Niagara Street is coming together nicely, especially when it comes to bike infrastructure. It’s not often that we see protected bike lanes installed in Western NY – just think about the debacle of infrastructure on Main Street between UB’s South Campus and Canisius College. But in the case of Niagara Street, we are seeing something truly remarkable with the Niagara Street Now project.
“The City deserves praise in this case,” said Justin Booth, director of GObike Buffalo. “This has been the best public engagement process the City has ever done. Now there are protected bike lanes and green infrastructure. There’s also prioritized bus service with NextBus technology, which will keep the bus traffic flowing. This should be the model on how the City engages the public, for treatment and design. It might have taken a decade and $20 million to get there, but the result is great.”
Groups such as Vision Niagara should also be commended on pushing for the results that we are seeing come to fruition. From the start, there have been community members and activists participating in the process, which is one of the reasons that we are seeing such high standards in this case.
At the same time, we must remember that there are streets all over this city that are in need of traffic calming, bike infrastructure, road diets… such as bike lanes, crosswalks, bumpouts, and the like.
Recently I have been writing about problematic issues on streets such as Bailey Avenue (see here). While it’s awesome to see the Niagara Street project unfold, there are problematic issues in various other neighborhoods across the city. But how do we get to where we need to be, and how do we expedite the process?
According to Booth, we can’t wait for the Buffalo Bike Master Plan to dictate how, what, when, and why. If there is a problematic street that is not in line for a fix until ten years, then there’s a problem. There are some lighter, quicker, cheaper fixes that can be implemented immediately, such as installing bollards, painting crosswalks, and adding planters. The City needs to prioritize the streets that are most in need, and not simply wait for pending mill and overlay projects to commence. Otherwise we could be waiting 15 years to see streets such as Delavan Avenue (between Main Street and Delaware Avenue) be properly treated. Connectivity is key.
Booth is a big fan of letting the community participate in the process. Often times, by hosting pop ups with residents, they get to engage with Complete Streets aspects that will lead to important traffic calming measures. “This is a good way to see how the street will perform,” said Booth. “Then, down the road the City can spend the big bucks, but there are incremental measures that can be taken in the meantime, to ensure that cyclists and drivers are safer. We also need to be maintaining the bike infrastructure that already exists. We need to be repainting bike lanes, because they are fading. These are not huge fixes, but they are important if we are going to be known as a bike-friendly city.”