The City of Ithaca has been working on increasing opportunities for bicyclists since as early as 1978, when it installed a signed bike route between the Commons and Stewart Park. In 1993, the first Ithaca Bicycle Plan was completed. This plan was updated and improved in 1997; since then, things began to pick up as the City started installing "Shared Roadway" signs.
In recent years, the City has made substantial progress in improving conditions for bicycle users, reinforcing its commitment to promote alternative means of transportation. In 2007, the City installed its first bike lanes (a short segment on Thurston Ave.); since then, another 3 miles of bike lanes have been created, and 2.5 miles of experimental Shared Lane Markings (popularly called 'Sharrows') were installed along Cayuga Street. Off the streets, the City has installed over 200 hundred new bicycle parking spaces since 2007, and a new Bike Parking Ordinance was adopted in 2010 that sets high standards for bicycle parking at businesses, apartments, schools, offices, etc. In addition, bicycles have been added to the City fleet, since 2005. Most recently, the City is exploring the feasibility of creating a Bicycle Boulevard network; a system of traffic-calmed streets where bicycle traffic is prioritized over motor vehicle traffic.
Ithaca is also strongly dedicated to supporting and promoting pedestrian transportation. Walking, instead of using a vehicle, greatly reduces carbon emissions and air pollution, while simultaneously promoting improved physical health. In addition to these benefits, increased numbers of pedestrians have been shown to improve the downtown economy in various places by increasing "foot traffic" past local shops. The City of Ithaca has the highest pedestrian commuter percentages in the State of New York, with over 40% of commuters being pedestrians. Numerous pedestrian improvement projects are currently underway, including a sidewalk repair program, new sidewalk construction, intersection safety improvements, traffic signal upgrades, and snow clearing requirements for sidewalks, to name a few.
Cayuga Waterfront Trail InitiativeThe Cayuga Waterfront Trail Initiative is a partnership between the City of Ithaca and the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce. The trail aims to provide an active transportation and recreation trail connecting Ithaca's most popular waterfront locations, as well as providing an alternative route through the West End and the Route 13 area. When completed, the trail will span about 6 miles in length. The trail is scheduled to be done in 3 phases, with the first and second phases already completed. The first phase was a 2-mile loop created in Cass Park in 2003. The second phase (completed in 2010) connected Stewart Park – including the Ithaca Youth Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce – to the Farmers Market. The final phase, which would span from Inlet Island to the Farmers Market, is anticipated to be completed within the next two years. This trail promotes non-motorized forms of transportation and recreation, as well as a healthy active lifestyle in the Ithaca community!
Green Fleet Policy
In 2010, the City of Ithaca adopted a Green Fleet Policy, which encourages transportation efficiency, energy efficiency, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. These goals are to be met through various strategies, such as the promotion of alternative means of transportation, reduction of vehicle miles traveled, improved fleet maintenance, purchase of high efficiency vehicles and alternative fuels, and educational programs for employees. The recently formed Green Fleet Committee is charged with assuring departments are taking all possible measures to successfully implement the policy.
In compliance with the Green Fleet Policy, the City has purchased and operates five hybrid vehicles, an electric maintenance vehicle for the Commons, as well as numerous departmentally owned bicycles.
In August 2010, the City of Ithaca began purchasing B5 biodiesel to use on its diesel fueled vehicles and equipment. In Summer 2011, the City purchased 17,000 gallons of biodiesel, which is estimated to reduce the City's carbon emissions by approximately 1.7 metric ton per year. It is still not certain whether the City will continue to purchase biodiesel in years to come; currently, the largest constraint is the cost. The City will need to decide if it continues to use biofuel in the future or focus its resources on other emissions reduction programs.
In addition to these initiatives, the City also provides free bus passes to city employees in order to encourage and promote public transportation, and a culture of energy-efficient commuting.