Connecticut Bicycle Plan

Connecticut Bicycle Plan

To some cyclists, Connecticut has a reputation as being one of the least bike-friendly places in the country.

The state Department of Transportation is looking to change that image and improve safety by soliciting public input to a new statewide bicycling map that will show riders where they'll enjoy the most elbow room, safest routes for getting from point A-to-point B, and what amenities they can expect at mass transit centers for their wheels.

Only a smattering of the Constitution State's 21,000 miles of state roads have signage designating them as bicycle routes.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, 42 other states are more "bike friendly" than Connecticut. The reason the organization gives for Connecticut's low rating is that, although the state's carbon reduction plan includes bicycling, there is currently no state funding for bike education programs and no current state bike map. League officials say they use information submitted by state bike coordinators to develop their rankings.

On busy thoroughfares, motorists who encounter cyclists seem to view them as either obstacles, threats or nuisances. The way cyclists see things, motorists--often times--have no respect for them, thinking that they can just bully their way around them.

That's why the state DOT is convening four meetings around the state, starting Wednesday in Bristol, Thursday in Williamantic, October 6 in New Haven and October 7 in Stamford to hear what the public thinks of its proposed new statewide bicycle map and goals for improving bicycle and pedestrian access on state roads.

"The new bicycling map will feature a suitability index for every Connecticut road, which we've developed from a database that rates and analyzes their shoulder width and traffic volume," said Mary Miller, a senior planner with Fitzgerald & Halliday, Inc., of Hartford, the DOT's consultant for the project. "The routes will be color coded--green for a highly suitable one to yellow for somewhat suitable and red for a road" that a cyclist might want to avoid.

A steering committee of stakeholders that includes various cycling groups and community activists has been meeting with Fitzgerald & Halliday to consider initiatives that would make Connecticut roads both safer and more enjoyable to cyclists and pedestrians. Among the ideas that have been floated are more bicycle lockers at transit centers and potentially closing a portion of some state highways to motorized vehicles for a few weekend hours to give cyclists the run of the road.

The DOT has not weighed in, as of yet, on the notion of any highway closings.

To date, the DOT has installed lockers for bicycles at the Fairfield Metro-North Commuter Railroad Station and it is considering expanding that to other stations, David Balzer, the DOT's bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, said. "We have bike racks at virtually every train station now, but those racks don't protect what's on your bike from theft. Things like your bike computer, instruments and luggage rack. And let's face it, people are riding more sophisticated bikes these days."

For more information about the DOT's public meetings on its bicycling and pedestrian plans, go to www.ct.gov/dot.