Bicycle parking is coming to downtown Hartford. Your last excuse not to commute on two wheels is about to disappear.
July 05, 2007
By Hartford Advocate Staff
If you think parking your car downtown is a pain — and really, who doesn't? — you should try parking your bike.
Your choices boil down to either one of three cherry-red "post-and-ring" racks outside the Wadsworth Atheneum Art Museum, or a rack Hartford Public Library placed near the book drop. That's it — unless we've missed something.
"Public parking for bicycles is not really available," said Sandy Fry, principal transportation planner for the Capitol Region Council of Governments, a quasi-governmental agency that advises the city on planning. "That's true region-wide, there's not a lot of it out there."
Well that's about to change. The city has received a $30,800 federal CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) grant to install more racks, according to Fry.
There is a local match of funds required for the total project cost of about $38,500. The Central Connecticut Bicycle Alliance, Greater Hartford Arts Council and Greater Hartford Transit District came up with the matching funds. The city will donate labor to install the racks, according to Councilman Bob Painter.
No one knows exactly when the federal money will become available, but in the meantime there's a lot of planning to be done.
Dave Ringquist, president of the bicycle alliance, said his group will be providing input on where the racks should be placed downtown.
The alliance will also publicize the availability of the racks through its Web site (www.wecyclect.org) and its e-mail list.
"I think the nature of this is a pilot program," said Ringquist. "Put (the racks) out there and see if they come. If it's successful we'll publicize it in other towns and encourage them to do it."
The push to make Hartford more bicycle-friendly comes largely from Painter, a cyclist himself. Painter credits his executive assistant, Jennifer Cassidy, another cyclist, with doing most of the legwork to secure the CMAQ grant.
In March, Painter sponsored a resolution to explore linking Hartford's existing bike paths into the East Coast Greenway, an ambitious project to create a continuous bike route from Florida to Maine.
The greenway still has lots of holes, but it basically comes into the state at Greenwich and makes its way to East Hartford. From there, says Fry, there's a gap to the riverfront trails — a design to bridge the gap is in the works.
The next puzzle is how to get from downtown west to the Farmington Canal Trail. Fill another gap or two and you're on to Massachusetts.
"It seems in recent years there's been more interest and emphasis on looking for ways to promote alternative modes of transportation," said Lee C. Erdmann, Hartford's chief operating officer, and chairman of the city's ad hoc bicycle trails committee. "We're serious about it."