a small yet very significant part of the journey. Just a couple hundred feet.

It involves crossing South Clinton Avenue at Elmwood. Intersections create a lot of variables. I have had minimal incidents and only two collisions in more than ten years of biking by assuming a driver doesn’t see me until I see eye contact or a signal from them. I have yielded several times despite having the right of way and I’m almost always correct that the driver did not see me. Sometimes they notice at the last second and seem startled or give an “I’m sorry” wave.

I am more annoyed with the road designs than the driver. I would like to see our roads designed with protected bike lanes and traffic calming measures to make it impossible to drive recklessly as opposed to relying on drivers to make the correct choice.

Still, it has been a transformative experience for me as a parent. My boys love the bike trailer. The first day I dropped my 3 year old off at his classroom a few kids wanted to know why he had a helmet. He proudly told them he got there in a bike trailer. The kids started excitedly talking about their bicycles and their helmets that they have at home. 

I rode him in the rain the next day. The Burley trailer has a great rain cover so he doesn’t get a drop of water on him. I have a good raincoat and I change my pants at work so it’s no big deal for me either. My brother who lives in the Netherlands says the parents there like to say, “Are you made of sugar? Why are you scared of a little water?”

Other parents at the daycare frequently comment on the trailer when we roll in. Some of them say “that loks nice!” or “I wish we could do that!” I’ve even shared bike trailer suggestions and safe route recommendations with other determined parents.

That’s what is so incredible about bicycle activism. I can talk about it for hours (and have!) but it doesn’t often resonate the same way as just witnessing the joy of little kids experiencing their community, or starting your day with an active outdoor experience rather than sitting in an expensive, noisy, isolated metal box. As I’ve seen from the last few months of biking my kids to daycare, the interest is there but most people just don’t think about it.

I firmly believe we should do anything we can to encourage parents to bike their kids to get around. It would even make things more pleasant for drivers since every bicycle is another car off the road thereby reducing traffic.

If we keep developing a comprehensive bicycle network we could reduce road deaths, create a more trusting and open community, reduce our environmental damage and even give parents a break from driving their kids everywhere when they get older and start activities and clubs. Imagine a bicycle network where 8 and 9 year olds could safely bike to and from school without adults. It’s possible and these communities exist. That could be us too. If we want it.


At Reconnect, we’re inspired by the stories of people in our community, like Chaz Goodman, Robert Picciotti and Yamini Karandikar, who are passionate about living a car-lite or car-free lifestyle. 

Let us know if you want to share your mobility story! What’s in it for you? The intrinsic reward of knowing you’ve inspired others, and a free t-shirt from our online shopContact Jahasia to submit your story. 

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20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: Chili

By: Joe Osgood

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

Presenting the seventh in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose where Chili Avenue, Paul Road and Chili-Coldwater Road come together in Chili 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 that intersection & its stores/workplaces within 20ish minutes on a bike. Thanks again to Brendan Ryan for his help putting this map together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory in Chili, here’s Joe Osgood sharing his personal travel-by-bike experiences.

In 2022, I started “returning to the office” after a period of working remotely during the pandemic. I already lived a reasonable bike ride from work, so I decided to try bike commuting regularly. I soon found myself investing in some quality panniers – Ortlieb panniers are worth the price – for both work-commuting and getting groceries. 
As time has passed, I’ve evolved from a fair-weather commuter, to a rain-rider, to eventually getting studded bike tires for the winter – which I highly recommend! At this point, I’ve been living “car-lite” – tending to lean towards biking as my transportation choice unless there is some reason not to (such as time/distance or dangerous conditions). There are quite a few destinations around Chili I can reach in about a 20 minute bike ride, and I’m able to find routes that have minimal car traffic. I’ll share some of those routes below.


Chili Center

The Chili Wegmans is here, as well as Aldi and Target, and lots more. If you’re approaching from the east or northeast, the best way to approach Wegmans is to sneak in the Paul Rd entrance. It’s less busy than the Chili-Paul intersection, and you get closer to the bike rack between the pharmacy entrance and the main entrance (by the bottle return).

If you’re approaching from the west, you can take the sidewalk next to the car entrance down into the Target lot. These metal bars by the entrance to Target are probably meant for herding shopping carts inside, but they also make a great object to lock your bike to. Bike “parking spots” are often more convenient than car parking spots!


Or, skip the bike rack altogether and get yourself a folding bike you can take inside with you. I got a Tern Link D8 from Bert’s Bikes a few months ago and it has served me well so far. My Ortlieb panniers work fine with the rear rack. I recently installed the Tern Transit Rack so I can wheel it around while folded – a worthwhile investment.


Rochester Tech Park

The Rochester Tech Park used to be busy back in the day, but now it has very little car traffic and is actually great for biking – inside the Tech Park, that is. Unfortunately, the Tech Park is surrounded by “stroads”: Buffalo, Manitou, Elmgrove, and Rt 531. Rt 531 is a highway that forms a geographical barrier comparable to a river – Elmgrove and Manitou being the only nearby bridges crossing it. 

The best way to get into the Tech Park by bike is to cross the busy “stroads” at a traffic light, particularly the one at Coldwater Rd. While Coldwater Rd has a moderate amount of traffic, it also has a decent-sized shoulder for most of its length.

To get to Coldwater Rd from Chili Center, most cars take Chili Center Coldwater Rd. While this is the shortest way, it’s also the busiest. 

A much better option is to take the Paul Rd exit from Wegmans and immediately turn onto Grenell Dr. Go down Chili Ave briefly before turning into the St Pius X church parking lot, which connects to Chestnut Ridge Rd. Then take Fenton Rd to Westside Dr and finally onto Coldwater. It does make the trip 4 miles instead of 3.5, but it’s well worth it to be on quieter roads.


Buffalo Road Tops

The Buffalo Rd plazas on the other side of 490 have businesses like Tops, Home Depot, and Tinseltown. 

Buffalo Rd here is an archetypical “stroad” – high traffic volume moving at dangerously high speeds. The least-stressful way to approach these plazas is via Pixley Rd. While Pixley Rd has a fair amount of traffic, it only has 3 lanes of car traffic instead of 6. It also has a wide shoulder for biking.

To get to Pixley, you could take Chili Ave. An alternative is to go through the parking lot of St Pius X church, as described above, and use Fenton to get to Westside Dr. Westside Dr has less car traffic than Chili Ave. Going the Westside Dr route adds an extra half mile to the trip (4.3 miles vs 3.9 miles).


Chili Walmart

The obvious way to get to Walmart from Chili Center is to take Chili Ave. As mentioned above, Chili Ave is okay for biking – at least between Grenell Dr and the intersection with Westside Dr. You could choose to take Fenton Rd and Westside Dr here, but that will add an extra half mile to the trip (4 miles vs 3.6). 

Whichever way you go, you will eventually have to take Chili Ave east of the Westside Dr intersection. East of this intersection, Chili Ave becomes a much busier “stroad”. The sidewalks are the best option when biking this stretch of Chili Ave.

At some point, you will want to get to the sidewalk on the north side of the road. There is a sidewalk branching off this one that goes to Westgate Park, and you can take that sidewalk to avoid some busy intersections. Safely cross Howard Rd at a light, and you’ll arrive at Walmart. 

Note: Last I checked, Walmart’s bike rack was rusted out and not trustworthy. Ensure you lock your bike to a secure object. I usually use the fence by the garden center.


City of Rochester

While outside of the 20-minute range, I will occasionally do longer rides into the city or across town. Usually such a route involves getting to the Erie Canal trail. Here’s two lower-stress routes to get there.

One option would be Chili Ave to Pixley to Hinchey. This route avoids the more stressful stretch of Chili Ave between Westside Dr and the Canal. Use caution on the last ¼ of a mile of this route when you are back on Chili Ave, as there are multiple slip lanes and busy intersections to cross. Once you get on the Canal trail, you can easily head east towards Genesee Valley Park and take a bike trail from there.

Another option is to take Paul Rd to the airport and then pick up the bike trail that parallels Scottsville Rd. Between Chili Center and the airport, Paul Rd is fairly quiet. It’s a little busier around the southern tip of the airport. The crosswalk at Paul Rd and Scottsville Rd was recently improved for better pedestrian safety. And the bike trail along Scottsville Rd is very pleasant to ride, between the river and trees (and the fire safety training grounds!).

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Why We’re Showing Up to Ride for the Spine

Why We’re Showing Up to Ride for the Spine

By Cody Donahue, Director of Policy and Advocacy

Ride and rally with us on Friday, May 3rd for the Ride for the Spine, a community ride to support building the Bike Spine Network envisioned in the City of Rochester and Monroe County Active Transportation Plans. Arrive between 2 pm and 2:15 pm at Genesee Valley Park Sports Complex to depart promptly at 2:30 pm and ride to City Hall. Please register so we can have an accurate count: bit.ly/rideforthespine 

Confirmed speakers at the rally on the steps of City Hall at 3-3:30 pm:

  • City of Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans
  • Monroe County Executive Adam Bello
  • Congressman Joe Morelle, NY-25
  • City Council Vice President LaShay D. Harris, Chair of the City Council Committee on People, Parks and Public Works
  • Michelle King, Black Girls Do Bike
  • Cody Donahue, Reconnect Rochester

We bike to get around. We bike to stay healthy. We bike with our families to play and have fun. Biking is good for our planet and our pocketbooks. Our biking community in Monroe County is diverse and vibrant. But what if everyone who wanted to bike could feel comfortable and protected doing it? They could if we made our bike network safe, low-stress and seamless. They could if our community prioritized biking as a mobility option for all kinds of people.

Reconnect Rochester has championed active transportation for years and worked to make it easier and safer for people to use their bike to get around: we provide bike education, custom bike maps, organize rides all summer, and have bike-to-work pit stops twice a year (Save the Date for Friday, May 17th!). We see our job as normalizing biking for transportation, sharing how bike boulevards and cycle tracks are a low-stress option to get around. There are so many great places to ride within 20 minutes of where you live.

However, we know none of these resources can fix roads where cars travel at unsafe speeds and painted bike lanes that disappear and reappear seemingly randomly. We can’t make up for the almost complete lack of dedicated, on-road bicycle infrastructure outside of the City of Rochester. According to the Federal Highway Administration, for about 60% of people who might otherwise ride their bike, these conditions discourage them from even trying to bike to work, to school or to the grocery store. This is especially true for women, children and the elderly. 

To our community’s credit, we are starting to change. Rochester’s cycletracks and Inner Loop East project have been featured in national media, Elmwood Avenue became the first County road outside of the city with bike lanes, and Rochester secured $3.2 million of federal funds to test (among other things) bike lane barriers. These projects are a down payment on what we hope will be the transformation ahead to become a more multi-modal community. 

Two key transportation plans were adopted in 2023 that, if aggressively implemented, would significantly expand and transform bike infrastructure in our community. The Monroe County Active Transportation Plan and the City of Rochester Active Transportation Plan (hereafter, the “ATPs”) were completed in a coordinated fashion so that the bike network envisioned in the city would continue out into Monroe County’s towns and suburbs. The ATPs quite literally provide a roadmap for building a bike transportation system throughout Monroe County. 

The City of Rochester called the main corridors of their bike network the spine and that is why we are calling our ride the “Ride for the Spine”. On May 3rd, we will Ride for the Spine with bicyclists of all ages and all walks of life and rally together with our elected official partners to demonstrate our support for the work ahead. Our goal is to show there are people from all over Monroe County who support aggressive implementation of the Active Transportation Plans, building a high-comfort and seamless bike transportation network in a matter of years – not decades. Continuing at our current pace will not get us to this goal.

To bring the ATPs’ visions off the paper to reality, our rally will ask the following of our municipal leaders: 

  1. Build 8 miles of protected bike lanes to complete the minimum grid now

Don’t wait to build the spine. We can attain a “minimum grid” of north-south/east-west axis bike facilities by installing protected, seamless bike facilities on Main Street from the Erie Canal to Winton Rd. (a 6-mile investment) and by filling in the Genesee Riverway Trail gap north of downtown (a 2-mile investment). These 8 miles are the key to success and must be completed in the near-term. Building good quality bike infrastructure is a small percentage of a repaving project and we should leverage every project to deliver it. But relying only on road maintenance cycles won’t be enough. To accelerate progress, the City and County will need to dedicate funding in their operational budgets, and/or seek dedicated State and federal funding. 

  1. Build the seamless, high-comfort bike facility every time

When a road that was envisioned in the ATPs spine is up for repaving or reconstruction, the design must reflect protected bike lanes with connectivity to other parts of the network. Painted lanes only suffice for the envisioned “supporting corridor network” for more experienced riders. Protected bike facilities make all road users safer, including drivers. Low-cost materials are available and widely used nationwide. 

  1. Build resilience in the face of opposition

City and County officials: You are doing the right thing by implementing complete streets. They make roads safer for everyone and more inclusive for people of all ages and abilities. Protected bike facilities are cost effective, reduce fatalities & injuries, and get more people biking & scooting, which lessens pollution & congestion, saves families money, attracts and retains young people, acts as a social cohesive, gets residents active & healthy, gets kids outside and results in a more equitable and vibrant community. That’s a lot of checked boxes! Certainly there are trade-offs – mostly underutilized parking spots and slowing cars down. Often we bicyclists are motorists too and we find these trade-offs acceptable. Safety for vulnerable road users must be our prime directive and override perceived inconveniences for drivers. 

We can do this together, in partnership, for the betterment of our community. Once again, we hope you will ride with us Friday, May 3rd to support building the bike spine network! Please click the button below to register so we can have an accurate count!

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In Praise of Rochester’s Growing Bike Boulevard Network

Jesse Peers (white man) stands in front of Reconnect Rochester door at the Hungerford Building.

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

Photo Credit: Judy Lombard from Bits and Peaces Photography

As Rochester cyclists know well, when bike lanes are installed here, they tend to be in isolated stretches, and disconnected from each other. Hopefully that will change as a result of the Active Transportation Plan and its envisioned Bike Spine Network. Today, though, Reconnect Rochester wants to highlight a component of the City’s bike network that isn’t disjointed and is quite well executed: the growing Bike Boulevard network.

Bike Boulevards are residential streets through neighborhoods that parallel primary, busy roads (aka, “arterials”). They are traffic-calmed, particularly by speed bumps, and wayfinding signage is installed for cyclists. Though not all bike riders will be comfortable riding along bike boulevards, most people find them manageable, even pleasant to bike along.

For those who haven’t heard my funny Garson story, I’ll repeat it here. In 2021, Garson Avenue through Beechwood and North Winton Village was made into a Bike Boulevard. One day I overheard some neighbors complaining about the changes and the speed bumps in particular: They exclaimed in anger, “We don’t even drive on Garson anymore!” I had to keep myself from laughing: That’s the point, of course – bike boulevards are supposed to slow down and even deter – car traffic. The speed bumps are doing their job.

In 2015, Alta Planning put a lot of good thought into where Bike Boulevards could be installed. As you bike around, try these purple dotted lines!

Rochester’s Bike Boulevards Plan was created in 2015 and the first boulevard along Harvard Street opened in May 2016. 

The first Bike Boulevard along Harvard was celebrated with a ribbon cutting

Phase 1 (2016)

Phases 1 and 2 (2021)

2021 was the year that the Bike Boulevard Network got a significant boost with the installation of phase 2. The City is currently seeking CMAQ funds for the construction of phase 3. Since the Bike Boulevards are centrally planned with an eye towards connectivity, they’re linking to each other when installed. (These maps don’t show the trails they connect to; that’s in part why we created the ROC Easy Bike map.) A vocal minority in a public meeting don’t get to say “no thanks” the way opponents sometimes overturn bike infrastructure on arterials (creating gaps in the bike network).

Phase 3 in yellow

It’s important to note that the City of Rochester doesn’t view bike boulevards as substitutes for dedicated bike infrastructure on arterials. Rather they view the two types of infrastructure as complementary to each other. After all, destinations like workplaces, stores, daycares and such tend to be on arterials. The Active Transportation Plan encourages the City to take more care at bike boulevard crossings and this must be a priority. The Bike Boulevard along Harvard Street for instance is great, but jeesh – have you ever tried to cross Goodman there? Especially with a kid tagging along, it’s tough.

Unfortunately, we’ve been waiting for three years now on the wayfinding signage for the phase 2 boulevards. The pandemic wreaked havoc on the supply chain and Monroe County DOT, which is responsible for installing signage, is short staffed and hasn’t yet had the time to put them in at the time of this blog. Coupled with the fact that the City has not done a press release or ribbon cutting, it’s no wonder why the Bike Boulevards are the low-stress bike network and investment/accomplishment no one knows about.

It’ll be quite some time before phase 3 of the boulevards is complete. My take: Bike along those future bike boulevards anyway! That’s what we do on our Flower City Feeling Good bike ride series on Wednesdays: We amp up anticipation for and increase familiarity with that growing network. Phase 3 boulevards are not traffic calmed yet but they’re definitely bikeable and easier to bike along than arterials with no/disappearing bike lanes.

Here are more reasons why I love the bike boulevards and use them for most of my riding:

  • With less and slower car traffic, there’s less car exhaust to breathe in. Studies confirm this.
  • Since residential streets are narrower than arterials, there’s typically more tree shade, sometimes even “kissing canopies.” Thus in the summer, it’s easier to stay cool.
  • Since the streets are calmer, I take advantage of that by listening to podcasts or music as I ride.
  • Kids along these streets have safer playing conditions, so there’s more joy in the air; more people on their porches saying hi too.

Granted, navigating the area largely by bike boulevards isn’t as direct. Each ride can be a little squiggly. But I’ve ridden along the existing and future bike boulevards so much the last few years that I know where the turns are without consulting a map or signage. And these minute turns are literally a few seconds on a bike, so you’re not wasting much time “being squiggly,” especially if you’ve got an e-bike or e-scooter. For all these reasons, it’s worth it. My kids and I use the Bike Boulevards a lot – especially when getting to Innovative Field for a Red Wings game.

Some quick notes to end on:

  • The USDOT estimates “that for an alternative low-stress route to be viable, the increase in trip length should be less than 30%.” My hunch is that most Rochester trips along the bike boulevards will be within that 30% threshold.
  • As a bike rider’s know-how and confidence grows, they can stray outside the lines on our ROC Easy Bike map. Want to increase your know-how and confidence? Take one of our on-bike classes sometime!
  • Bike Boulevards aren’t just a City investment! Brighton and Irondequoit are investing in bike boulevard networks too.
  • To be a great biking city, our bike network and investment can’t be hidden from view (mostly along overlooked back ways). The bike network must be obvious and intuitive to grow ridership. There’s more work to be done and the Bike Spine Network of protected bike lanes must be built.
  • As you can see on the following map from the City’s ATP, pretty much all of Rochester’s residential streets are low-stress to bike along. So don’t feel like you have to stick strictly to the official Bike Boulevards. Just take care when crossing those major roads in red.

Bike Boulevard roundabout at Pershing Drive & Rocket Street in the Homestead Heights neighborhood

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What Can We Learn From Rochester’s Cycle Tracks?

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

Union and Howell Streets

The Good

The Bad

College Town

The Good

The Bad

East Main Street

The Good

The Bad

What Do These Examples Tell Us?

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#ROCbyBike – A 2019-2022 Season Recap

By: Jesse Peers

In our climate, most people ride bikes in the Spring, Summer and Fall and that’s okay! When the cycling scene slows down in November, our cycling Instagram account would go almost completely dark for several months. The thought struck us in 2019 that we could use that season to feature guest contributions from area cyclists. It would be a fun way to celebrate biking in Rochester. Contributors could give us a glimpse of their biking lifestyle, what it means to them, what got them into riding, their favorite places to ride and groups to ride with, etc. It’s become a neat way for cyclists who bike in different ways for different reasons to find commonality.

The #ROCbyBike series has been a hit! We thought it would be great to consolidate the stories of our contributors from the first three seasons of #ROCbyBike and we hope it inspires you to get out and ride! 

Julie Adner

“Ever since moving downtown in 2014, biking has blossomed from a suburban, canal-side hobby to my city-side pastime…Biking is always an adventure! Adventures and exploring are a few of my favorite things – cycling has become a perfect way to find places you may not look at via foot or car. It encaptures for me a sense of happiness, fun and freedom.”

(five posts Apr 8-20, 2022)

Hezir Aguero

“Even if you are not a diehard, buffed athlete, you can ride your bike…and it’s a ton of fun! From riding around the neighborhood to driving my bike to a State Park to enjoy the silence and beauty of nature, the time spent consistently kickstarts my energy level, brings clarity of mind, and leaves me with a sense of rejuvenation.” – (five posts Jan 1-13, 2021)

Tracey Austin

“The number one perk of riding a bike in Rochester is being outside. We have some very gorgeous places to ride here in Monroe County! And often if you commute, you can hit any one of these parks or trails along the way.”

(six posts Nov 1-13, 2019)

Steve Carter

“It wasn’t until living in Rochester and using the bikeshare system that I was reminded of the [childhood] freedom, flexibility, and joy that comes with cycling. It didn’t immediately click to me when I moved here that riding a bike could not only be a form of recreation, but also a mode of transportation…I started noticing people riding more.”

“For a city to truly start being a more equitable place, access to different modes of transportation play an incredibly large role – and that includes biking.”

(eight posts Jan 15-27, 2021)

Kay Colner

“Rochester has made me the cyclist I am. The roads aren’t too wide or too busy. There are the river and canal trails that connect many excellent places to visit and ride. And the city just isn’t that big. You can get a lot of places in just about the same amount of time it takes to drive there.”

(six posts May 22 – Jun 5, 2020)

Natasha Dailey

“During my journey I have seen the growth of more women of all backgrounds choosing recreational cycling when considering ways to get healthy. Physical activity helps to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well as maintaining weight, reduces high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and several forms of cancer.”

(four posts Mar 25 – Apr 8, 2020)

Mike Davis

“Upon moving to Rochester in 1993 I rediscovered my [childhood] love of cycling…I noticed that the roads in this part of the state had much wider shoulders than in the Hudson Valley region where I grew up. I was looking for alternate modes of maintaining my fitness so I decided I would grab my old bike…I now ride my bike [downtown] to work.”

(five posts Nov 20 – Dec 2, 2020)

Hillary Ellis

“Most days it takes the same amount of time or sometimes less time to navigate rush hour traffic by bike. I like biking to work because I get to see things in the city that I wouldn’t normally see if I just took the highway on my commute.”

(six posts Dec 13-26, 2019)

Katie Epner

“I’ve seen parts of our city that I would have never experienced without a bicycle…As long as you’re outside and moving your body, YOU. CAN. DO. THIS. It doesn’t matter if you’re slow or can’t use gears or don’t know what a Presta valve is. This is a community who loves to help each other. The one thing you have to do is get out there.”

(seven posts Nov 6-18, 2020)

Dave Everson

“The thing I love best about cycling is that it keeps taking me to beautiful places that otherwise I never would have seen…I’ve lived and bicycled in Rochester for almost 20 years, and the recent investments in bike infrastructure – while not perfect – have utterly transformed the experience of cycling for transportation, not to mention leisure and exercise.”

(seven posts Dec 18-30, 2020)

Kevin Farrell

“Cycling has played a big part in my life and it will certainly play a big part in Rochester’s revival and beyond. I love this quote by Dr. K.K. Doty: ‘Cyclists see considerably more of this beautiful world than any other class of citizens. A good bicycle, well applied, will cure most ills this flesh is heir to.’”

(six posts May 8-20, 2020)

Brooke Fossey

“I’m a parent living the dream of biking with my family as a means of transportation. For me, being on a bike with my kids is often where some of the best moments of our day happen, where I can connect in a very special way with my kids about the world around us.”

(six posts Feb 21-Mar 4, 2020)

Rachel Gordon

“The most important part of my bike adventures is the people I have met and the friends I have made, above all else. From the Black Girls Do Bike gang…to the Wheel Women of Tryono to my weekend gang I met through WDKX, they are friends who are like family. When it’s cold and dark, and the hill is long and steep we lift each other up!”

(six posts Nov 26-Dec 8, 2021)

Will Haines

“In addition to the health benefits, I find cycling one of the most fun and rewarding things to do in life. It’s like being able to take a mini-vacation whenever I heat out. It gives me a chance to recharge, it gives me perspective.”

(five posts Dec 28, 2019 – Jan 8, 2020)

Jimmie Highsmith

“Biking means the freedom to explore my current world. I got into biking for the great workout. It’s also an opportunity to enjoy nature and hang with friends…I ride my bike to work, musical performances, post office, the store, etc.”

(six posts Feb 26-Mar 10, 2021)

David Hough

“Bicycling is a beautiful way for me to connect with my family…We end most days with a family bike ride either to a big empty parking lot or along the Genesee River path. We often end up with an ice cream from Hedonist, some time to lay in an open field, or with a dandelion bouquet.”

(seven posts Jun 6-29, 2020)

Kim Jenkins

“I’ve heard others say, ‘Riding a bike makes me feel like a kid again.’ I wholeheartedly agree! I have made a lot of different friendships and connections through cycling. We have a lot of different terrain to explore.”

(five posts Nov 29-Dec 11, 2019)

Annette Lein

“I am an avid cyclist who loves to explore all that the Rochester area has to offer. I live and ride in the city and find that biking is a great way to get to know your place in the world.”

(six posts Apr 10-21, 2020)

Evan Lowenstein

“…I still look forward to every bike ride, regardless of conditions. Even when I feel too tired, I know that if I go ‘too-tired’ I will still always feel better…I was diagnosed with ADD at the ripe young age of 51.” Research shows “that cycling is an excellent ‘medicine’ for the downsides of ADD…This research makes a ton of sense to me – when I ride, I feel my focus sharpen, my anxiety wane, and I find that my thoughts become positive.”

(six posts Mar 25 – Apr 5, 2022)

Shana Lydon

“There’s really nothing I enjoy more than riding my bike…[Biking] changes your perspective – literally and figuratively. You see things differently from your bike – you take a different route, catch things you would normally miss and you get to see places and meet people I know I wouldn’t normally get to…The Rochester area is a great place to live if you ride a bike.”

(five posts Jan 29-Feb 10, 2021)

Laura Mack

“I started off cycling because of my family…As I got older, cycling created a way for me to meet other people…I have met a lot of great people due to my love of bikes and riding. The people I have met along the way in the cycling community are some of the best people I know.”

“Cycling is also special to me because my dad has had a Traumatic Brain Injury for the past 10 years and I haven’t been able to ride with him like I used to as a child. Cycling keeps me connected to his adventurous spirit and the way he moved about the world, with joy to be out riding, enjoying the fresh air.”

(seven posts Apr 11-May 7, 2021)

Brian and Karen Managan

“Did you know that Rochester is a small but beautiful diamond in the cycling world? We’ve got a goldmine of a trail network in the Rochester / Monroe County region and beyond. The Finger Lakes Region is known to many as one of the finest regions in the entire country for cycling. The Genesee / Western New York Region [is] our 1st choice place to live.”

(seven posts Dec 31, 2021 – Jan 12, 2022)

Deb Marcuccilli

“Both of my legs were amputated after a bus accident when I was 7 years old. My childhood dreams of riding a bike were realized later when I was introduced to handcycling. My friend Rebecca and I have handcycled a few 5Ks. I went on to handcycle the New York City Marathon. I have a wall covered with racing medals. That is a pretty cool achievement for a woman who, as a 7 year old, did not even have access to a bicycle.”

(six posts Nov 12-24, 2021)

Kecia McCullough

“I rekindled my favorite childhood activity, bicycle riding, at the ripe [age] of 50! I wholeheartedly believe self-care is an extension of self-love, which is why engaging and having fun with physical activities that I enjoy is a top priority for me and a way of life.”

(five posts Jan 24-Feb 5, 2020)

Antoine McDonald

“When I ask myself the question: what does biking mean to me? the first thought to mind was not a word but a feeling: FREEDOM…Inclusivity is the new face of the biking community…Together we can utilize biking as means to a positive end, starting in our own communities spreading its impact out across the world!”

(five posts Jan 14-26, 2022)

Alicia Oddo

“Cycling has helped me come out of my shell, let loose, meet lifelong friends and explore Rochester. As an introvert, I need space and downtime to relax. However, group bike rides and subsequent hangs are the exception for me. Meeting the fine folks in the Rochester Bike Kids, a local cycling group, made cycling less intimidating.”

(four posts Apr 24 – May 7, 2020)

Pat Patton-Williams

“There is a sense of peace I feel in riding. Not only is it refreshing, but it relieves stress and allows me to leave my troubles behind! I…enjoy riding on the trails!”

(seven posts Feb 11-23, 2022)

Jesse Peers

“Most of my miles come from cycling-as-transportation – just running everyday errands. I love the cost savings and the sustainability of this mode of travel.” Plus “cycling breaks down barriers like nothing I’ve ever seen. It has an uncanny power to bring people together.”

(seven posts Nov 15-27, 2019)

James Reynolds

[While attending RIT], I would ride into the city to explore the trails and downtown…[Later] I moved into the City and started riding with the Rochester Bike Kids…There were no better tour guides than the rowdy delinquent friends I made in RBK. [Through them} I discovered the city’s oddities and delights…”

(six posts Mar 12-23, 2021)

Alyssa Rodriguez

“I like to explore trails on my folding bike. It’s one of my favorite ways to experience the outdoors…I love the feel of [a] single lane dirt path; it makes me feel like I’m flying through the woods! There are often beautiful flowers along the trail and I love experiencing the outdoors by bike.”

(four posts Feb 12-24, 2021)

Karen Rogers

“Biking has completely changed the way I see my community. I enjoy the many health benefits from riding. I feel great and it keeps me healthier.”

(five posts Mar 26-Apr 8, 2021)

Lisa Schneider

“I bike for a number of reasons, but mainly because it’s the most enjoyable form of exercise I’ve found. I love being outside, I love seeing what there is to see, I love feeling my muscles doing their thing, and it simply makes my heart happy to be on my bike.”

(seven posts Jan 10-22, 2020)

Andy Scott

“What does cycling mean to me? It is an opportunity to meet others on the path and ride with a purpose…I am a rider for life.”

(five posts Feb 25 – Mar 9, 2022)

Amy Slakes

“Not only did biking lead me to my husband, but it also brought many new friends into my life. We are blessed to live in such a beautiful area for biking. You’ll find an awesome and welcoming biking community in Rochester!”

(five posts Feb 7-19, 2020)

Penny Sterling

“I got into cycling because I was looking for something I could do to help get myself into shape. [I continue riding] because I like what happens when I ride. I do much of my best ‘writing’ while I’m riding. And I’ve seen so many beautiful things…It’s a great way to feel alive.”

(six posts Dec 10-24, 2021)

Georgena Terry

“Like any kid, I loved to ride my bike. As an adult, the bike was an escape into nature and away from work…I like to think I started a movement – bikes which properly fit women, regardless of their height. Biking is way too much fun to miss out on just because the bicycle industry has its head in the sand.”

(five posts Dec 4-16, 2020)

Leslee Trzcinski

“Life slows – and perspective heightens – on two wheels, no matter your objective or how fast the legs turn over. And, there’s just no place better than the amazing, winding perfection of our Erie Canalway Trail in greater Rochester…”

(seven posts Jan 28 – Feb 9, 2022)

Chesea Wahl

“I credit my love for two wheels from going to my father’s vintage motocross races and dabbling in motocross as a little kid. Mountain biking [is my] soul food. Fresh air and epic experiences create an everlasting sense of community: riding, clinics, racing, inclusion, and trail maintenance.”

(seven posts Mar 11-23, 2022)

Guy Zeh

“Biking was my first taste of freedom, back when kids were allowed and encouraged to have it. I appreciated that. Since then, I have ridden for just about every reason anyone would ride – for exercise, transportation, to better the environment, to save money, because it’s more fun than driving, just because it’s fun, because it’s faster than walking, for mental health, to do something fun with the kids, to get away from the kids, because the state doesn’t charge me registration and I don’t have a license plate for big brother!”

(six posts Mar 6-23, 2020)

If you’re interested in sharing your story for our 2024-25 #ROCbyBike series, reach out to Jesse at cycling@reconnectrochester.org.*

*Diversity is important to us. So, it may take a while to fit you in the queue so we can make spots for other voices.

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Shifting My Perspective on Space

Shifting My Perspective on Space

By: Robert Picciotti

“I number it among my blessings that my father had no car, while yet most of my friends had, and sometimes took me for a drive. This meant that all these distant objects could be visited just enough to clothe them with memories and not impossible desires, while yet they remained ordinarily as inaccessible as the Moon. The deadly power of rushing about wherever I pleased had not been given me. I measured distances by the standard of man, man walking on his two feet, not by the standard of the internal combustion engine. I had not been allowed to deflower the very idea of distance; in return I possessed “infinite riches” in what would have been to motorists “a little room”. The truest and most horrible claim made for modern transport is that it “annihilates space”. It does. It annihilates one of the most glorious gifts we have been given. It is a vile inflation which lowers the value of distance, so that a modern boy travels a hundred miles with less sense of liberation and pilgrimage and adventure than his grandfather got from traveling ten. Of course if a man hates space and wants it to be annihilated, that is another matter. Why not creep into his coffin at once? There is little enough space there.” – C.S. Lewis

In December of 2020, walking to church had long been one of those things I wanted to do but never gotten around to. When I heard the above quote I committed myself to taking the half hour walk to church for at least a month. I recall being worried about cold and snow as December was beginning but I was determined to keep up with my commitment to see how it went.

My concerns about the cold quickly proved unfounded; walking on all but the coldest days can be quite comfortable if you dress appropriately. The coldest days can be a bit bracing, but are quite manageable and give a little sense of adventure. I quickly came to find joy in the simple pleasures the walk offered. Today I find walking to church a great joy in all seasons, whatever the weather. Each season has its own unique blessings, and my commitment to walking has allowed me to enjoy each of them. A light snowfall in the evening, snowflakes dancing in the warm streetlights, is possibly my favorite. And experiencing that was a direct consequence of my choice to walk in winter. 

That summer I turned my eyes toward Wegmans. If I wished to get groceries without a car then I would benefit from a bike. After getting a bike I found many car trips were easily replaceable, including my Wegmans runs.  In general I find that around 20 or 30 minutes is my normal cutoff in trip length before I start to think about it as a “trip.” That’s true regardless of my mode of transportation; however, I (and I think most people) find driving to be a chore and would teleport instead of drive given the choice. On the other hand I would not give up walking and biking to teleport; I find them to be valuable parts of the trip, enjoyable unto themselves. Though I must admit, a good deal of the joy evaporates when stuck on a busy, fast road without good bike infrastructure.

Over time I shifted most of my daily errands to biking and walking trips. Then last November I got a new job with an office a little over three miles from my home, whereas my previous job had been largely remote since COVID and had its office a good deal further away. Given that it was November I was concerned about biking in the winter, something I’d largely avoided up to that point, but was determined to stick it out as late into the season as I could. I found winter biking in Rochester to be surprisingly practical. Ice wasn’t a big issue (and studded tires exist for those concerned). Being cold also wasn’t much of an issue, overheating because I had dressed too warm was a more common concern. The only winter specific purchase I had to make was buying a headband to keep my ears warm while not getting in the way of my helmet. I’d rather bike to work on a summer day than a winter one, but I would happily take the winter ride over driving. I felt that most keenly when I got COVID this February and felt myself longing for my commute. Something I can’t imagine having wanted when I drove to work!

I have done a couple of longer trips as well. I’ve gone to  Letchworth and most recently I and a friend took the train to Niagara & biked back. I’ve found that doing all these things has given me some of the perspective that Lewis talked about. 

Nowadays I walk & bike nearly everywhere, something that was entirely untrue of me even a few years ago. There have been many benefits that have come with that. I find the traveling part of going places more enjoyable, I am physically active at least 30 minutes a day, when I’ve had car troubles it’s not been a big interruption in my life, and I’ve had the opportunity to lend my car out to others when they’ve had car troubles.

My transition to biking and walking happened over several years as I learned the joy of movement under my own power; it was not a sudden change. My choices are not the choices everyone would make, but often the choice is never even considered. Rather we yield to a cultural sense of practicality and a belief we must maximize our “convenience” and “efficiency.” But, I have found eschewing “practicality” in favor of enjoying movement a much more practical use of my time. Whether or not a person sticks with it, I would encourage anyone to try taking some of the normal car trips of their lives by foot & bike, you never know where you’ll end up.


Interested in sharing your mobility story on the Reconnect blog? Reach out to Community Engagement Manager, Jahasia Esgdaille (jahasia@reconnectrochester.org) to get started!

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Dangerous Behavior on Two Wheels Vs. Four Wheels

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

“I saw this guy on a bike today, weaving in and out of cars waiting for a light to change. I thought, man, that person is ruining it for all bike riders. That kind of thing must drive you crazy right?”

“Not as much as a Ford F-150 doing the same thing,” I replied.

The statement recently made by a friend of mine was classically indicative of people close to me who really try to understand my take on cars, trucks and SUVs, but are still under the spell of the automobile-first mentality that plagues our flawed view about transportation and mobility.

This week alone, I was almost hit by a driver swerving through traffic at high speed with no signaling. I witnessed a driver screaming at a school bus operator on a 1.5 lane bridge, then squeal his tires and drive away at what had to have been 50 in a 30. While my wife and I were traveling to the beautiful Finger Lakes Region this weekend, we were passed by no less than 20 drivers exceeding 80mph. And of course, there was the usual smattering of blatant red light running, stop sign roll-throughs and blatant drive-by disregards for pedestrians waiting at crosswalks.

While everyone laments these activities, they rarely cause us to question the automobile itself. Strategies to create environments and infrastructure that make our roads safer have gained momentum, but they are still in their relative infancy, both with regard to execution and influence. Despite the fact that automobile crashes are the number 2 killer of children and teens in the U.S. (it was #1 for decades until recently when shootings stole this tragic and senseless title) we collectively tend to dismiss bad driving behavior as a sort of toxic bi-product of an essential form of mobility.

But when a bike rider flagrantly disobeys the law or pilots a two-wheeled machine dangerously, that’s when we react with a desire to crack down and put these death-wish seekers in their place. There’s just one key flaw in this argument and one that is so hidden in people’s plain sight that it makes me laugh every time. On my bike, I am only a danger to myself on our roads. Even if I recklessly ride my biggest, fastest bike hard into a Smart Car or a Mini-Cooper, the likely outcome is that I, the bike rider, will end up dead or horribly injured while the driver of the tiny vehicle will walk away unscathed.

Alternatively, if a driver of even the smallest automobile miss-pilots their car, truck or SUV, they do so at great risk to themselves AND other people on our roads. If you’re going to be hit, would you rather be hit by a bike, or by a Chevy Silverado?

Simply put, a reckless bike rider is only a danger to themselves, while a reckless driver, which we all see constantly on our roads, is danger to themselves AND the other drivers, cyclists, scooter riders and pedestrians around them. And yet I’ll put good money on the fact that most drivers see cyclists as a human-less barrier to their endgame.

The response to the above comparison between transportation modes and ability to do harm is typically followed up with a call for cyclists to protect themselves better, citing the fact that law breakers put themselves at greater risk. Which is kind of like saying 100 pound people should be very careful to not step out of line around 250 pound muscular people for their own safety.

Another hilariously “backed into a corner” response is that “people just need to be raised to be better drivers,” implying that what happens on our roads is a product of bad manners, bad parenting, and generally crummy people. But since there will always be people in our society who’s baseline it is to flagrantly do as they please in spite of their surroundings, why not build infrastructure that makes it harder, not easier, to break the law on our roadways?

A 2013 Atlantic article speaks to the concept of freedom that power elicits. In the article, Joe Magee of New York University states that “Power isn’t corrupting, it’s freeing,” going on to say that “Once you get into a position of power, then you can be whoever you are.” When we are given tools of great power, the best or the worst of who we are shines through. Power removes the confines of fear, which is often a good thing, unless we are realistic about the responsibility of driving a 5,000 pound vehicle with hundreds of horsepower. This is probably a case where a small dose of fear is healthy and encouraged.

In a world indoctrinated in one transportation mode, these aren’t easy concepts. When driving has been subsidized, prioritized and normalized as part of every trip, “letting off the gas” of this automobile normalcy goes against the power-based psychology that is present in all humans. Slowly, more and more people are open to understanding the concepts mentioned here and as a result, our communities may slowly grow to become safer and healthier places to be.

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The Bike Guy Walks!

Jesse Peers (white man) stands in front of Reconnect Rochester door at the Hungerford Building.

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

One of the things I love about Rochester is its size. Joseph Floreano said it well: “New York City was too big. Binghamton was too small. Rochester was just right.” Partly because of Rochester’s size, and partly because I’m very intentional about it, I have quite a small radius, or orbit, in everyday life. I rarely have to bike outside the space below. My workplace is 1.4 miles away. The stellar Public Market and Wegmans are less than 2 miles away. We’re 3 miles from our church and from downtown. This makes bicycling-as-transportation and being a one-car household quite easy.

Walk Score’s Time Travel Map shows how far out in every direction you
can bike in a given amount of time, in this case 20 minutes.

Now that I’m over 40 and I have some cardiac history in the family to guard against, I give increasing thought to my health. I changed my diet and lost almost 60 pounds in 2021. Now that I have an Apple Watch, I’m conscious of my exercise and how many calories I burn each day from being active. (The watch’s Move ring is pretty neat: “Closing” it comes in part from exercise, yes, but mostly from other activities such as going up and down stairs, folding laundry, taking the dog out, and in my case sometimes: by playing the drums!)

An Apple Watch showing Fitness Rings

As convenient as my 1.4-mile commute is (I wouldn’t trade it for the world!), it’s only 7 minutes by bike each way at a moderate, easy pace. So I barely burn any calories and won’t close my Exercise and Move rings with 14 minutes of biking alone. Something else is required. For years I had a treadmill in the basement, and in 2021, I actually started using it – jogging most days for 30 minutes or so before dinner as I caught up on podcasts. If I attended or led a group bike ride on a particular evening, I could skip the treadmill, knowing I’d close my Move rings twice from my commutes, biking to the group ride, doing the ride itself, and biking home afterwards. As you can imagine, the treadmill in the Winter especially came in handy.

But this October, my old treadmill broke! So I started an experiment: walking to work rather than biking. I like it so much that I might continue it this Winter! Here’s why: If I previously had two 7-minutes-each-way bike commutes + 30 minutes of treadmill time, and walking to work is 22 minutes, my schedule really doesn’t change at all: that’s still 45 minutes a day of activity, no treadmill needed. I still have the same amount of time to devote to other stuff.

What was most interesting to me was how much more calories I burn from a 22-minute walk commute, compared with my 7-minute bike commute. Obviously it varies based on intensity and time of the year, but that 7-minute bike commute really only burns me 35 calories, if Strava can be trusted. That same commute by walking burns me about 145 calories. So the exercise ring closes everyday and as long as I do everyday stuff like laundry and take the dog for a walk, the Move ring closes as well.

I love winter bicycling. It’s easier and more fun than most people realize. But without a doubt, the worst part of biking in the winter is what the road salt can do to your bike. Keeping the corrosion at bay is a pain! If I walk to work this winter much of the time rather than biking, I lose no time, close my rings, alleviate the need for a treadmill, and save my bikes from that brutal road salt, therefore saving money on tune-ups.

Another perk of walking everyday: The cats of Beechwood! I could seriously start a #CatsofBeechwood montage of all the adorable cats I see wandering about. Sometimes they’ll show interest in me and let me pet them.

A photo of a community cat in the Beechwood neighborhood

I’ve been car-free for 9.5 years now. My first few years of that lifestyle were composed of biking for virtually every trip. As I get older, I appreciate being able to rely on transit and walking some of the time. If you’re intrigued by the health benefits tied to walking, biking and ordinary activity, I highly recommend Peter Walker’s The Miracle Pill. It’s a stellar follow-up to his first book, How Cycling Can Save The World. Also check out this recent clip from NPR’s Up First, examining how important it is to get up and walk around every hour if you have a desk job.

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A Journey Through My Multimodal Week in Rochester

By Jahasia Esgdaille, Community Engagement Manager at Reconnect Rochester

Author’s note: “Happy New Year! In Fall 2022, I decided to log what a multi-modal week looks like for me and, not so surprisingly, I rely A LOT less on my car than I thought. What does a multi-modal week look like for you?– Jahasia


Throughout the week I try to leave my car at home as much as possible and use other options of getting around the Flower City, so this was quite a fun experiment to see that I actually rely much less on my car than I thought and really only use it for running errands or to get outside of the city. 

I will say that I am privileged to have options to be multi-modal throughout the week. I live in the city on two major bus lines (cheers to the #41 and the #9) so I am very lucky to have these options available to me. But, I do realize that this is something that needs to be improved in our city. In my opinion, everyone should have the option to have a multi-modal week, whether you decide to take the bus, bike or walk to your destination.

Monday

Walk to work (13 mins)

I got very lucky that my commute to work is only a 13 minute walk each way. As long as I have the energy to climb the steep hill that is the Circle Street bridge, I hoof it to work!

Biked to CVS on Park Avenue (7 mins)

I avoid driving anywhere on Park Avenue like the plague. It’s not convenient for driving or parking…which is good. This is what a people-first street design should be like. So, when I need to run to the pharmacy, I ride my bike, and thankfully there’s a bike rack right outside of CVS where I can safely lock my bike. It happened to be a little rainy this day and I completely forgot that my bike doesn’t have fenders, so enjoy the photo of glorious mud splatter on my bag.

Tuesday

Walk to work (13 mins)

Biked to Abundance Co-op to pick up a compost bin for the office (13 mins)

At Reconnect Rochester, we champion transportation choices that have a positive impact on the environment. We encourage people to swap car trips for other modes of transportation whether you decide to take the bus, bike or walk. So, it only made sense for us to continue our sustainability efforts and start composting at the office so that our food scraps and other biodegradable materials don’t make their way into Monroe County Landfills!

Took the 8 bus to Drive2bBetter conference (20 mins)

The Reconnect Rochester staff took a multi-modal trip to the Drive2bBetter Conference. James and I took the 8 and walked 13 minutes the rest of the way. Mary, Monika and Jesse rode their bikes to meet us there. 

We were so excited to see that the Drive2bBetter campaign was relaunched thanks to the hard work of the coalition group led by HealthiKids. To show your support for the campaign, you can request a free lawn sign here!

Wednesday

Walked to work (13 mins)

Biked to Full Moon Vista to grab bike lights (10 mins)

It’s getting darker earlier in the day, so my husband and I rode our bikes to Full Moon Vista to grab a snazzy set of lights to see and be seen when biking at night.

Bike to Cobbs Hill Park to swap out my compost bin with Roc City Compost (7 mins)

I am sadly starting to clear out my balcony garden for the season, so I chucked dead plant material in my Roc City Compost bin, sat it in my milk crate and biked to Cobbs Hill to meet the friendly faces at Roc City Compost.

Biked to Price Rite to some groceries for dinner (10 mins)

Once again, I am very lucky to have grocery stores close enough to bike, walk or take the bus to. I decided to bike a straight line down to Price Rite and grab a few groceries for dinner. We decided to make shrimp alfredo that night, yum!

Thursday

Drove to an appointment with my husband in Gates (13 mins)

This was where I broke my streak and drove with my husband to an appointment in Gates. We were tight on time and decided to drive 13 mins from home to the doctor’s office. We thought about taking the bus but that would’ve been 2 hours and 10 mins round trip and after getting off of the bus, we would have to traverse the 6-lane road onto a street with minimal sidewalks, so it was more convenient to drive.

Friday

Drove over to Wegmans to pick up groceries (5 mins)

Something I’ve been considering when I decide to drive over to Wegmans is to carpool with a few friends to make the drive more sustainable and inevitably make the East Avenue Wegmans parking lot less congested. If you know, you know!

Biking along the Erie Canal Trail (1 hour)

Back when we had warm and sunny Fall days, my husband and I biked part of the Erie Canal Trail and stopped at the Genesee River in Corn Hill to enjoy the sun and the view. 

Writing this blog, I was hesitant to admit the times in my week where I do jump in my car to run errands or to get to an appointment. But I wanted to be honest about what a multi-modal week looks like in a city that is still very much car-centric. As much as I hate to list that I drove to an appointment, the reality is that a 13-minute drive is a lot more convenient than a 1 hr 8-minute bus ride, and this is just one example among many people in Rochester who experience the same thing. On the other hand, this made me realize that there are so many things you can do around Rochester using alternative modes of transportation, especially by bike within a 20-minute ride!

Happy busing, biking and walking!

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Top ten things we’re most proud of in 2022

At Reconnect Rochester, 2022 brought renewed hope and activity as the world fully opened up and we could get back to what we love doing best — getting together and working alongside people and organizations in the community who share our passion for improved mobility.

This has also been a year of dramatic organizational growth that’s allowed us to do even more to pursue our hopes and dreams for mobility in Monroe County. Check out below the Top 10 things we’re most proud of accomplishing in 2022. The list gets more action-packed each year!


TOP 10 THINGS WE’RE MOST PROUD OF IN 2022
(In no particular order of importance.)

#10

Inspired People to Get Multi-Modal

At Reconnect Rochester, we want to inspire and empower people to use various modes of transportation and discover the joy and freedom of getting around by bus, by rail, on bike or on foot. Our Car-Lite ROC blog series featured the voices and stories of folks around the community who are living a car-lite lifestyle in Rochester and loving it! Catch up on the blog series here and listen to the podcast of some of our guest bloggers on Connections with Evan Dawson.

#9

Expanded Bus Amenities

Bus Stop Cube Ribbon Cutting; group of people smile as they get ready to cut a white ribbon that's in front of a red bus stop cube

In August, we held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the installation of 23 more bus stop cubes on Portland, Hudson, Lake, Dewey & St. Paul. Seating at bus stops not only supports the basic needs of people who rely on RTS bus service, it also encourages more people to use public transit by improving the experience. Special thanks to the City of Rochester for being a valued partner on this project, and State Senator Samra Brouk for securing funding to support this round of bus stop cubes.

#8

Transformed an Intersection

Kids and adults paint the road with large paint rollers

We continued our effort to make Rochester streets safer for all with a Complete Street Makeover of the intersection of Orange Street and Orchard Street in the JOSANA neighborhood.  In collaboration with many neighborhood and community partners, we implemented temporary street design changes to make the intersection safer for those who use it every day. As a result of our installation, the average speed decreased 20%, the 85th percentile speed declined 28%, and the maximum speed declined 26%.

#7

Used the Power of Film to Educate and Inspire

4 panelists sit in director chairs on a theatre stage; 1 moderator stands at a podium

This year, we produced two Rochester Street Films events at The Little Theatre. In June, we partnered with the Climate Solutions Accelerator to showcase the feature-length documentary Life on Wheels, followed by a discussion about the mindset & policy shifts needed to create a more multimodal community. In October, we brought a set of curated film clips to the screen to explore Why We Bike, and had a panel discussion and Q&A about the rewards for us personally and as a society when more people ride bikes.

#6

Expanded Our Advocacy Efforts

7 people on a Zoom grid

In January, we welcomed James Dietz in the newly created Advocacy Manager position to bolster our volunteer-based advocacy work with staff-based efforts. Our advocacy efforts this year included a virtual trip to Albany to fight for safe streets legislation & public transit funding, supporting the expansion and accessibility of mobility options like HOPR bike & e-scooter share and the launch of Floshare electric car share, and more on-the-ground action like mobilizing a team of staff and volunteers to shovel out bus stop cubes.

#5

Stepped up Communications and Outreach Efforts

Staff member Jahasia stands and smiles behind a Reconnect information table

In August, Jahasia Esgdaille joined our team in another newly created position of Community Engagement Manager. This investment in staff capacity has allowed us to step up our engagement in the community with things like increasing our in-person presence via event tabling, conducting an RTS rider survey, introducing quarterly Engagement Breakfasts, and expanding our social media presence (you can now find us on Instagram!).

#4

Strengthened Partnerships

Indoor Press Conference with County Executive Adam Bello for Drive 2B Better campaign

This year, we made a concerted effort to strengthen our relationships with key entities in the transportation sector and organizations that share our passion for better public transit and safe streets. We’ve established regular meetings with RTSGTC, the City of Rochester and Monroe County, and work with countless other elected officials and organizations in the course of our day-to-day work. It was collaborative conversations that led to Monroe County’s decision to fund the relaunch of the public awareness campaign Drive 2B Better, developed by a coalition group led by HealthiKids that aims to increase safety for all road users. You can request a D2BB lawn sign for your yard here!

#3

Gave & Encouraged Public Input

Monroe County Active Transportation Plan Logo

Thanks to the work of our Advocacy Committee, Reconnect submitted input on every major street project and community plan in Monroe County, beating the drum to incorporate complete streets policies and a more multimodal community. We gave special attention to providing robust input into the City and County Active Transportation Plans, attended countless public meetings, and served on project advisory committees for Aqueduct Reimagined and the Zoning Alignment Project.

#2

Expanded Cycling Resources & Activities

Group bike ride photo; "we are the change that we seek" mural.

We continued to exponentially expand cycling-focused programs, advocacy, education & outreach, including the creation of a one-stop Community Cycling Calendar and the RocEasy Bike map of recommended low-stress bike routes around Rochester. Plus, we pulled off our first annual ROC ‘n Roll community ride, continued our Flower City Feeling Good bike rides in collaboration with the City of Rochester and Exercise Express, rolled out Local History Bike Tours, and hosted a 2-day workshop by the League of American Bicyclists for local transportation planner’s and advocates. We’re especially proud of our first annual Mind the Gap campaign which asked cyclists where critical bike connections were missing in Monroe County’s bike network.

Check out the CYCLING TOP 10 LIST for even more about bike-related efforts led by our rock star Cycling Manager, Jesse Peers.

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Leveled Up Our Staff & Welcomed New Board Leadership

If you’ve made it this far, you’ll know there were a few areas where we mentioned increased staff capacity. In 2022, we were able to hire two full-time employees and increase the hours of our part-time employees. More human power means more impact, and we are loving all the new and expanded ways we’ve been able to tackle our mission. This growth was made possible in great part by the continued support of Dr. Scott MacRae and a generous grant from the ESL Charitable Foundation’s Building Strong Neighborhoods initiative.

We also brought on three new board members – Bree-Ana Dukes, Bo Shoemaker & Erick Stephens – who have each used their experience and talent to energize our efforts.

Just imagine what we can do in 2023!

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Utica’s Genesee Street Transformation

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

For 6 years, I’ve been dreaming of the day when Genesee street in downtown Utica, NY might be reduced from four lanes to two with a turning lane and bike lanes. To be perfectly frank, this was a reality I feared would never materialize. Despite the fact that countless cities and towns across the country have successfully executed a “road diet,” thus making a street safer for pedestrians, cyclists AND drivers with zero-to-minimal impact on travel time, so many Uticans had abrasively rejected my vision every time I brought it up.

Thanks to the vision of Utica Common Council member Katie Aiello, that formally unrealized hope for Utica’s historic Genesee Street was re-striped a little over a month ago with two travel lanes, a left-hand turning lane and bike lanes, just like I’ve imagined so many times.

This was done as part of a 90-day trial period to assess the impact of the project. But as is typical when a city is introduced to the concept of Complete Streets and road diets for the first time, many people responded with a flurry of dissent.

Hot tip… if you ever want to sit back and watch a relentless flow of verbal bile and fire-scorched sense of logic, suggest a road diet in a downtown to a city and metro population for the first time. Just grab a substantial bag of buttery, salted popcorn and watch the horror unfold.

I’ve spent a significant amount of time assuring the people of Utica that projects like this make our streets safer for everyone, as well as helping to elicit private investment and provide greater accessibility of community resources for the population. A big part of this assurance is telling people that if this kind of project worked on the Main Street of my home city of Rochester with a population of over 200,000 people, it will work for a city with a population of just over 60,000 people. Genesee Street in Utica and Rochester’s Main Street downtown each have similar daily traffic counts (approximately 9,000 vehicles per day, well below the 15,000-20,000 that begin the four-lane road conversation).

But, as usual with these sorts of projects, my fact-backed urgings and invitations to references and resources in support of road diets were often met with a “no thanks,” as many community leaders choose their own opinions over actual data that has been repeated hundreds, if not thousands of times. My favorite comments from leading members of a prestigious local organization implied that bike lanes and greater walkability would make the area more accessible for “crack dealers.”

The irony of the above social media take is that the opposite is far more often true… that walkability, traffic calming, and bike access complement and enhance small business and local arts culture.

What it all boils down to is this… many residents still have an insulated “out my front door” view that their city or community is unique. And while to some extent this is true, for the most part, Rust Belt (or as I like to call them, Robust Belt) cities are all dealing with, and recovering from, the same barriers. And again, as much as we struggle to admit the solutions of de-prioritizing the automobile, creating small business-friendly environments, solving issues of equity and access and laying the fertile soil for human-centered economic growth are the broad but key lenses of change for all communities, it’s the proven truth. Despite the aforementioned opposition by many of Utica’s community leaders, the road diet that has taken place on Genesee Street is a small but significant puzzle piece with regard to the solution.

Maybe you’re still not comfortable thinking that your city isn’t as unique as you think it is. OK, I’ll concede that for a moment… but what I will not waiver on is that, as soon as we Americans get in our cars, we act more predictably than ever.

We all make subjective statements like “Massachusetts drivers are the worst,” or “Indiana drivers always pass on the right.” The truth is, people don’t drive differently because they’re from a different locale. Real world data shows that there are scores of given principles that determine the behavior of drivers. If the roads are wide, people will drive faster. If there are no vertical points of reference (trees for example) people will drive faster. If there is parallel parking, people will drive slower. If the lane is 9 feet wide instead of 11 feet wide, people will drive slower. And why is automobile speed so important when blended with walkability? Because of the shocking data from the National Traffic Safety Board…

A pedestrian hit by a car traveling 40 miles per hour is nearly twice as likely to be killed than if the car was traveling 30 miles per hour. Building infrastructure that reduces speeds, even by a few miles per hour, has the potential to save lives. But in order to do this, we must accept that traffic in our community doesn’t behave differently than traffic in other locales. We must accept that the drivers in Utica behave the same way as they do anywhere else… it’s the infrastructure that determines how safely or unsafely people pilot their vehicles.

This is typically where people will stand up and point out that cyclists and pedestrians break the law as well. My answer is always the same… sure, just like drivers, those who walk, bike and scooter break the law… the difference is that they are not piloting a 3,000-6,000 pound vehicle capable of 100mph that doesn’t just threaten their own life, it threatens the life of other people and property as well. Car crashes are the close #2 killer of children and teens, after gun violence. The NHTSA states that car crashes in the United States cost nearly a trillion dollars annually. And much of this burden is directly shouldered by the taxpayer. Why, then, would anyone rally against a mobility strategy that had the potential to save lives, lessen the chance of personal injury AND save taxpayer money?

The answer is entitlement that is always thoroughly-veiled in the word “freedom.” Drivers often view projects like this as yet another assault on their personal freedom. The irony, of course, is that transportation infrastructure that prioritizes the most expensive modality (automobiles) means that one doesn’t have a choice in how to access jobs and resources in their community. Because driving is subsidized so heavily in the US, there is no equitable alternative that is feasible or practical. Because of far higher gas taxes, gasoline in Europe costs twice as much… but the average American spends four times as much on transportation as the average European. This has led to the antithesis of transportation freedom for the American, replacing it with a blatant “pay-to-play” scenario. You must own a car to have the opportunity to succeed.

No, simply re-striping Utica’s Genesee Street won’t, on its own, invigorate a pedestrian and bike-friendly culture in the city’s downtown. No, it won’t single-handedly increase sales at local stores, restaurants, museums and theaters. It should be seen, instead, as a social and economic fulcrum, or a sort of fertilized soil that can help grow the seeds of prosperity for Utica’s future. It’s a small step, but one that so many cities have taken toward a more socially and economically prosperous community.

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Winter Cycling

Jesse Peers (white man) stands in front of Reconnect Rochester door at the Hungerford Building.

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

Before we get too far, we have to put a plug in for one of our upcoming events: a free Winter Cycling Class on Saturday, December 10! Join us at 11am in the CDCR’s Gallery (1115 E Main Street, Door 3B) to learn more about biking in the snowy season (hot cocoa provided).

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Transportation parity in Rochester, New York can’t ignore winter. It’s not good enough or equitable to have a multitude of transportation options in the spring, summer and fall, and to have to resort to driving a car of your own in the winter. That’s why Reconnect Rochester has been championing better plowing of sidewalks and the clearing of bus stops so transit users don’t have to wait in the street for a bus.

Convincing people to bike in the winter is admittedly a harder sell. At first glance, who wants to bike in the cold? And especially when there’s snow?! I’d concede to you… EXCEPT, city after city after city after city after city shows that normal folks will bike in the winter, especially if dedicated bike space is kept clear. Let’s go over some facts and misnomers. Even if you choose to never bike in winter, at least you’ll realize why some choose to.

1. Winter biking doesn’t have to be an extreme sport! In fact, it used to be pretty normal. NBD (no big deal). 

Browse old bike periodicals and you’ll come to the same conclusion. Granted, once we entered the Eisenhower and Robert Moses era, winter biking became less common but that was due to the surge of automobiles dominating the roads, not the existence of winter itself.

Winter cycling in action; Road to Perdition
The opening scene of Sam Mendes’ film Road to Perdition gives us a glimpse of how ordinary and nonchalant biking in the winter used to be.

2. There’s no difference between a 10-minute walk in the cold and a 10-minute bike ride in the same elements.

Lots of people take a regular walk outside in the winter. Perhaps they’re a dog owner taking their pet out on their “daily constitutional.” Or someone taking a walk in their neighborhood or further afield to enjoy nature. Those aren’t “extreme.” Neither is biking in the cold for a finite amount of time. In fact, biking in the cold tends to be more comfortable than walking because:

3. Biking makes the temperature feel about 15° warmer.

Because of the moderate “work” you’re doing turning those pedals, your body warms up. You can literally make three months of 30° feel like three months of 45°! That’s why cyclists and joggers wear less layers than they would otherwise when the temperatures drop. This outdoor exertion warming your body up makes winter more bearable for many. Necessary side notes:

  • Body-temp-wise, biking is more comfortable than waiting at a bus stop.
  • That “+15° thing” is why summer can sometimes be the least comfortable time to ride.
  • Give it 5 minutes; the first 5 minutes are the most uncomfortable before you get into a rhythm.
  • Layering is key: You want to be cool when you bike at all times – not cold, not warm, certainly not hot. Sweat is your enemy when biking in the winter.

4. As snowy as Rochester is, most winter days are cold temps and clear streets.

If someone chose to leave their bike at home on days when arterials have snow on them and biked only when those primary roads were clear, they’d be biking the majority of winter. Increasingly, I’ve found that we tend to get most of our snow during a handful of big events each year. The rest is pretty manageable. My experience is that altogether there are maybe 5-7 workdays a year when biking is completely inadvisable because the roads are flat-out unsafe. Not too bad for one of the world’s snowiest cities! Working from home in those instances is not an option for everybody, but it’s more common than it used to be. Of course there are times when an alternate mode, such as bus or taxi, might be the way to go.

5. Biking in the winter isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.

Extending one’s biking season happens by degrees. All cyclists start as fair weather cyclists, and that’s okay! When folks want to bike more, they first acclimate to riding at night or in the rain. Then they might extend their season to riding in the 50s. Then the 40s. The next step is 30s with clear streets. Then 20s with clear streets. Last of all is biking when there’s snow on the ground or when temps are super frigid. If you never get to those later phases, no worries! But it is possible due to studded tires, one of the best investments a Rochester cyclist can make.

Winter biking accessory: studded bike tires

6. The City of Rochester knows it needs to make progress in terms of clearing bike infrastructure in the winter.

It’s a challenge to do so, but the Rochester 2034 Comprehensive Plan acknowledges strides must be taken. After all, Buffalo’s Department of Public Works clears their bike lanes and shoulders.

For starters here, Reconnect Rochester has advocated for the Genesee Riverway Trail be cleared from downtown to the University of Rochester. Since the squeaky wheel gets the grease, let your councilmembers know that clearing of some bike infrastructure in the winter should be prioritized.

Winter Maintenance excerpt from Rochester 2034 Comprehensive Plan: "While it may not be reasonable to expect complete winter maintenance of all bicycle and pedestrian facilities in the near future, strides must be taken to work in that direction"

In Sum…

If you don’t want to bike in Winter, you don’t have to! But it’s probably easier and more feasible than you think. Those who choose to bike in Winter, taking advantage of Rochester’s average 4.1-mile commute, deserve better accommodations and to be passed safely and courteously as the law requires.

Average Commute Distance graphic for Rochester, NY. Average is 4.1 miles. Highlighted portion: "commute travel makes up only one-sixth of daily trips in the region. Other trips are typically shorter"

Want to Know More?

If you’re interested in learning more, come to our free Winter Cycling Class on Saturday, December 10 at 11am in the Community Design Center’s gallery space (1115 E Main Street, Door 3B). It’s chock full of practical tips to get you started.

If you want to learn more on your own, these two books are highly recommended:

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Car Lite Rochester: From Car-Free to Car-Lite, Three Years Later

car lite 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 the t-shirt in our online shop.

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: From Car-Free to Car-Lite, Three Years Later

By: Calvin Eaton

Calvin Eaton is a disabled scholar, author, cultural curator, content creator, and social entrepreneur. He founded the theglutenfreechef brand and website in 2013 and founded 540WMain, Inc. in 2016.

Calvin Eaton
Photo Credit: Adam Eaton

Whew! It’s been a long time since I last checked in! Can you believe it’s been three years since my last blog with Reconnect Rochester? And what a time we’ve had in three years. We’ve survived an incessant global pandemic and  I’ve survived two bouts of COVID-19, vaccinations, boosters, masks, and so much more. With so much change you would think we would be closer to realizing neighborhoods and streets that are more universally designed, pedestrian friendly, and less reliant on the all-powerful automobile. This is hardly the case. So much has changed yet when it comes to a culture that is less reliant on cars so much has remained the same. Still it’s not all doom and gloom. There’ve been lots of positive changes in the realm of more bicycle and pedestrian friendly infrastructure in recent years. Before I dive into that let me update you on what’s been happening with me.

New Bike, New Me

I got a new bike in 2021. Actually, a very kind friend gifted me a brand new bike. It was a complete surprise and I am forever grateful. After what seems like decades of lamenting about how I needed to get a bike, I just wasn’t making it a priority. One day in early summer 2021 I reached out to my Facebook community to ask if anyone had recommendations for a decent used bike and next thing I knew I received a brand new bike on my doorstep. What a thoughtful and amazing gift. I was able to test out my new bike just in time for the 2021 edition of the Juneteenth Roc Freedom Ride through Rochester. Tapping into the robust bike community and the dedicated bike trails has been key for me since I still don’t always feel comfortable riding my bike solo on the city streets. Even though fibromyalgia prevents me from cycling as much as I would like, having my new wheels has been amazing.

Calvin with a friend at a community bike ride

Rochester’s affinity based cycling communities have grown throughout the pandemic. These communities are important to me because they break down the stereotypes and bias that Black people don’t bike or can’t bike. Amazing transformative leaders like Rashad Smith and the Roc Freedom Ride initiative are a beautiful homage to the bus desegregation movement of the 1960s and parallel the modern day desegregation of “cycling culture” in Rochester and other cities around the country. Cycling culture in Rochester like most cities looks very homogenous (i.e white) and groups like Roc Freedom Riders, Black Girls Do Bike, Conkey Cruisers, and the Flower City Feeling Good bike rides are some of the initiatives that have grown over the past few years that diversify and bring equity and inclusion to cycling culture in Rochester. This work is priceless. Despite this progress, bike legislation and biased enforcement has led to over policing, racial profiling and pretext stops for Black and brown cyclists. Group bike rides provide a measure of support and safety for those of us that are new to cycling as a regular form of transportation.

Car-Free to Car-Lite

In my last blog I shared my journey to a car-free lifestyle and three years later I’ve migrated from car-free to car-lite. The short story version is that during the pandemic my brother purchased a used car from Geva’s fleet of cars for performers and then gifted the car to me. It all happened very quickly but I do remember needing a week or two to think about the implications of bringing a car back into my life. This was at the top of 2021 and at the time I was teaching as an adjunct at St. John Fisher University and we were migrating back to in-person learning. After three years of being car-free, having access to my own vehicle again didn’t seem like a bad idea.

Reimagine RTS

My final decision came down to convenience. Even with the many improvements to bicycle infrastructure, and the reimagine RTS initiative I would be being disingenuous if I didn’t admit that having a car is simply more convenient in our city. Owning and maintaining a car is a privilege, this I must admit. Getting reacclimated to car life and taking care of the administrative details like registration, insurance, and transferring the title was relatively easy for me to do and I recognize this immense privilege. As someone living with a disability my lifestyle lends itself to far less driving than the average car owner. Due to the disability that I live with, each month my car sits idle in the driveway for multiple consecutive days. More often than not, I don’t have the stamina or energy to drive. The majority of my work happens online and I hold many meetings remotely via zoom. Even on my good days having a car for me isn’t essential. Understanding this privilege I recently was able to loan my car to a car-free friend who was taking a road trip for a couple of days.

Winter sidewalk in Rochester, NY

For me having a car during the cold winter months is most helpful. And I notice and advocate for improvements in how our streets and sidewalks are plowed during the winter months. Anyone that uses a wheelchair or power chair is figuratively and literally stuck when the snow starts to accumulate, and this is simply unacceptable. There remains much work to be done in this regard.

Transportation Justice is an Ongoing Movement

Despite my return to life with a car, I remain an active and vocal advocate for safe streets, increased and improved bicycle infrastructure, and better accessibility for our roads, public transportation and the built environment for disabled people. My journey has taught me to have more compassion and empathy for everyone’s choice to own a car or not and to spend less time making moral judgements about people’s decisions and more time advocating for a city that includes all perspectives and voices. There have been lots of additions that allow more transportation choice in our City like the HOPR bike and scooter share, bike clubs, electric vehicle sharing, renovations to the RTS station, road diets, improvement along East and West Main streets, and the advocacy and education presented by Reconnect Rochester. Still we have so much work to do to reimagine and redesign our city to be more pedestrian safe and friendly.

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Car Lite Rochester: Small Decisions Become Core Values

car lite 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: Small Decisions Become Core Values

By: Tracey Austin

It’s interesting to think through why your life includes (or excludes) something that most other American families find normal. I would say my family’s car-lite life was born from necessity. We never really made a conscious decision on a particular day to be car-lite, yet it has become one of our values. And it has amazed me how such a seemingly small decision has shaped our life.

After college, my sister and I wanted nothing more than to get an apartment together in the City of Rochester. We shared our college car, and since my job was downtown and closer, I was the one who got to take the bus, ride my bike, and walk. I learned so much about Rochester during that time of my life because I used these multimodal ways of getting around. They weren’t an alternative for me; it was just what I had to do, like most people who don’t have access to a car.

After I got married, there was no question whether we would also live in the city near friends and our jobs. Proximity to work and “life things” has always been a natural priority for us. I love this city. I have spent the past 20+ years exploring some of its best short cuts. Back in the day, my favorite shortcuts were through the old midtown building and the enclosed path you could take from MCC to the other side of Main Street – glory days!

I love bike commuting, and the bus has helped in a pinch. But I prefer to walk most places. If I’m short on time, I bike. But walking is a form of therapy for me, especially before and after work in the winter. It’s always a peaceful way to start and end the day. And when I worked downtown it was always a good excuse to pick up coffee on the way into work without having to wait in a drive thru or park my car. I guess all of my life’s decisions usually come down to coffee access.

For these combined reasons, we have been able to get by with one car (even now with a teenage driver also sharing it!). My husband prefers the bus to biking or will walk sometimes when I need the car. And all of us are now very used to asking friends and co-workers for rides. I wish that was more normalized. I even have close neighbor friends who always anticipate my request for a ride if we are both invited to the same event. Most people don’t mind at all, especially if you help pay for gas or bring them something freshly baked. ☺

We manage, and we manage well. Although I sometimes agree with my youngest son’s wish that “we at least had a newer car,” I don’t frame it as a necessity and I never will. What started as an economic decision continues to be one: I could never stomach paying a car payment on a new car, let alone two. And paying for parking when the job or event is fairly close to my house seems silly. I am happy that my kids prioritize material things less, since the necessity of cars wasn’t modeled for them. And sometimes I make a point to say things like, if we had two cars to pay for we wouldn’t be able to go on this trip or pay this bill. As they get older, I hope they will prioritize adventure and healthy budgeting over something that ties them down.

I suppose my story isn’t going to be a huge revelation to most readers. But my car-lite life has revealed a lot to me—about myself and about my city. I choose to interact with it daily in a more tangible way by how I travel through it, and that in turn helps my bank account and our environment. That makes me happy. So as long I have physical mobility to travel the way I prefer, I will do just that. And I hope I can help some friends to try it along the way.

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Car Lite Rochester: Family Style

car lite 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: Family Style

By: Doug Kelley

Doug Kelly smiles in a helmet next to the Genesee River

It was early 2015 when my transportation lifestyle hit rock-bottom. Rochester’s winter had been especially cold and snowy that year. I was still bitter over the cancellation of the RTS route that had shuttled me, all through the prior winter, directly from my own block to my job at the University of Rochester (anybody else have fond memories of the 52 line?). With my children in elementary school and my wife and I both working new jobs, busy-ness and frustration led me to break my routine by buying a parking pass and commuting in a car all winter. It seemed logical enough, especially since my wife and I happened to own two cars for the first time since our daughters had been babies.

But by March, it was clear that car commuting had been a terrible blunder. I found myself much more grumpy, fussing over traffic and parking and gas prices. I was out of shape and feeling lethargic. Canceling the built-in exercise of walking to the bus or biking to the office, and eliminating the routine that gave me quiet outdoor moments for reflection twice a day, had made me miserable — both physically and emotionally. The writing was on the wall: I crave exercise and the joys of active transportation more than I hate the cold. I swore I’d never buy another winter parking pass, and I never have. We soon got rid of that second car.

Once we did, the benefits piled up. For starters, living a car-lite lifestyle can be a big financial help for a young family. Driving less meant we spent less on gas, of course — and today’s high gas prices would increase the impact. Dropping my parking pass saved us a few hundred bucks a year. (Shout out to the University’s free Occasional Parking Program!) But the real financial payoff came with getting rid of that car altogether: no car payments, no insurance, no oil changes, no brake jobs or belt jobs or worries about what would break next. Our car-lite lifestyle continues to save us thousands of dollars each year.

Cost of a car diagram
Diagram from EPA

Other benefits are less tangible, but for a family, maybe more important. Exercise is one of the best things anybody can do for physical and mental health, so building exercise into daily transportation routines is great for parents and kids alike. Biking and walking make my family and me happier, more focused at school and work, and ready to enjoy time together more fully. Burning less fossil fuel and emitting less carbon make my wife and me feel better about our climate impacts, not only for our own sake but also for our two teenage daughters. After all, they will live through more repercussions of climate change than us, and going car-lite now will empower them to be more adaptable and less dependent on fossil fuels. Meanwhile, strolling and rolling around the neighborhood weaves all of us more tightly into our community. The kids bump into classmates; my wife and I see friends and neighbors.

Maybe the best perk for families who go car-lite is one we hadn’t anticipated back in 2015: it has made parenting easier for us. Teaching our kids to walk to elementary school saved us countless hours idling in carpool traffic jams. More importantly, living car-lite lets children gain freedom and learn responsibility in baby steps, as appropriate for their age. In second grade, our girls were big enough to walk by themselves to the playground across the street. In third grade, they could walk to a friend’s house down the block, or another around the corner. Soon, they could bike to see more friends or walk to music lessons. By the time our daughters reached middle school, we found ourselves living a year in Copenhagen. There, great public transportation, world-beating bike infrastructure, and negligible crime rates meant the girls could go nearly anywhere in the city without setting foot in a car. We didn’t own one there anyway. Back in Rochester, though the infrastructure doesn’t match Copenhagen’s, our daughters have the skills and confidence to go many of the places they need, walking to school and work, biking to the pet store and thrift stores. Restricting their childhood transportation to cars alone would have robbed them of the chance to gain agency and independence, steadily and surely, through all those years. Our older daughter will get her driver’s license this fall, and I shudder to think what would have happened if she’d been handed car keys and set loose to drive two tons of high-speed steel without first having learned how to find her way around the world, independently, on foot and on bikes and on buses and trains.

Family of four (two parents, two children) with bikes on a Copenhagen street
The Kelley Family in Copenhagen

Though living car-free in Copenhagen was a breeze, our family has never lived car-free in Rochester. Looking ahead to a time when all four of us will have driver’s licenses, we’re transitioning now from owning just one car to owning two — but certainly not four! The car-lite lifestyle is a pleasure we will continue.

Our chosen lifestyle is made more enjoyable by a few practicalities we’ve figured out along the way. First, we chose to live in a neighborhood with ubiquitous sidewalks and good bike routes to many places, especially our most common destinations, including my workplace, the kids’ schools, grocery stores, gyms, a bank, a pharmacy, a bakery, and a library. If you live near good routes to work and everyday destinations, by bike or bus or walk, transitioning to a car-lite lifestyle could be almost seamless. If you are among the millions working from home nowadays, going car-lite is even easier. If not, and if you’d like to commute by biking or walking, ask whether your employer has a shower. (Pro tip: U of R has many at the medical center, many at the gym, and at least two others on River Campus.) By providing a little extra power, an e-bike can be a key enabler of a pleasurable car-lite lifestyle, especially if you have health or mobility limitations, your commute is a little longer, or you frequently find yourself hauling young children and groceries. Cargo bikes and trailers are wonderful for families, not to mention backpacks and panniers. When children are old enough to pedal themselves but not yet old enough to navigate to school independently, a great solution is a bike train, in which just one or two parents bike along with a group of neighborhood classmates. Carpools are another great way to go car-lite, whether to school or to work. You can find great routes using RTS’s Transit app or browsing Rochester’s Bike Boulevards. When winter weather makes roads and sidewalks slick, you can pull on some microspikes on your way to the nearest bus.

Microspikes make car lite easier
Microspikes are a great way to make walking in the snow less treacherous!

Finally, you can help make a car-lite lifestyle more possible and more pleasurable for your own family and for everybody else by communicating its importance to public officials. A great way to start is by giving input for the City of Rochester’s new Active Transportation Plan and for Monroe County’s new Countywide Active Transportation Plan

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Car Lite Rochester: A Lifetime of Multimodal Memories

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

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

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

Car Lite Rochester: A Lifetime of Multimodal Memories

By: M. André Primus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Car Lite Rochester: From Big to Midsize City

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

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

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

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

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: From Big to Midsize City

By: Chaz Goodman

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

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

From Chicago to Rochester

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

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

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

The shoulder on East Avenue
The shoulder on East Avenue

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

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

Challenges & Allowances

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Picture: Why Be Car Lite?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Car Lite Rochester: An Urbanist’s Perspective

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

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

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

car lite t-shirt

Car Lite Rochester: An Urbanist’s Perspective

By: Arian Horbovetz, Creator of The Urban Phoenix

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

selfie of white man in blue helmet; car lite rochester

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

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

Winter sidewalk. Rochester NY.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!