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Event that attracted 1,600 bicyclists supports the push for more bike lanes

That noise you heard around Buffalo Monday night was the sound of 1,600 people getting healthier, exploring their city, bonding as families and simply enjoying the thrill of a rolling, two-wheeled party.

The people watching them ride through their neighborhoods enjoyed it, too, calling out greetings as a small army of bicyclists rode by. Monday’s Slow Roll Buffalo left its starting point at The Buffalo News, then turned east, heading through Larkinville, to the Central Terminal district and across Broadway, Sycamore Street and Walden Avenue. It wound its way through the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on the way back to The News for an after-ride party.

It all went off without a hitch. Organizers, who are leading Slow Roll’s second season, knew what they were doing. Police did a great job of helping out. And the riders, judging by the response, generally had a blast.

Slow Roll is an event. Anytime 1,600 people show up to exercise, something is – forgive the contradiction – afoot. The ride has become an event for everyone from singles to families to seniors. What they get is difficult to quantify, but it includes fellowship, conversation, exploration, civic unity and, yes, through exercise, better health.

They discover parts of Buffalo they may never have seen and might not ever see but for the Slow Roll. Parents and children share a unique experience almost certain to provide lifelong memories. Buffalo benefits by strengthening the bond between citizen and city and attracting others who discover what a lively and intriguing municipality this is.

And it’s fun.

Slow Roll is an important component of the new urbanism, a concept and a trend that is helping to attract young people and empty nesters to cities around the country. The allure includes easy access to activities and amenities including bars, restaurants, shops and the city’s reviving waterfront. It focuses, too, on wellness and camaraderie that events such as the Slow Roll provide in spades.

It’s one of the reasons that the addition of bicycle lanes around the city is so important to Buffalo’s future. The city needs to take all reasonable steps to make the streets hospitable not just to cars, but to bicyclists and pedestrians. That work is underway and, while there are inevitable stresses as driver and pedaler learn to accommodate one another, it’s the way of a healthier, more environmentally friendly future.

Today, the city has 83 miles of bike lanes, up from just 20 miles eight years ago. The increase is evidence of Mayor Byron W. Brown’s commitment to nourishing the city’s growing bicycle culture and of his belief in its value.

The goal in a new bicycle master plan is 300 miles of bike lanes, and the evidence from Monday’s Slow Roll suggests that it’s not one that anybody could call too ambitious.