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Another Main Street Missed Opportunity

The City of Buffalo is currently footing the bill for repaving Main Street between Humboldt Parkway and Delavan Avenue. Crews have been working since last week to remove the worn out asphalt and are preparing to lay down some new lane markings today. Unfortunately, those new markings will not include bike lanes.
Any roads, new bridges, etc. in Erie County that are receiving federal money must be reviewed by the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC) for a number of different reasons, including an evaluation to see if bike lanes are feasible. Since this project is funded by the City coffers alone, no such review needed to be completed.
The planted medians along Main Street between Bailey Avenue and Humboldt Parkway have been the cause of many headaches since they were installed. Snowplows and distracted drivers just can’t seem to avoid hitting them, resulting in multiple repairs throughout the year. The planted median treatment was chosen over bike lanes years ago when the project was first announced, regardless of much opposition.
Main Street goes from four lanes of traffic, two lanes of parking, and the median to six lanes of traffic with some parking once it crosses Humboldt Parkway, which seems more than adequate for the inclusion of some bike lanes. The lack of effort to evaluate if bike lanes were a possibility marks another missed opportunity on Main Street. Additionally, when Social Bicycles completes the beta testing program and is officially launched to the public, it would have been fantastic to provide some lanes for the hopefully large additional cycling community to follow. Not to mention that this missed opportunity would have greatly enhances biking opportunities for Canisius College students and faculty. Looks like a major loophole for the Complete Streets initiative.
 Although the fresh pavement will be nice for cyclists who ride on the street regardless, those less brave souls will be stuck with the terrible sidewalk along this stretch. Anyone who as ever walked or biked there is well aware that it is possibly the worst section of sidewalk on Main Street.

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

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  • informedone

    I ride my bike from Parkside down to the Medical Campus daily and this stretch of Main needed repaving badly. I have had people scream “get on the sidewalk” as they drive by. It’s treacherous further south in the mornings, but I get nervous traveling on Michigan Avenue with a computer and wallet in my backpack east of Main, so I’ll take my chances!

  • JSmith

    Complete Streets has been law in Buffalo since May of 2008. I have a hard time believing a “repave as is” project has been moving the pipeline for more than four years.

  • Platt4

    Comment of the week right there. FTW

  • laldm

    This is REALLY annoying. The city absolutely needs to follow its own ordinances and show some foresight, no matter how old-fashioned and out of touch its traffic designers and DPW staff is… Judging by how many people bike in Buffalo even on streets that don’t have bike lanes, a bike lane here would be well-used.

  • sonyactivision

    Since when do primary thoroughfares need bike lanes? Are you kidding? The ‘complete streets’ movement is an utter crock. Mixing every conceivable form of transportation on one street is dangerous and unnecessary. Bike lanes along parallel routes with far less traffic is what Buffalo needs, not some all-inclusive congestion monster.

  • grad94

    sounds good in theory, until you understand the geography of this location. thanks to the highway passing under main street, there *are* no viable alternative routes to get across the highway, whether you are a car, bike, or pedestrian.
    the average cyclist has made the same rational calculus as the average driver, namely that main street is the best or only way that they can get from point a to point b.

  • JSmith

    I am not sure how much responsibility the mayor has for the Department of Public Works. I suppose it is the mayor’s job to “set the agenda” and make sure all city departments are working towards the right goals, but this is more a case of “the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing”. It’s a fundamental communication problem throughout city government (see the recent hubbub about whether the city can collect housing court fines or not), and not something just changing the mayor will fix.

  • Modernist Architect

    I agree, but why is everyone leaving their comments about this egregious oversight here? Why not call Byron and log your complaint with him. That’d get some attention.

  • whatever

    I’m a little confused by you downplaying his responsibility, since the mayor chooses the upper management of the DPW and can replace them, or order them to do things differently, etc.
    Aside from that, are you guys really certain the law wasn’t followed? It allows for not adding bike lanes etc if in their judgment (based on safety for example) it’s a bad idea, but says they have to put in writing their reasons for deciding that.
    Is it possible they did put it in writing somewhere and thus followed the law even if you disagree with their decision? (Just asking – I’ve no idea either way.)

  • sonyactivision

    Other cities build bike overpasses to deal with that. How hard is it?

  • whatever

    js – In your 1st comment in this thread, the law you linked says in section C.4 the Commissioner of Public Works shall confirm in writing to the Common Council any determination that “bike and/or pedestrian facilities” would cause a safety problem for any project
    (here’s link again for convenience if anyone wants to see exact wording)
    The law doesn’t require a bike lane, and if I’m reading it correctly it doesn’t even state a time deadline by which the written determination must be filed. It’s possible either of those might the kind of loophole to which Mike’s article referred.
    Your 2nd para in that comment up at top makes accusations which look to be assuming Mr. Stepniak didn’t submit anything in writing to the Council.
    js>”Perhaps someone should bring legal action against the city for for violating the Complete Street ordinance. This isn’t the first time a road maintenance project was performed without any consideration of the Complete Streets law.”
    Several other commenters also accuse law breaking.
    So I was just curious if any of you doing that accusing have any basis other than a guess.
    For example, have any of you guys at least tried a quick email to Mr. Stepniak asking if he filed it? His email address is on right of the DPW page:
    And/or how about asking any of the 3 council members who your link says sponsored the law – Rivera, LoCurto, & Golombek – (or anyone on their their staffs, or any council member at all), if anything in writing was received? Their email addresses & office phone #s are easily found on the city web site.
    If you tried and none of those four replied, then I’d agree that’s a bad sign.
    If he ignored the law, he deserves criticism.
    But if nobody even tried to find out and just accused first, then maybe that says something also.

  • JSmith

    I agree that the law could have more teeth. As it is written, it leaves the exceptions quite open-ended.
    You are correct that my statement (and this article) are based largely on conjecture. To remedy that, I have emailed my councilman, Mike LoCurto (whose district also includes the west side of Main Street in the area in question), and Justin Booth, the chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board. Mike LoCurto is also on the Council’s Transportation Committee, so he may have extra insight into this. I will follow up when I get a response.
    Thank you for spurring me to write that email. You are right that it is often easier and more comfortable to complain on a forum like this than to make an official query or complaint.

  • grad94
  • jibbers

    While bicycle lanes in Buffalo WOULD be great, there are a couple obstacles that NEED to be dealt with. Actually, just ONE: proper bicycle operation; meaning, understanding that ONE-WAY streets are ONE-WAY, AND DON’T RIDE AGAINST TRAFFIC.
    Main Street is dangerous. I’m happy the city didn’t think to put in a bicycle lane, I’d rather ride through Delaware, North Park, and North Buffalo to get to work at UB Campus from Richmond.
    Everyone drives hastily and greedily on main street.
    Granted it would be NICE, however, on most Buffalo streets with the wealth of space available that could be used to implement bicycle lanes, I wouldn’t ride them unless they did something like this ->
    This road layout allows for those numbskulls who ride against traffic to stay on the sidewalk/lane combo path and more skiled cyclists to ride on the road in a comfy 12′ wide lane…perhaps it could be diminished to 6′.