Almost every time I go on an urban adventure to seek out content for a story, the weather just seems to laugh at me. My first time visiting Schenectady years ago, the city received a crazy snow storm. I’ve visited Utica scores of times, and I think it’s safe to say that all but 2 or 3 have been tainted with dreadful cold or pouring rain. When I visited Syracuse’s Armory Square for the first time, I biked down the Onondaga Creek Walk Trail… into a 30mph headwind.
A few weekends ago was no different, as I sought to explore a trail that has been on my radar for some time, the Tonawanda Rails-To-Trails bike and walking path (which needs a better name by the way). I’m just going to go ahead and name this the Tonawanda/Buffalo Connector. I say connector because this former railroad right-of-way is perfectly straight, flat and wide, and most importantly, connects 4 miles of residential living to northern and downtown Buffalo via the city’s Metro Rail.
Starting off in the northern suburb of Tonawanda, I hopped on my Citizen Tokyo. The folding bike with 16 inch wheels gives me a level of travel flexibility that is, frankly, unmatched in a bicycle!
Right away, I noticed several things about the trail. It was beautifully paved and wonderfully wide. When I came upon another runner, walker or cyclists, it was easy to move around them. The ride was smooth, flat and comfortable.
The next thing I noticed was that almost the entire length of the trail bisects residential neighborhoods. Clear and frequent signage with mile updates, connecting street signs (almost like station stops on a subway), benches and garbage cans all accompanied the route.
In its four miles, the Tonawanda/Buffalo Connector crosses two roads with heavy traffic. I was thrilled to see signal priority, almost like a railroad crossing, for the trail across these major routes!
After four miles of passing through residential neighborhoods on Buffalo’s north side, I arrived at Buffalo NFTA Metro, LaSalle Station on Main Street.
I purchased my ticket, took a walk down the staircase and rolled onto the first train to downtown Buffalo!
I wandered around Buffalo’s beautiful downtown for a while, riding in the miserable rain but loving my connection to the urban jungle. Buffalo’s architecture and street feel is just wonderful. You really feel like you’re a part of something bigger, a city that has significance in history.
And finally, in an effort to warm up, I popped into Big Ditch Brewing for a beer. Or three. And the best sandwich ever.
The Tonawanda/Buffalo trail isn’t just a place to get fit or walk your dog… it gives nearby residents a clear connection to downtown Buffalo and neighborhoods north along Buffalo’s Metro Rail. This multi-modal piece of connectivity is something that cities are seeking to employ more and more. Younger generations, even those with families seeking homes just outside of their urban cores, are demanding this kind of infrastructure in their cities today, a trend that is unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. If I was seeking a home in Buffalo for example, I would concentrate my search in this area for its high level of connectivity alone.
This trail gets my two thumbs up as one of the most functional bike and on-foot pieces of multi-model connectivity in Upstate New York. Great job to everyone involved, can’t wait to ride here again!