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Editorial: GObike rides into Buffalo's past and present

GObike Buffalo’s fifth annual SkyRide on May 20 promises to take 3,000 bicyclists on an unforgettable ride over the Skyway.

This isn’t just a bike ride. It is a ride through history and into contemporary concerns. And it’s good exercise.

Sure, there will be the scenic views of downtown Buffalo and the waterfront from the 100-foot-high Route 5 Skyway. But it also follows the path of Olmsted’s parks and parkways.

GObike Buffalo, in partnership with the city, promotes this year’s event as celebrating the past and future of bicycling in Buffalo. It expands the reach of the SkyRide from Route 33 Kensington Expressway (formerly Humboldt Parkway) and Route 198 (along Scajaquada Creek) to Niagara Street, also future home to Buffalo’s first protected bike lanes.

As Executive Director Justin Booth explained, this will be a ride with a purpose, highlighting unique corridors along the SkyRide route. Bicyclists can choose to follow an 18.8 mile full city loop, or stick with the shorter 8-mile elevated view loop. Booth wants to take this opportunity to use the event to engage in a dialogue about the communities they are “riding with and riding through.”

It is an opportunity for groups to convey their message, such as Restore Our Community Coalition, hoping to remediate the “devastation” caused by the construction of Route 33. There is the Grant Amherst Business Association and what its leader says is the “forgotten section of the 198” and the prospect of disconnecting the 198 from the 190 – and taking “the most dangerous part of the 198 out of play.”

Distance riders will also get a good look at the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor. It has a storied history, from Ferry to the stop SkyRiders will make on Michigan and Cherry streets. At South Division, they will ride amid of a number of historic churches, including the Michigan Street Baptist Church. They will come upon the historic Colored Musician’s Club and the Nash House, home of the former pastor of the Michigan Street Baptist Church. The ride will draw attention to the corridor and the community, home to the early Buffalo settlers and one divided by Route 33.

Riders will get over to the Parkside community whose association leader believes the ride is important in terms of neighborhood traffic safety. Safety is influenced heavily by the 198 and the on-ramp at Parkside. The other issue not often discussed is noise and environmental impacts. The reduction of speed to 30 miles per hour on part of the 198 has eased the noise congestion. The SkyRide event will enhance the peace. Vision Niagara members are eager to promote the Niagara Street Corridor and the city’s redevelopment of the street which will include protected bicycle lanes. Change is on the way in the area but more is needed. Vision Niagara will get the chance to get their message out through the SkyRide event.

Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is celebrating its 150th anniversary of Olmsted Buffalo. The SkyRide offers a perfect fit. The message: the parks system was once connected by parkways. Riders will get a chance to see and experience three of the original parks: Martin Luther King Jr., Delaware and Front parks.

The SkyRide opens a dialogue among participants – riders and community advocates – about where the city has been and where everyone would like it to go. For calling attention to these causes, the GObike Buffalo has reached beyond bicycling and is helping to draw the commuinty together.

For more information about the ride, go to skyridebuffalo.org

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