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Amid a summer of more cyclists and fatal crashes, advocates push for better bike infrastructure

The price tag is high. $1M-$2M per mile to convert a Buffalo street to a so-called "complete street." Cycling advocates say the investment and safety is worth it.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — You probably bought something during the pandemic. It was going to be the "thing" you did. For many, it was a new bicycle.  

The Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council reported that cycling saw a 3,000% increase, in Western New York, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the year prior.

More bicyclists on the road inevitably mean more crashes between vehicles.

The NYS Dept. of Transportation reported that between 2017 and 2021 there were 1,384 bicyclists or pedestrians hit by a vehicle. 20 of them died. That doesn't include data for 2022, where there have been several fatal crashes involving a cyclist.

The answer, for bike advocates, is complete streets. 

"If we build the streets to be complete for pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers, we will see a lot more activity on the streets and we'll see a lot more safety," said Seamus Gallivan from the Buffalo Slow Roll. 

Slow Roll has done quite a bit to advocate for safer roads, mainly through the large crowd that gathers each Monday throughout the spring, summer, and fall. 

"It's all about visibility and strength in numbers," said Gallivan. "It's certainly safer when we travel in numbers."

But Gallivan is disappointed in the pace at which the city of Buffalo is moving forward with its bike master plan. 

"We need people in City Hall to actually follow through on what they agreed upon back in 2016, it has been really slow to adoption," Gallivan said.  "The work that is done on Niagara, that took 10 years to make is great, we need more of that."

GObike Buffalo is also advocating for complete streets.

"With us, it's not just bikes," said Kevin Heffernan, communications director for GObike. "We want safer roads and streets for the entire community."

GObike, however, is pushing for Governor Hochul to sign legislation that has yet to be delivered to her desk. 

Senate bill S02021A allows local governments to reduce the speed limit to 25mph. 

Heffernan says slower traffic will save lives. 

"Even at 30 miles an hour, if you hit someone half the time, they'll die," Heffernan said. "At 20mph, about 9 out of 10 will survive."

According to Buffalo DPW Commissioner Michael Finn, the city wants to install more complete streets. 

Finn told 2 On Your Side in a phone call Monday that the biggest hurdle is funding. The city plans to make an appeal for money available as a result of the infrastructure bill passing Congress in 2021. 

Finn, however, reiterated the impact of installing complete streets. 

"These are significant changes to the roadway," Finn said. 

Finn says Main St. between Goodell and Ferry, possibly as far north as Kensington Ave, will be redone as a protected bike lane. Unlike Niagara Street, the so-called "Middle Main" project will have a dedicated bike lane at the sidewalk level, not the roadway. 

Public meetings are tentatively scheduled for September or October about the project, but no specific date has been announced. 

The Jefferson Ave community has also expressed a desire for a complete street overhaul. Public meetings are also tentatively scheduled for August.  

    

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