New Rochester Cycle Track: Pretty Great, 5 Years Late

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Rochester, NY has a new cycle track that connects The University of Rochester campus with College Town, which officially opened in 2015. The ambitious construction of College Town was a monumental effort with the goal of creating a mixed use haven of apartments, restaurants and bars for students and U of R employees (The U of R and associated medical center is by far and away the largest employer in Rochester). But the fact that this “vibrant destination” is a 10 minute walk from most sections of the medical center and a 15-20 minute walk from student housing on the college campus along a busy 4 lane “stroad” has limited the potential of College Town and its ability to appeal to students, facility and staff.

Finally, after five years of moderate College Town success (and that’s probably an ambitious estimate), a cycle track that was a part of the original College Town plans has finally been completed. The dedicated bike right of way connects The University Campus and the north side of the U of R Medical Center with College Town’s restaurants and bars.

Set apart from 4 lanes of speeding traffic with no shoulder, the cycle track provides a smooth and inviting surface for those who want to meet some friends for some grub on two wheels. And since the U of R, like so many other campuses, has a large car-less population of students, this piece of connectivity is vital.

The track isn’t perfect. For starters, it forces the cyclist to cross the aforementioned 4-lane Elmwood Avenue, where a several minute wait for the traffic light to change is not uncommon.

Secondly, it should have been built 5 years ago as a seamless welcome mat for the opening of College Town. Perhaps as a result of this missing piece of connectivity (among others), College Town initially had a tremendously high commercial turnover. The small food market left in less than a year. Bar 145 and several other establishments were short-lived. It now looks like College Town has found something resembling consistency, but one might wonder, if better forms of alternative connectivity to the University existed from the start, would it be a thriving heartbeat in the south of Rochester today?

I’m not implying that a cycle track might have changed everything. But it may very well have helped. The stretch of road between the University and College Town is about as inviting to non-cars as the Grim Reaper, and the cycle track changes that.

Any dedicated bike infrastructure is a victory for sure. The U of R / College Town cycle track is a welcomed additive to the largest employer in a midsized city. It’s a step forward for Rochester, albeit a little late… but as we all know, change takes time.