What has become crystal clear to me as Transportation chair of the Rochester Group of the Sierra Club is this: Active transportation (walking and bicycling) can be one of the most important Climate Change solutions for the Rochester, NY region. As transportation accounts for 27% of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and even 40%, according to the Executive Summary New York State Climate Action Plan Interim Report, how we get around each day matters a lot to our environment. Riding a bicycle as transportation is mentioned in all Climate Change actions for the federal, state, and community plans as an important component in reducing greenhouse gases.
For some time now, the Rochester, NY region has been engaged in an effort to increase bicycles as a realistic mode of transportation:
- An important update to the Genesee Transportation Council’s bicycling Map is available online, in all Monroe County Bicycle Shops, and almost any bicycling event occurring in our area. Find the best bicycle routes to your destination, including work, with this great map.
- In 2008 Rochester won “Honorable Mention” for the Bicycle Friendly Community Award from the League of American Bicyclists (LAB), a national bicycle advocacy organization that manages the Bicycle Friendly America program.
- Back in April an important symposium with many of local leaders worked on active transportation issues produced Walk, Bike, Smile, Thrive: a report on the first Greater Rochester Active Transportation Symposium, by Jon Schull, Ph.D. Interim Director, RIT Center for Student Innovation, and Scott MacRae, M.D. Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, Flaum Eye Institute, University of Rochester. “Walking and biking is good for your health, good for your state of mind, and good for Rochester. And it’s about to get better. “
- Quietly, without much fanfare, some improvements for our area’s bicycling commuters have been happening: City of Rochester has portable Event Racks for loan; Shared Lane Pavement Markings – now appearing in Rochester; and City of Rochester’s first installed Bicycle Shelter . (from Rochester Cycling Alliance, where you can find more information and advocacy for bicycles as transportation in our region.)
- The bicycle boulevards concept, which provides safe accommodation for cycling and encourages its residents to bike for transportation and recreation, is now in the City of Rochester’s Bicycle Master Plan. Also, on Sunday, May 23, 2010 in Cobbs Hill Park, over forty bicyclists began abicycle boulevard demonstration ride through the Upper Monroe neighborhood in Rochester, New York and demonstrated what this concept feels like.
- The long-awaited Complete Streets bill has just been passed by the governor. This has the potential to vastly increase the safety of bicycling in our streets. “NY Enacts Law to Protect All Who Use Local Streets … that should eventually make it safer for pedestrians, bikers and parents with strollers to navigate New York streets. Locals say the new law is especially important on Long Island, where multi-lane highways were built with little thought to pedestrians. Linda Lisi Juergens, executive director of the National Association of Mothers’ Centers, says it’s a sign of relief for children who walk or bike to school, and moms and dads who like to walk to do their shopping.” (August 17, 2011) Public News Service
So, this is all to say that now we need you bicyclists, you casual bike riders, the Rochester-area bicycling community, those who are concerned about our environment, and those who care how we address Climate Change to come to Greentopia’s* Moving Planet Bike the Bridges Self-Guided Bike Ride. Meet us on Saturday. September 17th, 9AM -10:30AM, Genesee Valley Sports Complex, 131 Elmwood Avenue.
Here’s my final main pitch: Getting Rochester to the goal of a truly bicycle-friendly community, where anyone who wants to can bike those short distances (that now most use their vehicles for) and relieve the pressure on our transportation system and our environment, is a chicken-and-egg problem: in order to get folks on bicycles as transportation we need safe infrastructure, but we cannot do that if the public doesn’t demonstrate that they want it. Here’s your chance to solve that conundrum. Get the flyer and get the details: http://newyork.sierraclub.org/rochester/Transportation/bike%20brochurevfinal%20(2).pdf
* Greentopia Festival “Think Green. Live Green. Save Green| Rochester New York’s First Green Festival |The Greentopia Festival is Rochester New York’s and the Finger Lakes celebration of the green movement sweeping around the globe. The two-day, interactive festival in historic High Falls will reveal what the Western New York region is doing to help the environment – and envision a greener Rochester of the future.” High Falls, Rochester, NY | September 17-18, 10AM-6PM.