Our View: New bikeway effort may be uphill climb
Ten years ago today, 7-year-old Arianna Macnamara was struck while crossing West Circle Drive at Third Street Northwest. The accident took her life and started a decade-long call to improve bike safety for those crossing West Circle Drive.
While a bike and pedestrian bridge across U.S. 14 West in Rochester has been dedicated to Macnamara, crossing West Circle Drive remains a challenge. Using the Second Street Southwest intersection is troublesome due to mismatched streets and the lack of visibility from some angles and the Third Street intersection remains intimidating, at best.
There is some hope future streetlights could create a safer crossing at Third Street Northwest, but accessing that area becomes a challenge due to the lack of dedicated bike lanes in the greater Country Club Manor area.
Rochester City Council member Michael Wojcik is marking the 10-year anniversary of Macnamara's death with a meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. today in the government center's room 104 to discuss a West Rochester Bikeway, which could include a pedestrian bridge and street improvements designed to safely connect neighborhoods west of West Circle Drive with the rest of Rochester.
It's an ambitious project, perhaps too ambitious to start the conversation.
The proposed bridge near Harriet Bishop Elementary School would be expensive and a similar effort at Third Street Northwest failed after being discussed about five years ago. Even with possible state and federal funding, it could be a tough sell.
However, that doesn't mean the whole project needs to be tossed aside. A conceptual design created through volunteer efforts of Andy Masterpole and Mark Miller of SEH's Rochester office provides a fairly inexpensive option that could boost bike usage in the western portion of the city.
"This really in a sense is a striping exercise," Masterpole said, describing how three extra wide streets — 36th Avenue, Seventh Street Northwest, and Third Street Northwest — would allow the creation of two-way bike lanes wide enough to include protective barriers.
Wojcik's effort to push the limits on bike safety could be considered an election-year stunt if he hadn't been sounding the same horn since taking office in 2009.
Still, it remains an uphill climb.
While it's a hill that eventually needs to be topped, the direct route may be too tough. Adding less expensive stripes provides a more gradual climb. It will bring more bikes to the streets, which could alter local opinions for future changes.
It's important to note that things like pedestrian bridges and citywide bike lanes don't pop up overnight, regardless of what bike lovers want and bike haters fear.
Small changes are needed to change the culture. Those changes will include new bike lanes, but they will also include changing attitudes toward downtown parking privileges and bus ridership.
The changes need to be gradual to be effective. Abrupt alterations will be met with too much opposition. Too many of us still like the convenience of our cars and trucks.
Some will never give up the ability to get quickly from place to place, no matter how much or how quickly the city grows or how congested our streets become.
Yet, with gradual changes, we might find ways to encourage more people to think about options. It may start with safe weekend bike trips to city parks, opening doors to other possibilities.
For those options to effectively take root, however, they must be discovered, rather than forced into being.