The West Side is certainly something to behold these days. This past Saturday, I hopped on my bike and “made a day of it.” I started over at Five Points Bakery, where a live classic jazz group was entertaining people on the “front lawn” – on a permanent stage that was built this past spring. Man, was it cool to witness the Five Points intersection in full swing. Everyone was enjoying the sounds of the band thoroughly, lounging on patios, chatting on sidewalks, and supporting all of the local businesses.
“We have three different jazz groups, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays,” said Five Points Bakery owner, Kevin Gardner. “We serve beer, wine, and liquor and cocktails, every day inside, and sometimes out at the new trailer. The ice cream trailer never launched this season because we were too busy at the bakery, but we will have ice cream for next season. We’re hosting the Slow Roll after party on Monday, July 19, when we will be tapping kegs at the trailer.”
I think what I loved most about the jazz concert was seeing all of the other businesses benefitting from the performance. It was as if it was a community affair – an event that floated all boats, and the spirits of everyone that could hear the sounds of the fabulous band (on Saturday, it was The Buffalo Jazz Collective). Be sure to tune into Facebook to find out who is on deck to play next.
Upon leaving the Five Points neighborhood, I biked over to Grant Street, to see what was up with “Open Streets BFLO” event. Before I even saw anything, I heard the familiar sounds of the meandering The 12/8 Path Band, which had posted up next to Shakti Yoga. I’ve come to the realization that the mark of a great Buffalo street festival is the appearance of this band, which always elevates the collective mood of the host neighborhood.
After taking a short video of the performance, I shimmied my way over to the corner of Grant and Lafayette, where I came upon a crosswalk painting demonstration. In true grassroots GObike Buffalo nature, this placemaking initiative was already captivating the hearts of cyclists near and far, who would “cheers” at the painters as they passed by.
It’s neighborhood safety measures like this one the can make or break a commercial street. The shear simplicity of a painted sidewalk can speak to people in so many different ways. The fresh coats of bright white stripes signal that it is safe for pedestrians to cross, while reminding car drivers to be extra aware that they are driving through a neighborhood that cares about its residents.
Before heading out, I made a quick stop over to the mobile bike repair pop-up next to Freddy J’s.
As I watched a bike mechanic fix a couple of bikes, I was approached by Thea Hassan, GObike’s project manager for the Grant Street streetscape study. While chatting with Thea about the event’s successes, Tyler Madell (Chief Technology Officer, Shared Mobility Inc.) walked up and introduced himself.
Tyler and I had been corresponding about getting me out on a test ride for the organization’s E-Bike Pilot Program, so I figured that there was no better time than the present. And before I knew it I was zipping along on a pedal-assist bike in the parking lot, having a grand ol’ time. I must say that I am a huge fan of this program, because of the progressive nature of the pedal-assist technology. At the bottom of this article, I have included additional information on the program, for anyone who wants to get involved with rolling out this pilot program.
It is interesting to note that I recently received an email from an E-Bike mobility-sharing advocate who had rallied behind a similar initiative in California, only to watch the initiative fizzle and burn out. After reading this article on Buffalo’s recent advancements in the realm of bringing the E-Bikes to the masses via the free “Transportation Libraries” and this Pilot Program, the West Coaster praised Buffalo for recognizing the value of shared mobility. Apparently, Buffalo was the beneficiary of a number of the E-Bikes that California lost out on.
“When the red-bikes were all getting scrapped, I worked really hard for a long time to raise the story to the public,” wrote Jamaica, and Ex-Head Mechanic at Jump Sacramento. “I tried to save thousands in California. I am so glad NY got those bikes, I only wish this program was replicated in a dozen cities, with all the bikes that were destroyed (on the West Coast). Your story stayed super positive and warmed my cold heart after getting shut down in this tech-economy fiasco.”
It’s not often that we hear about such an environmental and social mobility win for Buffalo, at the unfortunate expense of a West Coast city that is typically considered much more progressive when it comes to these types of “E-nitiatives.” And that’s all the more reason that we should be supporting Shared Mobility Inc. and its endeavor to rally and persevere, for the greater good of Buffalo.
After testing out the E-Bike (and an E-scooter), I decided to make one last pit stop on the way home. After all, what’s a Saturday on the West Side without a visit to Tilth Farm (246 Normal Avenue), where a number of market vendors set up (including Yummo Ice Cream, Creekside Flowers, Song Roastery, and Other World Wellness (small batch herbal preparations). I am constantly amazed at the “flavors” that this farm manages to produce each week, from artisan pizzas (by Tilth Farm) to delicious pastries (by Butter Block). I’m also happy to see that so many people are now aware of this neighborhood resource that has become such an integral building block.
I look back at my Saturday escapades throughout the West Side and still can’t believe that all of this took place in one single day. It’s a lot to take in, but I would not have missed out on any of it. Actually, I am now more inspired than ever, to see what next Saturday beholds in Buffalo. I’ll let you know soon enough.
From Tyler Madell (Chief Technology Officer, Shared Mobility Inc.):
Shared Mobility is testing brand new programs with pedal-assist e-bikes this summer in Western New York. These programs are made possible by the donation of e-bikes that we received last summer, combined with the team’s determination to push the boundaries of the bicycling and transportation culture in Buffalo and Niagara Falls.
This project consists of a limited “E-Bike Pilot” as well as “E-Bike Libraries.” With both of these initiatives, Shared Mobility (and their community partners) are trying something completely new, and still not totally defined. That being said, at their core, these initiatives involve making shared e-bikes freely available for folks to try out and hopefully be a permanent asset for folks that really need it in the future.
The entire Shared Mobility team and I are super ~amped~ to get folks on these e-bikes!
While involving similar short-term borrowing of bikes, joining this E-Bike Pilot is an entirely separate process from joining Shared Mobility’s Reddy Bikeshare program. Before participating in the E-Bike Pilot, members (hopefully you!) will attend an in-person orientation (led by Shared Mobility’s staff and community partners) which will go over riding safely, how to ride an e-bike, and the parameters of the Pilot. After completing orientation, members will be able to borrow e-bikes for up to 25 rides using their smartphone to check out the e-bike from one of the e-bike stations for completely free.
E-bike stations will be publicly accessible bike racks with e-bikes available for members to borrow (they look similar to Reddy Bikeshare racks). E-Bike Pilot stations for this summer include locations at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, the Buffalo Museum of Science, Downtown at Seneca One, and on the West Side at PUSH Buffalo’s School 77 site. This program is made possible by the above station partners and the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). The E-Bike Pilot is working alongside the E-Bike Library programs that Shared Mobility Inc is supporting with East Side Bike Club and Create a Healthier Niagara Falls Collaborative.
If you are interested in joining go to Shared Mobility’s website to read more about the Pilot and follow the link to the signup survey. More information can be found at www.sharedmobility.org/e-bikepilot.