By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester
A Major Upgrade
Perhaps no place in the Rochester area epitomizes post World War II car-oriented development and suburban sprawl like Pittsford Plaza. Though Monroe Avenue is on a bus line, it’s always been a difficult, time-consuming or intimidating destination to get to without a car.
Several years ago I biked on the Auburn Trail to Pittsford Plaza and it was rough! The trail, a former rail corridor, was just too bumpy for most bikes. But with the recent improvements to the Auburn Trail, the plaza, its restaurants, shops, movie theatre, and of course places of employment are now quite accessible by bike! And because the start of the improved portion of the Auburn Trail is right next to one of the City’s Bike Boulevards (this connectivity was intentional), Pittsford Plaza is definitely bikeable from the City now. Once again, here’s Stefan Korfmacher’s stylized version of Rochester’s bike connections, only incorporating trails and bike boulevards.
On a warm, sunny weekend in October, I convinced our kids, ages 14 and 11, to ride out to Pittsford Plaza with me. Of course I resorted to bribery; they knew some surprise at journey’s end would make it worth their while. Hint, hint, it rhymes with “Joe’s.”
The pedestrian-bike bridge over 490 is so much fun! When you get to the other side, you can turn right to go to Cobbs Hill Park, Lake Riley, the dog park, and ball fields. The Rochester Chess Center is here, too, on Norris Drive. We went left on Hillside Avenue, which is another Bike Boulevard on a slow, comfortable, residential street. The boulevard continues past Winton and curves south, ending at Highland Avenue. This is where some brief on-street traffic negotiating is unavoidable. We had to take a left on Highland and bike just past 590. Even though there’s no bike infrastructure on Highland, the shoulder is plenty wide and comfortable and there wasn’t much traffic. When you’re on the other side of 590, the Auburn Trail begins just after Village Lane. The distance between the end of the comfortable Bike Boulevard and the Auburn Trail? 0.1 mile! Piece of cake.
More About the Trail
The Auburn Trail is a treasure! You bike past beautiful gardens, Council Rock Primary School, The Harley School, and the future site of Whole Foods. (TIP: As with all gravel riding, you’ll have an easier time and more stability by shifting into a lower gear on your bike so you can pedal faster.) The crossings at Elmwood, Allens Creek Road, and Clover were a breeze and motorists came to a stop every time to let us cross. A couple of the crossings feature Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) to make crossing easier.
End of the Line (for us)
We ended our trip at Moe’s Southwest Grill, where we grabbed lunch. Our entire trip from North Winton Village to Moe’s was less than 6 miles, about 35 minutes of fun, comfortable cycling. (If you’re starting from the Colby Street bike/ped bridge in the ABC Streets neighborhood, the trip would be just 3.6 miles, about 20 minutes by bike). The property didn’t have a bike rack so we just locked up to some signage; not ideal but it works.
After some burritos and queso, we biked across the street, through one of the Monroe Ave intersections with a traffic light, to Pittsford Plaza and Barnes and Noble. B&N has bike racks right next to the front door. With a lot of eyes on the street and foot traffic, it’s a very safe place to lock up your bike.
Thanks Rochester, Brighton, and Pittsford for making this bike trip so delightful!
Thank your Brighton and Pittsford leaders for this collaborative effort on the Auburn Trail.
Pittsford Plaza and its environs could certainly use more bike racks. Now that this popular destination is bikeable, it’s worth getting in touch with Wilmorite and politely requesting that more racks be installed throughout the plaza.
Though we stopped at Moe’s and Barnes & Noble, the Auburn Trail does continue all the way to 96 and the Pittsford Farms Dairy! The trail ceases to be crushed gravel and becomes a narrow dirt trail. But it’s absolutely bikeable if the ground isn’t soggy. No special bike required. For riders seeking a longer recreational ride, try: the Auburn Trail out to Pittsford > the Erie Canal Trail west to Genesee Valley Park > the Genesee Riverway Trail north up to downtown; it makes a wonderful triangle.
In 2022, we’ll feature more blogs like this – hoppable trips by bike. We hope it inspires you to leave your car at home for some trips and that you gain an appreciation for our budding bike network and trail system.
The Rochester area is famous for its 20-minute commute. For driving that is. Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance are excited to ask a different question in this blog series: Where can you get within 20 minutes on a bike?
Presenting the third in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose Four Corners in Pittsford Village 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 Four Corners within 20ish minutes on a bike. Thanks again to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.
To get us familiar with this green territory in Pittsford, here’s Flower City Family Cycling’s Brooke Fossey sharing her personal travel-by-bike experiences.
Introducing 20 Minutes by Bike Pittsford
You don’t have to be a cycling enthusiast to appreciate how connected Pittsford is. My humble hope is that after reading this, you’ll discover a new route available to you, and maybe you’ll pull out your bike for a trip that you’ve only considered accessible by car before. At the very end, I’ll share some tips that I hope will help you get started.
I’m struck by three things about this 20 Minutes Map:
You can bike to the heart of the village—our Library, shops, restaurants, Bakery and Dairy—from pretty far away in just 20 minutes or less, including from East Rochester, Pittsford Plaza, two colleges, and many of our neighborhoods.
We have been gifted, through good planning and leadership, with a great trail system that connects so much of Pittsford completely off the roads, including the Erie Canalway Trail and Town trails that connect cul-de-sac neighborhoods.
We still have a long way to go to make major roads comfortable for most riders. We have to keep advocating for safety improvements on our major arterials. Although trail connections are great, direct routes should be viable and safe by bike – for everyone.
Take a look at the major attractions we have that are bikeable in the same length of time widely considered in Rochester to be the longest it takes to drive anywhere (20 minutes):
Village and Town Halls
Main Street shops and restaurants
Schoen Place shops, restaurants, and breweries
Bushnell’s Basin shops and restaurants
Pittsford Plaza shops and restaurants, including Wegmans
Doctor and dentist offices
Yoga, pilates, and the YMCA
Parks like Great Embankment, Thornell Farm Park, Kreag Rd Park
East Rochester amenities, including restaurants, a pool and splashpad
Nazareth and St. John Fisher colleges
That list is pretty incredible. Now, let’s break some of this down further.
Bike to your Books!
The Pittsford Community Library has not one, but two bike racks: one in front on State Street and one behind with an adjacent bike repair station. If you haven’t considered biking to the Library, strap on your backpack or grab your bike basket. You’ll feel great when you arrive and you’ll have the best parking spot there.
Let’s say you’re coming from one of the neighborhoods off Rt-96. You can take the sidewalk along Rt-96, cross at the light at South Street and take the quieter neighborhood roads right to the Library in 5 minutes by bike, 1 mile each way.
Coming from the other direction, Google will send you on the most direct path, on N. Main Street, and you can cut in through the parking lot. Or, take the quieter, but slightly longer, neighborhood route down Schoen Place. Sometimes going a little bit out of your way on your bike makes for a much more enjoyable and relaxing ride, until our main streets are made safe enough for everyone to feel comfortable riding on them. I’d probably take this longer but quieter route if I had my kids riding independently next to me. It would be a little longer, but on a bike, it’s not that noticeable, and it would be much less stressful.
*Note: State Street Bridge is closed for repairs until mid-July.
Middle School Mileage
A few of our friends who live in or near the village have middle-school age children who biked to Calkins Road Middle School. To many of us, that sounds a little scary, but there’s actually a sidewalk that connects all the way, and a trail system that connects cul-du-sacs and allows for riding on much quieter streets. Having route choices makes biking more accessible as each person can tailor their ride to their own comfort level. Biking to school has so many benefits: independence for teens, reduced congestion, transportation savings, and kids can arrive to school more awake and ready to learn. This is something I believe we should be actively encouraging as a community.
Many of Pittsford’s neighborhoods have walking and biking paths that connect cul-du-sacs with the next neighborhood without having to go out on the main road, and I’ve found that you can travel quite far on these side roads—if you know about them!
Groceries and Gears
Getting groceries by bike requires a little more planning, but it is not only possible, it can be so rewarding. Do I wish there was a small grocery to pop into to grab a few things by bike a few times a week – heck yes. Is Wegmans by bike an option? Believe it or not, also heck yes. Maybe you can’t bring as much home as you would in your car, but you can actually haul quite a bit on your bike with panniers or just a large backpack. Plus you have the added benefits of exercise, parking right up next to the building, and—let’s not underestimate the badass factor. You’ll feel really proud of yourself. I’ve done this route myself, but my husband usually runs it weekly during three seasons using the trails to completely avoid Monroe Avenue.
The approved Active Transportation Plan calls for a multi-use trail along Monroe Avenue, but until that happens, did you know you can reach Wegmans completely on trails? Check it out:
This route uses the Auburn Trail, accessible behind the Pickle Factory. Unfortunately Google maps doesn’t show this connection. From the Four Corners, get on the Erie Canal towpath heading west, turn right on the turnoff near Pittsford DPW’s building, and hop on the Auburn Trail behind the Pickle Factory storage building. Cross to Wegmans at the light and cruise right into the parking lot, with bike parking on either side of the store.
Alternatively, you can come up on the west side of Wegmans taking the Erie Canal towpath farther west and coming down the ramp near the old Lock 62.
Connecting young people to the village and giving them the option to get here without driving will help our local economy and give students more freedom. Nazareth has a great connection to the village, thanks to the new sidewalk installed by the Town this past year. St. John Fisher also has a straight shot on main roads. How can we encourage students to visit the village on foot or on bike, and how do we make that an attractive option?
What Does This Mean for YOU?
If you are even the slightest bit curious, I encourage you to try biking to your destination. You will arrive invigorated and pretty darn proud of yourself. You can do this! One trip builds on the next and pretty soon, it becomes a true option, and you start to ask: should we take the car or bike today?
Tips for Getting Started
Short and easy destination. If you’re brand new to biking and want to give it a try, pick a destination no more than a mile away, and which will be low-stress to get there. Ex: Pittsford Dairy: access the canal path from your closest neighborhood spot and ride to N. Main Street, and then from there just a short distance to the Dairy. Grab your milk (or ice cream!), throw it in a backpack, and head back home. Once you master that, you’ll start to see that the world opens up to what you can reach just by the power of your own legs. It’s walking, only faster! Here are some great destinations to check out in the Village: Pittsford Dairy, Lock 32 Brewery, Copper Leaf Brewing, Simply Crepes, The Coal Tower, Village Bakery, Pittsford Library, Thirsty’s, Label 7, Olives, Aladdin’s, Breathe Yoga, BluHorn Tequilaria…the list goes on and on, so pick what interests you and go for it!
School run on a weekend. Try a school run one day – but do it on a weekend. Try it without the stress of getting there at a certain time, or rush hour traffic. Do the run and see how it is, and then when you do it for the first time on a school day, it’ll be so much easier. Pretty soon, your kids might start asking you to drop off or pick-up that way because they get more time with you and like moving their bodies before settling in at school.
Ride with other people. There are many biking groups around Rochester that do club rides. You can find one that suits your skill level and interest and ride with others. There’s a sense of camaraderie riding in a group, and you can learn from other people. Here’s a shameless plug for Flower City Family Cycling, a group I co-run that plans chill, social rides for families. All ages and abilities welcome, and we’d love to see you.
As this map shows, Pittsford has some amazing connectivity. But it also overstates connections we do have: many of the main arterials shown as straight shots through Pittsford are often not enjoyable by bike—they can even be downright stressful and scary, depending on the time of day. They will require a great deal more effort to improve the ride experience to encourage new riders.
The next step to making this 20-min map a reality for many people is to make the roads safer to bike on. That means lowering vehicle speeds, narrowing lanes, considering bike lanes or shared bike/walk trails, and educating the public on how to safely drive alongside someone on a bicycle.