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Tour De Buffalo Mike Beebe's case for Buffalo as a prime cycling town

As I was heading home on my 10-speed, looking out at a gorgeous sun setting over the Niagara River, I grumbled at how Buffalo never makes those magazine lists of perfect cycling towns. It's their loss.

It's true we don't have a lot of bicycle commuters. Our winters are too long, our springs too short - summer and fall are just right - and while we have a growing number of bike paths, far too many are strewn with broken glass.

But from my house near Delaware Park, it's a short trip to ride along the mighty Niagara, extend it to take in breathtaking views of the rapids and the falls themselves or do a loop around Grand Island.

Or I can ride among huge grain elevators, deeply inhale the smell of just-baked Cheerios from the General Mills plant and, if I get bored, ride over the Peace Bridge and into another country.

What's not to like? Well, you have to develop a tolerance for urban grit - one route includes a tire plant, coke plant and asphalt plant.

If you want to know more about any of these routes, get the wonderful bicycle map put out, free of charge, by the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council. It's on their Web site: gbnrtc.org/bikemap.htm. For the Canadian routes, go to cycleniagara.com/maps.

>Tour de Buffalo North

Leave Delaware Park and take the winding Scajaquada Pathway to the Niagara Riverwalk and head north along the Niagara all the way to the City of Tonawanda.

From there, a path and a bike lane take you to Ellicott Creek Park and on to the University at Buffalo North Campus on the Ellicott Creek Trailway, ending at Maple Road.

Highlights: Stunning views of the Niagara and wildlife ranging from deer, rabbits and great blue herons to the resident beaver living along Scajaquada Creek.

Lowlights: Broken glass on the Riverwalk, a short but intense dose of industry on River Road and sometimes-heavy pedestrian traffic on the bike path.

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>Tour de Buffalo South

On this ride, you head south on the Riverwalk, ride over the rail bridge spanning the Black Rock Channel and then cycle along the Niagara River, a section of Niagara Street, onto LaSalle Park and Erie Basin Marina.

Or add another industrial section. Go past HSBC Arena, ride the pathway behind the NFTA rail facility and then over the Michigan Street bridge to Ganson Street. Continue to Ohio Street and on to the new bike paths along the waterfront, north to the Coast Guard Base or south pas the Small Boat Harbor.

Highlights: Watching crews from the West Side Rowing Club along the Black Rock Channel, riding among the giant grain elevators, smelling the fresh-baked Cheerios at the General Mills plant.

Lowlights: The foul-smelling Buffalo Sewer Authority plant, the badly kept bike path down by the NFTA's Small Boat Harbor.

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>Tour de Skylon

Either rid your bike over the Peace Bridge or pack it on your car - bring ID for Customs either way - and from Fort Erie, ride along the former Skylon International Marathon route to Niagara Falls on the Niagara River Parkway.

Highlights: the rapids and falls themselves. How can you beat that?

Lowlights: Parts of the parkway bike path are gravelly and unfriendly to bikes. On heavy traffic days the parkway itself is clogged with cars.

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>Tour de Welland

Park your car at the Crescent Beach lot in Fort Erie, then head west on the bike path to Port Colborne, then, turn north along another path to St. Catharines.

Highlights: Very little pedestrian or bicycle traffic, big ocean-going ships along the Welland Canal, some very scenic if isolated sections along woods and fields.

Lowlights: The need to drive to Fort Erie instead of cycle because of the distance; having to stop at each of the numerous intersections with heavily trafficked roads leading to the major Lake Erie beaches

Mike Beebe is a News staff reporter.

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