There was a crowd gathered early Friday morning in the parking area next to in Blue Back Square, but there were few cars in sight.
Most of the people had arrived on wheels, however – those of the two-wheeled variety.
Approximately 40 brightly-clad cyclists gathered for a brief rally, and then followed Commissioner of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Dan Esty down Raymond Road to the state-wide Bike to Work Day rally in Hartford.
This was the second time that Esty made the 20-plus mile trip to meet up with the group gathered in West Hartford. "We are really starting to move this state in the direction of making bicycling a serious opportunity and a serious option," Esty said.
State Sen. Beth Bye (D-5th), who rides her bike to the Capitol about 50 percent of the time, said, "It's such a wonderful way to start my day."
Bye hopes that the Vulnerable User Bill, a bipartisan effort that would protect the rights of bicyclists and other "vulnerable users of the roadways" will be revived in a special session of the legislature. Time ran out before the bill could be passed in the previous session.
Bike Walk Connecticut sponsored the event, along with REI, which has just been named a "Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Business" by the League of American Bicyclists.
Bike Walk Connecticut's mission, according to the organization's website, is to change "the culture of transportation through advocacy and education to make bicycling and walking safe, feasible and attractive for a healthier, cleaner Connecticut."
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West Hartford's Bicycle Advisory Committee supports those goals, and is working to make West Hartford's streets more bike friendly. Committee member Jim Green, who attended Friday's rally, said the committee is currently focusing on safer bicycling routes, especially for the north-south corridor. In terms of creating a bike route, North Main Street, which is very narrow in some places, "is probably out of the question [as a bike route]," Green said.
Conard history teacher Tracey Wilson, who rides her bike across town to work every day, said that there are bike-friendly areas around West Hartford Center, but she is hoping to see more. Farmington Ave., from Whiting Lane to the Center, is currently undergoing construction. "I would like to see them stripe it [to create a bike lane], rather than add median strips," Wilson said.
Green added that the MDC's current sewer work, which involves ripping up a lot of roads, "could be an opportunity to make safer bike routes."
Jeremy Castle of REI, an avid cyclist who hasn't owned a car in nine years, hopes to encourage others to ride. "If we can get more cyclists out on the road, the motorists will have to be more aware," he said.