Bicycling in Buffalo has grown in popularity as a low-cost, healthful and nonpolluting way to get around.
People who like to pedal can thank Justin Booth for that.
GObike Buffalo, the organization Booth leads, began in 2008 as a loose-knit group seeking to make Buffalo more bicycle-friendly. Today, the nonprofit has a $400,000 budget and is changing Buffalo’s mind-set one bike lane at a time.
Booth, 36, was born in Brooklyn, grew up on Staten Island and graduated from SUNY Buffalo State with a degree in health and wellness, and from Canisius College with a master’s in education.
Several years ago, Booth commuted 14 miles round-trip from Kenmore to a job in downtown Buffalo to stay in shape. The poor infrastructure for bikes at the time led him to get involved.
Booth used his background as a grant writer to bring in financial resources, and his passion for bicycling and people skills to galvanize supporters.
GObike Buffalo also has found a willing partner in the administration of Mayor Byron W. Brown, and the two are working together on a bicycling master plan for the city. Its Complete Streets Policy is committed to 10 miles of new bike lanes a year, and restriping older lanes as necessary. GObike initiated a program in which 400 businesses’ requests for bike racks were fulfilled by the city, with another 150 in line.
GObike Buffalo entered into a partnership with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to encourage more people to bike, and is helping to make the emerging Buffalo Green Code, which is revamping the city code, a model for the best urban bikeway design guidelines.
GObike also is working with the city to reconfigure streets to make room for safe bike lanes, which in turn encourages more bicyclists to get out and ride.
The organization also has benefitted by receiving major support from Independent Health, Flying Bison Brewery and The Buffalo News.
Booth, a father of three, also works as a local union stagehand. Before last week’s James Taylor concert, he could be found hauling heavy equipment and walking on beams in First Niagara Center. And, yes, he biked to work.
– Mark Sommer