I’ve heard that, without a car, it’s difficult to explore off-campus at the U of Rochester. Would a bike make exploring the area easier, or does the distance between places necessitate a car?
The difficulty comes from the location itself. The campus is bordered by a cemetery, the river, and a highway which cuts it off a bit from the city. Public transportation isn’t the greatest and there isn’t a lot of stuff nearby. Wegmans is the big grocery chain and the nearest one is 4 miles from campus. It gets pretty cold and snowy so I’m not sure how helpful a bike is.
I believe there are Zip cars to rent if needed. My son lived off campus and road his bike and skate boarded to school. There is a bus to take the students to Wegmans which is in mall.
There are quite a few layers to my response so I separated it into a few parts:
Part 1: Not to say that you won’t get off campus at all (see part 2), but UR isn’t necessarily the type of school where you have a lot of time or reason to explore the city off-campus, at least during the school year. The majority of students live on campus, with the vast remainder of them living very nearby. One of the things that I think made UR unique when I was an applicant is that literally everything you need is on campus - it’s like a little town in itself. This includes the dorms, classes, several dining choices, stores, coffee shops, full-service fitness complex, libraries, study facilities, outdoor green space, etc. On top of that, the administration has a very hands-off approach which allows students to have the freedoms of independent living, while providing everything needed right on campus. For example, there are no dorm sign-ins for guests, on-campus frat parties are allowed (with some relatively light regulation), coeds living in the same apartment/suite is permitted for upperclassmen, drinking isn’t heavily enforced against unless it’s disruptive or blatantly unsafe. I think the campus amenities, the feeling of freedom/independence on campus, and amount of time dedicated to academic work makes students content to live on campus and spend most of their time there. This is based on my experience as a student from 2009-2014; I’m sure not a ton had changed prior to COVID, but that’s almost certainly changed the social landscape semi-temporarily.
Part 2: While most students would not leave campus multiple nights per week, or even once per week, there were certainly a handful of quiet Friday nights where we went to the movies, local restaurant, or whatever. Usually we rode with whoever had a car (you’ll inevitably make friends with someone who does). Also, we went to downtown bars on Thursday nights quite often, and that involved taking a cab (for way more money than what an Uber costs now), or a bus provided either by UR or for Sorority-sponsored UR-only bar parties. These experiences weren’t necessarily submerging us in the “local culture” but they were things we did off campus on a semi-regular basis. Also, College Town is new since I was a student, and I know there are at least a handful of restaurants/shops that are now within walking distance from campus.
Part 3: With all of the above being said, Rochester is an underrated city with lots to do. Many students work internships, do research, or take summer classes, living in Rochester over the summer - this is when you get to really explore the city and all it has to offer (lots of good restaurants, arts scene, festivals, etc.) Summers in Rochester as a college-aged person are great, and I highly recommend taking advantage of them if possible. As someone mentioned, it isn’t much use having a bike once it gets cold, but between May and October (so, mostly summer), I’d argue that having a bike could be very useful. The Genesee River trail connects you to Downtown, probably a 10-15 minute ride from campus by bike. Notable neighborhoods on the east side like Monroe, Park Ave, South Wedge, East Ave.
My guy was there his entire 5 years (did Take 5) without a car. He never mentioned it as a problem. As an RA for 3 of those years, he taught his incoming freshmen how to use the bus system by taking them out to various places in the first month or two.
Going to/from home the cab to the airport was $15. Didn’t seem outrageous to me.