Plus, cycle safety during a pandemic

May 2020

While so much in the world has changed with COVID-19, May is still National Bike Month. We’ll take a look at the benefits of biking from both an environmental and a health perspective, explore some options for biking while maintaining social distancing, and share the resources available for cyclists available from the University.

As the League of American Bicyclists puts it, “Let’s use National Bike Month to celebrate what joy we have, the physical and mental health biking brings us, and the humble bicycle that unites us all, even as we must stay apart and at home.”

May Is (Still) National Bike Month

Recumbent tricycle on a bridge over the Genesee River.
(Photo: Flickr/Jim)
Since 1956, the League of American Bicyclists has celebrated National Bike to Work Month, Week, and Day in May. However, with many Americans now working remotely, Bike to Work Week and Day are rescheduled for September, and the league is now celebrating a revised National Bike Month this May. The focus of National Bike Month has shifted to biking “there,” whether “there” is a trip to the grocery store, an outing to explore the outdoors with kids, or a commute to an essential job. Pedal on!

Biking for Your—and the Planet’s—Health

Why do environmentalists and the health-conscious alike go nuts over biking? It’s fairly obvious that reducing the emissions, gasoline consumption, and pollution associated with vehicle transportation are all positive things for the environment. We also know that cardiovascular activity has health benefits, such as reduced blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk for diabetes and heart disease. 

Past issues of our newsletter have explored ways that wellness and sustainability are linked, and biking is another example of how the physical and mental health benefits go hand in hand in creating a more sustainable society. 

Many turn to physical activity to reduce stress. Biking releases endorphins, which can create a positive feeling in our bodies and minds. Additionally, those who enjoy biking or walking often agree that slowing down to notice and appreciate the natural world around you makes you feel better mentally and more connected to the planet. In short, biking can help make our bodies and the planet happier and healthier.

Biking during a Pandemic

Bike path markings on the Pont De Rennes Bridge. Since gyms are closed, many are turning to outdoor activities for exercise. As a result, biking has become an attractive form of transportation during this time. While biking outside, be sure to follow the changing safety protocols. and Bicycle Guider offer some helpful and updated tips on riding safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you’re looking to try biking for the first time, check out this article from our local transportation partner, Reconnect Rochester. The City of Rochester also offers a detailed trail and biking map to get you started. Below is information about the three trails near the River Campus and Medical Center: the Genesee Riverway Trail, Erie Canal Trail, and Lehigh Valley Trail. 

Genesee Riverway Trail

The Genesee Riverway Trail (GRT) extends through the scenic, historic, and cultural heart of Rochester, from the Erie Canal to downtown and Lake Ontario. It provides pedestrian access to the Genesee River—including its scenic gorge and three waterfalls—plus eight pedestrian bridges and eleven parks, four of which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. GRT links nine historic districts and is labeled with a system of wayfinding and interpretive signs to encourage and guide public use. Most of the trail is paved and easily accessible. Steep, rough, or narrow sections of the trail are clearly marked. Download the Genesee Riverway and Trail Guide (PDF).

Erie Canal Trail

The Erie Canal Trail connects directly to the Genesee Riverway Trail. It’s a great way to access the University of Rochester from many western, eastern, and southern (via the Lehigh Valley Trail) suburbs. It is a recreation trail that spans the entire state. See maps and information on the Erie Canal Trail.

Lehigh Valley Trail

This 15-mile linear trail park is located in the southern-most portion of Monroe County, beginning at the Genesee River and extending through the towns of Rush and Mendon to the Ontario County line, and extending north to the town of Henrietta. See a map and information about the Lehigh Valley Trail (PDF).

Green Reads from around the Web

University Resources for Cyclists


Close up of the Genesee River Trailway sign near the Lackawanna Bridge.
The Department of Transportation and Parking Management’s new RideAmigos app helps to organize various travel options and provide incentives to encourage the University community to opt for eco-friendly modes of transportation. The new service is part of U-Commute, the University’s campaign to promote transportation alternatives that assist in reducing commuting costs for employees and campus congestion while promoting sustainability.

RideAmigos connects the community and encourages biking, walking, carpooling, bike pooling, and ride-sharing. Users can earn points and rewards for using RideAmigos to set up carpools and bike pools. University employees who already use biking or walking as their commute options are also eligible for free passes from the Occasional Parking Program. Sign up for RideAmigos to receive notifications as additional rewards, perks, and programs become available in the future.  

Biking Seminars

The Department of Transportation and Parking Management’s Bike Right program offers safety classes for biking instruction, street safety, and basic maintenance. And taking even one biking class can help motivate us to get on our bikes more. While classes are postponed until further notice, the program is offering options to learn about biking from home. Check back at the website later for virtual biking classes.

Did You Know...?

Bike shops are considered essential businesses in New York State. Need a tune-up or new ride? Check out this list of local bike shops.

Sustainability Superstar

Tracey Austin, Transportation Coordinator, Department of Transportation and Parking Management

Tracey Austin stands holding up her bike. This month’s newsletter was written in collaboration with Tracey Austin, who is an avid bike commuter and bike instructor. Here is Tracey’s story in her own words:

“In order to save money and do my part to help the environment, I started riding my bike or walking to work years ago. This decision has helped shape my life. And now the benefits go beyond my initial motivations. 

“I love the freedom of being a one-car family and also being outside more of my day. It occurred to me recently [that] my outlook on the day tends to be brighter if I start my day biking or walking rather than stuck in traffic! But this didn’t happen in a short span of time; it took years to come up with something that works for me and my family and seems manageable. And every season of life looks a little different for us.

“Now that I am a certified cycling instructor and a transportation coordinator here at the University of Rochester, I love that my job is to help others set attainable and sustainable transportation goals! We have many options available here at the University, but sometimes they seem overwhelming. However, I assure you it is worth the effort to change up your transportation game. If faculty, staff, or students want help reimagining their commute, I am here to help.”

Know someone who’s made progress with sustainability on campus? Whether the victories have been big or small, we’d love to hear about them! Email us today.

Your Green Reps Challenge for May

Person in hiking gear stands atop a mountain and looks at the mountainous landscape.
  1. While working remotely, you can still promote National Bike Month within your department or unit. Email the information in this issue to your colleagues or, if appropriate, mention the topic during a Zoom staff meeting. 
  2. Check out the videos and upcoming virtual classes listed on the U-Commute Biking page
  3. If you haven’t done so already, take the time to get your bike ready for the season, review the latest updates to outdoor health and safety guidelines, and go for a ride along one of the trails mentioned above.
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