The Greenway’s 19th Century Roots
Bicycling was at the height of its popularity in 1896 when U.S. factories produced more than 2,000,000 bicycles. But the City of Rochester had banned bicyclists from the sidewalks the year before, and the condition of the city’s streets and roads made riding there impossible. As a result, sidepath associations were organized to develop separate cinder paths for riding in Rochester and the surrounding area.
The Scottsville to Rochester Sidepath was one of the first of its kind in the city. Opened in 1896, it was located on the berm side of the abandoned Genesee Valley Canal. The Western New York and Pennsylvania Railway was operating on tracks that had been laid on the towpath side of the canal after it ceased operation in 1878.
The 10-mile bicycle path extended between Rochester’s Olmsted-designed Genesee Valley Park and the Village of Scottsville. On its opening day a single file of riders left the park in a procession that stretched for more than four and one- half miles. The village of Scottsville decorated homes and businesses and provided refreshments to welcome the riders.
Just like today's Genesee Valley Greenway, volunteer labor was an important part of the sidepath’s development. District Attorney George W. Forsyth’s remarks are as appropriate today as they were when the sidepath was opened in 1896:
The Rochester area’s sidepath system reached its peak with 143 miles of paths in 1900, but declined and was abandoned by 1907 with the coming of the automobile and a growing interest in golf.
Berm Side of Canal was used as Scottsville Bicycle Path, 1896 to ~1907