An expected throng of more than 3,00o bicyclists will get to meander through Buffalo's Olmsted park system and parkways next month on an 18.8-mile loop including waterfront views from atop of the 100-foot high Skyway.
It's all part of GObike Buffalo's fifth annual SkyRide, its signature fundraising event planned for 6 a.m. May 20. Beyond the parks, cyclists will also get a flavor for highway riding as part of the loop, making their way along the Kensington Expressway and Route 198 along the Scajaquada corridor.
The event will require closing sections of expressways, making it a major undertaking for the city and transportation officials, and a major challenge for participants.
"We are purposely planning a ride that's going to get the most elevation change you can possibly find in the city of Buffalo," said Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo. "We're biking the highways."
Starting at LaSalle Park, the ride will allow bicyclists to imagine how the city's park system used to be aligned while seeing how the automobile encroached on Frederick Law Olmsted's vision for an interconnected system of parks and parkways.
Organizers hope the expanded reach of the SkyRide further sparks community interest in efforts to restore the regional gems while improving the health, safety and quality of life for residents.
"This is an amazing opportunity for people to visually and physically feel the reconnection of the parks system," said Stephanie Crockett, executive director of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. "This is an absolutely perfect fit for what we're trying to get across to the community – that the parks system was connected all at one time."
Through the ride, cyclists will have the opportunity to see the three original parks: The Parade (now MLK Jr. Park) on the East Side to The Park (Delaware Park) in North Buffalo to The Front (now Front Park) on the West Side. At one time, various boulevards and interludes made for seamless travel among the parks.
The event is being held on a Sunday when traffic volume peaks are at their lowest. The first loop is the Skyway, encompassing about eight miles. The second, the full city loop, is 18.8 miles. Cyclists begin at LaSalle Park, travel over the Skyway toward the Outer Harbor, continue along Fuhrmann Boulevard to Ohio Street to Michigan Street, to the Kensington Expressway, to Route 198 to Niagara Street, before returning to LaSalle Park starting point for a bike-themed festival.
"This is an opportunity to engage people in a conversation, having a dialogue about the communities that we're riding with and riding through," Booth said. "It's really important for us not to just have a bike ride."
For advance registration and more details for SkyRide, done in collaboration with the city, go to www.skyridebuffalo.org. Participants also can register the morning of the race at LaSalle Park. The fee is $40 for adults; $25 for youth.