Keelan Erhard, Family Services Manager, for Habitat for Humanity Buffalo is a Western New York native who currently lives in Buffalo’s West Side. T
hey love to ride and are a familiar face in the parks and trails of Buffalo. Our AmeriCorps Intern, Luke Medina, sat down with Keelan to ask them about their experiences biking in Buffalo.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in Grand Island. Then, after graduating high school, I went to Syracuse University for my undergrad for business. As I was finishing up, I realized that I didn’t want to work for a corporation. I thought giving back to the community would be something that I’d be interested in. I went looking for different nonprofit job opportunities here in Buffalo, and wound up accepting a year of AmeriCorps with Habitat for Humanity Buffalo. I began working in the family services department, and was involved with the families that go through our homeownership program.
After my service with AmeriCorps in 2017, I was hired by Habitat for Humanity as their operations manager. Recently, I’ve been managing the homeownership program, as well as doing the portfolio management of the 200 mortgages that we currently hold. Some of my work involves assisting applicants with navigating some of the service and requirements of the program. We also educate people with necessary information and insight that’s needed when owning a home.
“I’m really thankful that I’m able to work with the families directly one on one. What’s so great about our program is we’re able to provide people with a brand new house, and at 0% interest mortgage and giving people who need it, the best bang for their buck.”
How do you usually cycle in Buffalo? And what kind of bikes do you ride?
I like road bikes! I have been riding a K2 mod 3 road bike for the past two years now. I love it. It’s super light, goes fast and rides comfortably. I ride mostly for leisure, either by myself or with friends. Also to different events around town in the summer, pre-pandemic, and hopefully soon!
In terms of cycling, are there any particular features of Buffalo that you enjoy?
Yeah, so it definitely feels like there’s more of a community here. I go on different group bike rides, a Wednesday night ride, a Friday night ride, sometimes there’s a Saturday night ride. There’s the Slow Roll. But just seeing that there’s so many different people bike together is really something special. Buffalo is such a bikeable city with it being so flat! I mean, it’s nice to just see everybody out and riding. You don’t really get that in a lot of places and many other cities aren’t as flat!
What’s one thing you’d change to make cycling a more feasible and safer option for commuting in Buffalo?
I would like more dedicated bike lanes for places where there’s two lanes of traffic going both ways. I would just make sure that the roads were safe, keep them maintained, clean and plowed when it snows. Maybe invent special pavement that erodes slower and can take our winters?
And this isn’t so much about biking infrastructure as much as it’s just public infrastructure, but making sure there’s bathroom facilities at public places where people hang out. Even if it’s just a porta-potti or something. And keeping those clean and maintained is important, too!
I think being a vehicle operator is a bigger deal than people make it out to be. There’s data that shows a trend of increased pedestrian fatalities caused by cars over the last 10 years. I also have heard of some local instances where people lost their lives while crossing the street or walking. What can be achieved in terms of effectively getting drivers to slow down and realize the serious potential repercussions of driving a vehicle?
I mean, you’d have to start at driver education from the start, you know, when people attain their permit, and take their driving exam. Maybe a more comprehensive re-certification of the drivers license would work. Maybe revenue used from tickets and traffic fines could be used to better educate drivers. Maybe more anti-speeding media would work too.
Speaking of the use of fines, how do you feel about these school zone speed cameras?
I’ll tell you, me, personally, I am against them. I think that they’re sort of a good idea. I think that there needs to be a little more signage and more warnings around the school zone. So it doesn’t seem like a trick for a ticket. And I also think that there should be more transparency as to where the funds from the fees are going.
I am of the mindset that if you want people to slow down, build infrastructure that will make them slow down, like speed bumps. I know a lot of people want to get away from having monetary fines associated with things, whether it be police giving tickets for this or that speeding or school zones, or whatever it may be. I feel like there’s a larger push in this country to get away from fines and unnecessary policing. Maybe community service or something could be an alternative to a monetary fine. But, in general, I don’t think the school cameras were executed in the right way around here.
Biking has opened doors for me as I’ve grown up for me and has become somewhat part of my identity. The benefit of exercise, the feeling of freedom it evokes in me, and the friendships it helped me establish are probably the most notable impacts it has on me. Do you relate to that at all? Has cycling affected your life in any noticeable way?
I like cycling! Living in Buffalo allows for ease of biking since you know, again, it’s a flat city! The parkway system on the west end of Main street is really something special. It makes it enjoyable to get around, especially in the summer. If I’m meeting with friends to get a drink or to get dinner, or if I’m going out to a show or going to a bar, I’m always riding my bike! For those occasions, I’m never touching my car to go to those places because it’s so easy to just hop on a bike and go. It is nice to meet other people that also love biking and connect through it. Like I said before, there is a sense of community among cyclists. It’s also great to get that benefit of exercise since I’m basically sitting for most of the day at my job. But, yeah! I really am appreciative of cycling for the good times and the friends it has brought my way!