West Hartford Bicycle Task Force chair Mary Ellen Thibodeau and West Hartford resident – and bike commuter – Sandy Fry from the Capitol Region Council of Governments presented an update on the organization's goals to the Town Council Tuesday night.
The task force is focused on making West Hartford's streets more amenable to bicycling, with a focus guided by the "Complete Streets Act" which was adopted in 2009.
"Complete Streets is a very simple concept," said Fry. "Communities with a complete streets ethic provide direction for all transportation projects."
The Complete Streets Act applies to all phases of transportation projects, not just those related to cycling. Its focus includes mobility and safety for all citizens, many of whom cannot drive; encouraging a balanced transportation system; climate and environmental considerations; economic vitality for the region (which has been shown to be enhanced by the availability of pedestrian and bike-friendly routes); and community and public health factors, including the encouragement of physical activity.
"What do we mean by complete streets?" Fry said. "West Hartford knows how to do this." She showed photos of Farmington Avenue west of the Center, where traffic calming measures and a wide shoulder/parking lane have made the route significantly safer for cyclists.
Both Fry and Thibodeau agreed that the Town's east/west routes have been made more bike friendly in recent years; however, more work needs to be done on the north/south routes, including Mountain Road and North Main Street, to make those roads safer and more accessible for bicyclists.
Fry suggested a "road diet" – a narrowing of the roadway utilized by vehicles to accommodate pedestrians or bicycles in certain areas. She said roads don't always need to be wider to positively impact transit.
"One of the things we have talked about is getting some input into upcoming road projects," said Thibodeau. She said consideration should also be given to adding side lines on Mountain Road.