UP3 #1: Sara Catherine Jenks

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UP3 is a new “Interview-Lite” piece in which we will ask urbanists three questions about how they see their city. Our goal is to bring you a little closer to the people who make our cities better places every day.

Today we’re talking to Sara Catherine Jenks, a cycling advocate and smart urbanism supporter in Rochester.

UP: You’re a huge bike rider and cycling advocate in Rochester… what’s your motivation and how has it changed you?

SARA: Biking allows me to experience Rochester in a more intimate way than if I were driving. The comparative lightness makes it easier to spontaneously change my route so I can explore. As a result I engage a lot more with the varied geography and people of our city than I did when I drove a car.

UP: what is Rochester doing right at the moment? How can we improve?

SARA: We aren’t exactly known for accepting new concepts around here, so I loved watching Rochester immediately embrace the bike share last year. The company, now called Pace, was even surprised at its success and has some exciting updates planned for this year.

Sadly we still don’t have widespread cultural support of cyclists’ rights to exist on the road. When a pickup truck illegally turned into me last summer bystanders rushed to my side to discuss my culpability. If I could go a week without drivers shouting expletives at me or sexually harassing me on my bike – well, that would be an improvement.

UP: Do believe Rochester’s cycling infrastructure is adequate? How can it be improved?

SARA: No. We are seeing enhanced bicycle infrastructure at a faster rate now, but improvements are not systematic. We get a bike lane for a block, then it goes away, then two blocks later it’s back but only for half the block to make way for a turning lane. Piecemeal remedies do not make a cohesive system. I’m lucky to live near the two blocks of protected bike lane (Chestnut St.), but those two blocks are not meaningful in a system that is otherwise unsupportive of cyclists.

I know decision makers in our City government are aware of best practices like placing the bike lane between a parking lane and the curb. I have heard them talk about it! Why don’t they enact such best practices? Why didn’t they do that during the Main St. repaving last year? Why haven’t they repainted the disappearing bike lane on Monroe Ave? Why did I hear a senior level decision maker say, “We know sharrows don’t work,” and then see sharrows painted on the new Elmwood Ave. bridge by Strong Hospital over a year later?

If we had more systematic infrastructure, coupled with a major education campaign, we would see that widespread cultural support I mentioned above. Our city does not prioritize cyclists, so how can we expect individual drivers to respect us?

UP: Thank you for sharing your answers with us Sara! Stay tune for more UP3 interviews!