When Biking Feels Like Transit

Not to beat a dead horse, but I visited Rochester’s newest bike track/urban cycle path/whatever else you want to call it again today.  If you didn’t happen to read the post from a few days ago, Rochester now has a dedicated bike path connecting Chestnut/Monroe, Broad Street, East Ave, Charlotte Street, University and Main Street via Howell and Union.  Running parallel to the recaptured land that used to house the Inner Loop expressway, this newly constructed 1-mile piece of “connective tissue” will set the tone for what is sure to be Rochester’s most anticipated center for development.As I rode on the green-tinted asphalt again and again, I couldn’t help think that it felt less like biking and more like transit.  With every street I crossed, I could almost hear a fictional voice from the loudspeaker…

“This is Broad Street. Transfer to Westbound trains to for Tower 280 and The Metropolitan.”

“This is East Avenue.  Disembark here for The Little Theater, Harts Local Grocers, and the East Avenue Entertainment District.”

“This is Charlotte Street.  Change to Westbound trains for Charlotte Square Apartments and Eastman School of Music.”

“This is University Avenue.  Transfer to Eastbound Trains for The Memorial Art Gallery and The Neighborhood of the Arts.

“This is Main Street.  Transfer to Westbound Trains for Downtown, or Eastbound Trains for The Public Market.”

This might seem like a stretch, or just plain silly to some, but consider this.  Detroit’s 3-mile long QLINE streetcar took $144 million to complete and is falling short of ridership goals by 40%.  While I don’t know the exact numbers, this 1-mile bike path in Rochester was astronomically cheaper to construct, and when paired with a growing cycling network and a robust new Zagster bike share program which yielded 22,000 rides in just a few months this summer, I’m willing to bet the return on investment will be stronger.

As mid-sized cities like Rochester attempt to implement reasonably priced transit in a creative and efficient manner, this urban bike path has to be considered a strong victory. In a city that is making strides to provide a more welcoming environment for cyclists while improving our transit and connectivity, this could be the beginning of a game-changing combination that includes all of the above.

Next station stop? The sky’s the limit.