14 April 2014

A Pedestrian's Day in Brighton and Rochester

From the moment our eyes opened to the morning sun glistening on the Genesee, my wife and I knew this was going to be a beautiful day. The sky was blue, the weather was warm, it was Sunday, and the joggers and dog walkers were already out on the river trail. This was not a day to stay inside.

Of course, even on a day like this one, there were tasks to be done. The warm weather reminded us that it was time to rotate the tires on the Subaru, and that reminded us that it had been a long time since the last oil change and that the exhaust system had been making funny noises. It was definitely time to visit an auto shop and, conveniently, Bowen's Sunoco was open on Sunday.

We were part way through figuring out the logistics (take two cars, drop one off, run some other errand, etc.) when I thought of checking the distance to Bowen's. It was less than five miles. Exercise was already on my agenda, so the plan quickly changed to my dropping off the car and jogging back home.

A half hour later I had dropped off the Subaru and was jogging down Monroe Avenue towards Twelve Corners. Just east of the city, Monroe Avenue is a busy street packed with small shops, bars, restaurants, lots of people, and local traffic. By the time it gets to Bowens, which is close to the 590 interchange, Monroe Avenue is about to morph into a stroad, an unfortunate hybrid of a street and a road that somehow combines the worst features of both. It does, however, still have sidewalks, so as I switched from driving cap to running shoes and headed home I was not run over by a fleet of Webster bound SUVs.

Twelve Corners is the modern heart of the town of Brighton. The original village center was annexed by the City of Rochester back in 1905 and is now the East Avenue Wegmans supermarket. Twelve Corners is close to the middle school, the high school, and the town offices. It has many shops and places to eat. It's easy to walk there from the surrounding neighborhoods, so it functions pretty well, though it lacks the charm of an older town center. Twelve Corners got its name because it's at the intersection of Elmwood Avenue, Winton Road, and Monroe Avenue, which means that it also has too much traffic. A few years ago the Town of Brighton held a Monroe Avenue Corridor Community Design Charrette, and the report is well worth reading if you're interested in the past and future of the area.

Up until a couple of years ago I lived in the Meadowbrook neighborhood, close to Twelve Corners, so I know the area well. I still get my bagels from Brownstein's.

After reaching Twelve Corners, I turned left Elmwood and headed to Westland Avenue. This is part of the Home Acres neighborhood and is one of my favorite parts of Brighton. It's a pre-war subdivision of well built, modestly sized, houses mostly with detached garages. The streets have sidewalks (there's a theme here) and you often see families socializing and kids playing together. The picture, by the way, is from Google's StreetView. I was jogging, not taking pictures!

Westland Avenue Still jogging, I turned onto Edgemere Drive, on a sidewalk, and then onto Highland Avenue. I ran safely on Highland's sidewalk until I got to David Road. David Road is right at the border of the City of Rochester and there, to my embarrassment as a proud city dweller, the sidewalk disappeared for about one hundred feet until it picked up in front of the Elmwood Manor apartments.

At South Goodman Street I crossed into Highland Park. As I jogged up the hill I suddenly decided that the park was just too pretty to run through and that I really ought to walk for a bit. This was, of course, a purely aesthetic decision.

The park smelled of growing things and was full of people. I stopped and chatted by the reservoir with two women walking the cutest little black fuzzball of a puppy I have ever seen. She was two months old (the puppy) and, I swear, no larger than a Guiana pig. She thought she was everybody's best friend. The tiny dog even caused a tiny traffic jam when a driver stopped to admire the cutie.

After I pulled myself away from the puppy's reality distortion field I continued to South Avenue, then jogged on the sidewalk to Robinson, turned on Mount Hope, and then took the sidewalk home.

When I got home, my wife was just heading out for a walk on the Genesee River Trail. It was still a beautiful day, so I grabbed a drink of water and joined her. We headed down the trail towards the university.
When we got to the University we crossed crossed over to Brooks Landing on the pedestrian bridge. You can see it in the background of the picture on the right.
At Brooks Landing we stopped for lunch at Boulder Coffee, then walked north on the west side of the river. After a stroll through the woods, we crossed again on Erie Lackawanna Rails-to-Trails pedestrian bridge and walked back home.

And, finally, after cleaning up, and doing some work around the house, we headed into the South Wedge for dinner at the Tap and Mallet and desert at Hedonist Ice Cream.

I was out and about from ten in the morning until around nine at night. I drove for ten minutes. After I dropped off the car, I jogged across town, strolled through the park, communed with a puppy, walked to lunch with my beautiful wife, got plenty of exercise, walked to dinner, walked to an ice cream shop, and (except for that hundred feet on Highland Avenue) never had to walk on a road.

That's a pretty good definition of a walkable city, and I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation to the City of Rochester and to the Town of Brighton for making my pedestrian day possible.

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