Hittin’ the Trail

2017 Bicyclists Bring Business Events Head to Utica

Parks & Trails New York and the New York State Canal Corporation hit the trail to Utica for the annual “Bicyclists Bring Business: Canalway Trail Tourism for Your Downtown!” events. The evening program and community bike ride generated healthy discussion and excitement about how Utica, Oneida County, and the Mohawk Valley can further develop as cycling destinations.

This year’s events were sponsored by the City of Utica, Oneida County Tourism, Oneida County Health Department, and Utica Bike Rescue, Homegrown Bicycle Adventures, and Mohawk Valley GIS.


The venue for Tuesday’s Evening Roundtable was thINCubator (326 Broad Street, Utica), a shared work space that demonstrates that innovation and creativity are alive and well. After light refreshments, the evening’s presentations provided an update Utica’s growing urban cycling network and future connections to the Empire State Trail, and some background on bicycle tourism on the Erie Canalway Trail. The heart of the program, as always, was robust discussion and a bringing together of various public agencies and resident groups around issues related to the bike/ped network.

All Attendees received a copy of the handbook, Bicyclists Bring Business: A Guide to Attracting Bicyclists to New York’s Canal Communities.

On Wednesday, as a follow-up to the presentation, staff from Utica Bike Rescue led a Community Bike-a-Round, a relaxed ride on Utica’s stretch of the Erie Canalway Trail and through several of Utica’s vibrant downtown neighborhoods.  Along the way, the group was able to see new recreational loop routes from the perspective of a cycling tourist. We’ll make stops to discuss connection to local points of interest and opportunities for improved infrastructure, programming, and promotion. After the ride, the group talked over what they saw over lunch at Aqua Vino.

Despite a great evening event and a

wonderful ride that reinforced Utica’s beauty, history, and great potential as a cycling destination, much work remains. However, all agreed that the enthusiasm generated and connections made at this week’s events will provide a boost to local efforts.

Media Coverage

Coverage of the evening event is available here, and bike around clips here.

Economic Impact of the Canalway Trail

According to a 2014 study, the Erie Canalway Trail experiences more than 1.58 million visits per year, and spending by ECT visitors generates approximately $253 million in annual economic impact. Oneida County’s 25 miles of existing Canalway Trail feature scenic views of the Mohawk River and connect the cities of Rome and Utica to the statewide trail network. With the County’s remaining gap section scheduled to be closed by 2020 as part of Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail vision, and the region’s unique combination of big-city amenities and access to the Mohawk Valley and Southern Adirondacks, Utica is well positioned to become a premier destination for cycling tourists and other recreationalists.

Bicyclists Bring Business, or B3, is presented in one Canalway Trail community each year by Parks & Trails New York and the NYS Canal Corporation. Communities interested in hosting B3 should email b3roundtable@ptny.org.


Thanks to all the great event sponsors and partners in Utica that made this year’s event memorable and successful!


Great Flats Brewing: Serving Schenectady’s Bike Scene

Great Flats Brewing makes great beer, and as a meeting point for Schenectady’s growing cycling scene. And it’s all just blocks from the Canalway Trail!

Great Flats Brewing opened in March, 2017. Using ingredients grown in New York State, they serve fresh beer, cider, and wine.

Great Flats organized a clean up event as part of the 2017 Canal Clean Sweep, and they have recently become certified as a Bike Friendly New York business. “We like biking ourselves. Also, beer and biking go well together.”

Every Sunday,  Bike Old Dorp and Great Flats Brewing invite cyclists to go out for a night ride, and to join them for a beer afterwards.

Being close to the trail means lots of business. “It’s a big open space for people to hangout and rest, while drinking a beer or soda. It’s a great place to start a ride or take a break.”

Great Flats occupies a prime, trailside location in Schenectady – just blocks from the Erie Canalway Trail, know locally as the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail. They are also a quarter mile from the Electric City Bike Rescue and three miles from Plaine and Son Bike Shop.

Check out their website for more information on their beer list and new flavor releases.

Bicentennial Rides

2017 not only marks the 200th anniversary of Erie Canal construction. It’s also the 200th birthday of the bicycle, invented in Germany. Celebrate both by cycling these bicentennial routes on the Erie Canalway Trail:

  • Cycle from Rome to Syracuse in the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park. Start in Rome and you’ll be at ground zero for canal construction. Dignitaries turned the first shovel of soil in Rome on July 4, 1817. Why Rome? To ensure early success, workers started first on the easiest, most level section. Canal surveyors laid out the “Long Level” extending in both directions from Rome. This 66-mile section, from Frankfort in the east to the outskirts of Syracuse to the west, was completed without a single lock. You’ll see a number of aqueducts and bridges as you ride along the old canal—and it will be just as level for cycling as it was for canal construction 200 years ago.
  • Cycle in the Capital Region and visit Cohoes Falls. The steep climb out of the Hudson Valley around Cohoes Falls at the eastern end of the canal was one of the biggest obstacles to canal construction. Engineers designed 18 locks in Cohoes to climb 165 feet of elevation and circumvent this barrier to westward navigation. View the 75-foot cataract from Falls View Park and look for the remains of the stone locks that operated here in the 1800s adjacent to the parking area for the park. Follow the trail west for a scenic ride along the Mohawk River/Erie Canal.
  • Cycle from Lockport along the Erie Canal in Western New York. In June 1825 one of the final sections of the Erie Canal was completed in Lockport. The Lockport Flight of Five was a staircase of five locks that solved the challenge of helping boats climb the 60-foot Niagara Escarpment. Start your trip at the locks and visit the nearby Erie Canal Discovery Center, which showcases the building of the famous Flight of Five. Cycle east from Lockport; the trail is adjacent to the longest section of the canal that still follows its original path and retains its historic relationship to the communities and landscapes along its banks. You’ll discover historic Main Streets, lift bridges, farm fields, and 20th century locks alongside historic lock ruins, canal engineering marvels, and cobblestone and local sandstone buildings.
  • Go End-to-End. Cycle from Buffalo to Albany and, like thousands of canallers before you, connect Lake Erie with the Hudson River. When you do, you’ll get a sense of the Erie Canal’s impact as the longest artificial waterway and the greatest public works project in North America.The canal gave rise to villages, towns, and cities, opened the interior of North America to settlement, and put New York on the map as the Empire State.

There’s a lot to celebrate in 2017! Head to the Canalway Trail and let the fun begin!

Hilton Garden Inn: Bike Friendly in Bushnell’s Basin

This month’s Trailside business, the Hilton Garden Inn Rochester/Pittsford, has served cyclists on the statewide Canalway Trail system since 2013. This year, they will become the first bike-friendly certified business as part of Parks & Trails New York and the NYS Canal Corporation’s Bike Friendly New York program, set to launch in May.

Situated right along the Erie Canalway Trail, in the historic district of Bushnells Basin, Hilton Garden Inn Rochester/Pittsford has offered cyclists convenient and relaxing accommodations since its debut in 2013.

The 107 room property features the Garden Grille & Bar, complimentary Wi-Fi, heated indoor pool with whirlpool spa, and outdoor patio with fire pit.There are also several eateries and shops within a short walking distance, or guests may take the complimentary shuttle to Eastview Mall.

The Hilton Garden Inn’s bike-friendly credentials are strong, with the hotel providing indoor bike storage, free overnight parking and keeping bike repair tools and supplies handy. It’s no wonder the Hilton was voted number one for lodging in the Greater Rochester Region on TripAdvisor. Find out more by visiting www.rochesterpittsford.hgi.com.

“Our close proximity to the Erie Canalway trail makes the Hilton Garden Inn the perfect spot for cyclists to refresh and relax during their travels,” said Jessica Conley, Sales Director for the Hilton Garden Inn Rochester/Pittsford. “We continue to see an increase in cyclists along the trail and the Bike Friendly New York program will allow us to make their stay more comfortable and convenient.”

Bike Friendly New York 

Bike Friendly New York (BFNY) is a bicycle friendly certification program set to launch in 2017. Administered by Parks & Trails New York (PTNY) and the New York State Canal Corporation, BFNY aims to recognize and promote businesses that provide special accommodations for bicyclists. A wide range of businesses can apply for bike-friendly certification, including restaurants and bars, lodging, shops, and museums. BFNY was conceived with businesses located along the statewide Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) in mind; however, eligible businesses across New York may apply and be certified.

More information, including the program guide and application link, can be found at www.ptny.org/bikefriendly.


New Transportation Service Ready to Roll on the Canalway Trail

Erie Canal Bike Shuttle (ECBS), a new shuttle service on the Erie Canalway Trail, is gearing up for our very first season!

The service was designed especially for cyclists. ECBS will operate 3 shuttle buses, each accommodating up to 24 cyclists, and have enclosed cargo trailers that will haul the bikes and gear.

Buses with trailers in tow will operate out of a Syracuse hub,  providing daily out and back shuttle runs to Buffalo and Albany.

Beginning Memorial Day weekend (May 25, 2017), ECBS will provide cycle shuttle service along the entire 360 miles of the statewide Erie Canalway Trail. In addition to daily shuttle services, ECBS has a great website loaded with helpful planning information such as free multiday trip itineraries, maps, trip & packing guidance, and so much more.

“We’ve done a lot of planning and outreach, and really tried to design our services around the needs of cyclists using the Canalway Trail.”, says Diane Kolifrath, owner of Erie Canal Bike Shuttle.

ECBS will also offer several supported-ride packages, from posh “Inn-to-Inn cycle & stay” trips, to bike & camp trips. These packages include your overnight accommodations and gear and luggage transport (optional bike rentals can be arranged as well).

To celebrate its first operating season, ECBS is offering some great discounts.  The grand opening special allows rides between May 25th and June 1st for only $45 for the West or East Shuttle, or only $75 for full Erie End-to-End. All summer trips booked before May 1 save 20%;  book before June 1 to save 10%.

“The Erie Canalway Trail offers so much, “ offers Diane Kolifrath, “great local flavor, rich history, beautiful scenery, and attractions for both kids and adults. Our goal is to make it fun and easy for people to plan an exciting vacation on the awesome Erie Canalway Trail.”

Find out more about ECBS’s services at www.GoBikeErie.com, or call (949) I-BIKE-NY.

Best of luck Dianne and the whole ECBS crew. Dependable and convenient transportation is a critical piece in attracting more visitors to the Canalway Trail, and ensuring a high level of service for trail users.

The First End-to-Enders

As both the bicycle and the Erie Canal celebrate their bicentennial this year, we thought it would be fun to highlight one of the earliest bicycle trips taken along the Erie Canal 120 years ago. Earlier this year, Dave Patterson of Missoula, Montana found a detailed travel log of his grandfather’s bicycle trip during the summer of 1897 between Albany and Buffalo and shared it with Parks & Trails New York. “From Albany to Buffalo: An Account of a Pleasant Wheeling Tour Across New York State” describes in detail the sights, route, amenities, and difficulties of the earliest known end-to-end trip along the Erie Canal. To the thousands who have followed in their tracks since then, the experience holds some familiarity.

Austin Patterson and his riding companion Frank Chew left Albany in the early evening of June 21, 1897, with the goal of reaching Buffalo in less than two weeks. Almost immediately, they experienced mechanical issues. Undeterred, they “made a good start on the fine cycle path that extends, with but one poor stretch, clear to Schenectady.” Aside from battling an uncooperative chain, Austin lost a pedal and his tool bag somewhere on the dark trail between Albany and Schenectady. As anyone who knows about the perils of early bicycle touring can attest, these mechanical issues didn’t stop after the first day. Austin faced everything from a stubbornly persistent flat to a crash involving another rider from Utica near Clyde.

Edison Hotel, Schenectady

Schenectady’s Edison Hotel (via Schenectady Daily Gazette)

Similar to today’s experience, Austin and Frank encountered accommodations that varied from the “fine” Edison Hotel in Schenectady (“our money was plenty then,” Austin writes) to the 25-cent-a-night Franklin House in Amsterdam, where Austin writes that he “lost sleep that night on account of mosquitoes or – something.” People living along the route also opened their homes to the touring cyclists, including one memorable host in Clyde, Henry Barton. Austin writes that for only 75 cents, they stayed in a “neat room with a double bed…and in the morning, enjoyed a plentiful country breakfast with amiable Henry B., his large wife, pretty dark-eyed daughter, and bright-faced boy.”

The similarities start to disappear, though, as soon as you read about the food they ate along the way. Now when most touring cyclists seek out a hearty meal to refuel, they eat granola bars, fruit, and carbohydrate-loaded meals like bread and pasta. Almost every day, Austin and Frank subsisted on pastries, cakes, candy, and milk. On June 29, Austin writes that “we reached Palmyra a little after 2 PM. Our dinner had been entirely of cherries, so we got some cake and ice cream to back it up.”


Austin Patterson’s itinerary from the first documented End-to-End bicycle trip along the Erie Canal in 1897.

Another difference between End-to-End touring in 1897 and 2017 is the route between Buffalo and Albany. While the Erie Canalway Trail did not exist as a 360-mile off-road route in 1897, Austin and Frank did take advantage of a variety of off-road paths. Outside Utica they encountered a “fine cinder path built by local wheelmen.” These private paths appeared across the country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries to provide cyclists with a smooth place to ride in an era when paved roads were just starting to make their debut. They usually required club membership or a toll to take advantage of the privilege of riding on the equivalent of a modern-day multi-use path. “In spite of the many placards hinting that those who did not help pay need not ride, we sailed along with easy consciences, believing that as visiting wheelmen we were entitled to all the privileges of guests,” Austin wrote. Other separated paths existed between Albany and Schenectady, in the Mohawk Valley between Little Falls and Herkimer, and an early-day rail-with-trail between the railroad tracks through Mohawk, Ilion, and Frankfort. Today, much of the Erie Canalway Trail uses the abandoned towpath, with cyclists, hikers, runners, and dog-walkers sharing the historic path. In 1897, during the Erie Canal’s heyday, cyclists using the towpath had to contend with a different definition of multi-use. Austin writes that despite taking advantage of a better riding surface than the adjacent roads, “we had to be on our guard against being thrown into the canal by the mule-ropes.”

The most relatable experience Austin documents comes at the end of his trip, 11 days after he left Albany: “the last fourteen-and-a-half miles were asphalt and over this I rode down into the heart of the city of Buffalo—the goal attained at last.”

Click here to read Austin Patterson’s “From Albany to Buffalo. An Account of a Pleasant Wheeling Tour Across New York State”

Do you have an Erie Canalway Trail End-to-End story to share? Visit our website to register as an End-to-Ender and tell us about your journey.

Tuesdays on the Towpath Grows in 2017

Throughout the year, the Canalway Trail system provides nearly 360-miles of multi-use trail for bikers, walkers, and even cross country skiers alike. In the Capital Region and the Syracuse area (Oneida, Madison and Onondaga county), there are a surplus of bike-friendly rail trails, roads and canalway trails. Both areas offer ‘Towpath Tuesday’ programs—an opportunity for cyclists of all abilities to get some exercise, socialize, and appreciate local attractions. If you’re looking to be introduced to summer cycling on the Erie Canal, and other bike friendly trails, the two groups profiled below are a great place to start.

Tuesdays on the Towpath – Madison, Oneida, Onondaga…. and NOW Herkimer and Wayne Counties!

In the spring of 2012, the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum (CLCBM) and the Syracuse Bicycles shop partnered to create a ride group—Tuesdays on the Towpath. Since then, their series has expanded to encompass new partners and a variety of ride options.

The dates of each ride change month to month, and are reflected in the schedule copied below. Most events are located on the Old Erie Canal State Park section of the Erie Canal Trail (ECT), or on roads or trails that connect to the ECT. However, the ride series has grown to include Rome and Herkimer, and now Wayne County. Common stops along each ride include historical sites, local museums, and other canal features. After the 8-10 mile ride, many cyclists head into town to enjoy local food and craft beverages.

In an interview with CLCBM Executive Director Chris O’Neill, she cited two main factors that have lead to the success of the program. First, it attracts recreational riders, which she deemed an “under-served market.” Second, it links outdoor recreation with cultural heritage and small town shops, restaurants, and bars. Since its founding, Tuesdays on the Towpath has garnered support from groups such as the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, Parks & Trails New York, and Mello Velo Bike Shop. Historical credibility comes from the Erie Canal Museum—also a popular stop during Tuesdays on the Towpath excursions.

More information on the trips may be found at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum or in the schedule shown below.

If you’re interested in cycling and the history of the Erie Canal, and you happen to be in Central New York on a Tuesday, don’t miss this exciting, free ride. It surely won’t disappoint!

Month Date Location Meeting Location
5/16 Trailworks NYS Canal Corporation Lock 28A, 7665 Dry Dock Road, Lyons
6/6 Erie Canal Cruises Erie Canal Cruises, 800 Mohawk Street, Herkimer
6/13 Camillus Erie Canal Park Sims Store Museum, 5750 Devoe Road, Camillus
6/20*** Town of Dewitt Old Erie Canal State Park Trailhead, 5100 Butternut Drive, East Syracuse
6/27 Erie Canal Museum Erie Canal Museum, 318 Erie Boulevard East, Syracuse
7/11 Fayetteville Citizens Fayetteville Canal Landing Park
7/18 Town of Dewitt Wegman’s, 6787 E Genesee Street, Fayetteville
6/25 Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Musuem, 717 Lakeport Rd, Chittenango
8/15 Old Erie Canal Community Working Group Onondaga West Lake Trail, 280 Restoration Way, Syracuse
8/22 Rome Historical Society and Fort Stanwix National Monument Bellamy Harbor Park, Rome
5/9 Onondaga Historical Association Onondaga East Lake Trail, 106 Lake Dr, Liverpool
5/12 Oneida Rail Trail Committee 157 Cedar Street, Oneida

*** denotes ride start time of 4 PM

Towpath Tuesdays – Capital Region

In the Albany area, there is another trail-focused series whose ride day happens to be Tuesday—Towpath Tuesdays.

Led by staff at Bike Barn, a bike shop in Cohoes, NY, cyclists meet at 6pm sharp and ride one of three routes every week. Their most popular route starts in Watervliet and continues along the Hudson River until Albany. Other routes include the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway from Cohoes to Niskayuna’s Lyons Park and from Van Schaick Pond in Cohoes to Peebles Island State Park. The atmosphere is light and fun and the views are stunning. Cyclists of all ages and experience levels are welcome. Bike Barn also offers occasional moderate mountain bike rides Sundays throughout the season. For meeting locations and ride schedules, visit Bike Barn’s Meetup page or call (518) 238-BIKE.

Happy trails!