Despite initial complaints, Buffalo must safely accommodate cars and bicyclists

News editorial office

Motor traffic must share the road with cyclists, and pedestrians must be able to move safely on the streets. These are simple and essential needs of urban life in the 21st century.

Buffalo’s streets should be accessible to all modes of transportation, not just cars and trucks. The national Complete Streets program, which was adopted through local ordinance in Buffalo in 2008 and New York

The state’s goal in 2011 is to make our roads safe and sustainable for everyone who uses them.

Some progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go and – yes – there will be many challenges before our streets are complete.

There’s a bit of a problem right now on Forest Avenue, as GObike Buffalo, in collaboration with the city’s Department of Public Works, is trying to create some temporary protected bike lanes on Forest between Rees and Niagara.

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The key words here are “try” and “temporary”. The project, which began in late July, also includes painted crosswalks and corner bumpers. Not everyone is happy.

Bicycle paths with barriers provide the best protection, so temporary posts separate the movement of bicycles and cars. Uneven sidewalk extensions at street corners protect pedestrians, so the simulation in the GObike pilot project.

However, the plastic bollards were no match for irritated, impatient – ​​or perhaps just oblivious – motorists, who made quick work of them, with most lying prostrate and useless in the street. Competing street uses are also a factor. But does this prove that bike lanes are an outright ban on Forest Avenue? Maybe not, but there is no immediate answer as public feedback is being accepted until November. Then the temporary infrastructure will be removed and planning will begin for what will happen when the street is paved next year. Decisions will be made based on public feedback and the needs of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Complaints about the Forest Avenue pilot project have cited difficulty in getting through the barriers, especially when the vehicles are large delivery trucks and fire trucks, and the fact that parking is limited to one side of the street, which has a two-way bike lane. other side

These are legitimate complaints. These are also complaints that can be leveled at any major avenue in Buffalo, where huge delivery trucks, fire engines, bicycles and cars are frequent sights and people need to park. It is clear that compromises and concessions must be made so that all this traffic can safely use the streets.

Forest Avenue was one of several roads included in Buffalo’s bicycle master plan, which was adopted in 2016. According to Gobike’s Kevin Heffernan, the main reason Forest was selected as the first candidate for bike safety measures is that neighbors reported vehicles speeding up and down the alley at 80 mph. Bike lanes make cars and trucks go slower. Can this be considered a bad thing in a densely populated urban area?

And there is one basic fact that cannot and should not be avoided: when it comes to fatal accidents, cyclists and pedestrians are the most vulnerable. From 2017 to 2021, there were 1,622 crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians in the city of Buffalo, and 3,472 crashes involving cars involving pedestrians and bicyclists in Erie and Niagara counties during the same period.

For a great example of complete streets in action, check out Niagara Street between Forest Avenue and Hampshire, where a two-lane bike lane is separated by a buffer from motorized traffic. The new lane and other improvements have transformed this stretch of street, making it more attractive and less stressful for drivers, and safer for cyclists.

It is sad that there are not the same inspiring examples of completed streets throughout the city. Most bike lanes are still limited to paths and trails outside of Buffalo’s urban core.

It’s also frustrating that most bike safety measures on Forest Avenue are a total failure. This does not bode well for future projects.

What will it take for people to look beyond surmountable inconveniences and look to a future where we can all be safe while cycling, walking or driving?

Unfortunately, it seems all too possible that more fatalities may be needed.

We can – and must – do better.

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