Ithaca Adds New Bicycle Infrastructure

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Tompkins Weekly 10-18-15

By Jonathan Maddison & Victoria Armstrong

In the past year, the City of Ithaca invested in three significant bike infrastructure projects: the Cayuga Waterfront Trail, new Bike Lanes, and a Bicycle Boulevard across Ithaca. With six miles of new non-motorized trail, three miles of newly traffic-calmed streets, and nearly one mile of new bike lanes, Ithaca is moving towards sustainability and livable, inclusive neighborhoods as prioritized in the City’s Comprehensive plan and the County’s Long Range Transportation Plan.

To make them truly work for all, however, we all play a part:

Cayuga Waterfront Trail

Designed for walkers, joggers, bicyclists, wheelchair users and all other forms of non-motorized transportation, the waterfront trail is fully separated from motorized traffic. It connects Cass Park, the Farmers Market and Stewart Park, with a scenic route along the waterfront. It is a glorious place for recreation and fitness, and also enables users to get where they are going in a safe-feeling environment.

Even without motorized traffic, it’s still important for trail users to be aware of everyone around them. People have varying abilities and travel at different speeds, so be predictable and be courteous to other users. Those in a group should still leave at least half the path free for flow, and faster trail users should alert those in front before passing. Call out “passing on your left” or ring your bell. Slower users should keep to the right.

Access to the waterfront trail and farmers market has been improved with two pedestrian crossings on Route 13: one at Third Street and another at Dey/Willow Street. To access the trail from downtown, some recommend going out the west end of Court Street.

Bicycle Boulevard

Bicycle boulevards are streets designed to be bicycle-friendly and multiuse. They utilize streets with fewer cars to create bike- and family-friendly corridors though the heart of town. Ideally all traffic on these streets flows at the speed of bicycles, slowing cars a bit, but providing safer and more relaxing places for bicyclists of all ages.

Ithaca’s new bicycle boulevard connects Boynton Middle School, Beverly J. Martin Elementary and Fall Creek Elementary. The bike boulevard runs the length of Plain Street and Tioga Street with several offshoots to the three schools, and a slightly meandering route through the Northside neighborhood. When complete, the bicycle boulevard will extend along Cayuga Street from York Street to the Boynton Middle School.

The speed limit along the route is reduced from 30 mph to 25 mph, with speed bumps inspiring some vehicle traffic to choose alternative routes. Driver mph feedback signs near each school will be installed soon to encourage safer speeds in school zones.

As with all shared roadways, motorists and cyclists need to be respectful of each other to allow all to travel efficiently and safely. Cyclists need to ride predictably, use hand signals for turns and follow all the rules of the road. Motorists need to travel patiently, use extra caution when around the most vulnerable users, and not pass cyclists unless there is at least 3 clear feet of passing distance.

Bike Lanes

A bike lane provides an easier way for bikes and cars to share the road, through a narrow, dedicated roadway space for bicycling, separate from motorized vehicles. Bike lanes are typically five feet wide, marked by solid white lines and a white bicycle symbol on each block. In the last year, the City has added two bike lanes to Ithaca’s streets. The most recent is on Cayuga Street, between Farm Street and York Street, with an extension to the end of Cayuga Street planned for next year. The City also added bike lanes to Old Elmira road from the roundabout to Route 13.

A bike lane is for bicycle traffic only. Motorists should only enter a bike lane when exiting or entering the street, parking alongside the bike lane, or turning onto another street. Use extra caution when parking alongside a bike lane, especially when exiting your vehicle. Before opening your car door, look (usually behind you) for approaching bicyclists; no one wants a cyclist flipping over your car door—an unfortunate and frequent cause of injury. Be extra careful before opening your car door!

As a bicyclist, you are not restricted to staying in the bike lane. Use adjacent lanes if you need to pass a slower bicyclist, prepare for a turn, or avoid parked cars. As always, ride as predictably as possible, signal your turns, and follow all the rules of the road. Bicyclists using a bike lane should stay aware, especially around intersections. Don’t assume that vehicles turning or merging onto the street see you.

With these projects, Ithaca is catching up with other cities enjoying the benefits of safer bicycling. Research shows that such cities tend to see a surge in people commuting by bike, trend upward economically, and to be considered desirable places to live. We are proud of Ithaca for joining this movement, and we look forward to reporting on more improvements in the future.

More Bike Infrastructure News & Information:

Bike Walk Tompkins at

Way2Go Transportation Information at

City of Ithaca Safe Routes to School information:

Map of Recent Bike Infrastructure Projects:

About the Authors

Jonathan Maddison is the Program Manager at Way2Go, a Transportation Education Program at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. His vehicle of choice is a skateboard.

Victoria Armstrong is the new Director of Bike Walk Tompkins (a project of the Center for Transformative Action) and has used a bicycle to get around for decades.

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