Buffalo residents have no doubt noticed more bicycle lanes being installed on city streets in recent years. Those efforts to make the city more bike-friendly have not gone unnoticed.
The League of American Bicyclists, a Washington DC-based advocacy group, has handed the city a Bronze designation in the group's latest round of Bicycle Friendly Community awards.
The award acknowledges the city's commitment to improving bicycling conditions through both infrastructure improvements and promotion and education initiatives. Bronze is level one of five, with higher levels including silver, gold, platinum and diamond. This marks the first time Buffalo has been recognized by the organization.
Justin Booth, Executive Director of GO Bike Buffalo, says the city's adoption of a new streets policy five years ago put the gears in motion for some major changes. Booth says City Hall has made a concerted effort to make Buffalo more bike-friendly.
"It started back in 2008 where the city council unanimously passed the mayor's Complete Streets policy, which basically changed the idea of looking at our streets and how we build our streets to accommodate all roadway users, not just moving cars from point A to point B. Throughout that time period, the Department of Public Works and the planning office have done a lot to really look at how to implement that policy," Booth says.
Some streets, like Delaware Avenue, have been put on what's called a "road diet," with automobile lanes being either eliminated or slimmed down, and bike lanes being installed.
"The last two years has really been exciting. The mayor made a commitment of adding ten miles of bike lanes per year and we've seen over 20 miles installed in the last two years. Most prominent, this summer, was Delaware Avenue, but we've also seen streets such as Linwood Avenue, Hudson Street, Fillmore Avenue [and] Humboldt Parkway," says Booth.
Booth says those efforts have paid off, with more and more people choosing to ride their bikes to work. According to a recent census, Buffalo now ranks 14th in the nation for total number of people using their bicycle to commute. That number has grown 88 percent in the past year and 269 percent since the year 2000.
Booth says driving less and biking more has numerous benefits for residents.
"There's lots of data out there that supports that making your community more bicycle-friendly has a very important impact upon people's health, the environment, the economy, and builds the quality of life that attracts more people here," Booth says.
Booth says achieving bronze status wasn't easy. He says the awards program is a stringent process, involving a lengthy questionnaire involve more than 90 questions.