Bringing electric bikes to New York

This essay by Paul Winkeller, Executive Director of the New York Bicycling Coalition, originally appeared in the Buffalo News on 6 September 2016.

In 2002, federal law was amended to distinguish bicycles with low-power electric motors capable of reaching speeds of 20 mph or less, known as electric bicycles, from motorcycles, mopeds, and motor vehicles.

The New York State Legislature never changed state law to conform to this federal standard.

Although it is completely legal to sell and purchase electric bicycles in New York, it is illegal to operate them on public roadways. This creates confusion for manufacturers and consumers in this fast-growing market. It is time for New York to clarify where and how electric bicycles can be used.

Electric bicycles operate nearly identically to a traditional human-powered bicycle, but are easier to pedal with assistance from an electric motor that is activated when pedaling. Electric bicycles do not compromise consumer safety.
While research shows that the average speed of electric bicycle users on roadways is slightly faster than that of regular bicycle users, there have not been any significant increases in bike collisions, trail user conflicts, safety complaints or litigation with the growth in popularity of electric bicycles.

Electric bicycles benefit senior citizens, parents with children and people with disabilities by providing freedom of transportation and mobility. These bicycles also appeal to people who want to bike but do not because of physical limitations and other personal barriers. Encouraging bicycle ridership by any means benefits the environment and improves the state’s air quality, traffic congestion and quality of life.

Legalizing the use of electric bicycles will bring bicycle-based dollars to New York’s tourism destinations, and will bring increased business to New York’s local bicycle shops and bicycle and accessory manufacturers. Electric bicycles also benefit the environment and local economies by using green battery technology, and will add to New York’s growing energy-efficient transportation system.
In the United States, the bike industry estimates more than 200,000 e-bikes will be sold in 2015, and this number is set to increase by 10 percent annually. New York State could benefit from the sale of electric bicycles with their legalization, and it is estimated by industry sources that annual electric bicycle sales could exceed 10,000 units per year in the state.

Legalizing e-bike use in New York is a benefit to both riders and to the state. Many states already allow e-bikes to be used and California just expanded its e-bike authorization.

Encouraging bicycle use is a safe way to help the environment by limiting congestion, supporting healthy living, promoting New York’s robust and diverse tourism industry and helping local economies.

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Making connections at the Women’s Safe Cycling Summit

An enthusiastic group participated in the Women’s Safe Cycling Summit organized by Karen Lankeshofer and held at the Legacy at Erie Station in Henrietta, on September 10. The participants, with riding skills ranging from novice to expert, heard keynote speaker Theresa Bowick of Conkey Cruisers explain how she changed a community through cycling and making healthy choices. Harvey Botzman of the Rochester Cycling Alliance led a discussion on advocating for better infrastructure for cyclists and walkers; Maria Furgiuele of R Community Bikes gave a workshop on basic bike maintenance and repair.

Participants discussed how they could work further to create change in their communities that would benefit all non-motorized traffic users. But the biggest take-away of the event was that a connections were made and a group of people found individuals with whom they shared common interests and goals.

The Summit was sponsored by The Pedallers Bike Shop and Legacy at Erie Station.

Posted in Advocacy

On Spokes & Folks: Bike to School Day

On 15 August, the local radio show Spokes & Folks featured Bike to School Day activities around Rochester as its topic. Host (and RCA board member) Dan Lill led a discussion with guests Karen Lankeshofer, Glenn Cerosaletti, and Doug Kelley. Listen here to a great conversation about ways to get our kids more active and build our communities through cycling!

And since that episode, here’s an example of the way things should be: lots of use of the bike rack for students at staff at the Rush-Henrietta Central School District’s Good Shepherd site.

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Why Small Things Matter: Artistic Bike Racks in a Transitional Neighborhood

by Monica Finger, NeighborWorks® Rochester

The intersection between healthy, stable, and prosperous neighborhoods and those neighborhoods that support infrastructure for alternative transportation is well-documented. Communities that are walkable and ‘bike-able’ have reduced congestion, pollution, and noise; they promote interaction and neighborly connectedness at a grassroots level; they are visually appealing and desirable. Such neighborhoods also may be less likely to suffer from disinvestment, as the “walkability of an area increases the per-foot price of commercial and residential spaces” [1].

NeighborWorks® Rochester, a non-profit community development organization founded in 1979, provides many services to tenants and homeowners in the Rochester area, including first-time homebuyer counseling, financial fitness education, low-interest loans and grants for home improvement, and free energy assessments. One of NeighborWorks® Rochester’s initiatives, Healthy Blocks, makes a 5-year commitment to a transitional city neighborhood — one that could either experience a regeneration or slip into poverty and disinvestment [2] — and works with residents, business owners, and other stakeholders to stabilize property values, increase resident investment, and improve neighborhood image.

When Healthy Blocks chose The Triangle of North Winton Village (the neighborhood bordered by Culver, Merchants, and East Main) as its target neighborhood, there was a noticeable lack of bike racks in its commercial district — only one set, and not much to look at. Now, if you visit the Triangle point (and you should — it’s home to some fantastic local places like James Brown’s Place, L & M Lanes, Johnny’s Irish Pub, and Merchant’s Bar and Grill), you’ll see four unique, detailed, functional, and visually striking artistic racks made by local artists Matty & Clay (MetalSomeArt) and Jesse Hughson of SkillHoarder.

So, what does it take to turn artistic bike racks from a dream into a reality? Well, besides patience, the short answer is the power of collaboration. NeighborWorks® America provided the grant funding, a team of residents helped to prepare the Request for Art and review submissions, the fabricators crafted the racks with care and quality, the City of Rochester installed them, and Healthy Blocks coordinated it all. Efforts like this — that bring permanent community assets into a neighborhood — may have a small footprint, but the impact can be enormous. Our hope is not only that more people ride their bikes to the area instead of driving, but that these structures will become points of pride, defining elements of place and space that transcend to the level of neighborhood icons. We want one neighbor to say to another: “Meet me at The Triangle, by the bike rack with the fork on it.”

Why not come celebrate these new racks with us? Healthy Blocks is holding an event to promote the artists, the businesses, and the neighborhood on Friday, September 16, from 4 to 7 pm in the Culver-Merchants parking lot outside 1382 Culver Rd. More information is available at the Triangle Facebook page. You’ll have a chance to admire the sculptures, talk with the artists, meet the neighbors of the Triangle, and check out the local fare. Better yet, ride your bike and park it at the rack and get special discounts from participating merchants. In the meantime, you can win a $30 gift certificate to Tryon Bike Shop by cycling up to the racks, taking a picture of you and your bike and posting it to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with #trianglebikerack included.

See you there! Want to publicize this event around town? Use this flier.

[2] HUD designated a census tract as poverty-level when it reaches 20% poverty. Rochester has the third highest concentration of poverty census tracts in the US. When neighborhoods reach 20% poverty, there is a very small chance that they will recover and stabilize. The Healthy Blocks initiative chooses neighborhoods that are close to 20% poverty to work in. The Triangle’s poverty rate is currently 17%.

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Bike-in Movie 11 August at the Public Market

Here’s a great way to enjoy summer on two wheels: a bike-in movie! On 11 August, after Richard Fries’ talk, you can roll over to the Public Market to see the 1983 feature film BMX Bandits. Music and socializing start at 8:00 pm, then the movie starts at 9:00. The event is jointly sponsored by Rochester Cycling Alliance and the City of Rochester. Find out more here and sign up for the Facebook event.

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Richard Fries speaks about cycling & city revitalization 11 August

Richard Fries, Executive Director of MassBike, will lead a discussion 11 August about cycling, urban development and revitalization, and attracting and retaining the millennial generation. Join in! The event will start with a reception at 5:30, continue with Richard’s presentation at 6:00, and wrap up with a question and answer session at 7:30, all at the Strong National Museum of Play. Find more information here, and email Shana at Full Moon Vista if you plan to attend.

Posted in Uncategorized

Two great events on 13 August

Saturday, 13 August 2016 will be a great day to get involved in cycling! First, the Eastside YMCA Charity Ride will offer routes of 50, 20, and 10 miles starting from the Y at 8:00 am, 9:30, and 10:00, respectively. Post-ride festivities will continue until 1:00, and all proceeds benefit the YMCA. Register here. Second, the Rochester Twilight Criterium will bring top-ranked professional cyclists to a fast-paced race through downtown Rochester. The first of many amateur races starts at 3:15, the pros start at 6:25, and awards will be presented at 10:15 pm. Expect high-intensity racing, vendors, food trucks, and a big, electrified crowd. What a day!

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New bike lanes on Crittenden Boulevard

There’s great news for the thousands of people who come and go from University of Rochester Medical Center every day: new bike lanes on Crittenden Boulevard! The bike lanes run the entire length of Crittenden in both directions, from Mt. Hope Avenue to Kendrick Road, and are separated from motor traffic by a painted margin.

Do you know of other improvements and upgrades to bike infrastructure around Rochester? Drop us a line.

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On the radio: Bike plans in Rochester and at U of R

Good conversations about bike infrastructure, involving RCA members, have been on the radio twice this month.

First, Evan Dawson recently led a discussion of the Bicycle Master Plan of the City of Rochester on his show Connections on WXXI. RCA’s own Scott MacRae, Karen Lankeshofer, John Lam, and Theresa Bowick were all part of the conversation. You can listen here.

Second, Dan Lill recently led a discussion of bike infrastructure at the University of Rochester on his show Spokes and Folks on WAYO. Featured guests included Bruce Bashwiner, Associate Vice President of University Facilities and Services; Hugh Kierig, Director of Parking and Transportation; and RCA’s own Glenn Cerosaletti. Dan himself also sits on the RCA board and does great work with R Community Bikes. You can listen here.

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Bike to School Day 2016 in ROC

Bike to School Day riders at Crane Elementary

Bike to School Day riders at Crane Elementary

In third grade, I started biking to school. I usually rode with my brother, up the hill that seemed so big at the time, winding through the neighborhood, crossing one busy street — with a crossing guard, of course. Along the way we passed other kids’ houses, and in time, many of those other kids became our football teammates and Boy Scout buddies and best friends. There was a bike lane, and a sidewalk paved between two houses, so that it felt like a secret passage when it led us across a small bridge and into the back of the schoolyard. We cyclists were not oddballs our outliers: the school had a long row of bike racks, and some days it was hard to find a spot. There must have been 50 or 100 students biking to that small elementary school everyday.

Thirty years later, I bike to work everyday. And I have biked or walked on my daily commute in nearly all of the intervening years. I still love it, still feel better at the end of my commute than at the beginning. I can still stop by the drugstore or the market along the way, I still bump into friends along the way, and I still build an intimate familiarity with my neighborhood and community by pedaling through it.

But I am a bit of an outlier as the guy who bikes to work everyday. And apparently times have changed for school kids, too, because my daughters’ school has only a couple of bikes on the rack. (My kids walk instead of biking, because we live across the street.) Why don’t kids bike to school as much as they did a generation ago? Crime rates have plummeted, and medical evidence of the fundamental importance of exercise in a healthy lifestyle has mounted. Witness the obesity epidemic.

Fortunately, some good folks around Rochester are working to get kids biking to school again. At least four local elementary schools participated in the national Bike to School Day event on 4 May: French Road Elementary School, Council Rock Primary School, Crane Elementary, and Francis Parker School No. 23. Indian Landing Elementary School will ride on 13 May. Each of the events got dozens of students and parents out for a ride on a sunny May morning, as you can see in the photos below. To allow students who live far from school to participate, most of the events included a group ride from a nearby community center. One ride went from the Rochester Museum and Science Center to School 23; another went from Midtown Athletic Club to Council Rock. Students and parents were welcomed to school with snacks, coffee, and a celebration of bike-enabled community.

Our deep gratitude goes out to all who supported Bike to School Day 2016. Each event was organized by teachers and/or parents, and supported by school administrators. The HealthiKids initiative funded snacks and racks. Schwinn provided ten bikes and helmets, which Council Rock won in a nationwide drawing — woohoo! The Rochester Police Department and Brighton Police Department provided escorts to ensure a safe ride. The Monroe County Office of Traffic Safety provided helmets and taught bike safety. The Injury Free Coalition for Kids provided helmets and information. The RMSC and Midtown Athletic Club generously shared their parking lots. PTOs and PTAs provided funding and moral support. Thanks to all who made Bike to School Day possible!

Update: Indian Landing had a great ride on 13 May! Thanks go to Dr. Thomas Putnam, Penfield CSD Superintendent; Mrs. Bavis, Principal of Indian Landing; Monica Wallen and Linda Guiberson of the PTO, and Jeff Hopper. We’ve added photos below.

Want to organize Bike to School Day at your own school? Great! The national program provides lots of free materials for getting organized and for promoting the event. And those of us who have run events at other schools around Rochester would be happy to consult, too — send us an email. How about an ROC-wide Bike to School Day in 2017?! If you’re interested, contact us.

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