Buffalo, already ranked as a bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Cyclists, is gearing up to get friendlier.
Wheels started rolling for an update of the city’s Bicycle Facility Master Plan before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 at a public meeting Tuesday evening in DIG, the business incubator space at 640 Ellicott St., just a couple bicycle-lane markings up the street from the former Trico plant.
In a 45-minute presentation peppered with photos of biking Buffalonians, Jeff Olson and Phil Goff from Alta Planning + Design, one of the nation’s leading bikeway planning firms, outlined how street markings, intersection improvements and tie-ins with public transit can make bicycle riding safer and more convenient and make a community healthier.
“The bottom line is this stuff is fun,” Olson said. “This is why communities get so excited about it. It’s a pure joy if it’s done well.”
The next step takes place today. Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo, who is facilitating the plan update, has invited representatives from organizations and agencies throughout the city to meet with Goff and city officials in DIG headquarters to get their ideas.
Ideas were collected Tuesday evening on large bicycle route maps posted on easels and during a question session that followed the presentation.
Queries included the feasibility of a bike-sharing program, such as the one Alta oversaw in New York City; funding for maintenance of bike lanes (“There are guidelines, especially for during the winter,” Olson said), and links beyond the city line.
“How does this plan integrate with the first-ring suburbs?” asked Tim Trabold, transportation programs manager for the Greater Buffalo Niagara Transportation Council.
“There is a regional plan out there and we want to try to make it as seamless as possible,” Olson said. He added that city bikeways should have links across the state via routes like the Canalway Trail.
Lynn Marinelli, director of intergovernmental relations in the Western New York office of Empire State Development, suggested that a master plan might include a veloway, like the 5.1-mile path for bikes and in-line skaters in Austin, Texas.
“That’s an Alta project,” Olson said. “Thanks for the plug.”
Goff said guidelines for the plan will be developed over the next few months and a complete draft and final report should be ready by May, “just in time for Bike Week.”
He said it would include a variety of suggestions, including several low-cost “easy win” measures, such as street striping for bicycle lanes and signage.
In closing remarks, Mayor Byron W. Brown said that making the city more bicycle friendly “is about quality of life, making Buffalo a more attractive place to live, work and raise a family.
“The city is committed to this,” he added. “I don’t know if we’ll answer all the questions with this master plan, but we want to make this city a biking and pedestrian-friendly place. This is for all of us. This is for every section of the city.”