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I'm a Person on a Bicycle, Not an Idiot: An Open Letter

An open letter to the management of the Shoppes at Farmington Valley in Canton, urging them to revise their policy towards bicycle use on their property.

Dear Management of the Shoppes at Farmington Valley,

“You are a total idiot!”

That’s what I was told by an angry member of your security staff on Thursday, Aug. 9, a little after 5 p.m. I’m not sure how she reached that conclusion.  I’d only said eight words to her: “I already sent a letter to your manager.”  And that was her response.  Followed by, “get off your bike or I will call 9-1-1.” Then she drove away. I had just left Barnes & Noble. We’d passed each other in the parking lot as she honked and yelled at me from her Securitas vehicle. I’d waved at her and continued riding. That’s apparently what had set her off.

She probably hadn’t read the letter I was referring to. I sent it by mail to your offices on July 18. In it, I explained that your handling of bicycles is inconsistent and your expectations are unrealistic. I also asked to stop being harassed by your security staff for the lawful and responsible use of a bicycle.  I even offered to discuss these issues with you so that you could take steps to make your plaza friendlier to the many customers (and employees) I’ve seen arriving by bike.  I haven’t heard back from you.

I usually ride my bike to get anywhere in Canton, and I visit your plaza often.  Aug. 9 wasn’t the first time I refused to get off my bike.  Over the years, I’ve upheld a shaky compromise with your security staff.  I lock my bike only at designated bike racks and I don’t ride on the sidewalk (except to get to the bike racks — an issue we disagree on). This is a verbal understanding I’ve reached with a man identifying himself as the manager, who I’ve encountered twice. I follow the same etiquette as people driving in the plaza and I’m especially courteous to people on foot.

And yet your official policy — as posted on signs — is that cyclists “please refrain.” If you’re going to enforce this policy vehemently, I’ll regretfully go other places. Businesses in Collinsville and Simsbury Center thrive on their two-wheeled visitors. There are also many businesses in Avon and Farmington who don’t seem to mind if I get there by bike.  Nowhere else in the Farmington Valley have I ever been told I wasn’t allowed.

Even if I do stay away from your property, however, many more people will continue to arrive by bike. They may not be your preferred customers, but bikes are becoming more popular each year.  The town of Canton — along with neighboring Avon and Simsbury — is taking steps to embrace this change.  The bike trails leading to your plaza will soon be improved, bringing more potential customers to your doorstep. You may continue to give them a hard time, or you can welcome them and learn ways to handle them safely and respectfully.

My offer still stands to discuss this with you in person. There are many easy-to-fix issues that would make the experience for cyclists better and keep the plaza safe and pleasant for everybody.  This must begin with your decision to welcome those cyclists.  If you don’t, I hope your tenants and the local bicycle community will be vocal in their opposition.

I’ll be happy to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Chris McCahill

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Becky Snyder August 17, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Then the employee should be reprimanded and fired.
Sylvia August 19, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I hope you train your staff to treat cyclists with courtesy. This treatment of cyclists is inconsistent with the economic plan of the towns and communities in the Farmington Valley. I hope that the shoppes will understand and actively encourage this. A great first step is training your staff.
Betty August 20, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Some skate boarders, bikers, and rollerbladers use the parking lots at Simsbury Commons and Avon Market Place as their playground. A boy on a bike continued to zigzagging in front of my moving car at Avon Market Place one evening, they have no security there. Luckily, I could stop in time, each time. I feared their luck would tragically run out. Once a man complained to me that his child could not freely ride around the parking lots at The Shoppes. I explained to him that it was for everyone's safety, that no one wanted to see kids on bikes hit by cars or old ladies knocked down. His response was the old ladies probably deserved it. Unfortunately poor judgement and entitlement seems to run rampant in our society. I looked around The Shoppes, they offer many bike racks throughout their property, one is not far from the entrance by the traffic light at Secret Lake Road, right off of RT 44. Spots on RT 44 have a margin/shoulder of only a few inches, people bike and walk on RT 44 daily. Again, it should be the town's next biggest priority for the safety of people on foot or bike.
Renee Rossi August 21, 2012 at 11:39 AM
Denise, what I don't understand is that you seem to have the time to write a generic post here on Simsbury Patch, but you can't pick up a phone and sit down face-to-face and have a LIVE conversation about this with Chris. Seems to me in this "let's all sit and hide behind technology" world, Chris offered a very generous gift: his valuable personal time to help solve an issue. What are you offering?
Chris McCahill August 23, 2012 at 06:59 PM
UPDATE: I just had a very nice meeting with Denise, the General Manager. We got along well and agreed that we want the same thing - a safe, pleasant environment for everyone at the Shoppes. Denise reiterated that they do welcome bikes on the property as long as they are behaving appropriately: staying off sidewalks, obeying traffic regulations, etc. She will be taking steps to make sure her staff understands this. She also encourages cyclists to avoid heavily trafficked areas with lots of parking maneuvers, whenever it's reasonable. Finally, as with cyclists, the staff holds drivers responsible for their behavior on the property. They will approach any driver who behaves recklessly or ignores stop signs. This is good for everyone. I'm very happy we were able to meet and find common ground.

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