No Comments

Announcing the Winners of the 2021-22 Complete Streets Makeover

(Drumroll please…)

Announcing the Winners of the 2021-2022 Complete Streets Makeover

In July, we asked you to help identify the intersections and trouble-spots in your daily travels where you don’t feel comfortable walking or biking, and that could be designed to be safer for everyone.

The community response was tremendous, and we thank all those who took the time to submit nominations! We received a total of 76 nominations for 68 locations in Monroe County.

Click here to view the nomination locations in Google Maps

The Steering Committee had a tough task to choose from so many quality submissions and deserving locations! A set of established judging criteria helped guide us through the selection process. Here we are, hard at work examining each and every submission:

So What’s the Good Word?

In the end, we selected the following locations as this year’s winners:

  • COMPLETE STREETS MAKEOVER WINNER: Orange Street & Orchard Street in the JOSANA neighborhood
  • CITY DESIGN RENDERING WINNER: Arnett Boulevard between Genesee Street & Warwick Avenue in the 19th Ward neighborhood
  • SUBURBAN DESIGN RENDERING WINNER: Monroe Avenue between Highland Avenue & 12 Corners in the Town of Brighton
Orange & Orchard in the JOSANA Neighborhood will be the focus of our on-street installation

The Orange & Orchard location presented the right mix of community support, evidence of safety concerns, and potential for a street re-design that would create real, transformative change for the community through our project. We are eager to get to work with the families at School 17, Charles House Neighbors in Action, the Americorp Vista team, and JOSANA neighbors on a project to transform the intersection and create a safer space for the community.

The Steering Committee also selected two Design Rendering Winners. These locations might not be suitable for the on-street makeover project (because of their size or other feasibility issues), but we want to highlight them as places where the community would like to see improvements made.

What Happens Now? Let’s start with our Complete Streets Makeover Winner.

The Complete Streets Makeover will kick off with a community input session in January (facilitated by the Community Design Center) to hear from the residents of the JOSANA neighborhood about their experiences and ideas. No one understands what it’s like to use our streets better than those who walk, bike, roll, and ride along them everyday.

2019’s community input session in the El Camino neighborhood.

Based on feedback from this session, the complete streets design team at Stantec will draft conceptual design improvements of an improved streetscape. The design will be brought to life through a temporary on-street installation in May. We will rely on people power from the neighborhood community, and equipment from the Healthi Kids traffic calming library to lay down the temporary design on the street. Stay tuned for project updates as we go along!

What About the Design Rendering Winners?

The design team at Stantec will provide each of our Design Rendering Winners with a conceptual drawing of street design improvements. The neighborhoods can use these illustrations as a launch pad for community discussion, and a tool to help advocate for changes that would make these streets safer for everyone.

Arnett Blvd between Genesee St & Warwick Ave
Monroe Ave between Highland Ave & 12 Corners Plaza

2 Comments

Why Don’t Crosswalks Have Stop Signs?

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

A few nights ago I was riding my Onewheel through the residential streets of Rochester’s South Wedge neighborhood. I slowed as I approached a lightly traveled 4-way stop sign controlled intersection, where a car stopped and yielded the right of way to me as I had reached the intersection first.

A few minutes later, I tried to cross Rochester’s South Ave. while carrying my device across a crosswalk. And while the signage clearly states that pedestrians in the crosswalk have the right of way, 8 cars blew through said crosswalk before a car finally stopped and allowed me to pass.

Tonight I was trying to cross another street near Rochester’s historic Mt. Hope Cemetery (final resting place of Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony) at a RRFB-controlled crosswalk. I pressed the button which activated the flashing yellow lights indicating that a pedestrian is ready to enter the crosswalk, and subsequently watched in horror as 19 cars drove through the crosswalk without so much as a brake tap.

Here’s my question… why aren’t pedestrian crosswalks simply controlled with a traditional stop sign? For the life of me I’ve never been able to understand this. Let’s break it down…

If we think of stop signs as safety signals for everyone on our streets, then why is it that our most vulnerable population, people on foot, only receive “yield” status?

If we claim that a pedestrian always has the right of way in a crosswalk, why do we treat pedestrians as “yield” worthy instead of “STOP” worthy like we do cars? Why doesn’t every non-signal-controlled crosswalk simply have a universally recognizable stop sign instead of an innocuous yield sign or flashing yellow lights that most drivers simply dismiss?

We claim to prioritize pedestrians with bright signage and flashing lights but until we prioritize a person the way we prioritize a car, truck or SUV, the number of people killed by cars will continue to rise.


Arian took this to the next level when he conducted a filmed experiment with an RRFB crosswalk — take a watch below:

Did that peak your interest? Consider attending this week’s Rochester Street Films Event: Silent Epidemic on the growing number of pedestrian injuries and fatalities on our streets. We’ll be featuring this video along with several others + local data + live discussion with community leaders and crash victims.

(attend in-person at The Little Theatre or via livestream)

1 Comment

“Flower City Feeling Good” Summer Group Rides: Building Community & Learning Road Lessons Along the Way

By Jesse Peers, Cycling Manager at Reconnect Rochester

After taking a bike class in 2013 which made me much more comfortable biking around, in 2014 I adopted the bike as my primary mode of transportation. Since biking short distances was easy and fun, it wasn’t long before I wanted to ride with other people. In May 2015 I took our son and we went on our first group ride: a tour of public art as part of RoCo’s Ride It exhibit. Riding in such a large group was euphoric! I knew I wanted more.

That summer I started attending the weekly Unity Ride at Bulls Head Plaza, then in its first season. The people, the diversity of the crowd, and the Unity Ride’s message – cyclists coming together to stand for non-violence and community – kept me coming back each week. I also started attending the City’s Tuesday Guided Bike Tours sponsored by the Recreation Department. That’s how I got to know Richard DeSarra, who was leading those rides at the time. For decades, Richard was the godfather of all-things-cycling in Rochester. If there was anything happening related to bikes, he had his fingerprints all over it. Most notably, he cofounded the Rochester Cycling Alliance with Jon Schull and was instrumental in the creation of Rochester’s first Bicycle Master Plan.

Richard was a perfect bicycle tour guide. Not only was he a natural at herding a large group of cyclists across the city, but he just knew so much about local history, architecture and culture that anywhere we went, I’d learn something new. It was through those Rec Dept guided bike tours that I got to know Rochester by bike, particularly the Genesee Riverway Trail and other scenic locations.

Eventually Richard’s health started deteriorating and he wasn’t able to lead the tours anymore, though his advocacy and leadership continued until he passed away in 2019.

For several years, Oscar Wilson led the tours and did a great job growing the community. As with many things, the pandemic threw a wrench in those weekly tours and this year, the Recreation Department felt it was time for a reboot of sorts. The City reached out to Reconnect Rochester to see if we’d be interested in organizing and leading the weekly tours. We jumped at the unexpected opportunity and asked longtime collaborator Exercise Express and R Community Bikes to help.

We changed the night to Wednesdays and decided to use these fun community rides to familiarize residents with bike infrastructure, and to focus the tours on the newly expanded Bike Boulevard network.

For those unfamiliar with bike boulevards, they are a low-stress network of mostly residential side streets that parallel busy arterials. Traffic calming measures such as speed bumps are installed to slow down and even deter car traffic, so cyclists have a better experience. Over time, wayfinding signage will be added for cyclists. Until this year, Rochester barely had any Bike Boulevards. Many are probably familiar with the first in the area: the Harvard/Canterbury boulevard from Hillside Ave/Cobbs Hill to Monroe Ave.

In 2021, the City added 20 miles to the network! When you include the next phase of boulevards (the yellow routes above, which are absolutely cyclable now!), the future Running Track Bridge connection, and pre-existing trails, you end up with a bike network like this:

Thanks to Stefan Korfmacher for creating this stylized map for us to generate interest and discussion. Click here for a key.

Here is the best thing about the Bike Boulevards: They are Rochester’s first and up to this point only centrally planned bike network. Whereas bike infrastructure on arterials is too often done in piecemeal fashion “where feasible” with no overall view to connectivity, the Bike Boulevards are the first instance of Rochester zooming out and implementing a centrally coordinated plan to connect the city. As a result, from one end of a particular boulevard to the other, there are no gaps. Keep in mind these boulevards cross major, busy streets but for the most part avoid cycling along them.

It’s important to note that the City views these bike boulevards as complementary to, not substitutes for, on-street infrastructure on arterials. But the boulevards in large part can get you where you need to go within the city comfortably as long as you’re willing to go a little bit out of your way. Someday the network could expand to look like this.

Our hope over the summer was to build up bike traffic along this growing network ahead of time and amp up excitement for construction. We rode from a different Rec Center each week and each ride was about seven miles so it could be comparable in length to other community rides like the Unity Ride. Over the course of the series, we were able to show how these various routes connect with each other to form a usable network. Here are all of our different rides over the summer combined in one image.

Map courtesy of Bob Williams at Genesee Transportation Council

Great emphasis was put on the City’s north side, where not much bike infrastructure is present and where many Rec Centers were kept open during the pandemic due to the vital support they provide to their surrounding communities. Participants enjoyed riding along the east-west boulevards in this area that serve as wonderful alternatives to Norton, Clifford, and Bay.

Though we weren’t able to ride every boulevard this summer, you can see how these low-stress routes really do connect the City! From our marker campaign, we knew residents wanted an easier way to bike to the Zoo and to the Public Market. Well, this bike network delivers! The El Camino Trail, which you can get to via bike boulevards, ends at the Seneca Park Zoo and the Public Market is approachable via bike boulevards from all four directions!

The best part of the series was having participants ride through neighborhoods they had never seen before. Maplewood and 14621 just west of RGH got a lot of love. To my surprise, participants’ favorite ride was the longest one with the most hills! To wrap up the series, we stopped by Exercise Express, which is situated on the Ames Street bike boulevard, for some treats. Along with some group photos, here is some of the neat stuff we spotted along our journeys:

2 Comments

20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: University of Rochester

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Newly renovated Jackson Drive Bike Cage:

East Drive Bike Cage:

No Comments

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

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


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

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

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

Lessons Learned

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

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

Rochester’s Bicycle Boulevards

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

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

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

The Routes

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bonus!

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

No Comments

Rolling Out the Changes: A Transit Ambassador’s View on the New RTS System

Guest blog by Nicholas Russo; an RIT graduate, civil engineer, & passionate urbanist

On May 17, 2021, a re-imagined Regional Transit Service kicked off in Rochester. As a hired Transit Ambassador for the first week of the rollout, I had a firsthand view of how the new bus routes and infrastructure were set up and how they functioned, and also got to hear the thoughts and experiences from transit users. In this post, I’ll recount my time visiting three of the new Mobility Hubs around the metro area, as well as my car-free week in Rochester! I am currently living in Massachusetts, so I was excited to have an excuse to visit my old college town, and get paid for it!

For those who may be unfamiliar, the Reimagine RTS initiative began several years ago, with the ultimate result of more efficient bus routes, including three new Crosstown lines (which I made extensive use of during the week), and an all-new On Demand service. The On Demand service is like micro-mass-transit, with shared vans that can be called for pickups and drop-offs anywhere inside specific On Demand zones. There are no fixed routes or bus stops in the On Demand zones. 

The existing fixed-route bus service is named RTS Connect. The RTS Connect fixed-route services that run to On Demand zones now terminate at Mobility Hubs. These are more formalized bus connection points that are all served by an On Demand zone, as well. Here’s the map to help you visualize the new system.

The Week Begins

My journey started at the Albany-Rensselaer train station, where I finally got to try the roll-on bicycle storage service. I packed a week’s worth of supplies into my camping backpack, and climbed on board the train. Once I arrived in Rochester, it felt great to throw my backpack on, hop on my own bike, and get myself over to my host’s house for the week. No waiting for an Uber or walking to the Transit Center. I was very grateful to also make it to the Flower Pedal Populaire Sunday bike ride to kick off my week. It was great to catch up with so many people, and see how the city has grown over the past few years!

On-board bike storage on the Empire Service

My RTS Transit Ambassador schedule for the week was one for the early birds: 5:00am-1:00pm for Monday and Tuesday, then 6:00am-9:00am the remainder of the week. Reporting for 5:00am at the Hylan Drive Mobility Hub meant that I needed to plan my alarm time for the 45-minute bike ride to Henrietta with a little buffer time, and time to get out of bed and get ready for the day. 3:30am it was. My bike rides took me mostly on a straight line along Winton Road, which was eerily quiet at 4:00 in the morning.

The standard Ambassador uniform for the week was a blue RTS-branded apron, black RTS-branded mask, and a lime green RTS-branded visor. Hopefully it was clear that I wasn’t someone just loitering all day at the bus stop. Each Ambassador also received a small swag-bag with sunscreen (thank you!!), sanitizer, and information about the new bus lines and On Demand zones.

Showtime

Monday morning started quiet, dark, and empty at the Henrietta Transit Hub on Hylan Drive, where I was assigned. The Hub consists of two metal and plexiglass shelters facing each other across the street at the Wegmans driveway entrance. The shelters are enclosed on three sides, with the side that faces the street open except for a center plexiglass slat. 

For being on a suburban arterial, it was incredibly quiet and peaceful watching the sunrise and listening to the hundreds of seagulls and geese making their morning rounds. As the way went on, though, the traffic and noise levels became dangerously high at times as cargo trucks zoomed by at 40 miles per hour no more than twenty feet away from my seat. I would honestly suggest flipping the shelters around and having the opening face away from the street. Keeping the noise and fumes out would create a much better ride experience.

My home base for the first half of the week

The first customer of the morning was a recent graduate from RIT, and an even bigger fan of transit than I was. He informed me as he walked up to the bus shelter at 5:50am that he wanted to be the first customer to try the new On Demand service. The On Demand hours begin at 6:00am, and at that hour two RTS-branded passenger vans drove up and staged at the far edge of the Wegmans parking lot. The customer boarded and went off to continue riding the new bus system for the day.

I was also happy to be joined by fellow Ambassadors across the street, and an RTS supervisor who was on duty for the day at the Hub to make sure things ran smoothly. As the morning progressed, I was extremely grateful that he was there and had direct access to dispatch communications, as I’ll explain.

Connection Hub-Bub

Many of us are used to having first-day jitters, bugs, and hitches with new programs and initiatives, and Reimagine was no exception. Being a completely new service, On Demand had a quiet start on Monday morning. Those who did try out the passenger vans sometimes found themselves waiting at the Hub long beyond their scheduled pickup time, but with no clear reason why. When someone called customer service, the representative found that they were indeed scheduled to be picked up at the Hylan Connection Hub at their specified time. But the On Demand vehicle was nowhere to be seen. 

Luckily, RTS’s supervisor who was assisting us that day was able to speak directly with dispatch and the operators. It turned out that the location of the Connection Hub was incorrectly placed on the vans’ GPS units as being at the terminus of the bus routes (at Walmart on Clay Road), and not at the Hylan Drive shelters. So, operators were driving to Walmart when instructed to pick up a passenger at the Hylan Connection Hub. This was ironed out as the week went on.

Another change that was unexpected by some passengers was RTS Connect bypassing the Marketplace Mall entrance, which was where the fixed-route buses previously would pass through. The new routes were laid out to run directly down West Henrietta Road to Hylan Drive, without diverting into the mall property. While this was more efficient from a bus scheduling standpoint, the change proved to be less efficient for many passengers who were taking the bus to the mall. They now had to walk from the Hylan Drive Hub, and then halfway around the outside of the mall, to get inside. This feedback was passed along to operators who then updated the route by Tuesday morning to once again pass through the mall entrance.

Hopping Around Hubs

I offered my flexibility to the Ambassador supervisors during the week, and they took me up on the offer. Besides Henrietta, I helped to staff the Connection Hubs at Dewey Ave & Ridge Road, and Irondequoit Plaza. Each offered their own unique logistics that show just how diverse the neighborhoods around Rochester are. 

On Wednesday and Thursday morning, Dewey Ave proved to be an important Connection Hub for commuters who work at the industrial centers on the west side of the city. This hub really served as a stress-test for the On Demand service, which had an On Demand zone comprised of all of the industry on the west side between Ridge Road and Lyell Ave. The flexibility of the On Demand service meant that pick up and drop-off times were not guaranteed, and it became apparent early in the week (before I was at that hub) that passengers would need to book additional “buffer” time for pick-ups and drop-offs to be on time for work. It was an evolving situation as the week went on. 

Another piece of the puzzle involved the “long” and “short” fixed-route lines that served the Dewey Connection Hub. The long and short lines are basically overlapping bus lines, with one line running all the way to the far end of Dewey Ave at Northgate Plaza, and another stopping short at the Dewey Ave Connection Hub at Ridge Road.

My bike at a bus stop with a Reconnect Bus Cube

Irondequoit Plaza was the quietest hub of the week in my opinion, mostly since I was stationed there on a Saturday morning. There were not any commuters to speak of in this bedroom neighborhood, and a smattering of early-morning Wegmans shoppers did alight from the fixed-route buses that terminated here. It was a good opportunity to chat with some of the bus operators as they laid over at the hub.

Finally, I ended my week on Sunday morning back where I began, at the Hylan Drive Connection Hub in Henrietta. 

As I reflected on the week during the sunny and quiet Sunday morning, I was grateful to be on the ground to see how this system worked in the real world. As someone from a city so small that our buses only run once an hour, it was so much fun to get fully immersed in a city-wide bus system serving thousands of passengers a day. I’m looking forward to my next return visit, when I can be a full-time passenger on the RTS buses, and remember how vital our public transit is for a healthy and strong city.

3 Comments

20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: Brighton Map

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 fourth in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose Twelve Corners in Brighton 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 Twelve 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 Brighton, here’s WomanTours’ Jackie Marchand sharing her personal travel-by-bike experiences.

One of the many things I love most about living in Brighton is its bikeability. It seems I can ride my bike to nearly everywhere I need or want to go. You’d think with more than 50 years of living here that I’d be able to find my way around without Google’s help. However, it’s become a game. Do I know my community better than my phone does? Can I find a safer, quieter and prettier way to bike to my destination than Google can? Or will it surprise me and show me a hidden bike trail?

Yesterday, I had a breakfast meeting at Morgan’s Cereal Bar on East Avenue. I used the bike feature on the Google Maps app and it sent me down Monroe Avenue. That wasn’t bad because it has a bike lane. Then I was supposed to turn down Alexander, but I knew there was a beautiful new bike path on Union Street. I went one block further than Google recommended and reveled in cycling the former Inner Loop on my way to East Ave.

I left my house ten minutes earlier than if I’d driven, and managed to complete a 20-minute bike ride before breakfast. The best part of all was that while others had to pay the meter, my parking was free!

When I grocery shopped at Tops last week, my phone sent me straight down Elmwood Avenue for one mile to the store. I always avoid cycling down Elmwood Avenue, as the lanes are too narrow for both a car and a bike. Fortunately, that could change in the future. There are plans to extend the Elmwood Avenue cycletrack from South Avenue to 12 Corners, which will be fantastic but is still years away.

For now, I have to find my own safer way. I know there’s a small trail behind Temple B’rith Kodesh to quiet Ashley Drive. At the end of Ashley, another trail connects to Brandywine and then another short trail connects to Lac De Ville into the Tops parking lot. I arrived at Tops in 15 minutes by cycling only one block on Elmwood Avenue. Google – 0, Jackie – 2. 

Last weekend, I wanted bagels from Bagel Land at 12 Corners, the cornerstone of Brighton. In addition to the fastest route straight down Elmwood Avenue, Google offered me the longer but better route through side streets to the back of the plaza. There was even a bike rack waiting for me. It took one minute longer but was well worth it. Thanks Google.

It’s actually pretty easy to navigate around 12 Corners using the small side streets to avoid the tight busy intersections. If traffic is low though, I’ll choose to cycle through it rather than around it. All the stoplights keep vehicles moving slowly.

Now that the Auburn Trail is improved, my favorite after-office ride is to the Pittsford Wegmans on my way home. Google actually found this route for me. My office is just over the Brighton/Henrietta line and an easy half-mile to the Canal Trail. After a mile on the trail, I linked to the unpaved Railroad Loop Trail that took me behind Pittsford Plaza all the way to Wegmans. Google even told me how long it would take – just 18 minutes. Google – 2, Jackie – 2.

After shopping, I crossed Monroe Avenue to hop on the Auburn Trail. Google didn’t know about this trail yet – it’s that new. I exited the trail at Elmwood Avenue and then meandered some calm streets through quiet neighborhoods to my house. It felt safe and relaxing. When was the last time you called a trip to Wegmans relaxing?! 

In search of some comfortable biking clothes last week, I googled the bike route to Sierra Trading Post from my office. Most of the 16-minute trip to the store was on roads, but there were shoulders and the traffic was light, so I felt safe. Google even knew to take me around the back of the stores where the loading docks were to avoid the busy parking lot. Surprise – there was a bike rack waiting for me in front of the store! Google – 3, Jackie – 3. 

Examining the ride home after shopping, I learned that my phone wanted me to take the Canal Trail to the Brighton Town Park, but from there Google failed me. It was sending me on Westfall to South Clinton to Elmwood Avenue for a total of two miles on busy thoroughfares. 

When I zoomed in, I saw that there was a small path connecting Westfall to Schilling Lane in a small residential neighborhood. It allowed me to cut out the hilly intersection at Westfall and S. Clinton and cycle nearly the entire two miles on a mix of quiet roads and paths. Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have found the trail without Google, so I gave us each a point. Google – 4, Jackie – 4.

Finally, I already knew that the two newest trails in Brighton are not recognized by Google as bicycling routes. The one-mile long Brickyard Trail recently celebrated its fifth anniversary and connects Westfall and Elmwood Avenues. It’s a stroll through wetlands where I’ve regularly spotted foxes, turtles, owls and turkeys. The Highland Crossing Trail is less than two years old and also connects Westfall and Elmwood Avenues, but then continues north through Highland Park, ending at the Genesee Riverway Trail. Its highlight is an elevated boardwalk through a forest.

Jackie on the Highland Crossing Trail

The two trails are my favorite place to go when I don’t have anywhere I need to be. I tried the loop the other day, incorporating a couple calm bike boulevards that Google suggested. So I gave Google two points for the bike boulevards, and myself a point for each trail. Google – 5, Me – 5. I’m going to have to keep cycling so I can get ahead!

No Comments

Complete Streets Makeover: Public Call for Nominations Now Open Thru July 30

Is there an intersection or trouble spot in your daily travels that doesn’t feel safe to bike or walk?

Nominate it for a Complete Street Makeover today!

Submit your nomination by Friday, July 30, 2021.

Reconnect Rochester and our team of partners believe streets are for people (not just cars). No one understands what it’s like to use our streets better than those who walk, bike, roll and ride along them everyday.

We need your help identifying the intersections and trouble spots in Monroe County that could be redesigned to make them safer for everyone.


What’s in a Makeover

From the public nominations received, our Steering Committee will select a Complete Streets Makeover Winner based on established judging criteria. Selection factors include crash safety data of incidents at the location, potential for design improvements, proximity to kids, and evidence of community support for change. 

The Complete Streets Makeover Winner receives:

    • a community workshop to hear resident and stakeholder input, facilitated by the Community Design Center
    • a professional street re-design that will make it safer for those walking and biking, created by the engineering team at Stantec  
    • an on-street installation of temporary design improvements (using equipment from the HealthiKids traffic calming library), and street painting supplies & expertise
    • speed data collection as evidence of the project’s impact, and
    • ongoing guidance and support of neighborhood follow-up advocacy to make the changes permanent.

To get a sense for the project, watch this short film about our Complete Streets Makeover project at the intersection of Parsells & Greeley in 2018.

From the remaining nominations, the Steering Committee will select two (2) additional locations as Design Rendering Winners. Each of these locations will receive a conceptual drawing by the engineering team at Stantec to show possible street design improvements that would make it safer for those walking and biking. The neighborhood can use the illustration as a starting point for further community conversation, and a tool to advocate for improvements.

What is a ‘Complete Street’?

A complete street allows everyone—regardless of age, ability or mode of transportation—to safely access that street. It is a street shared by pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders and motorists.

Complete Streets Makeover
Complete Streets Makeover
Complete Streets Makeover
Photos on the left show a street designed exclusively for cars; photos on the right show a ‘complete street’ designed for people.

Why Do We Do This?

According to the latest “Dangerous By Design” report, the number of pedestrians fatalities in the U.S. increased by 45% from 2010-2019. During this ten-year period, 53,435 people were hit and killed by drivers. The last four years (2016-2019) were the most deadly years for pedestrian deaths since 1990. In 2019 alone, 6,237 people were killed, which is the equivalent of more than 17 people dying per day. 

In Monroe County, from 2010-2017, over 4,000 crashes involved bicyclists and pedestrians, and eight people die on our local streets every year as a result of these crashes. 

Responding to this growing epidemic was the impetus behind the creation of our Complete Streets Makeover (CSM) program in 2018. Our goal is to bring attention to complete street design as one critical factor in creating streets that are safe for everyone. 

Learn More

Visit Complete Streets Makeover program page to learn more about why we do this, the process components, and short films about our past projects.

Program Partners

HealthiKids
Community Design Center of Rochester - CDCR
2 Comments

20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: Pittsford Map

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. 

48110148487_669dba10b5_o.jpg

I’m struck by three things about this 20 Minutes Map:

    1. 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. 
    2. 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.
    3. 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):

    • Library
    • Community/Recreation Center
    • 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
    • Schools
    • Doctor and dentist offices
    • Banks
    • Yoga, pilates, and the YMCA
    • Hair salons
    • Parks like Great Embankment, Thornell Farm Park, Kreag Rd Park
    • Playgrounds
    • Erie Canal
    • 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. 

35777049031_f042db6766_o.jpg
Pittsford Community Library bike parking

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. 

Screen Shot 2021-02-10 at 11.10.13 AM.png

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. 

32105750_1999652596734556_7492071836528672768_n.jpg
Calkins Road Middle School bike racks are packed on Bike to School Day

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! 

50055540776_462214809f_o.jpg
Trail connection between Crestview Dr and the Jefferson Road School grounds
48110146237_c4b02e7756_o.jpg
Neighborhood walk/bike connection between Stonegate Ln and the Pittsford Community Center

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. 

IMG_20200714_211008133.jpg
Hefty Wegmans haul via bike

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: 

Screen Shot 2021-02-14 at 10.15.22 AM.png

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. 

Screen Shot 2021-02-14 at 10.16.02 AM.png

College Connections

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? 

33450641684_992960b5c3_o.jpg

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.  

Wrapping Up

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.

5 Comments

A Naturalist’s Ode to Urban Density

Guest blog by Doug Kelley, Associate Professor at University of Rochester

I grew up doing a lot of hiking and backpacking in the woods of Alabama. Being outside connected me to a world that seemed more fundamental, more enduring, less corrupted by the mistakes of humankind. I felt empowered by the ethos of backpacking especially, that my own two feet could take me through the world from one beautiful place to another, and when I was gone, I would leave no trace, so others might enjoy the same beauty. I could forget daily stresses in favor of long conversations with friends, basking in sunshine and endorphins. I was (and am) a naturalist. I chose a college in the Appalachian mountains, and spent summers back in the Alabama woods, a counselor at Camp McDowell, quick to volunteer to lead kids on hikes.

Over time, my passion for being outdoors led to an idea that seemed surprising at first: for a naturalist like me, who wants to spend as much time outdoors as possible, the best place to live is not in the woods but in a densely-packed city center. Urban density allows me to live close to my workplace and commute by bike or public transportation, so I’m outdoors for an hour every day, routinely, without committing extra time. Urban density means there’s a small market a block from my house, a pharmacy two blocks beyond, a library within five blocks, a hardware store and supermarkets easily accessible by bike, and a huge number of restaurants, cafes, bars, and coffee shops nearby. In a city center, sidewalks and bike lanes and bus routes offer dense connections. When traveling to all these places and more, I can be outdoors, enjoying the same sunshine and exercise as on those Alabama trails, years ago.

Headed home from work on the River Trail, I enjoy fantastic views of downtown Rochester daily. (Credit: Doug Kelley)

Without urban density, neither I nor my neighbors — who I see often on sidewalks and porches — could benefit from so many amenities. If lots were bigger and residences weren’t arranged with as much density, our destinations would be pushed further away, often too far for walking or biking. In fact, many destinations would cease to exist. Markets and restaurants and shops are businesses that rely on having enough feet cross their threshold daily. Urban density puts customers close. Or, from the customers’ point of view, urban density puts businesses close.

A naturalist’s first instinct might be to live far outside the city center, near trails and hills and streams. Wistfully I can imagine myself stepping out of a house abutting Mendon Ponds Park, a favorite place to ski and hike and cycle, ready to start an outing without even getting in a car. But to gain that privilege, I would have to trade away countless hours of outdoor time enabled by my city life. Living by those trails, I’d be cooped up in a car every time I commuted, every time I needed groceries, every time I wanted a restaurant meal. RTS buses don’t go that far out. Altogether, that life would allow me far less time in the outdoors I love. Much better to drive to the trails and live in the city.

A favorite hiking destination at Camp McDowell was St. Christopher’s Pool, at the head of a canyon and beneath a waterfall near the edge of the property. But in those years, St. Chris’s was badly defaced, its rocks and water turned a sickly shade of orange by runoff from the coal mine upstream. The Rev. Mark Johnston, executive director of Camp, waged a legal battle that ultimately brought the mine’s owners to remediate the stream, largely restoring St. Christopher’s. Mark also reminded campers and staff often that though the mine owners were culpable for property damage, all people are responsible for being good stewards of shared resources, and we ourselves contributed to the damage when we used the electricity produced by that coal. It was a tough lesson, and an important one.

That lesson, too, leads naturalists to value urban density — because it seriously reduces our own contributions to the human damage of natural places. New York City has the highest population density of any large area in the United States, with 27,000 residents per square mile. New York City also has a vastly smaller per-capita carbon footprint than typical American places: in 2015, an average resident produced emissions equivalent to 6.1 metric tons of carbon dioxide, less than a third of the national average of 19. Likewise, an average New York City resident uses far less energy and produces far less waste than an average American. It’s no coincidence that urban density reduces carbon footprints, energy use, and waste. Density enables car-free transportation, which burns little or no fossil fuel. Density also makes residences more efficient, because apartments are insulated by their neighbors, and because smaller residences almost always require less heating and cooling. And as anybody who’s cleaned out their garage knows, having more space inevitably leads to accumulation of more stuff — not all useful!

Reflecting more deeply, the lesson of stewardship and the naturalist’s leave-no-trace ethos are fundamentally about equity, and urban density promotes equity, too. Beyond leaving natural places untrammelled and less-damaged by climate change, density makes healthy and pleasant lifestyles available to all, even those who never spend time in the woods, either for lack of interest or for lack of opportunity. Regardless of social and economic status, almost everybody can walk and bike, which opens a myriad of possibilities in a well-designed city center. Public transportation is more broadly affordable than personal automobile ownership. And density matters even more for people with disabilities, for whom nearby amenities are no mere matter of convenience.

Rochester, NY (Credit: Joe Wolf on flickr)

Obviously, Rochester is not as dense as New York City, but at 6100 residents per square mile, its density exceeds many American cities, including Austin, TX (3200), Cleveland, OH (5100), and even the famously bike-friendly Portland, OR (4800). Most of Rochester proper and some suburbs boast sidewalks and gridded streets, making walking and biking easier and more enjoyable. Gems like the Canal Path and River Trail connect pedestrians and cyclists to more amenities over greater distances. Regional bike infrastructure is being steadily improved and expanded. Many neighborhoods in our region are great places for the urban naturalist lifestyle.

Some of Rochester’s density was automatic, because the city predates personal automobiles. But now, building and maintaining people-friendly city centers requires conscious choices, good policies, and ongoing input from citizen-naturalists. Reconnect Rochester has made major efforts to encourage urban density and make outdoor city life more pleasant and equitable. The work continues, and you can help. For starters, Rochester’s zoning laws have put limits on density, but are now being reviewed for revision, so leave a comment supporting urban density. Urge leaders to implement and expand bike master plans. Nearly every local municipality has one, thanks largely to the Rochester Cycling Alliance (for example, see the City of Rochester plan). Or get involved with Complete Streets Makeover for hands-on projects making outdoor urban spaces more practical and beautiful. Get plugged in to Reconnect Rochester’s work so you can learn about opportunities to volunteer for hands-on projects, attend public meetings, sign petitions, and be part of the effort.

The tulip trees on Oxford Street are among the many everyday delights of my bike commute, made possible by urban density. (Credit: Doug Kelley)

In the end, my bike commute may not have the same grandeur as summiting one of the Adirondack High Peaks, but doing it every day makes it more important to my life, health, and peace of mind. On the River Trail in the morning, I see groundhogs and rabbits frequently, and also deer, turkeys, hawks, and occasionally a fox or heron. In the afternoon, I enjoy a grand river vista of the Freddie-Sue Bridge with downtown buildings towering beyond. For one precious week every spring, I revel in an explosion of color when the Oxford Street tulip trees bloom. And knowing that urban density not only helps me enjoy the outdoors, but also helps me leave no trace and allows many others the same benefits — that makes these natural experiences sweeter still. 

2 Comments

20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series: Irondequoit Map

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 second in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this next installment, we chose Irondequoit’s “central square” – I-Square – 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 I-Square 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 Irondequoit, here’s Pam Rogers sharing her personal travel-by-bike experiences.

Introduction

I’m so excited to share with you my personal recommendations for cycling in my favorite area of Rochester, which also happens to be my local neighborhood! Forgive me if it turns out to be an homage to Irondequoit, but it’s my way of letting you know all the best reasons to find yourself cycling here.

If you’re looking for places to ride, no matter what kind of cycling you enjoy, you’ll find something to love here in Irondequoit. It’s full of hills and flats, roads and trails, natural beauty, local history, family fun, and great places to stop and rest for food and drink. Whatever you’re looking for, it can be found between the shores of the Genesee River, Lake Ontario, and Irondequoit Bay!

How To Ride Here

The best route into town are as follows:

  • From the Northwest – the LOSP trail that follows along the parkway is the best, and it drops you out right by Pattonwood Dr and will take you over the river and into Irondequoit.
  • From the Southwest city environs – come on up St Paul St and then hop on the El Camino Trail that begins at Scrantom St and takes you north all the way up to Navarre Rd and across from the Zoo entrance – you’ll love the old railroad bridge that takes you over 104 without worry
  • From the Northeast – Well, when the swing bridge is available it’s easy peasy, but when it’s not you’ll need to approach from the south of the Bay and come around by way of Empire Blvd. Yes, busy with traffic and a very challenging hill to climb – bail out as soon as you can, on Orchard Park Blvd, if you don’t mind a few more hills to climb with a bay view, and then follow Bay Shore Blvd to get you to Ridge Rd and turn right at Kane Dr before it ever gets busy, that will take you right up to Sea Breeze Dr!
  • From the Southeast – The only way to get over the 104 expressway is to take Culver Rd but there are plenty of side streets to stay on south of it, and just north you can turn right on Brower Rd and cut through the neighborhood to come out on Ridge at Walnut Park, then quick jog over to Kane Dr to get to Sea Breeze Dr.

All Roads Lead To/From I-Square!

If you live in Irondequoit, you know our town’s “central square” is now I-Square. It was developed with a vision, to not only improve quality of life for town residents, but also to be a role model for green, environmentally responsible and energy efficient building projects. It’s a destination unto itself with restaurants, rooftop gardens and dining, outdoor amphitheatre, the Imaginarium, Art Gallery and Science Center. 

From here, it will take you less than 20 minutes to ride in any direction and find our other local treasures. West to the zoo and the river, north to the lake, east to the bay, and all wonderful tree-lined neighborhood streets along the way. When riding in town, and you must cross busy intersections, it’s safest to pick the crossroads with lights. For example, riding in northern neighborhoods divided by Hudson Ave, you can cross safely at the light using Brookview Dr to Diane Park.

You can find steep hills, nice flats, and occasional rollers. You’ll find most of the steep hills along the shores of Irondequoit Bay. There are serene and quiet neighborhoods tucked away in all corners of town: check out Rock Beach Rd off Lakeshore Blvd in the North, follow Winona off St Paul Blvd, or discover Huntington Hills nestled up against Durand Eastman Park by taking Pine Valley Rd to Wisner, and be sure to take a fun ride down Hoffman Rd behind the Irondequoit Cemetery to the end where it stops at a trail you can take through the Durand Eastman Golf Course. There, you’ll find an old hidden road overgrown with weeds that you can ride from Kings Hwy N, where Horseshoe Rd stops being a maintained road, and you can ride it along the northern edge of the golf course, across the creek, and back up to Lakeshore Blvd.

There are off road trails to explore as well. You can follow a dirt/stone trail along the east side of the river from Seneca Park Zoo all the way to the lake, which follows the old Windsor Beach Railroad line started in 1883 that traveled from the city’s Avenue E all the way north to Summerville. You can ride challenging single track trails along the west part of the bay in either Tryon Park or Irondequoit Bay Park West. Don’t forget the nicely paved pathways too! There’s one along the shore of Lake Ontario from the corner of Culver and Sweet Fern (right next to Parkside Diner) and extending to just across from Camp Eastman on the lake shore. The other one is Sea Breeze Dr along the northern section of 590 from Titus down to Culver Rd and Sea Breeze.  

Nature/Water/Parks

You may not know this, but Irondequoit, by its very name of Iroquois origin, means “where the land meets the water.” And there’s just nothing like being close to water and natural spaces, is there? The views are beautiful and varied. Some of my personal favorites I’ve already mentioned, and there are smaller parks dotting all the neighborhoods for kids to enjoy too.  A completely hidden gem is Densmore Creek Falls, accessible from the back parking lot of the Legacy at Cranberry Landing at the very eastern end of Norton before it crosses over 590 and drops down by the bay.

Food & Drink

I-Square has plenty of options for food and drink, and beautiful outdoor seating on the roof as well, so if you’re in the neighborhood you can cycle on over and enjoy! Right around I-Square you will also find the Cooper Deli, Titus Tavern and the Irondequoit Beer Company.  At the very northern end of Clinton Ave there’s a little-known but exceptionally unique eating experience that awaits you called Atlas Eats, and it’s the best for a weekend breakfast. Another hidden treasure for you ice cream lovers would be Netsins Ice Cream Shop on Culver Parkway.

If you love to ride farther afield, and take a break from your spinning wheels along the way, our waterfront taverns abound. I love to make routes that include these special stops in the neighborhood for that. Summerville has Silk O’Loughlin’s (Olie’s). Sea Breeze has Marge’s Lakeside Inn (sit on the beach!), Bill Gray’s, Shamrock Jack’s Irish Pub, and Union Tavern (it’s haunted!).  There’s Murph’s Irondequoit Pub, a neighborhood staple, now down by the O’Rorke bridge, and across the way take Marina Dr down to the end and you’ll find Schooner’s Riverside Pub, an open air only open in the summer fun kind of place.

Family Fun

You could plan a day of cycling with the kids in the small neighborhoods in Sea Breeze, stop by Parkside Diner, play a round of mini-golf next door at Whispering Pines, then head down to the Sea Breeze Pier and Beach. Need I say, Sea Breeze Amusement Park? Or ride the little neighborhoods off St. Paul Blvd. around Winona, and at its southernmost tip, take the sidewalk connecting to Maplehurst Rd, turn right and there’s paved access directly into the Seneca Park Zoo.

Routes You Might Enjoy

Feel free to use these as a starting point to create your own adventure!

I-Square to Aman’s Farm Market 3.5 miles see the RWGPS map here.

I-Square to Sea Breeze – 5.6 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

I-Square to Seneca Park Zoo – 2.4 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

I-Square to Parkside Diner and Whispering Pines 5.6 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

I-Square to Stutson Bridge Plaza and Riverside 3.2 miles see the RWGPS map here.

Town Tour from I-Square – 15 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

Map

Description automatically generated

Irondequoit Gravel Growler Beer Ride – 25 miles – see the RWGPS map here.

Map

Description automatically generated
No Comments

Bike Week 2021

The cycling season in Rochester continues with Bike Week 2021, spanning two consecutive weekends from May 7 to 16 and offering cycling events for all ages and levels of expertise.

The purpose is to celebrate biking in Rochester and expand the use of bikes as practical, daily transportation. With many people taking up biking during the pandemic, Bike Week welcomes new riders and demonstrates the great community and infrastructure available to cyclists in Rochester.
For the second year, Bike Week will present a new themed Ride of the Day (ROTD), with a suggestion for a destination, group ride, or photo op. This is your chance to just get out there, using your own creativity and bikes. Look for our ROTD posts every day on Instagram and the other social media platforms.
Bike Week is put together by Reconnect Rochester and its cycling arm, the Rochester Cycling Alliance, but is truly a grassroots effort in that each event is organized individually. Information for the rides is below, along with a specific contact for each ride. Once again, masks will be mandatory at each event.

Friday, May 7

7:45pm: Light Up the Night Ride (131 Elmwood Ave)

This fun ride to kick off Bike Week begins after sundown and cyclists are encouraged to light up their bikes with glow sticks and bike lights. Gather at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex parking lot after 7pm; kickstands up around 7:45pm. The ride then proceeds through city streets and some trails, at a slow but enjoyable pace. Total distance 11 miles, but there will be shorter loops of 2-5 miles for younger cyclists as well. Dress warm and bring an extra layer for when the temperature creeps down after dark. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

ROTD Bike to a Body of Water. Kick off #rocbikeweek with our the first Ride of the Day! Bike to a body of water. Use your imagination! Lake Ontario. Genesee River. Erie Canal. Mendon Pond. A fountain in a local park.

Saturday, May 8

10:00am: ROC Freedom Riders 2021 Season Kick-Off (Franklin High School)

The ROC Freedom Riders organize big, intentional, action-oriented rides highlighting Black spaces, Black places, and acknowledging Black faces, in the spirit of the original Freedom Riders of the 1940s and 1960s. Contact: RocFreedomRiders@gmail.com

ROTD Bike to Dessert. Are you ready for today’s sweet ride of the day? Ride to dessert! Enjoy an after-meal treat, and bonus for getting there in fresh air and under your own power.

Sunday, May 9 

10:00am: Black Girls Do Bike Mother’s Day Ride (REI parking lot)

Join Black Girls Do Bike Rochester for their first annual Mother’s Day Women’s ONLY Bike ride. Meet in the REI parking lot, where their casual paced canal pathway bike ride will start. Contact: Kecia L McCullough, bgdbrochny@gmail.com

10:00am: Flower City Family Cycling Mother’s Day Ride

Join Flower City Family Cycling on Sunday, May 9 at 10am for an all-ages, family-friendly, social ride to kick off our season! This will be their 4th Annual Mother’s Day ride and they’ll be meeting up in Perinton for a short wetland walk before they hit the trails on their bikes. For details on this ride and a schedule of all their 2021 rides around the Rochester area, join them here: www.facebook.com/groups/flowercityfamilycycling. Contact: Brooke Fossey, brooke.taylor@gmail.com

ROTD Mother’s/Parents’ Day. How about a ride with your kids, or with your mother, or grandmother? Or to your mother’s house? Or meet your mother for brunch. Or any parent, actually. What a nice excuse to ride.

Monday, May 10

7:30-9:00am: Bike to Work Day pit stop, University of Rochester (Elmwood cycle track across from main hospital entrance)

Our region’s largest employer is a wonderful bike destination! Situated along the Genesee River and near the Erie Canal, you’re sure to encounter some scenic spots along your route. The University of Rochester earned a silver “Bicycle Friendly University” award in 2018 and had Rochester’s most used bike share station during Pace’s tenure. To thank people cycling to the River and Medical campuses on May 10, they will have snacks to share in a safe manner. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with their staff partnering and some of our dedicated volunteers. Contact: Tracey Austin, taustin7@parking.rochester.edu

ROTD Bike to Work or School. Start the work week with a practical ride, which you are already heading to anyway. Ride to work or school. If you are working or learning from home, ride around the block back to your “office” or “classroom” and create a new fun commute.

Tuesday, May 11

ROTD Bike to a Susan B Anthony or Frederick Douglass Statue. Celebrate Rochester’s most famous citizens and honor them with a bike ride. Visit any SBA or FD statue and ponder the great things they did for our community. Since it’s Tuesday, traditionally Election Day, may we remind you to make sure you are registered to vote.

Wednesday, May 12

5:30pm: GROC Pizza Party Ride ( 230 Tryon Park)

Come for a chill ride at Tryon/Bay Park West. No drop ride, all are welcome! Just bring a good attitude, a desire to ride bikes and eat pizza and have a beer after! Thanks to Lindsay Card for setting this up and donating pizza afterwards! Schedule: 5:30 to 7:30 – Meet at Tryon Parking Lot for a ride. 7:30 Pizza and beverages after at Salvatores on Main!

7:00pm: RBK Wednesday Night Cruise (Ice Rink, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park)

The Rochester Bike Kids are a dynamic, informal group of mostly young people who bike together regularly. All bikers are welcome. Their signature ride is the Wednesday Night Cruise (WNC). They congregate around the ice rink at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park in downtown Rochester every Wednesday at 7pm and roll out at 7:30. More info at https://www.facebook.com/groups/rocbikekids Contact: Bryan Agnello, bagnello@gmail.com

ROTD Run an Errand by Bike. Do something by bike you needed to do anyway: a grocery stop, the bank, pharmacy, etc. Feel the freedom of finding easy parking right at the front door.

Thursday, May 13

ROTD Bike to a Bridge. As a way to “bridge” the work week and the weekend (see what we did there?) we suggest Pont de Rennes, one of Rochester’s most scenic, with a spectacular view of the falls. If that’s out of your distance ability, choose another bridge – over a path, stream or highway.

Friday, May 14

6:30-10:00am Bike to Work Day pit stop (Genesee Riverway Trail, just south of the skate park)

If you’ve never tried biking to work, this is the week! Rochesterians are very fortunate to have an average 4.1-mile commute to work, which is about 25 minutes by bike at a casual pace. To thank people cycling to work on May 14th, the Rochester Cycling Alliance will have munchies to share and celebrate those who get to work on two wheels. Swing by, fuel up, and talk cycling with our dedicated volunteers. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

7:45pm Light Up the Night Ride redo (131 Elmwood Ave)

This fun ride begins after sundown and cyclists are encouraged to light up their bikes with glow sticks and bike lights. Gather at the Genesee Valley Sports Complex parking lot after 7pm; kickstands up around 7:45pm. The ride then proceeds through city streets and some trails, at a slow but enjoyable pace. Total distance 11 miles, but there will be shorter loops of 2-5 miles for younger cyclists as well. Dress warm and bring an extra layer for when the temperature creeps down after dark. Contact: Jesse Peers, jesse@reconnectrochester.org

ROTD Bike to a Park. Pay homage to the Flower City with your choice of destination, as long as it’s got flowers. A park or garden or even a cemetery. Stop and smell the roses! 

Saturday, May 15

9:00am-noon Exercise Express Bike Ride & Wash (200 West Avenue)

Come celebrate Bike Week with Exercise Express LLC at their first annual bike ride & wash. Kickstands up at 11am. They will ride through the 11th & 19th Wards promoting unity and community engagement. Towels, buckets, soap and water provided by Exercise Express. Donuts & water will be served. Contact: Karen Rogers, krogers@theexerciseexpress.com

10:00am-noon George Eastman Bicycle Tour (900 East Ave)

See Rochester in a new way. A nod to George Eastman’s own love of cycling, the George Eastman Bike Tour will take you to ten different locations related to the life and work of this pioneer of popular photography and famous Rochesterian. You will see buildings and sites that shaped Eastman’s life—or were in turn shaped by him. $25. Must buy a ticket to participate: eastman.org/biketours

3:00-5:00pm Beechwood Community Ride (530 Webster Ave)

Please join us for the 4th Annual Beechwood Bike Ride — a community bike ride around the Beechwood neighborhood! It’ll be a slow and leisurely ride around our neighborhood lasting about 1 hour and followed by a picnic in Grand Ave Park. Route details coming soon to https://www.facebook.com/events/170554108260366 Those who aren’t able to ride are encouraged to join afterwards for the picnic at 4:00pm. Snacks and beverages provided! We have a small number of bikes available to loan out for the ride, so comment if you’d like to use one. Ride kicks off at the Ryan Center and ends at Grand Ave Park. Please spread the word to your Beechwood friends and neighbors!

ROTD Bike to Someplace New. Find a new trail or neighborhood you’d like to visit.

Sunday, May 16

11:00am: Keeping It Classy Cycling Club Flower Pedal Populaire

Rochester Bike Week 2021 culminates with this 10-13 mile fancy-summery-dress themed ride, which will depart at 11am and take a leisurely pace through and around the city. Plan for a picnic afterward in one of our lovely local parks and fun with local cyclists! For more details, check out facebook.com/KICCCRochester Contact: Dan Slakes, danos.711@gmail.com

ROTD Choose Your Own Bike Adventure. It’s about the journey, not the destination. As a close to Bike Week, find a friend to ride with and just enjoy the glory of getting around on two wheels.

1 Comment

20 Minutes by Bike Blog Series Kickoff: Downtown Rochester Map

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

We chose the 20-minute benchmark for two reasons:

  • Nationally, half of our car trips are within 3 or fewer miles, which equates to a 20-or-so-minute bike ride at an easy, casual pace. If we could save our cars for cruddy weather, when the distances are too long or when we are transporting multiple people ౼ and biked the rest of the time (only for short solo trips in good weather!), we’d live in a different world. We’d be physically and financially healthier. The planet would be healthier. The air would be cleaner. There’d be less wear and tear on the roads. Our streets would be safer for everyone.
  • To inspire people to “shift modes” and choose to walk, bike or use public transportation some of the time – we’ve gotta start with the low-hanging fruit. Though longer distances are absolutely attainable eventually, most people experimenting with biking-as-transportation are going to start with nearby destinations. And that’s totally fine!

This isn’t about getting “into cycling” or becoming a “cycling enthusiast.” You don’t even have to consider yourself a cyclist to hop on a bike and get to a nearby destination. Biking is simply “assisted walking” – it takes the exact same effort as walking and propels you 3 or 4x faster. So even if you’re thinking, “I’m not a cyclist,” we’d encourage you to try biking to a nearby destination sometime. If you want to get more comfortable on your bike, let us know.

So where can you get on a bike in Rochester within 20 minutes?

VIRTUALLY ANYWHERE!

Presenting the first in a series of custom “bike shed maps.” For this first map, we chose an arbitrary centralized point in downtown Rochester – Parcel 5 – 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 downtown within 20ish minutes on a bike. In the months to come, we’ll unveil similar maps for surrounding municipalities and popular destinations. Big shout out and thank you to Brendan Ryan and Mike Governale for their help putting these maps together for us.

To get us familiar with this green territory surrounding downtown, here’s our Cycling Coordinator, Jesse Peers, sharing his personal travel-by-bike experiences:

When my family and I moved to North Winton Village in 2007, we were 100% car-dependent for every trip, the default lifestyle most Americans are handed. We didn’t discover until later that we had landed in one of Rochester’s sweet spots for car-free or car-lite living: The 42 & 38 RTS routes could get us downtown in a few minutes, and as I eventually learned, the following destinations are within a 15 or 20 minute bike ride from our house:

Ellison Park, Donuts Delite, Culver Ridge Plaza, the Public Market, Wegmans, Downtown, Frontier Field, Cobbs Hill, 12 Corners, RMSC/GEM/MAG/Strong Museum, Highland Park & the Little Theatre. RGH too, which isn’t a leisure time destination. But it is a big hub of employment.

North Winton Village, we love you!

After I took a bike class at the Rochester Brainery and wanted to start biking-as-transportation, I started with my workplace, which was (fortunately!) 1.5 miles away – an easy ride which takes less than 10 minutes. When that trip got to be routine and comfortable, I gave biking to church a shot – 3 miles away (20 minutes). Once that was no problem, I started biking to the RCA’s monthly meeting, which at the time was 5.5 miles away. Once I got comfortable with and physically capable of biking 5 or 6 miles, the world opened up. As the RCA’s Susan Levin said on a recent Connections show, “Biking is freedom. Everything else is a bonus.”

One of the greatest things my family and I have discovered when traversing Rochester by bike, is oftentimes you don’t have to stick to primary arterials, which can be uncomfortable by bike. Getting to destinations via less busy, residential side streets is quite possible, and that’s a big impetus behind the City’s Bike Boulevards program, which will be substantially enhanced this year.

Take my three-mile bike ride to our church for instance. Because I’ve learned to bike confidently over many years and the trip has become routine, I frequently take the most direct way: Culver Road, the bike boulevard on Canterbury Road & Field Street.

But if I have our kids with me, or the weather is cruddy, or I just want to avoid Culver Road, I can ride through Beechwood, EMMA, the George Eastman Museum, and the Park Avenue neighborhood instead. Virtually the same mileage and we avoid major, high-traffic streets (with the exception of Monroe Ave – but for only one block).

Another example: getting to a Red Wings game, one of my family’s favorite activities. When you bike to Frontier Field, you get the best parking: right next to the gates! When the game ends, you’re most of the way home before most fans are out of the adjacent parking lots. The simplest way to get to Frontier Field for us would be to bike down Main Street all the way to Plymouth. 

That route is 3.4 miles. Believe it or not, my kids have biked this with me and it took 24 minutes to get to the ballpark. Not bad, especially when there’s no hassle searching for a parking spot and we don’t have to walk from the “car park” to the ballpark.

But if we take the upcoming Garson Bike Boulevard route, which is lower-stress and much more fun, it is still 3.4 miles! Granted it’s a more squiggly way of getting there, but we get to experience the Public Market, High Falls & the Pont de Rennes bridge on the way there – and all the streets are comfortable.

Other thoughts and tips about navigating ROC by bike:

Cities can get a bad rap for biking but they’re often safer than biking in many suburbs and rural areas. There are many reasons for this: In Rochester and other cities, speeds are lower, traffic lights are more frequent, and buildings are closer to the street. All these tend to result in calmer traffic conditions. Plus, bike lanes are becoming pretty standard in the City of Rochester.

Across the U.S., there is much room for improvement in terms of achieving a culture of respect on our shared roads. But as local cyclist Dan Kamalic pointed out in a recent blog, Rochester drivers are nice and respectful overall, especially when compared to other cities. That doesn’t mean on rare occasions you won’t get honked at or receive some verbal abuse. But as we say in our bike classes, “If they yell at you, they see you. The danger is in not being seen.” Stick to these best practices while riding and if you want to gain confidence, take one of our classes sometime.

When we’re talking distances of less than three miles, biking is pretty much the same amount of time as driving. Sometimes it’s even faster. The best part about biking to downtown destinations is that there’s an abundance of bike racks right next to many popular destinations. You don’t need to worry about the hassle and the cost of parking garages. Parking is free. Just be sure to bring a good bike lock.

Try biking downtown for these fun activities: riverside picnics, the Central Library, Movies with a Downtown View, 4th of July fireworks (we’ll never make the mistake again of waiting an hour in a parking garage to move after the fireworks have ended!), Fringe Fest, The Strong Museum of Play, Knighthawks or Amerks games at Blue Cross Arena, Dinosaur Barbeque, and a movie at The Little.

Join us next month for a look at biking in Irondequoit!

No Comments

The Great Bike Boom of 2020

A Behind the Scenes Retrospective

As bike advocates in dialogue with federal, state and local officials about safe spaces to ride, Reconnect Rochester and the Rochester Cycling Alliance often cite the “bike boom” that took off during the COVID pandemic, using it as justification for open streets concepts and investment in top-notch bike infrastructure. But the bike boom that was creating so much buzz nationally was hard to quantify: Yes, we saw that new bikes were hard to find (hence the enormous interest in used bike sales) and we heard that shops had a hard time obtaining common parts like bike tubes. But what did that look like at the micro level? So we reached out to our good friends at DreamBikes and asked Paul and Eric for a boots-on-the ground perspective of what they saw in Rochester during one of the strangest riding seasons ever. Here’s the story they told us.

All images were provided by and belong to DreamBikes.

2020 was a strange and unique year for us all, and this especially rang true for the bike industry. At the end of 2019, we at DreamBikes put together a plan of action for the coming season; how many bikes would we need to have refurbished and ready to roll at the beginning of the season, how many additional bikes would we need on hand to maintain stock throughout the year, what parts and accessories would be the hot sellers of the year, etc. While we thought we were well prepared and on track for a stellar 2020 cycling season, we did not know what was to come. 

As Covid-19 started to spread into the Greater Rochester area and lock-downs were put into place we initially thought we would be “dead in the water,” and that the spring season was going to be chalked up as a lost cause. Fortunately, State Officials saw how imperative bike shops are and we were quickly deemed an essential service that is necessary for transportation. Hope was not lost, but we quickly had to adapt and change operations not only to be in compliance with state guidelines, but to also be able to provide our customers with the level of support and customer service that we pride ourselves on. We put together a new plan; offering sales though various digital facets and service on an appointment only basis. This plan was continuously modified throughout the year, but it made for a good starting point when we did not know what was going to happen next. It was only a matter of weeks, if not days, before the craziness commenced.

In the early stages of the pandemic we immediately saw a huge boost in the number of children’s bikes that we were selling. With kids out of school and many families now working from home, parents were looking for any way to get the kids out of the house, and what better way to do so than with a new bike? In the first couple of weeks of lockdown, we had already sold through a huge chunk of our kids bike inventory.

Then came the second wave of bike sales. With gyms closed, many people were looking for other ways to maintain their fitness and stay healthy; again, what better way to do so than by riding a bike? Sport-hybrid and road bike sales started to take off. If you thought you saw more people out riding bikes last spring, you were right. Spin classes may have been cancelled, but you don’t need a large group and a stationary bike to keep those legs moving.

As the weather started to break and the traditional riding season for most Rochesterians was kicking off, bike sales continued to skyrocket. We were now seeing entire families looking for bikes. Parents and kids all needing new bikes meant that we were flying through our inventory and we started to realize that the game-plan we put together back in the fall of 2019 may not have been sufficient. Hybrids, cruisers, and kids bikes were the hot sellers at this point, much as they are almost every spring, but this time we were selling 3, 4, 5, even 6 bikes on a single transaction. While our inventory was starting to take a significant hit, it was so awesome seeing entire families getting out together for a fun family ride!

New bike sales continued to hold strong and steady and we were ready to kick things into high gear with our usual “the weather has finally broken” rush on tune-ups and service. We saw many familiar faces at this point as well as many new ones, but did not think too much of it as service orders generally tend to take off right around this time. We were in a groove and cruising now with service and sales, but really this was just the start of the chaos. Usually in the bike industry, service work starts with a boom that tails off a bit after the first few weeks of nice weather. This year, that tail-off never seemed to arrive. A steady flow of bikes were being dropped off to the shop for repairs and the service queue continued to grow. 

By mid-May, bikes were in short supply across the nation. Folks were looking to purchase any bike that fit them, and those that could not find a new bike were digging their old bikes out of their garages and basements. Service queues grew and grew and even with our mechanics doing their absolute best, it seemed like we could never get ahead of the game. Soon, DreamBikes was booked out 3 weeks for repair turn-around and we heard rumors of some shops across the country utilizing multiple shifts to keep their mechanics wrenching 24 hours a day and still having lead times of several weeks. Little did we know, the service work was not going to slow down.

By mid June, it was nearly impossible to find a new bike. The show-floor at DreamBikes was sparse at best, with just a couple of oddball bikes in stock, and some bicycle manufacturers had already run out of stock that they expected to last throughout the entire 2020 season. People were willing to buy any bike regardless of style, size, color, etc; if it had two wheels and could be pedalled around, they would buy it. We saw an influx of bicycles being brought in for repair that had not been ridden in years or even decades, but the owners just wanted something, anything, to ride. This was the case across the country, and soon distributors were running out of stock on repair items just like they had with complete bicycles. It started with innertubes, then it was tires, then chains, soon after brake and shift cables, brake pads, patch kits, you name it and we probably could not get it; bike shops were unable to order the parts necessary to complete repairs. This was perhaps the most depressing part of the entire season for us; having to turn away a customer just because we could not get the parts we needed to repair their bike.

By August, we slowly but surely got back to a more normal pace and practice around the shop. While new bike supply was still very low, we were able to salvage many bikes and pilfer parts from other bikes that were beyond repair. It was still a challenge to get bikes on to the show floor as they seemed to sell almost as soon as we added them to inventory, but we were starting to gain some traction. Parts and accessories were finally coming off of back-order and making their way to the shop. Our shelves were filling back up and our service queue was back to our standard 48 hour turn-around. We could finally catch our breath! 

The entire summer was a bit of a whirlwind and every day posed a new challenge for us. We kept our heads high and our noses to the grindstone and did our absolute best to ensure that we could get as many people on bikes as we possibly could. The ripple-effect of the pandemic will likely be felt in the bike industry for some time still, but hopefully the chaos of the 2020 cycling season is behind us for good!

Reconnect Rochester is optimistic that the bike boom will continue into 2021 and beyond. Whether it’s kids getting out of the house, adults riding to stay healthy, or residents biking to work, riders of all ages and abilities are discovering the joy and freedom of getting around on two wheels.

2 Comments

Bike Safety: It’s more than just bike lanes

Guest blog by Rochester resident, Sarah Gerin

I bought my first bike at a local pawn shop when I was nine, after finding a fresh $100 bill on the floor of a K-Mart earlier that day. Obviously I “invested” the rest (i.e. putting it in the Garfield cup in my room that held my fortunes). As a kid, my experience with biking was minimal, taking short rides around my neighborhood and learning how to ride “no hands” because I thought it looked cool.

I didn’t ride bikes again until 2018, when I spontaneously decided that I wanted to “get into road bikes” as a hobby. I dove head-first into learning as much as I could about the biking world, including different bikes and the local “bike scene” in Rochester. Inevitably, that meant that I ended up visiting – I kid you not – every single bike shop in Rochester to learn from the experts and enthusiasts what bikes made the most sense for what endeavors, and I even got “fitted” for a bike, which at the time felt like the most legitimate thing you could do as a cyclist, especially a novice one.

During my three-week escapade of research, I learned that the local cycling scene in Rochester was robust and the community here is not only knowledgeable, but welcoming and genuinely amazing. People really love to bike, and I think I grew to love it simply from my conversations with people about everything from the best gear to the best trails and the local meetups that happen each weekend.


“I biked for leisure, I biked to work (most of the time), I biked to see the city I’ve lived in for over a decade with fresh eyes.”


I eventually landed on my “entry level” road bike, with plans to work my way up in expertise. Once I made my purchase, my commitment to hitting the road remained consistent and spirited. Biking around Rochester became my official summer activity. I biked for leisure, I biked to work (most of the time), I biked to see the city I’ve lived in for over a decade with fresh eyes. During that time, I had never really considered the gaps in safety for cyclists that exist here because, frankly, the fear for my own safety didn’t ever cross my mind. I felt so free on the road and I took the necessary safety precautions as a cyclist, so what could go wrong?

In September 2019, the occasional thoughts regarding safety suddenly became very real and necessary, when a casual ride down East Ave turned into a not-so-casual ride to the ER after getting clipped and catching my fall with my face, which was thankfully protected by a helmet (wear your helmets, people!!). I honestly don’t recall many details of the incident before I found myself monologuing for hours on end in the ER and entertaining the nurses on the night shift. (Unfortunately there is no evidence of what could have been a GREAT Netflix comedy special, but there is evidence of me trying to walk to my friend’s car like a newborn deer.

What I do know is that the crash happened on the busy stretch of East Ave that doesn’t have a bike lane, which forces bicyclists to cozy up to the curb in order to avoid cars passing by on the road. *Note to cyclists and non-cyclists alike – this is NOT the “right” way to ride in the road, and was not typically my riding behavior. Call it a perfect storm, call it fate. Either way, my face smashed into the pavement and it has changed the way I think about riding and cyclist visibility/ awareness. Along with some semi-permanent changes to my physiology…but that’s a whole other blog post entirely.


“Call it a perfect storm, call it fate. Either way, my face smashed into the pavement and it has changed the way I think about riding and cyclist visibility/ awareness.”


Here’s the thing: My experience with biking in Rochester had always felt quite safe and unhindered despite the sometimes noticeable limited infrastructure in and around the city. Despite these gaps, I never felt concerned, namely because of my own safety measures and the fact that my cycling habits were usually during “off hours” and thus lower commute times. That being said, my crash happened on the one strip of East Ave that of course DOESN’T have a bike lane, during a high traffic time – a Friday night during a summer festival. In other words, a time of mayhem.

I have yet to really know how my own cycling behaviors will be influenced by my crash on the road, but I don’t have any intention of stopping. That is, once I build up the courage to get back on my bike (estimated Summer 2021 after nearly two years of recovery). Despite my unfortunate encounter with a giant moving metal object at rapid speed, I STILL think biking is a safe and enjoyable activity and method of transportation. We are a city of bike enthusiasts and have low-to-no road rage here compared to many other cities! I call that a win.


“We are a city of bike enthusiasts and have low-to-no road rage here compared to many other cities! I call that a win.”


Do I think more bike lanes need to be strategically placed around the city? Perhaps. It couldn’t hurt. But “good cycling” on the road often means that you are in the street. My biggest issue as a cyclist is that the burden of safety is always placed on cyclists, the most vulnerable in a collision circumstance, just like in “rape culture” the burden of safety or responsibility is placed on women.

If you do a quick internet search on cycling safety, you will see important things like wearing brightly colored gear, lights, a helmet, riding with the flow of traffic, and traffic signals. However, if you were to survey a randomly selected group of drivers, how many of them know how to safely engage with a cyclist on the road? How many of them know what a straight arm out versus a bent arm means when you see a cyclist doing it? How many times have you seen drivers not looking both ways (with cyclists in mind) when turning onto a street? If the safety measures diligently taken and used by cyclists mean nothing to the drivers who share the road, there will always be disproportionately increased risk.

Might there be ways to increase visibility, and more importantly awareness about cyclists, that aren’t just about creating bike lanes?

No Comments

Pave and Plow: The Next Standard For American Trails

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

I’m pleasantly surprised with the amount of trail creation that is occurring across the United States. Urban paths, trails from former railroad beds, and neighborhood connectors… people are hungrier than ever to explore a new pedestrian or cycling experience. And for those like me, the ever-growing network of trails that can potentially remove us from the dangers of automobile encounters is so incredibly vital.

But as always, I’m going to challenge our townships, counties and cities to think bigger. I’m not spitting in the face of real progress, I’m asking everyone, especially in our denser communities, to consider two standards with regard to trail creation, use and maintenance going forward.

Pave Your Trails

I am so proud of my home city of Rochester and the surrounding towns for making trail creation a priority. There are so many new trails that have popped up in our area, and it’s truly a testament to a handful of amazing people with great vision for healthy recreational use and sustainable transportation. But most of these new trails are unpaved “cinder paths.” While cheaper to construct, they are far less convenient for thin-tire bikes such as road bikes and fix-geared bikes. Furthermore, the new rage of electric micro-mobility (e-scooters, e-skateboards, etc.) has the potential to change the way we move about our communities. But most of these vehicles have small, hard, unforgiving wheels that perform poorly on unpaved surfaces.

For many who are reading this, the response to the sentence above may very well be “GOOD!” The pushback against electric micro-mobility is substantial. But my take is that anything that gets Americans out of their cars is positive. If you want to retain young people in your community, allow for the recreational and practical proliferation of electric micro-mobility. Build for a community that welcomes as many forms of transportation as possible. Only then will a mobility-progressive future be possible.

Plow Your Trails

This is a message specifically directed at northern states that receive significant snowfall. Creating trails that are unusable for 4-5 months during a year is, frankly, a denial of the potential for trails to be year-round public resources for transportation and community health.

Paved trails can be plowed easily, providing local residents a year-round outlet for exercise and safe mobility. In the Greater Rochester New York area, the Empire State Trail (Erie Canalway Trail) is partially paved, but goes unplowed during the harsh winters that can see upwards of 100 inches of snow. The brand new Highland Crossing Trail, which I happily take every day to get to work, is unpaved and unplowed, forcing me onto the busy streets on my bike during the winter months. Again, I appreciate my local governments for being proactive in creating a community resource. I do, however, blame a century of one-dimensional transportation prioritization in the United States that has created the belief that the only way to practically access jobs and resources in our community is via the automobile, the most exclusive, unsustainable and individualistic form of transportation available.

If we truly acknowledged the importance of inclusive mobility, we would readily pave and plow all of our trails, new and old. But as of now, we as a culture would rather see trail creation as a seasonal recreational nicety instead of a legitimate year-round alternative transportation solution. This must change with regard to the future of mobility in our country.

1 Comment

Rochester Bicyclism: 2020 vision in hindsight.

Guest blog by Jon Schull, Reconnect Rochester Advisor

In 2009, I came across an online article that changed my life.

It described an enclosed cycleway envisioned for a network of cycleways to run above and through Toronto, Canada.  Not only did it promise year-round human-powered access to the entire city, but because each tunnel was one-way, your ride in each direction would be downwind, thanks to the breeze created by your fellow travelers.

It was (and is) a beautiful vision, but untested and unlikely to be implemented. It occurred to me that Rochester, NY could be a great testbed for a simplified version.  As a professor of innovation at RIT, I have always been mystified by our neglect of the potential North-South corridor that runs from RIT to UofR, crosses the Erie Canal, continues to Downtown, High Falls, Turning Point Park, and Lake Ontario.  An enclosed cycleway from RIT to High Falls could reintegrate town, gown, and city, could highlight the nation’s preeminent urban waterfall, and could reframe Rochester’s wintry weather as inspiration for ecological innovation. It would “create a revolutionary all-weather alternative energy transitway for bikes, e-vehicles, joggers, and skaters that will reduce road traffic and parking pressures on our campuses, create a year-round recreational attraction for locals and visitors from around the world, and put us at the forefront of the new energy economy.” (Rochester Greenway Whitepaper)

It was a no-brainer! I dubbed this the “Rochester Greenway” before I understood that the Genesee Valley Greenway was a pre-existing natural extension pointing South.  I created postcards and a website to promote the idea.  I presented a model and a poster at RIT’s innovation festival. I was all in.

After meeting with the Genesee Valley Greenway people, former Rochester Mayor Tom Frey, Frank Regan of the Rochester Environment newsletter, and City engineers, I wrote a whitepaper.  On the one hand, it shows that I wasn’t completely out of touch with reality.

“By merely endeavoring to pursue this vision, we can help revitalize Rochester’s reputation for technological and social innovation, stimulate collaboration and synergy between our urban and academic communities, create jobs, and attract funds to the region.

On the other hand, I was pretty far out there.  For example, the whitepaper’s aspirational “Brief History of the Rochester Greenway” told the fictional but heroic story of how, in a few short years, the Greenway became a reality, concluding…

“….the Greenway grew, and helped make Rochester  a world leader in sustainable technology consulting, a leading exporter of ultralight e-vehicles, and a hotbed of economic development.  The Rochester Renaissance was driven, in part, by the entrepreneurial young that the Greenway initiative attracted, inspired, and nurtured.   Grey haired,  energetic, and fit, the pioneers still ride the Greenway and the Erie Canal Crossway, accompanied by e-boarding grandchildren.  Even now, they wear Greenway Transit Tokens as badges of honor.

As if!  In reality, everyone responded with politeness, good-humor, and (I now realize) forbearance.  They understood, as at first I hadn’t, that Rochester’s cycling community was small, that cycling here was generally unappreciated, and that the city didn’t do anything radical.  It would take a culture change for something like this to happen.   

Which is how I became a cycling advocate, and co-founded the Rochester Cycling Alliance with Richard DeSarra.  

At our first meeting, Frank Regan introduced Richard as Rochester’s go-to cycling guy, a principal of the Rochester Bicycling Club, and the hero who made bike racks a fixture on Rochester buses(!).   However, when I suggested that there should be a Rochester Cycling Alliance to advocate for cycling culture, Richard was not enthusiastic: “been there, tried that.”

I couldn’t let the idea go.  On the 2009 International Day of Climate Action, a cadre of biking enthusiasts rode from the Downtown Library along the river to UR, traversed the Lehigh Valley North Trail  and converged on a Rochester Cycle Summit at RIT’s new Center for Student Innovation, where an ultra-wide screen video summarized everything I had learned about Rochester’s potential as a world capital of biking. (I urge you to watch the video.  In my humble opinion, it’s still a mind-expanding review of what we could do here!)

At the end of the meeting, I asked people to comment on “possible next steps.” To my surprise, Richard stepped up:  “I’m joining the Rochester Cycling Alliance.”  And so it began.

Postscript.

Over the years, Richard chaired the Rochester Cycling Alliance’s monthly meetings, and we became the City’s leading advocates for Richard’s signature phrase: “Bicycling as Transportation.”  Rochester now has bicycle lanes, bicycle boulevards, and bicycle advocates.  The Southern edge of the Inner Loop is gone, and in its place we have protected bike lanes and greenspace.  The Northern Loop may go soon.  The Roc the Riverway initiative is underway.  A new Skatepark is nearing completion.  That’s all terrific news and significant progress.

I know Richard DeSarra would be proud of our development.  Just a couple months after his passing in September 2019, the Rochester Cycling Alliance joined forces with Reconnect Rochester, our local active mobility organization.  The RCA gets better every year at increasing accessibility to biking and the local push for complete streets is strengthening.

But we still don’t do anything radical.  We still haven’t embraced a systemic vision of a human-centric, active-transportation, family-recreation network.  We still haven’t faced up to the urgent need for climate action, even though the climate crisis is now upon us.  Instead, we continue to make worthwhile incremental roadway improvements on a site-by-site basis.  

Just last week I saw a preview of the City’s plans for reconstructing State Street.  Good news: bike lanes will connect the Riverway trail to the Gateway to High Falls under the Inner Loop.  Bad news: the proposed bike lanes are mere markings between parked cars and busy traffic.  Parents and children who can bike 5 miles along our beautiful Riverway, will be turned back at the very threshold to the nation’s most substantial urban waterfall and (potential recreation area!).

It’s not too late.  Bold visions help create new realities (even if the realities differ from the vision).  We are in a moment of societal flux when change is possible, and desperately needed.  Let’s make the most of it!

2 Comments

The Bus Cubes Have Landed!

Next time you walk, ride or roll along Parsells, Lyell or Monroe Avenues, you’ll notice a bright new addition to the streetscape. This month, cubes made from fiberglass were installed at 5 bus stops along each of these corridors, offering RTS riders a respectable place to sit while they wait.

The City of Rochester and RTS have been tremendous partners on this project. Thanks especially to DES Commissioner Norm Jones and City Councilmember Mitch Gruber for championing the effort, along with City staff across many departments who worked hand-in-hand with us to see this to fruition. We also couldn’t have done it without our neighborhood partners in Beechwood, Lyell-Otis and Upper Monroe, or the funders that stepped up to contribute.

Cubes for Your Community

This is just the beginning! We hope the pilot project will lead to bus stop cubes in more Rochester neighborhoods and beyond. Reconnect Rochester will continue to work with RTS, local municipalities and community organizations throughout Monroe County to identify bus stops in the system that are well utilized but lack seating. 

Would you like to see cubes at bus stops in YOUR neighborhood or community? Contact us and we’ll do our best to work with you to secure funding and make it happen. 

Are you from outside the Monroe County area and interested in purchasing bus stop cubes for your town or city? Contact us and we’ll put you in touch with the manufacturer. Reconnect Rochester receives a sales commission that helps fuel our effort to put more bus stop cubes on the ground locally.

Why Are We Doing This Anyway?

Anyone who has ever used public transportation in Rochester is painfully aware of two things:  At some point you will have to wait for your bus, and when you do, you will probably be standing. 

For senior citizens, people with disabilities, and parents with young children, being made to stand for any length of time can be less than ideal. Even for those passengers who are physically capable of standing, having no place to sit while waiting on the side of a busy roadway can cause anxiety and discomfort.

Our bus system is the only transportation mode that requires its passengers to stand while waiting for the service. Not an ideal situation if we're trying to encourage folks to use public transit.

Why is our bus system the only transportation mode that requires its passengers to stand while waiting for the service? The single biggest issue is the sheer scale of the system. There are thousands of bus stops in the RTS network, and the resources of the transit authority are already spread thin. 

If this issue could be remedied, not only would we make the lives of current riders a little easier, but we might also encourage more people to use public transportation. This is why Reconnect Rochester has decided to make bus stop seating a priority for our community.

How Did This Project Come About?

In 2017, after 3 years piloting seasonal bus stop cubes made from high-pressured wood, Reconnect Rochester set out to find a permanent, year-round amenity for bus riders. In our research, we came upon a local manufacturer of fiberglass — a nearly indestructible, weather resistant material that was perfect for the job! It took about three years of stops-and-starts to design and manufacture the fiberglass model that you see today.

To go further back in history and learn more about how the bus cube concept came to be, check out the Bus Cube Birth Story on our website.

RTS rider enjoys our temporary, seasonal solution to the dearth of seating at local bus stops.
No Comments

When Streets Were Equitable

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

“Dude, get out of the road,” you yell in an enraged state fueled by someone’s blatant disregard for the fact that you woke up late and are traveling 10mph over the speed limit only to encounter a man “jaywalking” across the road in front of you. Your displaced anger bubbles over as you find yourself inconvenienced for a whole 9 seconds.

We’ve all been there… getting behind a car that’s traveling 10mph under the speed limit, trying to pass a cyclist with no shoulder, or yelling at a pedestrian who crosses the road outside of a crosswalk with no regard for your time.

Let’s step back in time to 1906. Jaywalking, or the illegal crossing of a street in a non-designated crosswalk, was 20 years from being a thing. The automobile was just beginning to assert itself as a semi-regular addition to city streets that accommodated a multi-modal construct. Can’t imagine what this looks like? Let’s look at this amazing digitally remastered video of a 1906 San Francisco street car ride.

The most important thing to note in this video is how diverse the street traffic is. Horse and buggy, trolley, automobile, bicycle, pedestrian… they all move at approximately the same speed. The well-to-do owner of the car travels at a speed that is similar to the pedestrian and cyclist. While the driver may be able to enjoy an independent, stress-free commute, he or she is subject to the street congestion caused by many different forms of mobility. And while this low-speed chaos would likely be psychologically catastrophic to the car commuter today, it presents some incredibly meaningful lessons with regard to our streets and their effect on society.

Multiple Modes of Mobility

Trolleys, carriages, bikes, cars and pedestrians… count the number of different forms of mobility in this video. The streets were truly for everyone, regardless of speed, size or socioeconomic status.

Similar Speed

Equitable transportation is rooted in the idea that anyone can access jobs and resources equally, regardless of their socioeconomic status. In this piece of video, pedestrians, mass transit and cars move at a similar speed. The difference in velocity between the most exclusive form of transportation and the most humble form of transportation is negligible. Today, the average 15 minute commute by car is likely to be over an hour by bus. The prioritization of the automobile has completely eradicated equitable access to jobs and resources.

Density and Community

Slower, more equitable mobility leads to greater, more efficient urban density. Suburban sprawl has created an inequitable construct based on “pay-to-play” access of upwardly mobile resources. When multi-modal transportation is encouraged, more efficient and equitable communities are possible.

In the video above, the fastest form of transportation, the cars, are moving about 2-3 times the speed of pedestrians. Sure, that difference might be a great deal more on an open road, but the top speed of between 30 and 50 miles per hour for the average Ford… not to mention you needed oil every 250 miles, and the fact that highways were just a glimmer in the hopeful eye of an urban enemy. A humorous note, just two years earlier, a driver was given the first speeding ticket in Dayton Ohio for going 12mph in a 5mph zone.

At such low speeds, the prospect of “sprawl” was horribly impractical. As a result, cities remained unquestionable centers of equity, efficiency and productivity. Because cars were just a slightly faster mode of transportation in a sea of other mobility options, 15-20 mile car commutes were simply not possible.

But cars became faster. Car and oil companies became the dominant lobbyists in the United States. Highways were built to allow for greater sprawl, all subsidizing people’s desire to create exclusive communities outside their city centers.

In Conclusion

I shared this video with a number of friends. The comments back marveled at the clothing, the trolleys, the horses, the man sweeping horse droppings, and the maddening chaos of multi-modal traffic. But when I look at videos like this, I see what cities were like when mobility was far more equitable. Sure, our cities were dirty, crowded, smelly and sometimes scary. Sanitary amenities, cleaner energy and a host of other legal and environmental issues were still hurdles for cities 1906.

But the power of the city as the social, economic and equitable hub of humanity was far greater than it is in the U.S. today. Architecture hasn’t changed all that much, save the skyscraper. Street layout is pretty much the same. The big difference is the fact that the formally diverse streets featuring slow traffic have been replaced with exclusive automobile access, allowing those who own cars to speed to their destinations while those who must rely on public transit are subject to maddeningly underfunded networks, long wait times and inefficient commutes.

The video above shows what streets were meant to be. They were havens for diverse mobility instead of space that is solely dedicated to speed and exclusivity. Our cities have paid the price for this massive mistake, and as a result, equity and upward mobility continue to lag compared to much of the rest of the industrialized world.


No Comments

The American Automobile And Racial Exclusivity

The “Pay To Play” cost of the automobile might be the most racially exclusive component of American society.

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

I saw something today that blew my mind. The average new road vehicle retails for $37,876. Can we say that again? Americans are purchasing cars, trucks and SUVs to the tune of $38,000. In a time when we are asking questions of equity and “pay-to-play” constructs in our American culture, is there anything more exclusive than the automobile?

Most of our focus in life revolves around three basic things… our home, our work and how we connect the two. After World War II, the Federal Government subsidized the construction and purchase of homes outside of city limits in areas now referred to as “the suburbs.” But that wasn’t enough… with major employers still entrenched in urban cores as a matter of practical business, the same administrations facilitated the creation of automobile expressways that allowed white Americans, who could afford cars to access jobs while living in racially exclusive suburbs, to commute efficiently to their employment epicenters. And as no surprise, these highways doubled as a way of demolishing “blighted” black neighborhoods, segregating white from black, and rich from poor in our cities.

The Connection Between Transportation in Rochester, NY.

Redlining and racial property covenants (among a host of other elements of institutionalized racism) ensured that people of color could not transcend their circumstance, creating an un-traversable economic fissure between wealthy white and struggling black citizens in highly polarized and segregated counties.

Car, oil and rubber companies furthered the plight of inner city America by lobbying for wider roads, campaigning for “jay-walking” to become a public offense and famously purchasing the private city street car companies, only to immediately disband them. All this to ensure that the most expensive and exclusive mode of transportation was virtually the only mode of transportation. And of course, this was all done to the tune of billions of dollars in subsidies for auto-related manufacturers and the building of automobile infrastructure that a huge percentage of the country simply could not afford.

How do you disenfranchise an entire group of people? Simple. Tell them they can only live in one place, (which we as a country did) then incentivize everyone else (and thus American jobs) to move away from that place… and for the final touch, make it too expensive for the disenfranchised population to access good jobs, public resources and any hope of upward mobility. The perfect purposeful recipe for racial, cultural, economic and social isolation.

The Connection Between Transportation in Rochester, NY.

Let’s go back to the cost of the average new vehicle, $37,876. The average Black household in the U.S. earns $41,511 (2018), less than $4,000 more than the cost of the average American automobile.

Can Americans purchase a used car for much cheaper? Absolutely. But a huge percentage of disenfranchised communities still struggle with high interest rates and all the “extras” that go along with car ownership (insurance, fuel, maintenance, registration fees, etc.). When the process of conveniently commuting requires 40% of your income, something is seriously wrong.

“The financial burden that the car-centric American narrative places on our families is stifling. … Those who can purchase and maintain a car win…everyone else loses.

As someone who purchased a used car 6 years ago for $7,500 and still occasionally uses that car today, I am in absolute awe of the amount of money my friends spend on cars, trucks and SUVs that I would consider “luxurious.” The financial burden that the car-centric American narrative places on our families is stifling. The amount that middle class American families are willing to spend for the convenience of two SUVs is staggering. But the myth that this choice is a necessity is one of the most racially and socially exclusive economic and psychological constructs in American culture. I would argue that the toxic level of “pay to play” exclusivity in this country is and always has been the veiled mirage of the automobile as the only means of convenient transportation. Those who can purchase and maintain a car win… everyone else loses.

When the average cars costs $38,000, equity is not possible. When the average commute of 23 minutes by car is an hour and twenty minutes by bus, equity is not possible. In a nation where Black Americans were disallowed to thrive in our urban cores, this same social and economic rift occurs today with regard to transportation and the convenient access of jobs and services.

Redlining derailed black neighborhoods by placing a financial ceiling on their communities. Property covenants and other restrictions disallowed people of color from moving to other neighborhoods. The war on drugs targeted black males in a conscious effort to disrupt black families. Today, in a world where mobility is such a strong determinant for success, the century-long subsidization of the most expensive and exclusive form of transportation continues to add yet another wrinkle in the fabric of blatantly racist agendas that our country has supported.

“Want to make the United States more equitable? Support public transit that serves everyone.”

It’s time to realize that the American automobile, and the immense infrastructure that facilitates its transportation dominance, might be one of the most toxically racial tools this country has ever seen. Want to make the United States more equitable? Support public transit that serves everyone. Support walkability and infrastructure projects that limit automobile speed and prioritize pedestrians, especially in traditionally minority-based neighborhoods. Support urban density that considers the needs and desires of Black Americans. The American car/truck/SUV has pummeled the core of U.S. urban density… let’s realize this as a mistake and get aggressive about building a more equitable future of mobility in our urban centers!


A few related notes and resources from Reconnect Rochester. . .

We appreciate this excellent piece by Arian at The Urban Phoenix that makes new and insightful connections between mobility and racial & economic justice.

Over the past five years, Reconnect Rochester has been part of an effort to examine the relationship between transportation and poverty in our community, to better understand the problem so we can identify possible solutions, and act on them. Resources this effort has generated can be found here on Reconnect’s website and include:

Our efforts continue through the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI)’s transportation work group. In collaboration with many community partners around the table, we work to translate the report learnings into systemic policy recommendations and actions that can create real change.