Biking appears to be a growing trend in the region

Jeremy Butler is seeing a growing need for bikes among young people in the area.

As director of programs for the Utica Safe Schools Healthy Students Partnership Inc., Butler oversees the organization’s Build A Bike program, which fixes up bikes and gives them to children in the community.

The program has been in operation for 11 years, but over the last two years it has given away about 2,000 bikes. That’s the highest two-year period for the program, Butler said.

“I don’t know if that speaks to a new desire for wanting to be out and be more active or if that is a commentary on the level of poverty that we see in our community and families inabilities to purchase things like luxury items like bikes for their kids,” he said. “But I think we definitely see a growing need there.”

Biking appears to be a growing trend in the region:

* Last month, Rome launched a bike-share program consisting of 16 bikes across three stations along the city’s Mohawk River Trail.

* The city of Utica is looking to improve connectivity between the harbor, Bagg’s Square and downtown.

* While they haven’t formally adopted the Complete Streets program in Syracuse, the city has done things in keeping with the program, such as a connective corridor project connecting the University Hill area with downtown and bike lanes.

“Unfortunately we’re not building any new roads,” said Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, “but everything else is trying to accommodate our next generation of where we are and where we’re going.”

In Syracuse, Andrew Maxwell, the city’s director of policy and innovation and the city’s former planning director, said that they have done a handful of projects over the last several years where streets needed to be resurfaced.

“We’ve taken those opportunities,” he said, “to really look at the street profile, to look at the road to say are we using this space in the best possible way for the traveling public and are we using it in the safest way?”

Research, Maxwell said, indicates that businesses along bike lanes or multi-use paths do better economically.

“I don’t think that we either have to plan cities for cars or plan cities for bikes,” Maxwell said. “I think we have to plan cities for people and that means have a multimodal mindset in the way that we look at how we manage public space and how we connect people to commerce.”

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