Before I came to Buffalo, I had planned a handful of rides I wanted to revisit, like ride up to Niagara Falls, or head down to the Boston Hills, or maybe even ride to South Buffalo and drink a pint in one of the Irish pubs. Then once here I became too busy to ride all over the place (I also wasted my first day in town thanks to a bone chilling rain). With only one day left in Buffalo, I forced myself to squeeze in one of these rides, so I ventured forth through the chilly weather up to Niagara Falls.

The highway and the creek.
I’m sure this matches some weird modern house somewhere.
That old industrial space was once a failed attempt at hip found space living.
The sun was way more apparent looking in this direction
I started off from the Wegman’s on Amherst St. in Black Rock, to get a quick light lunch before taking off. Behind Black Rock along the Scajaquada Creek is a bike path connecting Delaware Park to the Riverwalk along the creek. Underneath the Scajaquad highway, which the city nonsensically built (I doubt it saves anyone any time really while destroying the natural streetscape and also impeding on Buffalo’s treasured Delaware Park, leaving no Olmsted Park untouched by a highway now), there a bike path along the heavily polluted Scajaquada Creek (unfortunate but true) next to some old industrial brownspace, left from when the International Railroad Bridge used to bring a heavy transport industry to this part of town (now lost to the over-trafficked Peace Bridge). The path has a very unique character, that I find fits Buffalo very well. A quaint creek hidden underneath a highway surrounded by decrepit industry, any fan of urban exploring or intrigued by the oddly magnificent views of urban decay should not pass up this little path.

Riverwalk bridges.
Grand Island bridges.
The view from the bridge.

After the Scaj Path, I returned to the Riverwalk (which you can read about more in myearlier post) towards the Grand Island Bridge. The Grand Island Bridges are still terrifying to ride across (which I guess is why they suggest you walk over the bridge), but the apex gives a stunning view of the Niagara River (strait!) at it’s widest point, which makes it almost worth crossing. Dropping over into Grand Island I got that strange sense of what this place could have been, a feeling I get every time I am here. Grand Island is a strange sort of development, where everything is built about a mile apart, leaving large vacant lots between buildings. Some of these lots are raised for “shovel-ready” sites while others remain wooded. It’s these wooded lots that make me wonder what Grand Island could have been. I imagine that no one ever built a home here, that the 190 bridges were never built and this island was one huge preserve only accessible by ferry. Unfortunately this isn’t the case, so I just kept my head down and rode passed the big ugly strip mall lined road occupied by high speed traffic. Right before the north bridge, leaving the river island, there is a huge swath of protected swamp land (my favorite thing America does, by protecting land that cannot be built on as a preserve, but I digress) which is absolutely beautiful and makes me sad for this vision of what Grand Island could have been.

Where does this go?
A path I found nearpl the north bridge of Grand Island.
Niagara Falls peering through the bridge.
Playing with the timer on my camera.
The bike at the swamps.

Heading towards Niagara Falls (after getting lost a little, they really need to sign these bike paths better) I became disillusioned again by Western NY’s failure at protecting something beautiful. A few miles out from one of the natural wonders of the world are some of the ugliest chemical factories in this country has to offer. Looking across at the quaint Niagara Parkway on the Canadian side I listened to a chemical plant unleash steam at such high pressure it sounded like a jet plane, only amplified by the sound of the US Interstate traffic whizzing by. This path has some nice qualities, especially as the sun was reflecting off the river, but this places feels like it could have been saved but was lost to more failed policy. I never understood why a place with such a beautiful natural attraction needed chemical plants to supplement their job base (I am aware that the cheap power had part to do with this, which oddly enough now that hydro power is sent to New York City, another silly thing about this place).

The Northern Grand Island bridges.
I actually bought the blue Cross-Check to match these bridges.
As much as I hate all this development in Niagara Falls, it’s the lack of development near the actual Niagara Falls that makes the American side nicer than the Canadian side. I rode along the paths, devoid of the usual tourists, to Goat Island, the island between the Horseshoe Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. Here on Goat Island there is a small gift shop, a restaurant, and a parking lot, but other than that, there is a good amount of green space that allows getting right next to the river as it heads over the escarpment to drop 160′ down to the bottom. Compared to the Canadian side, which I also visited and was also empty of tourists (I don’t think I’ve ever seen Niagara Falls this empty, even in the winter), which is bricked over next to the falls and has a much bigger visitor center with kitchey gifts and knick-knacks. The American side feels more akin to what this should be, a natural experience for a natural wonder.
The Niagara River.
This reminds me of a story a co-worker once told me of an acquaintance losing his engine and anchor around this point and deciding to polish off the rest of his 30 rack before help arrived.
After seeing Niagara Falls again (which was more wonderful after not seeing it for a while), I rode down the Niagara Parkway back to Fort Erie towards the Peace Bridge. To continue the country comparison, Niagara, ON is doing much better at preserving their water front along the river. Niagara Parkway is a residential neighborhood with beautiful homes (a lot for sale) and a peaceful winding bike path. I’ve always preferred this way to or from Niagara Falls than either the Grand Island or Riverwalk ways on the American side. The sun was beginning it’s descent down so I didn’t take as many pictures going back, as I wanted to beat the sunset, but the creeks that let out to the river are idyllic spots that are just screaming to be put into watercolors and the undeveloped grass fields have a similar pastoral quality to them. I wish I wasn’t in such a hurry to get back so I could take some pictures of these nice little spots.

Niagara Parkway grasslands, this is actually the site of the Chippewa Creek Battle of the War of 1812. It’s strange to think how deadly this boundary was 200 years ago.
By the time I reached Fort Erie, my feet were frozen and the sun was down. Crossing the Peace Bridge I was hoping for a beautiful view of the Buffalo skyline, but was given none (the view from the park just below the Peace Bridge in Canada gives a good view for those looking for one, but mostly because the artistic City Hall is the foreground and the HSBC Tower is far enough to not look ugly), instead I could just make out some of the taller buildings lights, but nothing coherent. The bridge on the other hand lit up in green and red for the holidays was quite nice, it amazes me how much better this bridge looks lit up than in the daylight hours.

With my last day over in Buffalo, I was prepped for tour, leaving for Rochester the following morning.

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