In late summer this year, GObike’s pop-up team worked with the City of Lackawanna to construct a temporary two-way protected bike lane on Ridge Road to accomplish the city’s objective of slowing vehicle traffic to improve safety and enhance livability.

Due to the pandemic, traffic volumes had decreased 40 to 70%, pedestrian and bike volumes had increased at least 120%*, and small businesses were struggling to get by.

These conditions, along with recommendations from a recently complete traffic study for the corridor, set the stage for constructing a temporary road diet to assess how reducing travel lanes and their width would meet the city’s objectives.

Lackawanna didn’t want just any road diet; after meeting with the council, they approved GObike to install the first-ever protected bike lane in the Western New York region. Protected bike lanes are now best practice in bike lane design as they physically separate bikes from motor vehicles, providing safe and equitable access for people who want to bike but do not like to ride alongside cars and trucks. This 1.25-mile stretch of Ridge Road is also unique in that it will serve as either the first mile or last mile of the proposed 80-mile Southern Tier Trail, connecting Buffalo, Salamanca, Ellicottville, and Olean (GObike is currently finishing up the feasibility study for the route). With connections to the Shoreline Trail, Empire State Trail, and the Genesee Valley Greenway, this protected bike lane will create hundreds and hundreds of miles of a connected trail network throughout the region. 

The City of Lackawanna completed a traffic study in May 2020 to evaluate how a road diet would impact Ridge Road’s traffic flow. Speeding cars and high volumes of tractor-trailers have created an uncomfortable environment for those walking and biking through the corridor and has not supported small businesses or the area’s cultural institutions like South Park, the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, and the Our Lady of Victory National Shrine & Basilica. The study considered peak and non-peak motorized traffic volumes and signalized and non-signalized intersections. The analysis, prepared by CPL Engineering, determined reducing the four-lane roadway to two-lanes with no center turning lane would not negatively impact traffic flow.

Thanks to Lackawanna’s visionary mayor, Annette Iafallo, and a willing common council, the City of Lackawanna gave GObike the go-ahead to proceed with a temporary protected two-way bike lane on Ridge Road. The intention was to construct the bike lane for one year, allowing GObike and the City of Lackawanna to assess traffic flow impacts before making the bike lane permanent. 

Thanks to the support of dozens of volunteers who provided hundreds of hours of support, GObike constructed the pop-up bike lane in two weeks. 

Bicyclists cheered collectively from around the region. However, some residents have not supported the project. Misinformation about the project has been widely circulated, an essential lesson for us to learn as we continue to construct pop-up projects throughout the region. 

As a result, two council members from the City of Lackawanna have proposed to end the experiment early, which will not allow us to collect the data necessary to determine if this design is appropriate for the corridor. Traffic takes about six weeks to adjust to new traffic patterns; we can only assess impacts now. 

Many people have expressed concerns about emergency vehicles’ ability to move through the new design corridor. We checked with the fire department, who dismissed them. 

“I work at the station on ridge road, and I drive the engine on my shift, and I have had no problem getting through at any time,” said Anthony Caferro. “The only issue I run into is related to motorists not yielding to us while responding, not to any reduction in street size. I have noticed a great reduction in speeding vehicles in Ridge [Road].” 

Additional concerns expressed by the council include the ability to plow the bike lane (the delineators have been removed; the paint on the street will not impact plowing), and parking restrictions (eight parking spots have been removed from the north side of Ridge Road). 

We need your help. Please consider attending the City of Lackawanna’s common council meeting today at 7 pm at the Senior Center (230 Martin Road). Alternatively, if you are a Lackawanna resident, please contact your council representative to let them know you support the experimental design. 

*Bicycle and pedestrian volumes are not consistently collected in our region. Data from the Town of Tonawanda suggest peaks of about 3,000% (actual not estimated volume) while the Google Mobility Database suggests travel peaks to parks to be about 120%.