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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.

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

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ROC Cycling: Knowing Our Weaknesses, Building On Our Strengths

by Jesse Peers, Cycling Coordinator at Reconnect Rochester

When I saw the trailer for Why We Cycle years ago, I instantly knew how special this film was. Finally someone had made a gorgeous film about the myriad of reasons why people all over the world choose to traverse their communities by bike. I’m glad we were able to screen the documentary for a Rochester Street Films event in September 2020 and use it as a springboard to discuss local values and goals.

If you haven’t seen the film or weren’t able to take part in our panel discussion, watch them here.

Rent (or buy) the film

Watch our panel discussion

As our moderator, Mona Seghatoleslami, wrapped up the great discussion that evening, she said, rightly so, that “this is just the beginning of a lot of things.” Let’s examine several takeaways from the film itself, the chat amongst viewers, and our panel discussion, and where we go from here.

Culture at Large

Some participants felt our screening of this Dutch film was too lofty and dreamy. In terms of culture-at-large, we agree. Comparing the Netherlands and ROC is apples to oranges. Dutch culture is indeed vastly different! The Netherlands prides itself on having an egalitarian society, in which they strive for everyone to be shown respect. If you haven’t noticed, the U.S. has much room to improve in this regard to say the least. But that doesn’t mean we have to overturn societal values before we can become a more equitable community in terms of mobility, though that won’t keep us from trying. Other cities of all sizes surpassing Rochester in the national bike rankings proves this.

Being Vigilant and Showing Up

Our panelists made clear that to attain better bike infrastructure, it takes being involved in the process, showing up at meetings (even virtual ones these days) and organizing ourselves. As the old adage goes, “if you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” If the bike community was under the impression that after the adoption of the 2034 Plan, which encourages implementation of “complete streets” designs that accommodate ALL modes of travel, that this would happen overnight with no need for continued advocacy, we were mistaken (see State Street).

One of the words that was spoken over and over during our panel discussion, particularly from Brighton’s Robin Wilt, was “demand.” Just as the Dutch rose up in the 1970s to demand safer road conditions and greater accountability, the active mobility community is going to have to demand safer streets that are designed for all modes of travel, not just cars. We have to keep our leaders accountable to the 2034 Plan, remind them of their values and goals, and when opportunities arise, vote for leaders who stand behind this progressive, multimodal vision.

The Rochester Cycling Alliance (RCA) does our best to get the word out about public input sessions and other advocacy opportunities. Please make sure you’re on our mailing list and take those opportunities to provide input.

Rochester’s not a bad biking city!

There were varying opinions held by viewers about Rochester’s bikeability — some negative, some positive. Let’s look at the bright side first and identify some of Rochester’s advantages participants took note of in the chat: We are blessed to have the Genesee Riverway Trail, Erie Canal Trail, and an abundance of water and stellar public parks in our community. People pay a lot of money to come from all over the world to Cycle the Erie and we have free access nearby! Overall Rochester is pretty flat, which makes getting somewhere by bike less arduous. And the average city resident has a 4.1-mile commute to work, a journey that can be done by bike at a casual pace in less than 25 minutes.

As several people pointed out in the chat, Rochester has an impressive bike culture for a city of our size. There’s a wide variety of groups with different riding styles, and open-invite group rides take place most evenings during the riding season.

Rochester was awarded a bronze level status as a Bike-Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists in 2012, 2016 and 2020. That’s not bad! A bronze status means we’re on the right track. Yes, there is a lot to be improved if we want to reach silver or gold, but we are a decent biking city already. In fact, I firmly believe Rochester could become the best biking city in the Great Lakes. It’s more within reach for us than other cities due to the advantages noted above. I know many people who are already of the opinion that Rochester is one of the #BikeLife’s greatest secrets. There are affordable neighborhoods within a 15-minute ride of downtown where car-free living is absolutely attainable. If biking on busy, main thoroughfares isn’t your thing (we don’t blame you!), often there are parallel side streets through residential neighborhoods that will get you to your destination in a timely, less stressful way. If you want to get more comfortable on your bike, consider signing up for one of our on-bike classes sometime.

Our Biggest Weakness: Not Zooming Out

Yes, Rochester is making progress in expanding our bike infrastructure. But there was a consensus on participants in the chat that the current process doesn’t work. As it is now, bike infrastructure is installed “where possible” along small, segment-by-segment stretches. Each self-contained project is overseen by a different design firm and it’s apparent there is no overall network vision guiding this process along predetermined priority routes. Because of this, we get a piecemeal, patchwork result where you can bike on one street for several miles and encounter bike lanes, sharrows or nothing at all.

Even the gorgeous cycletrack along Union Street got knocked pretty hard during our chat: It sure is pretty, but what’s it supposed to do? It doesn’t go anywhere and, as bidirectional cycletracks on one side of the street often do, it creates awkward transitions for those on bike.

“There’s a consensus emerging in the bike world that it’s more about quality of bike infrastructure than quantity (how many miles of bike lanes doesn’t matter as much as how safe & stress-free those miles are).” ~Brent Toderian

Furthermore, though the City is chipping away at its Bike Master Plan, albeit in small, often disconnected pieces, the suburbs for the most part have yet to get on board. Cyclists might be somewhat comfortable on some city streets with bike infrastructure and lower speed limits, but once they cross the city line into surrounding towns, that infrastructure disappears too much of the time.

Instead of a city full of bike lanes which are uncomfortable for most residents, we need to focus on less mileage but higher quality (protected!) bike lanes along strategic routes. Rochester and Monroe County could also use a more top-down “let it be!” approach when it comes to a usable bike network.

“The fast implementation of projects proved to be far more effective than the traditional model of attempting to achieve near unanimity on projects even when you already have consensus that the status quo doesn’t work. Efforts to reach an idealized consensus have resulted in years of indecision, inaction, and paralysis-by-analysis.” ~Streetfight (Sadik-Khan and Solomonow)

Getting local leaders out of their cars

This next topic brought up by participants is probably unrealistic, but holy moly would it move the needle like nothing else! (And it was discussed on September 12th): Getting elected officials, engineers and planners out of their cars. I suspect that many people in our governments and design firms who design and approve bike infrastructure, may never use that bike infrastructure themselves. If officials had to bike solo in rush hour through every segment of infrastructure they approved, we’d likely see very different bike infrastructure.

“In my perfect world, anyone working on bicycle infrastructure or planning should be handed a bicycle and told to ride it in their city for a month…That would certainly force the issue in the minds of the inexperienced or skeptical. We have been thinking car-first for decades, and that worked out pretty well for motorists and the engineers who cater to them. Now it’s time to switch it up.” ~Copenhagenize (Colville-Andersen)

More than a quarter of Rochesterians don’t drive everywhere, either by need or by choice. How incredible would it be for elected officials to show solidarity with their constituents and get around town a quarter of the time without their cars?

“When I look around the world at the growing list of cities that are once again taking the bicycle seriously, I can identify one primary factor: political leadership. Advocates and activists continue to do their part, pushing from the bottom upward. At the end of the day, though, it seems that policymakers exercising top-down leadership are the catalysts for real change…Politicians may notice…a personal brand boost when they take matters to the next level.” ~Copenhagenize (Colville-Andersen)

Representing All

Finally, panelist Mitch Gruber urged Rochester’s active mobility and bike community to do a better job of outreach to neighborhoods that don’t look like us – of listening to people who use their bikes in different ways than we do. This is something Reconnect Rochester is committed to working on. Our recent signing of the Greater Rochester Black Agenda Group’s statement that Racism is a Public Health Crisis was only a start.

Going into 2021, join us in being vocal about the benefits of biking to elected officials, stay tuned for advocacy opportunities, and join us for one of our workshops and cyclist gatherings in 2021.

Want to join the RCA email list to stay abreast of these opportunities? Drop me a note at jesse@reconnectrochester.org and request to be added!

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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.