The City of Buffalo talks a good game when it comes to bike-ped safety. And yes, we have seen some progress in recent years, but there’s a long, long way to go towards making this a safe, commutable city. Just this morning I was talking to developer Paul Ciminelli who brought up the travesty of Main Street medians between Canisius College and UB South Campus. He said that the medians are an embarrassment to the city, and that they should have know better than to install them instead of bike lanes, especially on a designated state bicycle route. Ciminelli, an avid cyclist, shared his distaste for this type of dated infrastructure that needs constant maintenance.
Then there’s GObike Buffalo – an organization that shares Ciminelli’s views on the dysfunctional Main Street medians, which are broken in places and have dead or dying foliage. Not only does it look bad, it’s dangerous. Main Street is not the only roadway that is causing problems when it comes to bike-ped safety.
GObike Buffalo recently reported that a man was recently struck and killed by a car along the 1700 block of Bailey Avenue, which is nothing new apparently – since 2014, 120 pedestrians and 41 bicyclists have been hit by motor vehicles on Bailey Avenue, with three of these crashes resulting in fatalities, according to the bike-forward organization.
The problem that we are seeing when it comes to poor infrastructure, lack of infrastructure, or crumbling infrastructure, is that there appears to be no short term urgency. There are plans in place for streets like Bailey, but the City of Buffalo’s Department of Public Works views them as “long-term improvements.” But what does that do for the people who are in peril when walking or biking along these streets, especially on the East Side?
“The Department of Public Works tells us they don’t have money. They find money for all kinds of projects all over town but not the East Side. The community has asked for stripes on Bailey for years, it’s busy on Bailey, there are new schools and businesses going in. We need infrastructure for safety. How many ‘accidents’ have there been?” asked George Johnson, President of Buffalo United Front, Co-Founder of the East Side Bike Club, and member of the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Board. “At some point, if you’re in charge, you need to look yourself in the mirror, and ask, what are you doing to make things safer for people? The way it looks now, it looks like you don’t care about the people on the East Side. I bring recommendations to the Bike-Ped board, from my community for safety. The city spends all this money on law enforcement, that is money you can use to build things up so you won’t need law enforcement.”
“We are urging Mayor Brown, the Common Council, and the Department of Public Works to make immediate temporary traffic calming improvements, including crosswalks, a centerline, and temporary bike lanes, on Bailey Avenue,” said Justin Booth, executive director of GObike Buffalo. “The city’s continued negligence towards this corridor has contributed to three deaths in the past five years. The Bailey Avenue corridor, which is the most dangerous street in the City of Buffalo and has been historically disinvested in for more than half a century, should be the city’s top priority.”
In November of 2019, in response to a letter from a business on Bailey Avenue, the City of Buffalo’s bicycle and pedestrian advisory board asked the Mayor and Common Council to immediately implement necessary improvements, including adding a center driving line and painting crosswalks.
Now, GObike Buffalo is asking the City to put some short term plans in place, to make walking and biking around Buffalo safer. The people have been speaking, but the words have not been heard. For example, per GObike Buffalo, in 2018, the Better on Bailey: Infrastructure Plan was completed, developed for University District Community Development Association University District Council Member Rasheed N.C. Wyatt and the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council with funding through the Buffalo Main Streets Initiative. The report states:
“The lack of crosswalks and other street markings is the most glaring issue faced by Bailey Avenue. Markings need to be painted as soon as possible to make the streetscape safer for people crossing, driving, parking, walking, and biking along Bailey. Without these improvements, Bailey Avenue is a 50-foot wide asphalt no-man’s-zone, preventing many types of retail businesses from being as successful as they can be.”
As of yet, there has been little action on the City’s part, although there have been plenty of studies and meetings, including:
- The City of Buffalo initiated a feasibility study for Bailey Avenue
- In January 2020, the City of Buffalo hosted a public town hall meeting, encouraging the public to discuss and learn more about future improvement projects along the University District’s portion of Bailey Avenue
There are so many prime streets that are in need of bike lanes, crosswalks, and numerous other bike-ped safety features, and streetscapes in general. There is such a lack of bike infrastructure that community activists have actually resorted to tactical urbanism measures to take care of business.
“We all know that the City is financially challenged, especially after COVID-19,” said Ciminelli, when asked how we could see faster action. “If we could find a bondable revenue source to create an infrastructure fund to deal with these initiatives, then we would be in a better place.”
Lead image: Photo by Ian Valerio