Now, in communities across the country, a movement is growing to complete the streets.
Complete Streets works to ensure that when a roadway is constructed or repaired in the City of Buffalo, equal consideration is given to commuters of all kinds – including bicyclists, pedestrians, public transportation users, children, people pushing baby strollers and the disabled.
Exciting Updates for 2013:
1. Mayor Byron Brown reaffirmed his commitment to install at least 10 miles of new bike infrastructure annually during a press conference at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus on National Bike to Work Day:
2. The City of Buffalo has made a serious commitment towards the vision of a bicycle friendly city by partnering with GObike Buffalo to develop a new bicycle master plan funded in part by the NYS Dept. of Transportation and NYS Energy Research and Development Authority that will outline how this vision will be achieved over time. It will detail implementation strategies for proposed policies, infrastructure improvements, and programs that will all be measured through the League of American Bicyclists bicycle friendly communities award program to achieve Platinum status.
3. The city has made a commitment to install more bike racks this summer! GObike is working with them to refine the list and get more bike parking on our streets! If you own a business and want bike racks, fill out the request form here.
4. The city has a released a map detailing the current and future proposed bike facilities (see below). Click on the graphic for a closer look of these exciting changes.
The streets of our city are an important part of the livability of our neighborhoods. They ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker or wheelchair user, bus rider or shopkeeper. But too many of our streets are designed only for speeding cars, or worse, creeping traffic jams.
States, cities and towns are asking their planners and engineers to build road networks that are safer, more livable, and welcoming to everyone.
You may have noticed that Buffalo is suddenly marking bicycle symbols on several city streets, appearing more like the majority of major US cities seemingly overnight. Behind the scenes, however, this has been a long time coming.
Back in 1996, the City of Buffalo adopted a Bicycle Master Plan, outlining a network of 126 miles of interconnected roadways to be retrofitted with bicycle lanes. For several years following, however, Buffalo only had 7 miles of bicycle lanes marked on its streets, which were mostly unconnected.
In 2008, GObike Buffalo successfully petitioned for the adoption of Buffalo’s Complete Streets Ordinance, soon followed by similar legislation adopted by Erie County and the state of New York. The citywide ordinance in particular, required retrofitting Buffalo’s streets with bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, where applicable, whenever maintaining or re-designing our roadways.
To follow-up the Complete Streets legislation, and in response to strong community support from this past spring’s Complete Streets Summit, GObike initiated a Bicycle Lane Request Form, which allows citizens to show their support for increased bicycle infrastructure citywide and even suggest roadways they feel are most in need. In just a couple months, it has nearly 1,800 signatures and has been referenced to help prioritize projects.
Since the time that Buffalo’s Bicycle Master Plan was developed, several new bicycle amenities have been approved on the federal level. We’re not just talking about putting down standard bicycle lanes and multi-use paths anymore. Now “Sharrows,” “Cycle Tracks,” “Contraflow Bike Lanes,” and other variations are appearing on roadways across the country.
Thanks to an enthusiastic Department of Public Works and the ongoing advocacy work of GObike, Buffalo is rapidly catching up with the pack with a commitment to mark 10 miles of bicycle infrastructure per year! Now it’s our turn, as bicyclists and drivers, to keep up with these exciting changes to our streets.
“Sharrows,” or “shared lane markings,” have been on Connecticut Street, Richmond Avenue and along the Delaware Park loop for a year or more, but have also very recently been added to Chippewa Avenue and parts of Elmwood Avenue. Sharrows are large markings along the roadway depicting a bicycle and arrows pointing in the direction of the flow of traffic. Sharrows are intended to alert both bicyclists and drivers that the lane of traffic is shared between both modes – automobiles and bicycles belong within these lanes. In-fact, this is the rule on all our roadways, whether or not the lane is marked with Sharrows. The marking serves as a reminder and to encourage this coexistence.
Sharrows offer a solution when the street is not wide enough to add a traditional bicycle lane, and are especially useful in urban areas with old street grids and narrow streets, like Buffalo. As more interconnected bicycle infrastructure is added to Buffalo’s roadways, bicyclists will be frequently shifting between Sharrows and traditional bicycle lanes as we make our commutes. We have seen this along Richmond Avenue over the last year, and are now seeing it on Elmwood Avenue. Where the roadway is wide enough, a traditional bicycle lane is added, but where the road narrows Sharrows are put down. Together they make the street more continuously accessible to bicyclists.
Along Elmwood Avenue and Forest Avenue, on the edge of the Buffalo State College campus, Buffalo’s first Cycle Track is being installed. A Cycle Track is a travel lane for bicyclists, which is physically separated from automobile traffic, similar to a multi-use path, but intended for travel rather than recreation. This Cycle Track is creating a long desired linkage between the Sharrows and bike lanes along Richmond Avenue and the Scajaquada multi-use path.
Perhaps most exciting are the Contraflow bike lanes which have just been installed along Linwood Avenue. Anyone who has commuted between North Buffalo and Downtown knows how badly bicycle infrastructure is needed there. The combination of high speeds and high traffic volumes can leave bicyclists terrified. Linwood Avenue is a one-way street traveling north parallel to Main Street and Delaware Avenue, which has often been used by bicyclists as a safe haven, even when traveling southbound against oncoming traffic. The new Contraflow bike lanes allow two-way traffic for bicyclists only. To facilitate this, bicycle lanes have been striped along both sides of the streets and double yellow lines have been laid to keep the automobile traffic out of the southbound bicycle traffic. Special street lights and signage have been installed to specifically facilitate the bicycle traffic.
Bicyclists, as well as drivers, have a responsibility to follow the rules of the road in order to make these new amenities safe and functional. When traveling along Linwood Avenue, bicyclists have our own set of traffic signals to follow, and we should be sure to use our lights and reflectors after dark. Likewise, drivers need to respect the double yellow lines dividing the northbound automotive lane from the southbound bicycle lane, as well as the traditional bicycle lane heading northbound. Sharrows are intended to remind both drivers and bicyclists to share the road peaceably. When using Cycle Tracks and multi-use paths, bicyclists should be sure to respect the rights and safety of pedestrians.
Both bicyclists and drivers should visit http://coexistnys.org/ for details on New York state traffic laws pertaining to bicyclists and pedestrians. Bicycles are allowed to occupy regular traffic lanes and ride 2 abreast. However, we should use caution and treat drivers with courtesy and respect, and we should use hand signals to notify others on the road of our turns and stops.
The new bicycle markings popping up along our city streets highlight an exciting working relationship between the City of Buffalo’s Department of Public Works and the lively and growing bicycle community in our city. Keep your eyes on the road for more to come…
For more information go to Buffalo Complete Streets.