Spoke Folk

January 20, 2017

Cyclist Spotlight – Chris Hawley


I’m a city planner, local history aficionado, and man about town. My ride is a 1968 Raleigh three-speed. — In 2008, Buffalo became the first city in New York State to adopt a complete streets policy, and Mayor Byron Brown has faithfully implemented this policy with the addition of dozens of miles of bicycle facilities. 

The Cyclist: I’m a city planner, local history aficionado, and man about town. My ride is a 1968 Raleigh three-speed.

What’s the best and the worst of being car-free in Buffalo?

I have never owned a motor vehicle, which is not as unusual in Buffalo as folks tend to believe. About 30% of all Buffalo households are car-free, about the same rate as in Chicago and San Francisco. Whether in regard to cost savings, personal fitness, or environmental stewardship, there are only advantages to going car-free or car-light.

What do you find to be the biggest challenges to bike commuting in Buffalo?

In 2008, Buffalo became the first city in New York State to adopt a complete streets policy, and Mayor Byron Brown has faithfully implemented this policy with the addition of dozens of miles of bicycle facilities. Future investments in “cycle tracks,” which are physically separated on-street bicycle facilities, would be an even greater step forward in addressing challenges regarding the safety and comfort of the road. Niagara Street and Main Street may the next big projects to incorporate such facilities.

Any advice to those considering commuting by bike?

Give it a try! Bicycles are cheap, require no gas or insurance, and are a great way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

At GObike Buffalo, we’re really excited about the Buffalo Green Code passing due to the incredibly positive impacts it will have on walkability and bikability in the city. Can you tell us a little about how pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users became a priority in the plan?

Providing greater transportation choice has been an organizing principle of the Green Code from the start. Buffalo has had a policy to do complete streets, but now with the Green Code, it will have a policy on how to do complete streets. For pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders, this policy change could not be more exciting.

It’s been a long road to completing the Buffalo Green Code. What were the biggest hurdles you experienced in redeveloping the new code?

Writing a new zoning code is easy; generating consensus around a new code is hard. To get it right, to arrive at a code that residents are proud of and will defend, it was necessary to spend the six years and 242 public meetings it took to get to unanimous adoption by the Common Council on December 27.

Removing minimum parking requirements is quite the feat as we’re one of the first major cities I in the United States to do so; was there initial resistance to the idea? How do you see this positively affecting the City of Buffalo’s development?

This reform was not a difficult sell. Residents tend to agree on one thing: excessive accommodation of the automobile has helped destroy our historic downtown and neighborhoods, turning once vibrant places into vast parking lots. The removal of arbitrary off-street parking ratios will make it easier to adaptively reuse historic buildings and promote small-scale infill development, while encouraging investors to be creative in accommodating a wide variety of travel modes. You could say that Buffalo, as the first major U.S. city to remove parking minimums citywide, has got its planning mojo back.

Spoke Folk