3 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Selection Process

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

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

Complete Streets Makeover Steering Committee
The Steering Committee hard at work

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

Getting Community Input

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

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

Complete Streets Makeover Design Rendering

Making Magic at Orange & Orchard

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

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

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

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

The Impact

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

Makeover speed data graphic

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

*Community Partners

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

No Comments

Top ten things we’re most proud of in 2021.

2021 is coming to a close. In the realm of transportation, this year brought a mix of positive progress and setbacks. At Reconnect Rochester, we strive to be innovative and to pivot fast when we see input opportunities to capitalize on, or mobility issues that need attention.

Despite the uncertainty and challenges of our times, we moved our mission forward with intensity. Below is “Top 10” list of accomplishments we’re most proud of this year.


TOP 10 THINGS WE’RE MOST PROUD OF IN 2021
(In no particular order of importance.)

#10

Legislative Advocacy

In March, we made a virtual trip to Albany to champion public transit and safe streets for Rochester area residents (and all New Yorkers). In April & May, we made the rounds to meet with our federal legislators. Among other things, we asked for Phase 2 funding to build the station that long-distance bus riders deserve. Here’s our team meeting with staff from Senator Gillibrand’s office.

#9

More Cubes on the Ground

Thanks to the City of Rochester and many other people and partners (you know who you are), we installed 16 more fiberglass bus stop cubes in the 19th Ward & La Marketa neighborhoods. That brings the total to 31 bus stops where RTS riders now have a respectable place to sit while they wait. Here’s a birds eye view from the balcony of Teen Empowerment on Genesee Street.

#8

Weighing In on Projects & Plans

Through our Advocacy Committee, we submitted written input, attended public meetings and served on advisory committees on countless infrastructure projects and community plans. We urge planners and decision makers to create a connected community with streets and spaces designed for people. This kind of hyper-active advocacy work results in big wins, like the cycle track you see emerging here on E. Main Street, a project we weighed in on in 2019.

#7

Supporting Public Transit

We continued to play an active role in what’s happening with public transit in our community. We partner with RTS to advocate for increased funding that will allow them to make service improvements and expand bus stop amenities. We support mechanisms that will give riders visibility and voice around decision making tables. When there was an unexpected rollback in service in September, we made a strong statement and tried to keep the community informed.

#6

Spotlight on Pedestrian Safety

At our November edition of Rochester Street Films, we brought together our safe streets community partners, victims of road violence, community leaders and concerned citizens to have a community conversation about the silent epidemic of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on our streets. In case you missed it, watch the recording to catch up on the conversation!

#5

Informing the Electorate

Leading up to election days in June & November, we surveyed all candidates for Rochester Mayor and City Council to learn where they stand on issues related to transportation and mobility. Questions were designed to learn about their opinions, ideas and vision for a well-connected and accessible community.

#4

Making Monroe County Bike Friendlier

We continued to exponentially expand cycling-focused programs, advocacy, education and outreach. In fact, there are so many accomplishments that we had to create a CYCLING TOP 10 LIST. These efforts are led by Cycling Manager Jesse Peers with support from countless passionate people and partners working to make our community a safer and more bike friendly place.

#3

Supporting New Mobility Options

We helped educate the community and promote HOPR’s first season in our area, and we celebrated the installation of 8 new HOPR stations to expand bike & e-scooter access in Rochester’s underserved neighborhoods. We also spread the word about the launch of Floshare, an electric carshare pilot that offers an option for low income residents that can’t afford to own a personal vehicle.

#2

Blog Content That Inspires

We amped up content on our blog and enlisted guest blog writers to help us provoke thought and community engagement about things like transportation climate solutions, urban density, and designing streets for people. We’re especially proud of our 20 Minutes by Bike blog series.

#1

Strengthening Our Organization

Reconnect Rochester took some big leaps forward in 2021. We completed a 3-year strategic plan that charts our path ahead, announced a transformative investment by Dr. Scott MacRae (pictured above) that will enable us to expand our staff capacity, and appointed Mary Staropoli as Interim Executive Director to lead us through this period of growth and transition. In case you missed it, you can catch up on all the excitement here.

Just imagine what we can do in 2022!

1 Comment

Lake Avenue is Not Built For Everyone

Guest blog by Rachel Barnhart, who represents District 21 on the Monroe County Legislature and has been a longtime advocate for safer streets.

A driver struck and killed a woman walking on Lake Ave on September 17. She was at least the 90th pedestrian or cyclist injured or killed on Lake Ave in the mile-long stretch between Driving Park Ave and Lyell Ave over the last decade. That’s an average of nine people hurt every year in a distance we can walk in less than 20 minutes.

It’s time to make Lake Ave safe for everyone, particularly the people who live there.

About half of the people who live in the two census tracts on the west side of Lake Ave between Driving Park and Lyell live in poverty. More than one-third of the households do not own cars. They are using other means of transportation — walking, cycling and public transit. Yet Lake Ave is not built for the use of the people who call the surrounding blocks home. 

Lake Ave is built for speed. The road has 11-foot-wide lanes, 3-foot shoulders, recessed bus stops and turning lanes. These are all design elements conducive to high speeds. The speed limit on Lake Ave is 35 mph, a speed at which pedestrians have a 45 percent chance of being killed when struck. Speed data indicates that between Emerson St and Lexington Ave, half of drivers are going above 36 mph, and one in seven drivers is going above 42 mph. Driving on Lake Ave can be stressful, with tailgating, aggressive lane changes, and, yes, speeding.

A portion of Lake Ave, featuring six lanes.

When examining crash data over the last decade, it’s evident Lake Ave does not have enough traffic lights and they are not timed properly. There are not enough crosswalks, as you have to walk nearly a half-mile in one location between Driving Park and Lyell before encountering a designated place to cross. Lake Ave also takes pedestrians time to cross — it’s six lanes in some spots! In many locations, drivers can turn right on red and they can make left turns everywhere, further endangering pedestrians.

Imagine being a pedestrian or cyclist in this environment, especially on a cold, snowy or rainy day. You just want to cross the street to get to your bus stop, the grocery store, your job, or your friend’s house. But Lake Ave is not built for you. 

Despite the carnage, there is predictably no outcry to make Lake Ave safer for all who use the road. Lake Ave’s crash history sadly shows the correlation between poor street safety, race and poverty. Our culture is oriented toward the needs of drivers, no matter the collateral damage. We have an intense bias reflected in news stories that regularly use the passive voice to describe crashes. A pedestrian is “hit by a car,” not the person driving the car. We blame pedestrians for not following the rules of the road, even though drivers on Lake Ave routinely disregard traffic laws, such as the speed limit.

We can make Lake Ave work for everyone by redesigning the road. Unfortunately, drivers will fight for their ability to speed through neighborhoods, like when public opposition killed a road diet planned for a northern section of Lake Ave in 2014. There are still ideas on the table, such as Reconnect Rochester’s concept to make the Phelps Ave intersection safer.

A design rendering by Stantec for the intersection of Lake Ave & Phelps Ave, which came out of Reconnect’s 2018 Complete Streets Makeover program.

City leaders kicked off a Pace Car program on Lake Ave in 2016, which encouraged drivers to be more mindful of pedestrians and cyclists. That effort faded, but should be revived as part of a more comprehensive Vision Zero plan, which focuses on road design, enforcement and education to reduce crashes. 

Lake Ave is not built for everyone, but it could be one day, if we value the safety and quality of life of everyone who uses this corridor.

No Comments

Top ten things we’re most proud of in 2020.

2020 has been a year like no other.

Like every non-profit, the pandemic forced Reconnect Rochester to pivot fast to re-tool our planned programs and goals for the year. Luckily, we are small (but mighty), and nothing if not nimble. Despite all the challenges, we managed to move our mission forward with intensity. Check out (below) the “Top 10” list of accomplishments we’re most proud of in 2020.

We also faced financial uncertainty this year as prospects for grants and sponsorships dissipated. You know what got us through? The generosity of supporting members during our last membership drive, especially our sustaining members whose monthly donations proved to be extra crucial this year.

If you haven’t already, we hope you’ll take a look at the membership levels and gift options and make a donation toward our 2021 Membership Drive so we can hit the ground rolling in 2021!


TOP 10 THINGS WE’RE MOST PROUD OF IN 2020
(In no particular order of importance.)

#10

Releasing a new original short film titled Think Transit First to highlight transportation as a systemic equity issue in our community, and the innovative ways some local organizations are meeting transportation needs. The film premiered at our Nov 12 Rochester Street Films event, which also included a presentation of local statistics and a panel discussion. Please watch and share this important film!

#9

Installing 15 fiberglass bus stop cubes on Parsells, Lyell & Monroe Avenues to give RTS riders a respectable place to sit while they wait, and celebrated at a ribbon cutting event with City officials and project partners. Check out the Channel 8 news story and more photos of the ribbon cutting event.

#8

Hosting a 3-hour virtual Complete Streets Training attended by 60 local public officials, planners, engineers and advocates. Justin Booth of GObike Buffalo led a discussion about the benefits of active mobility and complete streets, and how we can make our roads safe for people of all ages and abilities.

#7

Rolling out a set of bike education offerings to encourage more people in our community to experience the health and financial benefits of biking to get around, and deliver the information they need to do so safely and comfortably.
p.s. Find out more about classes & presentations you can bring to your workplace, campus, community library or schools.

#6

Joining forces with Rochester Cycling Alliance to weigh in on an untold number of transportation plans and projects, like the Priority Bicycle Boulevards plan, GTC’s Long Range Transportation Plan, and infrastructure projects all over the City and County. Our favorite win this year was a final design for E. Main Street that includes dedicated bike lanes, a result of working alongside neighborhood partners to advocate for a street design that accommodates ALL users.

#5

Publicly expressing our solidarity with the movement toward racial justice in our community by signing on to the community statement that Racism is a Public Health Crisis. We also committed to reflect and actively work on holding ourselves accountable for living up to our professed values of equity and inclusion, and centering anti-racism in our work.

#4

Exponentially expanding cycling focused programs and outreach led by the Rochester Cycling Alliance during the first full year of our organizations coming together. A film screening and panel discussion of the Dutch film Why We Cycle, a virtual update on the City’s bike infrastructure, on-bike classes at the Rochester Public market, a bike law refresher video for Rochester Police Department officers, and many more accomplishments too numerous to name.

#3

Getting our Monroe County Crash Map (which had crashed) updated on our website with a fresh new design! The map is a resource for looking up crashes that involve pedestrians and cyclists, and serves as a tool for local advocacy efforts around safe streets in our community.

#2

Adding new multi-modal themed products and designs to our online shop. All sales and proceeds are reinvested to support our work in the community.
p.s. Several new products are available as membership gifts!

#1

Traveling to Albany to meet with local legislators and advocate for a legislative platform to improve transportation in our region, developed in partnership with Our Streets Transit Coalition member organizations.


…and that doesn’t even count the ways we spark community engagement and conversation every day through social media shares and blog posts about things like the survival of public transit, the benefits of reduced motor traffic, or the automobile and racial exclusivity.

We think that’s a pretty darn good Top 10 list for a disrupted kind of year.

Just imagine what we can do in 2021!