Bicyclists Demand Speed Limit Lowered In Buffalo
With more and more bikes on Buffalo roads, there is a push to make it safer by lowering the speed. Will that solve the problem, though?
Buffalo is getting more and more bike-only lanes throughout the city so that more people can take advantage of pedaling around town. It's a good thing. Good for the environment. Good exercise. It's a cheap way to get around. Plus e-bikes are making it even easier to bike longer distances at faster speeds.
As a result, there's a reported 3,000% increase in biking just in Buffalo. With that, however, come more accidents and safety hazards. That's why GOBike, and other biking enthusiast groups, are asking the Governor to lower the speed limit in the City of Buffalo to 25 MPH. It is currently 30 MPH.
GOBike wants the speed of these programs they advocate for to increase as well. They are also advocating for something called "complete streets."
Complete Streets is an approach that integrates people and place in the planning, design, construction, operation, and maintenance of our transportation networks. This approach is intended to benefit all users equitably, particularly vulnerable users and the most underinvested and underserved communities. - Cindy Wood, GObike Complete Streets Planner
They claim these streets encompass all kinds of travelers, are safer, and will ultimately lead to things like better traffic flow and safer roads.
Is It Practical?
This is a good idea, and in time will probably be a good thing. What's hard for people in Western New York though, in my opinion, is right now they see roads as for cars. Of course, this program changes that, but it could be hard to win support for several reasons.
Not Following the Rules
Bike riders are... aggravating to some people. Now this gives no one a right to ever be aggressive with a bike rider. The issue becomes a misunderstanding of what laws they are supposed to follow. By all accounts they are supposed to follow the same rules as cars:
Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles – Every person riding a bicycle ….. upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle. - NYBC.net
The thing is, many don't. Often they ignore stop lights and signs, don't signal they are turning, and even weave in and out of people's cars stopped at traffic lights.
There's also the sidewalk issue. The other day I was walking on Main Street in Buffalo with some friends. I admit, we were walking 3 across on the sidewalk, but it was really quiet and we were taking in some of the downtown sites. Suddenly a man on a bike screamed at us about our privilege for taking up the whole sidewalk. That's fine, and I get his point... but why is riding his bike on the sidewalk?
This wasn't a child. This was a grown man speeding to a destination. I understand maybe there aren't sufficient bike lanes downtown and as a result, there may be hesitancy by this person to ride on the street. Again, though, they are supposed to follow traffic laws.
In fact, IT IS ILLEGAL TO RIDE A BIKE ON A SIDEWALK IN THE CITY OF BUFFALO:
In the City of Buffalo, cycling on the sidewalk is not allowed, with the exception of children under the age of 14.
So can I bike on the sidewalk outside of the City of Buffalo?
Sidewalks are for pedestrians. Cycling on the sidewalk is dangerous for everyone, whether you’re on foot, on a bike or in a car. - GOBikeBuffalo.org
It's this behavior that, as a pedestrian and a driver, can make it hard to side with bikers.
Lowering the Speed
There are other benefits to lowering the speed to 25MPH. Neighborhoods could be safer. Going slower does mean using less gas. It's also not really a major change, but then again it's a little annoying.
Bikes are not a bad thing. The people riding them, just like the people driving cars, can be the issue. Is lowering the speed limit a worthwhile thing to do right now? I saw no. Continue working on the street improvements and access, as well as creating more awareness of the laws for bikers. People driving could use that, too.