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Artvoice Weekly Edition » Issue v10n8 (02/23/2011) » Five Questions With...

Justin Booth: Bicycling Advocate

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Justin Booth: Bicycling Advocate

Booth is the executive director of Green Options Buffalo, a nonprofit cycling and environmental advocacy group that seeks to bring sustainable transportation options to the city. In addition to their Blue Buffalo bicycle exchange and partnership with Flying Bison on Rusty Chain beer—which so far has supported the installation of 177 bike racks on sidewalks across the city—Green Options, in partnership with Artvoice and the Give for Greatness campaign, is organizing a mass bike ride to support cultural institutions in Erie County. Those interested in taking part in the parade should meet outside the Albright-Knox Art Gallery at 4:30pm on Tuesday, March 8 (Mardi Gras).

Which Buffalo neighborhoods would be targeted under the Green Code and how will smart zoning make them denser and more walkable?

Having a variety of destinations within walking and bicycling reach of residents, workers, and visitors increases the convenience of active modes of travel. A healthy density of retail, entertainment, offices, and homes expands transportation options for all users while creating vibrancy on our streets and providing benefits ranging from increased safety and economic vitality to improved health.

The Buffalo Green Code is a city-wide initiative that will include the development of a land use plan and new zoning code. It’s an opportunity for ALL neighborhoods to become engaged in how they would like to see their community in the future and I would encourage everyone to participate in the upcoming public meetings.

What could the city be doing to make Buffalo a more bicycle-friendly city?

Actually, the city has done a lot recently. In addition to the Green Code, they created a bicycle and pedestrian advisory board, adopted a policy mandating bicycle parking at new buildings, passed a complete streets policy and recently the council adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a complete streets coordinator to ensure that all street projects accommodate all modes of travel. This past year I have been working closely with the Department of Public Works on a Bicycle Mobility Project securing federal clean air dollars with a goal of striping up to 20 miles of bicycle lanes and adding more bicycle racks. While it has taken a long time to get to this point – the city should be commended.

With the length and severity of our winters, is it realistic to think Buffalo could develop a cycling culture akin to say Portland or Seattle?

Both Portland and Seattle have a lot of rain, Southern cities are unbearably hot in the summer, Minneapolis and Madison – known as cold snowy climates similar to Buffalo, are also considered very bicycle friendly with Minneapolis recently dethroning Portland as the # 1 bicycle friendly city according to Bicycling Magazine. So to answer your question – yes, we could and in fact, according to the Census’s American Community Survey, Buffalo has seen a 158% increase in bicycle commuting in the last decade. It’s never bad weather – only bad attire.

As a car-free commuter I can attest to the danger of being a pedestrian in this city. In light of several recent high-profile hit-and-run incidents what can be done to protect cyclists/pedestrians? Would you support the installation of red-light cameras or other traffic control measures?

Buffalo as a city has the same historical track record of the majority of other American cities. We fell into the trap of trying to compete with the suburbs. Our connections to the waterfront were severed, we cut our parks in two, destroyed neighborhoods and knocked down our architectural treasures to accommodate automobiles at the expense of our health, safety, economy, environment and culture. What we have today is the bi-product of this investment where cars and their drivers have become de-sensitized to everyone else who is not driving making it un-safe. We will not fix this overnight but what I find fascinating is that in places where you have seen an increase in walking, biking and public transit use – there is a reduction in traffic related injuries and fatalities; part of the solution to improve safety is to encourage more people to choose these options. As for red-light running cameras, if they are to be installed, I believe in an approach that sees the resources generated being invested back into improving the infrastructure and other roadway safety conditions in those neighborhoods which warranted the camera being installed in the first place. This way we can create an environment which encourages proper motor vehicle use as well as improving the safety of all other users of our roadways.

What is the current status of the Buffalo Blue Bicycle program? Outside of traditionally cycling friendly places like the Netherlands, most of these programs have struggled with theft and not achieved the success they intended.

That’s not precisely true. Many American cities are installing bicycle sharing systems including Washington D.C., Denver, and Minneapolis to name a few. New York City is preparing to install a large scale system and many other smaller cities from Oklahoma City to Des Moines are doing the same. I recently read that in Denver, 43% of the trips made by their system are replacing a typical car trip with the average trip being 2.3 miles – which is significant. Our Blue Bicycle program is in operation seasonally at UB and elsewhere throughout Buffalo, however, we recognize some of its challenges and are currently working with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and Buffalo CarShare to see what the feasibility is for Buffalo to adopt an enhanced bicycle sharing system akin to some of the other cities I mentioned.

bonus question: How many new bicycle parking racks has your partnership with Rusty Chain beer provided around town?

Our partnership with Flying Bison Brewing Company really provided the spark for the current Commercial District Bicycle Parking program. In collaboration with the city we have facilitated the installation of 177 bicycle racks to date. In addition, another 150 will start popping up once the snow melts and potentially another 150 on top of that before the end of the year.

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