BUFFALO, N.Y. – When George Thabault takes a vacation, he brings his bike.
Back home in Burlington, Vt., Thabault rides 100 miles a week, so when he and his wife arrived in Buffalo this week to visit some old friends, they decided to bike all across the Queen City. They cruised through main streets, side roads and off-road paths, even making their way to Delaware Park for a pleasant ride.
Thabault said he's having a blast in Buffalo, specifically mentioning his fondness for the city's architecture and waterfront.
But he noticed something about the bike paths as he made his way around town.
"It's not obvious that there's a lot of bike paths on the road," Thabault said. "There [also] seem to be a dearth of off-road paths."
That's where GO Bike Buffalo comes in. The group, along with city leaders and Mayor Byron Brown, met Tuesday night to kick start a campaign for a "master plan" to improve bike accessibility across the entire city. Alta Planning, a respected consulting group with a track record of improving bike routes and walkability in other cities, will help with the process.
Currently, the League of American Bicyclists rates Buffalo as a "bronze" city in terms of bike-friendliness – which is an accomplishment in and of itself – but Go Bike Buffalo wants to reach the elite "platinum" level.
Justin Booth, the group's executive director, said Tuesday simply marks the beginning of a long process. Dozens of bike enthusiasts attended the meeting and had a chance to offer suggestions for their own neighborhoods. That's the point of the campaign: to learn where the city can improve its paths based on public input.
"We want to connect every neighborhood, every school, every business district," Booth said, "and really make that interconnectivity more convenient."
Giving a brief speech at the start of the meeting, Brown applauded the heavy turnout and the enthusiasm in the room.
"We want Buffalo to be more eco-friendly. We want Buffalo to be a healthier community. We want Buffalo to be a more walkable and bike-able community," Brown said.
With that, perhaps, could come a "platinum" rating for the city.
Burlington, Vt., is currently a "silver," by the way.
"In Burlington, the city government has been behind it, and some advocacy groups have been pushing, so slowly, we're making some improvement."