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If West Hartford Builds It, People Will Bike on It

The West Hartford Bicycle Advisory Committee is hoping to increase its base of support, and hopes to eventually earn the town designation as a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community.

The West Hartford Bicycle Advisory Committee received more than 800 responses to their recent survey, and based on those results they believe that residents are taking a greater than ever interest in bicycling, and in being able to bicycle safely.

A portion of Mountain Road was recently repaved, and at the same time most of the road, from Farmington Avenue to Still Road, was given a four-foot wide bicycle lane designated by a white stripe.

"The town, at our request, actually striped Mountain Road," said Bicycle Advisory Committee Chairman Scott Franklin, an avid cyclist who is a regular rider along Mountain Road. Many cyclists were pleasantly surprised to find the stripe on this major north-south route since it had not been publicly announced in advance.

Franklin said the town spent between $5,000 and $6,000 to paint the bicycle lane, with funds that he believes came from the crosswalk budget.

"There's already a three-foot rule in Connecticut, but sometimes it's hard to follow it," Franklin said, referring to the law that requires motorists to allow at least three feet between their car and a cyclist when passing. Some of the state's narrow, crowded roadways make it nearly impossible to enforce.

Mountain Road, which is heavily traveled by those on two and four wheels, should now be safer for all since the painted stripe creates awareness on the part of all who use the road.

Franklin acknowledged that creating designated bike lanes to a town's roads can be costly. "But towns of a lot less means than West Hartford have been doing lines, or 'sharrows,'" he said. "Sharrows" are shared lane arrows, such as those which have already been painted on Boulevard.

Franklin cites the traffic calming and environmental benefits which are the direct result of bike lanes, not to mention the positive health benefits for those who choose bicycle over automobile travel.

"I think it's all about awareness," he said. The reaction of many municipalities to adding bike lanes, he said, is: "Show us the need and we'll do it." Instead, said Franklin, it should be: "Do it, then they'll come."

Franklin said, "I have biked all over the world, but one of the most difficult places to bike is West Hartford."

The ultimate goal of the Bicycle Advisory Committee is to help West Hartford achieve the status, already attained by Simsbury, of a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community.

Althought the committee would like to see new bike routes added, and Franklin even mentioned removing a driving lane on part of North Main Street to accommodate a bike lane, "It will be little baby steps to get there," he acknowledged.

Right now, the group is planning to promote their work by marching in the Park Road Parade and setting up a new website. Bike to School, Bike to Work, and Bikefest events are planned for next May.

The committee also plans to approach the Town Council with the hope of adopting a resolution requiring a certain percentage of future street work to include bike and pedestrian rights of way.

"We don't want to be looked at as the 'people in Lycra,'" Franklin said. He believes that many more residents would bike if it were easier and safer. He would also love to see the East Coast Greenway pass through West Hartford, even if it just skirts the edge of town.

"West Hartford has so many good things going, has received so many acknowledgements, this is just one more thing the town could do," Franklin said.

Franklin, who also serves as co-director of the Miracle League of Connecticut, said that he would not be adverse to doing something to raiser funds like the public-private partnership which took the miracle field from dream to reality.

To jump start their efforts, the West Hartford Bicycle Advisory Committee is sponsoring a bicycle forum next Monday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. in Room 314 (Town Council Chambers) of .

The forum will focus on plans to make West Hartford a more bicycle friendly community, including education, additional bike racks, and establishment of a bike share program, in addition to planned events and efforts to establish more bicycle lanes and paths.

State Sen. Beth Bye and Mayor Scott Slifka, as well as Capital Region Council of Governments member Sandy Fry, will also address the forum.

amystery726 September 06, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I think it is wonderful to make the town more bike-friendly, but I think better judgement should be exercised in designating bike routes. The shoulder on Mountain Road is not adequate for a safe bike lane, especially during heavily trafficked hours. Cars trying to give sufficient leeway for a bicyclist will be sorely challenged! I'd like to also say that if we are trying to be more bike-friendly, why aren't we also being more pedestrian-friendly? There are crosswalks throughout town that are marked with the "zebra stripes," but no one yields to pedestrians in the crosswalk. THIS IS THE LAW! We need signs stating that at the crosswalks (and before a vehicle reaches them) as well as some flashing lights to remind drivers. With people running and walking throughout town, cars need to know that when they see a crosswalk, it is the pedestrian who has the right of way.
Sugarbeads September 09, 2012 at 12:50 PM
I am a business owner in West Hartford Center and I commute to my business by bike from my home in the West End. I applaud this effort by the town and I hope some attention is given to making a safe north-south bike route on Main Street. There is precious little room for error there, so little in fact that I usually resort to riding on the sidewalk on North Main. Is there a way we can explore ways to share the much safer pedestrian space? I walk to work as well so I'm keenly aware that we all need to feel safe.

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