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New bike amenities on Medical Campus aim to lure more riders

The two things that seem to be in shortest supply on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus are parking spaces for motor vehicles and incentives to ride your bicycle to get there.

The second obstacle is about to change.

A free bike parking zone will be in place on the campus this spring, allowing riders of the red "smart bikes" rented through Reddy Bikeshare to park them anywhere on campus, either at bike racks or secured to any public structure free of charge.

The new parking garage at 854 Ellicott St. behind Oishei Children's Hospital, scheduled to open by early June, is mostly for motor vehicles but also should be a boon for bicyclists. It will include a 48-spot, double-decker, secure bike storage rack inside the ramp for campus employees, who will have access through their employee identification badges.

A vending machine with parts for emergency bike repairs also will be installed near the storage area inside the ramp at 854 Ellicott.

And another 45 U-style racks are in a landscaped area near Ellicott and Goodrich streets.

"As density increases on and around the Medical Campus, we see employees looking for a faster, easier and cheaper way to get to here," said Thea Hassan, Medical Campus transportation program manager. "So adding additional bike parking for employees and visitors was really a no-brainer. People want to bike to work and bike to the Medical Campus. We hear and see the demand for it, and we hope demand continues to grow."

The additions represent a nearly threefold increase in the number of places where bicycles can be locked up, bringing the total to 371, up from 133. Included in that figure are 50 new bike racks that can hold 100 bikes for University at Buffalo students, faculty and staff installed by UB last December outside its newly opened medical school at Main and Allen streets and the refurbished Allen Medical Metro Station.

Tommy J. Creenan, who lives near Symphony Circle and works on campus as a front-end developer for Helm UX, a web agency, said he appreciates any innovation that makes it easier for him to get around without a car. He especially likes the free Reddy bike rental membership that is offered to all campus employees, which saves him $55.

"The membership fee was the biggest obstacle in trying it. I got offered the free membership and I'm just really eager to give it a shot," he said. "Now that the weather will be getting warmer, I'll probably bike to work a few times a week to start, and see how it goes."

Reddy Bikeshare smart bikes are entering their third season in Buffalo. The bicycles are equipped with built-in GPS systems that track mileage, calories burned and ride duration. The program, a partnership between Shared Mobility and Independent Health, plans to again roll out 200 bikes citywide in early April, the same number as last spring. Twelve bikes will be assigned to the Medical Campus.

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As part of the free zone on campus, riders will use the GPS to create a virtual geographic fence around the Medical Campus, allowing riders to leave the bike locked for free, instead of having to return it to the station at Ellicott and Virginia streets or at another hub still to be determined. A second bike station opened last summer at High and Ellicott streets, but that will be relocated to a spot farther from Ellicott and Virginia streets where there might be more pedestrian traffic, said Jennifer N. White, marketing and communications executive with Reddy Bikeshare.

"I think we've made a lot of progress in just a short amount of time," White said. "I'm excited to see what happens in this season on the Medical Campus, and how people use the bikes on the campus with this new free zone program. I'm really hoping we'll see some increase."

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