The bicycle is back. And it’s big. And Buffalo is working hard to make room for it.
The city’s commitment to catering to the growing number of cyclists in the country is perhaps one of its most significant yet under-appreciated recent developments. It’s a project that will help Buffalo to attract and maintain a population of young people – a population that is critical to any community that hopes to thrive.
That commitment is showing up in many places, including the city’s Complete Streets program, which aims to design street and sidewalk systems that are friendly to all users, from motor vehicles to pedestrians with baby strollers and, obviously, to bicyclists. Buffalo is on board, but a lot more remains to be done.
One of the most useful developments would be to create protected bike lanes that offer cyclists some insulation from motor vehicle traffic.
But Buffalo has made great strides in recent years by designating bike lanes on certain roads, including heavily traveled Delaware Avenue. That has involved a learning curve for all concerned – motorists who fail to take notice of bicyclists and riders who don’t heed the rules of the road – but the results have been heartening.
What is more, the work puts Buffalo in good company. Other cities, such as Portland, Ore., have devoted themselves to welcoming bicyclists. That attracts young people and businesses that serve them, and it’s serious business. In New York City, sales tax revenues spiked 49 percent from businesses on streets that included bike lanes.
Bicycling also improves the health of its devotees, cuts down on exhaust emissions and reduces the wear on streets. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin found that replacing half of short automobile trips with bicycle trips during the warmer six months of the year saved about $3.8 billion per year in avoided deaths and reduced health care costs.
There is work to do here. GObike Buffalo is working with municipal leaders to make the city even more bike friendly and, as GObike’s map of bicycle accident locations shows, there is plenty yet to accomplish.
But the trends are in the right direction. A bike-sharing program, Buffalo BikeShare, is a rousing success, and next month the second annual Skyride will give cyclists stunning views from the Skyway – twice. Riders will cross the bridge from south to north, and then make the return trip.
It’s all a part of Buffalo’s smart and forward-looking adoption of the bike culture. It’s a win for everyone, as long as everyone pays attention.