Featured Cyclist: Robert Howland (and Eleanor)

Robert Howland & Eleanor

Today we begin a series of posts featuring cyclists around Rochester, highlighting common interests and needs as well as the great diversity of ways cycling is a part of our community.

What are you riding?
It’s a Trek Soho-S single speed from R-Community bikes.

What’s a typical ride like for you?
I bike with my dog Eleanor Roosevelt, for exercise. We usually go about 5 miles around Goodman, Park Ave, and South Ave. I really like the High Falls area.

Why do you cycle?
Well, I started because my roommate rode all the time. He took me to R-Community bikes, and then I got my bike and started commuting to work. So it’s for exercise, for me, for my dog, for commuting. I like it. And she’s real good at it.

Anything we should know about the state of bike lanes, roads, or trails?
Yeah, I had an accident. I was right there waiting to turn left on Caroline and South Ave. I had blinking LEDs and everything, but the car just hit me, no brakes. I fell right back and hit my head. The windshield of the car was smashed, and the hood. But no broken bones, just road rash. And Eleanor was shook up but OK. No matter how safe you are or how many precautions you take there are still idiots on the road.

How do you envision the future of cycling in Rochester?
I love bicycling and I love Rochester. I see it getting a lot bigger. I just see it growing. Everyone enjoys it. Once you start doing it you realize it’s a valid form of transportation, and cheap, and fun. I like the river trail, along the Erie Canal, and the lanes going through the city. But I always wish there were more, and I don’t always feel safe in them. I’d feel a lot safer if there were concrete barriers for bike lanes.

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Monroe County Millennials and alternative transportation

In a recent survey by Monroe County, young adults around Rochester listed bike lanes and walkable communities among the factors keeping them in the area. Moving forward, they asked for more bike lanes and a bike share program, pointing to easier non-automotive transit as a key enabler for living downtown. Those opinions are consistent with the findings of cities across the nation: bike infrastructure brings young professionals and jobs that can revitalize urban cores.

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Infrastructure in Rochester: Bike boxes

Whatever is happening in Montreal, Rochester has great (and growing) bike infrastructure, too. Here Erik Frisch, a city Transportation Specialist and guru of alternative transportation, describes bike boxes, which allow for safer left turns at busy intersections around town.

Posted in alternative transportation, bike Rochester, safety

Montreal’s world-class bike infrastructure

bikes at St. Joseph's

A cyclist enjoys visiting St. Joseph’s Oratorio in Montreal.

Just back from a vacation in Montreal, I’ll volunteer a report about the infrastructure of that admirably bike-friendly city. Montreal is easier to traverse by bike than any city I have ever visited, and appears to have more cyclists on its roads as well. Spending four days there, my wife and I saw nearly all the major sites, visiting every neighborhood in our guidebook — and more. We never used a car, or even the Metro, but logged 110 miles on our bikes. Montreal’s bike infrastructure works for a number of inter-dependent reasons.

First, Montreal has a critical mass of bike lanes and cycle paths — you can ride almost anywhere. On an island city, nearly every bridge has a cycle track, or is used solely for bikes and pedestrians. In a bustling metropolitan center, where construction is necessary, bike routes take detours instead of being blocked. Recreational routes through parks and along canals connect to commuter routes so well that the distinction becomes artificial. City festivals have large valet parking facilities for bikes.

Second, Montreal’s bike infrastructure is well-engineered and clearly marked. Bikes are kept separate from pedestrians, and often separate from cars as well. Major bike routes have cycle paths with a curb between bikes and cars; minor routes have painted bike lanes. Following the paths and lanes is straightforward because every intersection has a sign pointing the way to continuing and connecting bike routes. Many intersections have dedicated traffic lights for bikes. Detours for construction are marked well. The long downhill on Jacques-Cartier bridge has barriers that force descending cyclists to swerve — and therefore slow to a safe speed.

Complicated intersections show evidence of particularly careful thought. Where rue Rachel crosses rue Berri, the cycle track on the west side of rue Rachel turns, continuing on the south side of rue Berri, so cyclists face the difficult maneuver of crossing every lane of auto traffic. To help, bike-specific stoplights usher them across one street, then the other. A large paved area is blocked off at the corner in between, giving cyclists a safe place to wait for the light.

Finally, the cycling experience is so much safer and more pleasant on cycle paths and bike lanes that cycling two or three blocks out of your way is worth the trouble. This further separates bikes from cars, and makes transit safer for everybody: major car thoroughfares are not major bike thoroughfares, but both sets of city arteries are extensive enough and close enough to go where people need. Optimizing every road for both cars and bikes is by definition impossible; by splitting the roads, traffic engineers can optimize for cars where necessary, and bikes everywhere else.

After all this praise for Montreal’s bike infrastructure, I have some questions, too, which I’ll address in my next an upcoming post.

Posted in alternative transportation, bicycle boulevards, transportation

City of Rochester Neighborhood Petition for Speed Limit Reduction

Added to our Cycling Resources page is a PDF containing the City of Rochester Neighborhood Petition for Speed Limit Reduction.

Download Form – Send completed form to Erik Frisch frische@cityofrochester.gov or mail to:  Erik Frisch, Dept. of Environment Services, City of Rochester, 30 Church Street, Rochester NY, 14614

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The Rochester Cycling Alliance is now a member organization of the New York Bicycling Coalition. The NYBC advocates for pro-bicycle policies at the local, New York state and federal levels. They educate New Yorkers about the benefits of bicycling and walking, offer technical and training resources, assist bicycle advocates and government entities, and promote safe riding.

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RCA Bike Corral at Greentopia

RCA Bike Corral at Greentopia
Sept 14-15, 2013
By Harvey Botzman

Once again the Rochester Cycling Alliance performed a valuable service to the entire bicycling community. At the Greentopia Festival, Sept. 14-15, 2013, we maintained a bike corral for the secure parking of bicycles using the City of Rochester’s portable bike racks. Bicycle safety brochures and materials (e. g., the “Share the Road” bumper sticker; kid’s “use your helmet stickers”) were available to the public, bicyclists and non-bicyclists, on the display table.


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2013 Rochester’s Spokes & Ink Bike & Poster Festival

Spokes & Ink Bike & Poster Festival
Monroe Center for the Arts & Education
August 18, 2013
By Harvey Botzman

The Rochester Cycling Alliance did it again!

We were at Rochester’s Spokes & Ink Bike & Poster Festival, on Sunday, August 18, 2013. Spokes & Ink is a festival produced by the Genesee Center for the Arts & Education, 713 Monroe Avenue. If you don’t know where Center is just look across Monroe Avenue from where Oxford Street ends and there, just to the south (left) of Dog Town Hots is an old firehouse emblazoned with the Center’s name.


The intersection of Wilcox Street & Monroe Avenue was filled with bike racks in front of the RCA’s display. Further down Wilcox Street the Conkey Cruisers were promoting their program of encouraging neighbors in the northwest section of Rochester to “get out & bike” for heath, fun, & knowing your neighbors.

Local trick bike riders from Rochester Action Sports Park performed on their own street stage near the intersection of Wilcox & Richard Streets to the delight of the festival attendees.

Scott Wagner and his crew distributed safety brochures and information about RCA’s role making Rochester a premier bicycling destination. Over the course of this one day festival the RCAers staffing our booth estimate they spoke with to more than 100 bicyclists or potential bicyclists.

Two featured bicycling events at the Spokes & Ink Festival were led by RCAers. At 12:30 PM, Scott Wagner gave a well attended Urban Cycling Safety Clinic. Scott described the new Sharrow and Bike Lane markings on Rochester’s streets. He explained why these markings are used and more importantly where the bicyclist should be positioned when riding on a street with or without sharrows & lanes. He emphasized the importance of riding with traffic and stopping at stop signs and red traffic signal lights. “Bicycles are vehicles and bicyclists & vehicle operators according to New York State and most other states’ laws.”

Helmet use by adults brought forth the refrain, “If you have no brains, don’t wear a helmet; if you have some brains, keep them covered with a helmet,” from those watching and listening to Scott’s presentation.


The RCA’s Zack Declerck (who with Scott Wagner organized the very successful Rochester Bike Week & Film Festival in May, 2013) led a 5.3 mile ride through downtown at 4 PM. Earlier in the afternoon Shawn Brown led a 5.3 mile ride to and around Cobbs Hill.

Inside the Genesee Center for the Arts, Print Shop, the exhibition of bicycling posters included two by the RCA’s very own Karen Lankeshoffer, RCA representative from Henrietta. All the posters are individual designs hand printed on the Genesee Center’s letter presses in the Print Shop. The Print Shop as well as the Genesee Pottery and Community Dark Room offer courses throughout the year. View the poster exhibition at: http://www.geneseearts.org/spokesandink/photos/. (Note: the 2013 posters will be on the Spokes & Ink web page by the end of this week.)
You may be able to purchase some of the posters by contacting the Center & Spokes & Ink director, Kate at office@geneseearts.org

Near the band stand on Wilcox Street, the Genesee Pottery displayed hand built wares as Mitch Messina kept the Festival’s attendees intrigued with his description and demonstration of the process creating and firing raku pottery.

Rounding out a wonderful day on the Avenue with a gecko as signature icon were bands and food vendors. Gin & Bonnets, Tin Can Set, Hieronymus Bogs The Pickpockets entertained us with music throughout the day. The delicious food and beverages served at food trucks, the vegan/vegetarian ice cream bike cart, by local sponsoring grocery stores and restaurants rounded out a fun filled, exciting, and low keyed bicycling and art (print, photographs & pottery) day in Rochester NY.

Spokes & Ink Bike & Poster Festival was sponsored by: Abundance Food Store, Archimage, Dog Town Hots, Electronic Merchant Systems, Monroe Avenue Merchants Association (MAMA), Monroe Real Estate, O’Callaghan’s Tavern, Wegmans, Woman Tours, and Yelp.

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Amtrak Unboxed Bicycle Carriage Demonstration

Amtrak Unboxed Bicycle Carriage Demonstration
Empire Service, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, and Ethan Allen Trains
July 17-31, 2013.
By Harvey Botzman

Amtrak has been demonstrating the use of bicycle racks for the carriage of unboxed bicycles in passenger cars on its Empire Service (including the Maple Leaf and Adirondack trains) and Ethan Allen routes in New York State and Vermont. For over 35 years I, other bicyclists, the New York Bicycling Coalition, and tourism promotion agencies have been advocating for Amtrak to allow unboxed bicycles to be transported in the passenger cars of trains traversing New York State.

In the 1950s through the-mid 1970’s Amtrak and its predecessor railroads allowed unboxed bicycles to be carried in the passenger cars or the baggage cars on trains traversing New York State. For some unspecified reason this bicycle carriage policy was changed. By the late 1970’s trains traveling through New York State and Vermont no longer allowed unboxed bicycles to be carried in either a baggage car or the passenger cars.



Oversize luggage area in Empire Service Passenger Car

Same area in the Bike Rack Demonstration Café Car







Same area in the Bike Rack Demonstration Café Car




Only the Lake Shore Limited train between New York City and Chicago has the facility, a baggage car, to carry bicycles. Bicycles must be boxed for carriage on this train. It is not difficult to prepare a bike for placing in a box. Nonetheless for many bicyclists boxing a bicycle an intimidating operation involving removing the bike’s pedals and turning the bike’s handlebars.

Limited means the Lake Shore does not stop at all stations in New York State. In particular it by passes both downtown Buffalo and Niagara Falls since the train’s route follows the southern shore of Lake Erie.  Other stations between Albany and Buffalo and Albany; and Albany and New York City with relatively light passenger use are also passed by this Limited train. These bypassed are served by Empire Service or Ethan Allen service trains.

Unless bicyclists are using folding bicycles they must transport their bicycles by some means other than an Amtrak train resulting in a loss of passenger revenue for Amtrak. The major intercity bus lines (Greyhound, Trailways, Vermont Transit, etc.) allow bicycles to be carried “in a sturdy canvas like bag” in a bus baggage hold. All of the scenic railroads in New York State and Vermont make some type of accommodation for unboxed bicycle carriage if not in the passenger cars then in a baggage car.

To demonstrate the feasibility of transporting unboxed bicycles in Amtrak’s passenger cars the railroad has retrofitted one café car to accommodate four unboxed bicycles on specially designed racks. When bike racks are eventually installed on Empire Service, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, and Ethan Allen trains they should be placed in the passenger cars rather than the café car. This will allow each typical three passenger car train to transport 12 bicycles to upstate New York, Vermont, Ontario, or Quebec.




Loading a bicycle from a low level platform










Bicyclist with bike alighting from a train to a station platform level with the train car’s floor




At most stations in New York State and Vermont the train passenger car’s floor is higher than the station’s platform. At these stations bicycles are handed up to a train conductor who holds the bicycle until the bicyclist enters the train using the adjoining train car’s stairs and door. At the intersection of a passenger car’s vestibule and corridor the conductor gives the bicycle to the bicyclist who wheels the bike and secures it to the floor affixed bike racks. This is a simple process which does not appear to delay the boarding and alighting of passengers from a train. The bicycle is secured to the bike rack using Velcro® straps. The Velcro straps allow for quickly securing the bike as well as quickly releasing the bike at the destination station. The conductor checks each bike to make certain the bicycles are secure in the bike racks.



Bicyclist securing bike to the bike rack with Velcro straps







Different sized bikes in bike racks on Amtrak train




Bicyclists, tourism officials, parents of students (“Students can take their bicycle instead of a car to college.”), and Amtrak officials all agreed that unboxed bicycle carriage would be a boon for tourism throughout New York State and Vermont. Many of participants in this demonstration submitted survey forms pointedly suggesting that at a minimum there should be four bicycle racks in each Amtrak passenger car on each train wrote the survey respondents made a point of writing that there should be four racks in each of the passenger cars on each train. More than four bicycle racks per train most likely will be needed to accommodate the demand from bicyclists wanting to travel to a destination in New York State or Vermont. A minimum of 48 bicycle racks would be available if all the Empire Service, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, and Ethan Allen train were fitted with bike racks. Of course Amtrak would have to do some marketing to tell bicyclists the bike racks were available for their use (reservations and a small fee needed). Rather than leave the marketing to someone at its Washington headquarters, Amtrak should provide a significant grant to both the New York Bicycling Coalition and the Vermont Bicycle Pedestrian Coalition to market this service to their constituencies.

Bicyclists, tourism and Amtrak officials consider the Empire Service, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, and Ethan Allen trains’ unboxed bicycle carriage demonstration to be a valid and cost effective method to transport unboxed bicycles on trains.

When will bike racks actually be installed in Empire Service, Adirondack, Maple Leaf, and Ethan Allen train passenger cars? This is a question without a forthcoming answer. It took Amtrak one year to design and build the racks, floor/wall fittings and to retrofit the demonstration café car. One New York State bicycle advocate, myself, suggests Amtrak and the New York State Department of Transportation recondition the Turbo Train passenger cars in storage for the past two decades as the first passenger cars be retrofitted with bike racks. Reconditioning the Turbo Train’s passenger cars for carrying unboxed bicycles in racks would not necessitate taking any rolling stock out of service while retrofitting the cars. Then Amtrak and the NYS DOT could simply use the Turbo Train passenger car with its bike racks on a train while another passenger car is being reconditioned and retrofitted with bike racks. It’s like a game of musical chairs or should it be termed musical bike racks!

A glitch in the plan to implement the program to fit all Empire Service, Adirondack Maple Leaf, and Ethan Allen trains with unboxed bicycle carriage facilities might be the transfer of the operation of these trains to the New York State Department of Transportation (NYS DOT) in December, 2013.

Almost all elected officials including New York State’s United States Senators, its U. S. Representatives, and most New York State legislators favor stimulating economic growth through tourism development. Finding ways for residents and visitors to use public transit to easily travel from large cities to the scenic, historic, and interesting smaller cities, villages, and rural areas of New York State is certainly a valid way to achieve this tourism development goal. Unboxed bicycle carriage on Amtrak trains affords residents of New York City, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, and Washington DC who do not usually drive or own an automobile (40% of the population of those megapoli’) to tour New York State and Vermont on their own bicycles.

Article & photograph use only with by line & acknowledgement, “Photographs by Harvey Botzman, Cyclotour Guide Books.

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Shifting Gears: Promoting Rochester’s Two-Wheeled Revolution

Introducing the most amazing final publication from the Genesee School 6th graders.

Shifting Gears: Promoting Rochester’s Two-Wheeled Revolution!

A Project of the
Genesee Community Charter School
Sixth Grade Class of 2013

Read the entire report here, find out how these students disprove the 11 myths of bicycling in Rochester, and most importantly join in on promoting Rochester’s Two-Wheeled Revolution!

Posted in Advocacy, biking Rochester, cycling Rochester, Rochester cycling, Rochester transportation

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