GObike News

July 17, 2019

MLK Pop-up Project Turns Permanent

Short-term action can lead to long-term change. So we had heard.

In 2017, for GObike Buffalo’s first pop-up project on Fillmore Avenue, we put the theory to test. Two years later, our first temporary pop-up project has turned permanent. The project demonstrates the effectiveness of temporary infrastructure leading to permanent change. 

Two years ago, after receiving funding from Creating Health Schools and Communities to conduct a pop-up complete street project, we began our search for an implementation site. We first reviewed the City of Buffalo pedestrian and bicycle crash data to identify the most dangerous areas in the City of Buffalo. We identified the stretch of Fillmore Avenue between North Parade and Best Street, the area in Martin Luther King, Jr. Park which creates a Frogger game for park visitors, as a potential site, and conducted outreach in the community to gauge interest. 

“Every time we hear screeching, we pray that when we look out the window, it’s not some kid laying there in the street dead,” said an attendee at our community outreach meeting for the project.

We’d found a contender. And the community was ready for a change. 

After soliciting community concerns at a community outreach meeting and surveying Juneteenth festival attendees in MLK Park, we proposed a solution: a road diet for Fillmore Avenue in MLK Park, including removing two of the four car travel lanes, installing a turning median, and creating a buffered bike lane.

Community participants ultimately elected buffered bicycle lanes with planters as the buffer between bike and car travel lanes as the final project. The community designed and painted the planters with Pan-African colors and quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Using temporary paint and volunteers from the East Side Bike Club, local churches, Slow Roll Buffalo, and Brian K Lewis Funeral Home, we installed the streetscape prototype in five days.

Following implementation, an East Side Bike Club member and volunteer, Nora Felder-Truman, noted, “Every week, I go back and people are stopping with their friends and families to take pictures with [the planters]. I’m telling you, [the community] is so proud of them.”

An unexpected and sublimely beautiful benefit of this road diet was that it brought people to the East Side of Buffalo. They came together to build a new concept for how we live in our city—a concept that is more human, more appreciative of each other and what we each bring to the table.

In addition, from improving personal health to decreasing pollution to increasing property values and bolstering commercial districts, road diets create walkable, bikable streets benefit everyone. For example, complete streets result in:

  • Less crashes: the DOT estimates road diets decrease traffic crashes by an average of 29%; in smaller, less-dense areas, that number increases to nearly 50%
  • Slower rate of climate change: Boulder, CO, complete streets network has resulted in an estimated reduction of half million tons of CO2 per year
  • Improved local economics: In addition to saving money lost to commuter congestion, local businesses will find a boom in their books. For example, when bike lane were added along Valencia Street in San Francisco’s Mission district, nearby businesses saw sales increase by 60 percent.
  • Improved social mobility: A Denmark study found that bike infrastructure increased social mobility, allowing one to pull oneself out of poverty more easily (the average cost of car ownership is about $8,000 to $10,000 per year per the American Automobile Association).

Additional benefits include reduction in air, water, and soil pollution; increased property values; and improved personal health, both mental and physical.

But despite mountains of evidence documenting benefits of complete streets and road diets, proposed projects with impacts to motorists, whether real or perceived, remain controversial. Further, despite Buffalo passing a complete streets policy in 2008, road redesigns often take years to be approved due to stakeholder coordination and cost of implementation.

Pop-up transportation projects, on the other hand, are quick, cheap and temporary. By coordinating with both the City of Buffalo and the community, we are able to create solutions that work for everyone. Design can easily be adjusted based on community feedback and area constraints. If the design is poorly received after implementation, it can easily be adjusted. 

We announced the new pop-up Fillmore Avenue bike lanes with a bike ride with the East Side Bike Club, a group that rides weekly from MLK Park. Launched, weeks after the Charlottesville tragedy, in a city that is still one of the most segregated in the U.S., we were creating a new reality and a new future, together.

Noted GObike project manager, Rebecca Reilly, who led the project implementation, “It is a misplaced assumption, that if you clean things up in struggling neighborhoods, the people who live there will destroy these things. I’ve heard this often in my sojourns around places like the East Side, particularly when I’m talking to someone whose family used to live in the East Side and moved out when African Americans moved in. They don’t care, I’d been told. I refused to believe that.”

This spring, after our lines began to fade, the City of Buffalo Department of Public Works repainted the lines and sharrows, this time permanently. Fillmore Avenue now has permanent buffered bike lanes throughout MLK Park.

In addition to the community, the East Side Bike Club, our wonderful volunteers, we’d like to thank the City of Buffalo Department of Public Works and Senior Traffic Engineer Eric Schmarder for teaching our volunteer crew how to measure a bike lane on a curved street, how to draw a line for a bump-out, and his continued enthusiasm and support for bicycle infrastructure. 

Look for our pop-up projects around the region. If you are interested in a pop-up infrastructure project in your neighborhood, give us a call or email us at rebecca@gobikebuffalo.org. 




MLK Pop-up Project Turns Permanent