Let’s make streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists

People are dying. A 12-year-old boy, riding his bike in Amherst. A volunteer firefighting chief, walking outside his home. In 21012, 43 pedestrians and cyclists died as the result of collisions with motor vehicles in Erie County. Those fatalities are just the tip of the iceberg. With 3,648 total collisions reported, the injury rate is substantially higher: 304 people a month, over 10 a day. About every two hours in our county, two tons of unyielding steel will strike unprotected flesh and bone.

We can prevent this. We must tell our Legislature we oppose stripping funding from the Department of Transportation and undercutting Buffalo’s Complete Streets Initiative. We should also encourage our municipal governments to oppose development plans that detract from the walkability of our neighborhoods.

Buffalo was the first city in the state to adopt a Complete Streets Initiative, which makes our streets more than just steel rivers, providing bike lanes and safe pedestrian walkways. This program is well-suited to Buffalo, where many of the surface arteries in and out of the city no longer carry enough traffic to justify their width. For example, I commute on my bike down Main Street; for much of the ride I am forced to ride shoulder to shoulder with vehicles that could crush me like a bug. Replacing one of the six lanes with a bike path would improve safety and encourage development.

Similarly, new developments should be required to encourage walkability. Setting businesses in vast parking lots only encourages increased traffic and increases the likelihood that those choosing alternative modes of transportation will suffer.

As Buffalo continues its re-emergence as a regional leader, we should make sure to live up to our promise to be a city of good neighbors and protect our citizens.

John Land