Group that promotes biking gearing up for major May 20 event
By Nancy Cardillo
There are many health benefits to riding a bike: increased cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and flexibility, decreased stress levels, improved posture, coordination and brain function and weight loss, just to name a few.
But did you know cycling is also one of the best ways to see and experience your community?
Justin Booth knows about the benefits of biking, and that’s why he started GObike Buffalo a decade ago. While working for the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo, Booth stumbled on a program in New York City that taught kids how to fix their own bikes, learn the rules of the road and experience the fun and benefits of riding a bicycle.
“The program got kids interested in riding while teaching them about environmental issues,” says Booth. “I thought it was a great program and wanted to start something similar in Buffalo.”
So he began collecting discarded bikes — and soon found himself with a garage full of them.
Booth started Recycle-A –Bicycle in 2002, taking bikes into Buffalo schools for kids to fix. That grew into hosting workshops about fixing bikes, bike safety and more.
“We wanted to get bikes into the hands of more people who wanted them or needed a mode of transportation, who were interested in riding but maybe couldn’t afford a bike of their own,” he says.
Eventually, Booth’s efforts evolved into GObike Buffalo which, today, has grown into a nonprofit organization (and a full-time job for Booth) that promotes all aspects of biking and that has had a significant impact on building a thriving, dynamic and connected Buffalo. The organization currently has seven full-time employees and a dozen part-timers.
“Our goal is to be as intuitive as possible,” says Booth. “Our mission is pretty simple: to get people to ride bikes. You hear our name and you immediately know what we’re all about.
“Buffalo is a great city for biking. Its radial street grid makes it easy to reach your destination using side streets rather than busy main streets, and it’s relatively flat around here, so it’s easy to navigate,” he says. “And while you’re riding, you’re enjoying gorgeous architecture and a beautiful landscape.”
Booth is quite proud of the impact GObike Buffalo has had, not only in getting more people out riding, but also in the local community.
“The dialog is no longer IF we’re going to have bike lanes but, rather, ‘how can we make the streets safer, more accessible and convenient for all modes of travel and for pedestrians,’” he says. “It’s been proven that when you reallocate space on streets for bikes and pedestrians, it actually helps traffic move faster and more safely and reduces accidents, parking issues and pollution, creating a better quality of life for all.”
GObike’s most popular annual events include its signature SkyRide, a fundraising bicycle tour that includes a scenic ride over the 100-foot-high Skyway May 20, Slow Roll Buffalo, a social group bicycle ride that meets every Monday night (May through October) at different venues and takes a unique route throughout the city, and the annual Tour de Farms, a 35-mile bicycle tour of urban and rural farms, held in collaboration with the Massachusetts Avenue Project (Sept. 15).
All events are open to riders of any level — from newbies to road warriors to commuters — who have a bike and a helmet.
Donate Bikes, Volunteer
If you have a bicycle you’d like to donate to GObike Buffalo, you can drop it off at GObike’s community workshop, 98 Colvin Blvd. (during business hours) or call GObike at 716-218-7161. GObike is also always looking for volunteers, members, sponsors and partners. You can find more information on GObike’s website at https://gobikebuffalo.org/get-involved/get-involved-overview