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Explore On Your Bike

The best way to check out all these places is on two wheels

“It is by riding a bicycle,” wrote Ernest Hemingway, “that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”

The Nobel-Prize-winning, 20th-century American author’s work still appears on many college reading lists, and his observation above is still as true today as it was when he wrote it as a war correspondent exploring unfamiliar territory. Bicycles have long been a favored choice of college students for commuting to classes, but there’s also no better or cheaper way to learn the lay of the land than by hopping on a bike and heading off campus to discover all the things your college town has to offer.

You don’t need an expensive carbon fiber racing machine, and you sure don’t have to invest in a spandex outfit that makes you look like a dorky super hero in order to go on some seriously fun expeditions. If you don’t have any wheels, you can always find reasonably priced models—new or used—at many local bike shops. You can also always check garage or estate sales, and craigslist. In all, a nice bike only has to run you a few tanks of gas—and much less than that if you happen upon a sweet used score. I’d recommend something with at least a few gears unless you’re just cruising the flat city. There aren’t many hills around, but remember, even some bridges are hills. Again, you’re not training, you’re exploring.

Then, it’s just a matter of picking out some places to discover. The Greater Buffalo-Niagara Transportation Council has an interactive bike map on its website (, and Google maps now also offers bicycle directions. The city of Buffalo continues to expand its bike lane network, but there are also more protected bike paths you might like to try if you’re just getting started. With only a very limited stretch of riding in light traffic, it’s easy to take a protected bike lane from UB North Campus all the way to Canalside with many cool places to stop along the way and enjoy the views of our local waterways and lake Erie. Another protected bike lane will funnel you off that route, straight into Delaware Park, right near our museums and Buffalo State College.

Once your confidence builds and you feel comfortable riding on more streets, you’ll discover there’s nowhere you can’t get to by bicycle. You’ll also find there are places you can get to by bike that you can’t get to by car. Forlorn, unused sidewalks in industrial areas, dirt paths running on defunct railroad lines, secret openings in the woods that lead to a hidden pond in a park. Many newcomers to the area are surprised to learn what a fun, flat, picturesque ride it is from the Peace Bridge to Niagara Falls along the Canadian side of the Niagara River. Or how you can ride to Rochester—or Albany, for that matter, along the bank of the Erie Canal.

Fall is the very best season for cycling in western New York. The temperatures are cool, the leaves are changing, and it’s time to get back to school. Get a good lock, and remember, amid your rides to class, the library, and your job, that there are other destinations out there waiting—interesting places you are likely to remember much more fondly than the campus parking lot.

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