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TRANSPORTATION: Building bike-friendly campus connections in Rochester NY

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The Erie-Lackawanna bike-pedestrian bridge should open in June, connecting the University of Rochester campus with both sides of the GeneseeRiver.

The bridge will provide a convenient way to cross the river, but it's significant in another way, too: it's another step toward creating a cohesive bikeway between some of Rochester's higher-ed institutions.

For several years, Jon Schull has pushed for a system of cycling and pedestrian corridors that he calls the Rochester Multiversity active transportation network. Schull is a founding member of the Rochester Cycling Alliance advocacy group, and director of the Center for Student Innovation at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

"I believe that something like this will happen if we ask for it repeatedly and in large numbers," Schull says.

The network is a relatively simple concept. Downtown, the University of Rochester, MonroeCommunity College, and RIT are already located along or near major bicycle-friendly trails and greenways. Downtown and UR are connected via the Genesee Riverway Trail, UR and MCC are both on the Erie Canal, and UR and RIT are linked by the Lehigh Valley North trail.

Brighton is developing a townwide bicycle and pedestrian master plan, and the plan has served as a platform for discussing the intercampus network, says Tom Robinson of EDR, a consultant on Brighton's plan. Brighton's effort is a natural fit for a Multiversity discussion because MCC and UR have campuses in the town and RIT is located just over its border. All three schools have liaisons involved with the planning work. "A lot of the pieces are already in place," Robinson says.

But there are shortcomings to address. While the schools may be near the trails, they aren't always connected to them. TakeMonroeCommunity College and the Erie Canal trail. To access the MCC campus, cyclists have to get off the canal path at South Clinton Avenue and bike to Brighton-Henrietta Town Line Road.

But MCC's campus backs-up close to the canal, and it could be directly connected to the canal path through a multi-use trail; a rough footpath already exists. That would shave more than a half-mile off of cyclists' trips and allow cyclists to avoid traffic on busy roads.

A similar approach could directly connect the canal at East Henrietta Road to the MCC campus. Schull and other members of the Rochester Cycling Alliance have lobbied for the connection as part of the Access390 project, which calls for redesigned I-390 interchanges between East Henrietta Road and Kendrick Road.

The Lehigh Valley North trail between UR and RIT has issues of its own. Specifically, there are rough spots that need to be smoothed out, though some improvement work has been done, Schull says.

All three major trails need signs to guide people - including signs directing them to important destinations.

Take Your Bike - Rochester

A bikeable network between the area's campuses has real benefits. For students, it provides a low-cost, car-free way to get to other campuses. It also helps connect them with local communities, where they can live, shop, and eat. For example, the Riverway Trail between UR and downtown passes along Brooks Landing and Corn Hill.

The different legs of the Multiversity trail are already used by the public for recreation and commuting. A complete network could benefit those users, as well as employees at the colleges. And community members often attend events and programs on the schools' campuses.

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