Is Utica More Progressive Than Syracuse?

From the October 2014 PNL #838

by Dave Kashmer

I came across an article recently in the Utica Observer-Dispatch. It was about a bicycle program similar to Bikes 4 Peace in that we both teach bike repair skills and give away bikes if the recipient works on the bike. But there the similarity ends.

Utica Bike Rescue just received a $42,000 grant from The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties to expand their program. Syracuse is similar to Utica in that we both have high poverty rates, and many people in the city do not have cars. Some people use bikes to get around. But if a person in our town cannot afford a bike, there are few options but $2 for a bus ride or to walk.

An SPC volunteer teaches bike repair at
a 2011 Bikes for Peace clinic. Dave Kashmer
coordinated the program this summer.
Photo: SPC Archives

Bikes for Peace runs on funds from the Syracuse Peace Council, and our volunteers donate bikes, bike parts and their time. A few good people will also donate bikes to us, but that number is limited. Organizations such as the Syracuse Center For Peace and Social Justice, Northeast Community Center, Brady Faith Center and the Spanish Action League let us use their spaces for our bike repair clinics.

There are upstate New York towns besides Utica that have good-sized bike recycling programs. Rochester, Troy and Ithaca are others. Syracuse has always been known as a transportation hub, and it seems that the automobile is the only thing on people’s minds lately. We’re considering replacing the Route 81 viaduct and spending a lot of money on it. The automobile is a century old form of transportation, and the bicycle even older. But the difference is a bike is a lot cheaper, healthier, more reliable and easier on the environment.

I for one would like to see Syracuse become the center of sustainable transportation for upstate New York. But with other towns promoting bicycles as an alternative, we might have to hand the distinction over to a town like Utica.