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Slow Roll boosts bike lane plans

Buffalo in a decade could have 300 miles of bike lanes – more than triple the amount the city has now – if the recommendations in a new bicycle master plan are followed.

There’s a need for such a significant expansion, said Rich Mattingly, a Linwood Avenue resident who has noticed a big increase in bike traffic over the last five years.

“I think overall it’s going to be better for not only the health of our city, but it certainly makes us look nicer as a city, too, to have all these people out on bikes,” said Mattingly, as he waited with his 9-year-old son, Murphy, for Monday’s Slow Roll Buffalo community bike ride to begin.

They were among 1,600 bicyclists who filled Scott Street from Washington Street to Michigan Avenue downtown for the weekly leisurely ride.

“It’s probably my favorite free thing to do with my kids in Buffalo right now,” said Mattingly, 35, a photographer.

This week’s looped route, which was sponsored by The Buffalo News, took bicyclists east through Larkinville, the Central Terminal district, across Broadway, Sycamore Street and Walden Avenue and through the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus before returning to the starting point for a post-ride party.

“Any time we get out into the East Side and see things we haven’t seen, or expose people from outside the city to parts of the city that are really hidden treasures, that’s one of the great things about Slow Roll,” said Jeffrey R. Pirrone, who was riding a tandem bike with his daughter, Caroline, 11.

The line of bicyclists snaking through sun-soaked city streets brought out Swan Street resident Angeline Jones and her family to wave and cheer them on.

“Oh my goodness, we saw it last year, too,” she said. “Every time we see it, we come out and wave to everybody. I’d like to know how I can join and ride my bike.”

Now in its second year, Slow Roll members this year formed a “streets committee” to visit neighborhoods in the week before a ride and work with residents to report potholes and other street hazards.

“Our impact on the actual streets we roll on transcends the ride itself,” said Seamus Gallivan, co-founder of Slow Roll Buffalo.

And adding bike lanes whenever major city streets are reconstructed will result in a safer, more connected network that encourages more bicycling, Pirrone said.

“In order to be a good, vibrant city we need multi modes of transportation for all different types of people,” said Pirrone, who is also supervisor of the Mobile Safety-Net Team, which surveys the area’s human services. “Whether it’s recreation or for necessity, bike lanes have to exist.”

One participant was using Monday’s ride to see if it would change his negative opinion of bike lanes.

Buffalo News columnist Rod Watson was invited by Gallivan to ride in the Slow Roll after he wrote a May 12 column critical of eliminating driving lanes to make more space for cyclists.

“Once you write about something I think you’re obligated to go out and experience it if someone wants you to experience it from the other side,” said Watson, who led the ride with Buffalo News publisher and president Warren T. Colville and News Senior Metro Columnist Donn Esmonde, who wrote a pro-bike/pro-public transit column in the wake of Watson’s anti-bike lane one.

Watson was loaned a Raleigh Cruiser from Mary Simpson, a member of Slow Roll’s team of squad volunteers, which enforce safety procedures during the ride. “I leap at the chance to change someone’s opinion about biking in Buffalo,” she said.

Watson, who said he hadn’t ridden a bicycle since he was a child, told a reporter to “ask me how I feel about it tomorrow,” when his calves might be sore from the 10-mile ride.

“Not to mention other parts,” he said. “The seat’s pretty hard.”