Back in January 1940, the Buffalo Common Council approved Buffalo, The City of Good Neighbors as the official slogan of the City of Buffalo. Unlike many urban branding and marketing efforts, this one has impressive staying power. Over 80 years later, we treat it as a moral mission statement. Buffalo: Talking Proud, on the other hand, now comes off as amusingly pathetic.
Some of my favorite Good Neighbor moments are when the Bills fandom, wherever it may be, rises as one and pours millions of dollars into a good cause, like Damar Hamlin’s charity. When neighbors show up to aid someone burned out of their home or suffering a violent death in the family. When we throw one excellent parade and summer festival after another, solely on volunteer labor. When we join committees, nonprofit boards, or block clubs.
A lot of you lose this Buffalo ethic the minute you get behind the wheel, though. As someone who usually walks or bikes everywhere, I see it almost daily. Most of you are conscientious most of the time. But when you’re not, you risk maiming or killing someone.
A lot of you lose this Buffalo ethic the minute you get behind the wheel. I see it almost daily. Most of you are conscientious most of the time. But when you’re not, you risk maiming or killing someone.
There was the time I was walking to work in temperatures around 5F. Dress properly and walking in ordinary winter weather is no big deal. Standing still is what’s risky. I got to an intersection, waited for my Walk signal, and when it arrived, was marooned by a string of drivers making illegal right-on-reds. One driver after another in comfy upholstered seats with the heat on would not brake for me though I had the right of way. You do know you’re required to come to a full stop and let pedestrians cross before taking that right-on-red? Did I mention it was 5F?
Another classic is the look-left-turn-right maneuver. Lots of you do not look both ways when you’re heading into intersections. You gun it before checking if someone is on foot on your right. Not to mention treating stop signs as optional. “I just didn’t see her, Officer.”
This one is particularly creepy. Literally. Someone is crossing in front of you and you start accelerating towards them before they have cleared your path. This is vehicular bullying.
Then there’s blocking crosswalks at intersections, forcing someone crossing the street to choose between passing in front of you dangerously close to traffic or risk getting crushed by a distracted driver behind you.
Speaking of distracted drivers, last week I watched a guy lean over and take a bong hit while starting his right-on-red. Without looking up. Usually, you’re sober but fixated on your cell phones instead. I often wonder when I’ll be the casualty of someone who cannot put the phone down.
About 1 in 3 households in Buffalo is without a private vehicle, which means a lot of us bike, walk, and use public transit. Try imagining that every person outside of your vehicle is your mom or dad taking your baby for a walk. Good neighbors don’t casually endanger others when they hop in their cars.
Illustration by author, 2023.