By Jim Cobran
Sometimes it takes a little while for trends to catch up in WNY.
But, when they do, they really do.
Right now we’re in the midst of a burgeoning mass of bike trails — both on-road (a.k.a. streetscape bicycle lanes), and off-road hike/bike paths.
I’ll admit to being a latecomer, rejoining the area’s cyclists three summers ago. But with the abundance of trails/paths and my proximity to a slew of them, I’m now putting hundreds of miles on my 1965 Sears Spaceliner.
Here are a few of the rides I love:
Tonawanda/North Buffalo Rails to Trails — Opened in 2016, this is a great starter trail if you haven’t been on a bike in awhile. Almost flat as a pancake, it was built on the old Lackawanna Railway track bed. One end is on State Street in the City of Tonawanda, and the other is almost 5 ½ miles away in the parking lot of the LaSalle Metro Station on Main Street near Hertel Avenue. A couple of busy street crossings are aided by the state’s new HAWK traffic lights at Sheridan Drive and at Kenmore Avenue.
Shoreline Trail — The Shoreline Trail begins (or ends) in the City of Tonawanda at the confluence of the Niagara River and Ellicott & Tonawanda Creeks, at the site of the old Erie Canal. It follows the Niagara River to Buffalo, passing through Niawanda & Isle View Parks, under the south Grand Island bridges, and through Riverside & Black Rock. You have the option of crossing the single-lane bridge to Unity Island, or you can continue down Niagara Street a bit, before connecting back up with the off-street trail at the Peace Bridge. You’ll ride through LaSalle Park and Canalside, transfer onto the Ohio Street bike lane for a short distance, and then back on the path parallel to Route 5 all the way to the Union Ship Canal just north of Lackawanna. The Shoreline Trail is a bit more hilly in spots than Rails to Trails, but not out of the question — even for an old guy like me riding a single-speed bike into a mild headwind. There is also the option, as you emerge from the trail on Niagara Street at Forest Avenue, to cut across Niagara to a continuance of the trail all the way to Delaware Park.
There are certainly many other not-too-difficult options.
Here are just a few:
Cheektowaga’s Rails to Trails path is a 2.3-mile trek built on the site of the old Lehigh Valley rail line, and parallel to still-active CSX tracks. It goes from Union Road (just north of Como Park Boulevard) to Hurd Street off William, near the corner of Harlem. A couple more blocks through neighborhood streets will take you to Dingens Park near the I-190.
The Robert Moses Recreational Trail makes use of the closed southbound lanes of the old Niagara Falls-to-Youngstown divided highway now called Niagara Scenic Parkway. It goes from Main Street in Niagara Falls (right near the Rainbow Bridge) 3.9 miles north to Devil’s Hole State Park. Be aware of a few steep inclines along the way — which can seem even steeper with the swirling winds blowing off the Niagara Gorge.
The Ellicott Creek Trailway is 6.9 miles from Ellicott Creek Park to Amherst’s Audubon Town Park, choosing as an end point either (you decide at a fork in the path) Amherst’s Northtown Center Recreation Complex, or the west end of the park on Maple Road. Relatively flat and nicely paved.
Obviously we can’t do justice here to the ever-growing number of biking opportunities both in and outside the City of Buffalo, but there are numerous websites and organizations to help you decide.
A great resource for local trail maps:
Or find general info to get you up and running:
So pour yourself into a pair of bike shorts, don your fancy helmet and join the crowd. Hope to see you out there!