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City of Rochester

City of Rochester

I have several guy friends who drive SUVs and think bicyclists should get out of their way. They hate bike lanes. They hate bike boxes. They hate sharrows. They think they’re a waste of money and make it harder for drivers to get around town. One thinks government shouldn’t install bike infrastructure until huge numbers of commuters hop on two wheels. Another thinks putting in bike lanes in a snowy city is dumb. In short, these guys think they own the road.

They’re wrong.

First, many people, particularly women, want to ride bikes but won’t because they don’t think it’s safe. Installing bike lanes and trails would encourage them to try out cycling.

Second, there are good reasons to encourage bicycle use. It’s good for exercise. It relieves traffic congestion. It means less wear and tear on the roads. It means less pollution. It means fewer parking spaces are needed. It means more people on the streets who could easily patronize businesses and create foot traffic.

Third, bicyclists do pay for roads. Many of them also own cars. Many of them pay state and federal taxes, as well as property taxes. Do you think drivers cover the entire cost of maintaining roads, highways, bridges and parking garages? They do not. Everyone pays for driving infrastructure.

Fourth, some of the cities with high rates of bicycle commuters are cold and snowy.

Finally, the number of people who bike to work is growing. This is happening as the rate of car ownership is declining. It’s also happening as fewer teenagers want driver’s licenses.

A report by U.S. PIRG found the Rochester urbanized area (defined by census as roughly Monroe County) had the 8th highest rate of growth of bicycle commuters in the country between 2000 and 2007-11. The increase in bicycle commuters was .4 percent, which sounds small, but that’s more than 1,000 extra cyclists.

The report also found a 7.5 percent decline in vehicle miles driven by Rochesterians between 2006 and 2011. There was a 37 percent increase in the number of miles we traveled on public transit. There was a 1 percent decline in the number of people who got to work by car. There was a 1 percent increase in the number of households with more vehicle. There was a three percent drop in households with two or more cars.

Whether you bike or not, the practice benefits all of us. The same goes for walking and public transit. Think about that the next time you don’t want to share the road.

(One other thing – every time I talk about the importance of bike lanes, people ask me if I bike. I do not, but I plan to one day. I just don’t know why I have to personally engage in cycling to think it’s a worthwhile investment. I don’t like jogging, but I think joggers are terrific and entitled to use the sidewalk.)


Links of the Day:


– New York prisons are taking over the responsibility of caring for the mentally ill.

– At the Auburn Correctional Facility, inmates crochet things for needy kids.

– The D&C’s Nestor Ramos tells the Sheriff to find another job if he doesn’t like his salary. (Isn’t that what conservatives tell those making minimum wage?)

– “If there were a chutzpah caucus in the United States Senate, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York would be its natural leader.”

– Should the U.S. and Canada eliminate their border?

– Women find having a stay-at-home husband helps them get ahead on Wall Street.

– Los Angeles television stations go insane over a “bitter blast of cold.” It was 50 degrees. This makes TV news look vapid and silly.

Remembering All Day Sunday at Midtown Plaza.


Tweet of the Day:


24 Responses to In Defense of Bicyclists

  1. Maybe your guy friends are the same people that yell various 4- and 6- letter words that begin with “f” at me as I bike to work. Happened three times this year, always men in SUVs.

  2. It’s been my experience that male cyclists get a lot more grief than women do. I think it’s because cars, metal, and speed are so inextricably linked with masculinity in this country, while bicycling is associated with tree-huggers (often coded as effeminate) and children.

  3. December 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm Todd Scheske responds:

    Right on. Safer cycling will bring about more cyclists. So good for ROC. When drivers understand how to drive responsibly, the dangers are greatly reduced to cyclists.

  4. I’m one of the new bike commuters. I choose to cycle because it’s good for me, good for the the environment and it keeps another car off the road. Cities around the world are modernizing and creating bike lanes and paths. They are decades ahead of Rochester. They’ve realized that bicycles make driving easier and their cities more livable.

  5. December 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm dew4794 responds:

    Last Summer I was hit on my bike three times by cars at intersections. No injuries. Didn’t sue. Bike banged up. Hit by jay walking, cell phone, pedestrians too. Rochester ranks about 135 out of 185 communities for good driving communities (one being the safest, Allstate). Not very good driving. And we are adding bikes to this street mix? Lots of luck with this.

  6. There are a lot of selfish people that think they deserve to travel as fast as possible and any delay is an insult. Rochester has an excess of car capacity, adding bike lanes on many streets won’t slow traffic or only slow it a little bit. Is it really that bad to add a minute to your commute to make my ride safer? Besides, a bike lane will keep me out of your lane, and that usually backs up traffic more than the loss of an extra travel lane. There is also the reduced congestion and parking from increased biking. Even with adding bike lanes, the reduction is cars on the street has a drastic reduction in traffic congestion. When it comes to parking, one vehicular parking space can accommodate about 10 bicycles. That frees up a whole lot of space for car drivers or for development. I think everyone needs to be less selfish and realize the road isn’t just for them an it’ll even have some benefit for them too. And as an aside, bicycles are very popular with young people, need to make ourselves attractive to them so when they start to own businesses they’ll think about coming here or companies will see that their workers would want to live here (it won’t be a magic bullet, but it is one of the few things we can control at the local level.)

  7. December 9, 2013 at 10:35 am Lee Drake responds:

    On a counterpoint, we are slowly but surely restricting all the alternative traffic lanes out of the city by removing driving lanes and putting in bike lanes. I’m perfectly happy to EXPAND roads to add a bike lane. But every time you do to a road what we did to University avenue, you take a viable 2 lane wide exit out of the city that can be used when 490 East is jammed up and turn it into a parking lot under even normal traffic flow conditions. From 5-6 university can be backed up as much as 3 blocks from the intersection of Culver and University, and it adds an extra 5-10 minutes of idling time to motorists attempting to use that route. The minimal gas saved by the very few cyclists I ever see on this route couldn’t possibly make up for the increased idle time caused by the poorly designed light and the restriction of traffic flow to a single lane caused by the new bike lanes.

    I have nothing in general against bicyclists or safe biking. I do object to inconveniencing thousands of commuters who for whatever reason don’t bike to the advantage of a handful of bikers who do. If there is massive traffic congestion reduction on University avenue since the bike lanes were put in and the lanes were taken out – I sure don’t see it.

  8. December 9, 2013 at 10:50 am Lee Drake responds:

    To be clear – this is not the bicyclists’ fault and taking your frustration out on them is no acceptable.

  9. I think cyclists and drivers both would prefer that bicycles had completely separate thoroughfares.

  10. Great piece Rachel. I was especially struck (so to speak) that you’re interested in promoting biking in the city despite that you don’t ride, yourself. I can relate: in the ’90s I worked on the development of several city and regional bike paths, and worked on an effort to get RGRTA to roll out bikes-on-buses system wide, despite that I didn’t ride or even own a bike. At the time I also maintained a membership in the Rochester Bicycling Club because I appreciated the support they put behind all those initiatives. I remember one year they gave me an award for being their only member without a bike. They should give you a similar award 🙂

    Lee Drake, I was also involved in the project to narrow University Ave in the Neighborhood of the Arts. It was as much about improving the neighborhood and creating a walkable neighborhood as it was about traffic flow. It made a huge difference in the quality of life and property values in that neighborhood, in exchange for, perhaps, some occasional inconvenience for motorists on their way out of the city after work. I think it was worth the tradeoff!

  11. Lee Drake – there aren’t even bike lanes on that section of University Avenue, so how could the City have removed a travel lane for bike lanes? The lanes were removed to narrow the street and make it more walkable and livable. As a result, property values are up, crime is down, and University is now one of the most pleasant streets in the city. It is not the City’s responsibility to plan high speed escape routes for suburbanites. It should be the City’s goal to make Rochester the most livable place it can be; suburbanites who wish to fly through City neighborhoods can either find a new route or take a deep breath and realize that our traffic pales in comparison to virtually any other large city in America.

    The work the City is doing is great for the entire region – as the city goes, so goes our entire area. Thankfully, there are some great people at City Hall doing the right thing for the future of our city AND region.

  12. University Avenue has bike sharrows, not actual bike lanes. The primary purpose of sharrows is to alert motorists that there may be bicycles in road and reduce incidents of wrong-way cycling.

  13. December 9, 2013 at 11:07 pm Zack DeClerck responds:

    Thank you, Rachel.

    Rochester is on it’s way to the 21st century. Sorry Lee Drake, but I have to disagree with you. “Traffic” in Rochester is not real traffic, the flow is almost always over the speed limit. Road diets are necessary.

    While I do use the bike lanes on Jefferson Road when I HAVE to go to Henrietta, most people won’t because that over-sized street is intimidating to ride on regardless of a bike lane. Those kind of roads do not belong in a city. Henrietta can continue to pave paradise.

  14. December 9, 2013 at 11:39 pm Anonymous responds:

    Traffic is a result of success a good problem for a City like Rochester to have. With the exception of a slight increase of traffic at 5-6pm (that really isn’t that bad) these streets aren’t used enough.

    The bicyclist are going to ride their bikes on the roads regardless of what ever your opinion is. We have people riding in dangerous conditions on east avenue as far south as pittsford.

    Personally I would rather see dividers in the road that give bikers a separate lane to ride their bikes.

  15. December 10, 2013 at 2:00 pm Chris Haller responds:

    As an occasional bike commuter – bike lines on Dewey Avenue are wonderful. I have biked into work at least 1000 times over the last 6 years – never been hit and I ride on busy roads. It requires following the traffic laws and paying attention (assuming that the driver will hit you is a good assumption). I love riding and having a few more lanes would be great if people would actually use them. I would love to see more bikes on the ride to work (there seems to be less now since gas prices stopped increasing) and anything to promote that would be great – maybe other incentives would be helpful…

  16. I have been riding a bike for exercise as well as occasional commuting since I was 18. I am now 63 and continue to ride ( alas, not as much ). One very important aspect of bike riding is to fully understand that if you get hit by a vehicle, more than likely your injuries will be serious. You could be totally in the right in regards to the law and right-of-way, but you will be seriously injured if not killed. I do not believe it is wise to promote or encourage “shared” roads between vehicles and bikes. My riding over the last 30 years has mostly been on the bike path along the canal from Fairport through Genesee Valley Park and then down the bike path along Rt 390 into Greece. A great ride. When I do venture out into the roads, I will ALWAYS ride on the sidewalk on MAIN busy roads. I will ride the streets on side roads. If the city ( and you ) want to promote bike riding in the city ( which I am all for ) I would suggest you encourage the building of bike lanes separated from the road by either curbs or some type of divide on the MAIN busy roads. To do otherwise is to sentence some poor soul to injury or death. Bike lanes simply designated by a white line is a death trap. Just my thoughts.

  17. oh boy… First Matt.. they took the traffic lanes out and crime is down and property values are up? Really. Think that will work on Joseph and Jefferson Ave? A does not equal B in that concept or they would be doing it in every crime ridden area in every city in this country.

    Next, I am a bike rider and own a car or two. The number of bikers over the age of 20 in this area that do not own a car is extremely small. Bikers do not pay for the roads or their own paths. Cars do.

    The most annoying thing that bikers do is ride two or more abreast and stop cars behind them. I see it done all the time on burb roads. I would never do this. And they think they do own the road and wont pull over to let the faster car pass. When I eventually pass I have to also use my window washer fluid.

    When I pull a trailer I have to many times go at slower speeds. I have no problem pulling over and letting a car or cars behind me go by. ITs just the right and considerate thing to do.

    Bikes don’t own the road, cars do. Like it or not.

  18. Wow Orielly, you sound like a jerk. Spraying antifreeze on someone who slowed you down by thirty seconds?

  19. Yea I am the jerk … riding 4 abreast and infringing on my rights to use the road being a road block for me or those behind me …but they aren’t jerks are they?

    They are justified because they pay taxes. And to go around them forces me to go into the oncoming lane to take a risk with my life….and those in the car with me are forced to take that risk also.. Yep but I’m the jerk.
    Put my family in that position and I welcome being a jerk.
    And you? Any mirrors in your apartment?

  20. In Oreilly’s world, money is all that matters. All else is irrelevant nonsense.

  21. It’s obviously a bad idea for cyclists to ride 4 abreast on a normal street, or even the bikepath. I can’t recall ever seeing that but if it happens, drivers have several choices:

    a) slow down and drive behind them until your paths diverge, just as you would drive behind some little old lady driving at 20mph
    b) slow down and beep your horn so they move over to the side of the road
    c) pass them when/where it’s safe

    Nobody “forces you to go into the oncoming lane to take a risk with your life.” You’re making that choice because you’re too impatient to lose 30 seconds of your time. If you have a head-on with someone and kill them or yourself, it will solely be your fault, not the fault of someone on a bicycle.

    And spraying antifreeze on someone doesn’t do anything to improve the situation. It’s pure spite.

    • Not just a bad idea to ride 4 abreast, it’s against the law.

      I’m not condoning anyone retaliating against drivers or cyclists either.

      I’ve bikers yell and/or give me nasty looks because I try to get around them or warn them with a horn.

      I just wish cyclists would know the laws they have to abide by also. One such law is they’re to move into single file when a vehicle approaches.

      From 1234 (b) Persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast. Persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a shoulder, bicycle or in-line skate lane, or bicycle or in-line skates path, intended for the use of bicycles or in-line skates may ride two or more abreast if sufficient space is available, except that when passing a vehicle, bicycle or person on in-line skates, or pedestrian, standing or proceeding along such shoulder, lane or path, persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates shall ride, skate, or glide single file. Persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a roadway shall ride, skate, or glide single file when being overtaken by a vehicle.

  22. Do we really want to start the which road user breaks the most laws argument? Those riding 4 abreast are breaking the law and jerks, doesn’t mean you have to be one too. That shouldn’t reflect on all cyclists. Should I be bringing up drunk drivers, stop sign/stop light runners, speeders, etc to argue against automobiles?

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