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Bikers and pedestrians look to City to add more open space for safe travel

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Posted at 5:13 PM, May 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-19 18:08:34-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — It’s a worldwide trend spurred by the COVID-19 crisis: more people are walking and biking.

Because of that, cities all over are putting measures in place to make that activity safer. Measures some would like to see come to the City of Buffalo.

“Whether opening up the streets on the weekends, closing down neighborhood streets — just the local traffic to give people safe spaces to recreate,” said GoBike Buffalo Executive Director Justin Booth. “Or in some locations, even taking down parking lanes in business districts to provide more space for restaurants and cafes to begin to reopen to provide more seating to start to restart the local economy.”

Buffalo has a robust parks system, but it’s not accessible to all.

“If you don’t have access to a vehicle, how do you get to those parks? Maybe that park is in a safe walking distance, but if they’re in heavily trafficked wide streets maybe it’s not safe. Crossing some of the intersections can be dangerous.”

GoBike Buffalo conducted a series of studies to gather data on the areas most in need of open spaces.

That research found in the last five years there have been more than 1,800 bike or pedestrian accidents involving cars.

“We already know there’s a safety concern on our streets because of driver’s behavior. Our street design really facilitates cars to go faster.”

And, recently, after launching its “Better Streets, Better Buffalo” campaign, the organization found the areas being hardest hit by COVID-19 are also some of the areas in highest need of priority open spacing.

“We’re already seeing some of the cracks in our social networks and the health disparities in our neighborhoods. And the need for us to be able to maintain our mental and physical health of course and the opportunity to get outside safely to do so is incredibly important all the time, but more so now,” said Booth.

In some Buffalo neighborhoods, 30% of households don’t have access to a vehicle.

“Public transit is considered a vector for this disease. So how are we still giving them safe places to be mobile? How are we still getting them to work?”

GoBike Buffalo is looking to create more temporary bike lanes, limit access to residential streets, have car-free events, and even car-free loops during these times of social distancing to help people become more mobile and active.

You can view the petition here, and GoBike Buffalo is also encouraging people to reach out to their local representatives if they’re interested in seeing infrastructure changes to create open space for pedestrians and bikers.