Simsbury has had no trouble branding itself: village charm and bicycles. They have infrastructure to support cyclists. Most notable is the visibility of teenage girls on bikes; this is usually the time of life when many females stop participating in physical activities. All of this is great for Simsbury, but recent developments in Hartford may give the little town some competition for the title of the only Bicycle Friendly Community in Connecticut– maybe not this year or next, but soon.
Improvements to bike infrastructure were written into One City, One Plan — Hartford’s Plan of Conservation and Development. These improvements include providing of parking facilities; connection of neigbhorhoods to parks, shopping, and employment; and investment in “bike lanes, wide shoulders, wide outside lanes, and multi-use trails.” The POCD through 2020 also focuses on complete streets and reducing the dependency on single occupancy vehicles.
Next to the $5 million appropriated for the iQuilt plan in the fiscal year 2012-13 budget, $300,000 for citywide bike lanes is nothing. For FY 2011-2012, $50,000 had been appropriated for lanes.
Bike lanes are an investment in safety, not just convenience. Beyond that, they are a statement: bicycles belong on the street. This signals that drivers have no right to tell cyclists to get on the sidewalk, and, it tells those who already ride on the sidewalk, that they should not be interfering with pedestrians.
The mass installation of bike racks also sends a message: cyclists are as entitled as motorists to designated parking spots.
Cyclists can and do lock up things that are not racks; this strips paint and bark, and sometimes interferes with pedestrians. These makeshift spots are not always visible, increasing the risk of theft.
According to the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, the average cost for purchasing and installing a bike rack, which can accommodate two bicycles (more if creative arranging and locking is used) is between $150-300. They say that to accommodate one vehicle, it costs $2,200 in a surface lot and $12,500 in a garage. In Hartford, the mass installation of racks — 273 in all — slated for completion by the end of July, has been funded by a $30,000 federal grant, $17,000 from the Hartford Parking Authority, and $8,000 in matching donations. Once installed, there are no operating costs; no guards or lights required. Compare this to the $5.78 million budgeted to keep the HPA garages and lots afloat for one year.
Beyond the racks, there are plans to install bike lockers; these storage facilities are intended for long-term parking and prevention of both vandalism and theft. Ideal locations for these would be around Union Station and near other bus stops, like the current pick up/drop off spot on Columbus Boulevard for the Megabus. Both locations have bike racks nearby.
Despite this visible progress, there’s still some work to be done, like getting Mayor Segarra back on his bike. He already understands the value of cycling. At the recent Bike to Work breakfast, he said that more cyclists means a reduction in the number of parking complaints he receives.
If the woman in charge of Simsbury can lead a five-mile ride, Segarra can certainly join David Panagore and Jonas Maciunas in modeling sustainable transportation, if only by riding the few blocks from City Hall to the Old State House.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
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