Chairman’s View: Bike New Canaan
BY NEW CANAAN TOWN COUNCIL CHAIRMAN JOHN ENGEL
It’s Earth Day. I am reminded we really need bike lanes in New Canaan.
We need to begin with a bike lane down South Avenue that connects Waveny Park, the YMCA, our schools and the New Canaan Village.
I wrote about adding bike lanes in my New Year’s resolutions in December when I wrote about eliminating plastic bags. We banned the bags. Now that it’s warm out, thoughts turn to bicycles and beaches.
Yes, beaches. Darien First Selectman Jayme Stevenson suggested that bike lanes could connect Darien beaches to New Canaan’s parks. While non-residents pay $45 to park a car at the beach, our residents can ride bicycles to Weed Beach and Pear Tree Point for free. Think about it, free beach access.
Former Advertiser Editor Greg Reilly reported last June that the route from New Canaan to the beach is 7.7 miles. Going to the beach from New Canaan is slightly downhill, 30 minutes. The return trip takes 43 minutes.
South Avenue will soon be repaved and restriped. Are we waiting for repaving? Why wait? We should stripe a temporary path now and begin to train drivers and bikers how to share the road.
There are two types of bike lanes. Sharrows are symbols painted in the road indicating that drivers and bicyclists share the travel lane. Existing law already allows for shared use. Sharrows simply reinforce that reality. A 2016 Chicago study concluded Sharrows don’t encourage biking, nor do they improve safety. In contrast, bike lanes are typically four-foot-wide lanes specifically dedicated to cyclists. They exist on busier streets and demarcate bicycle space from motorized vehicle space with a line of white paint. This is what we need on our widest, busiest roads including South Avenue.
My family rented Citibikes in New York City on the first warm day of spring. (The lanes were clearly marked in green paint.) It was the most efficient (fastest and cheapest) way to get around New York City in nice weather. New Canaan should contract with a bike share service, like Citibike in New York and Hubway in Boston. New Rochelle began a bike share program last year with 11 stations. After six months they had 1,400 registered users, had sold 36 annual passes and 67 weekly passes and had logged 5,200 trips over 2,800 rental sessions. Norwalk’s Bike/Walk Commission has selected the same firm, P3GM, to roll out its bike-share program in 2019. Fairfield and Bridgeport may be next. The bike-share vendor hires a local bike shop to maintain the bikes and docking stations. Here, it’s Lou Kozar and New Canaan Bicycle.
Bike lanes. Bike sharing. After we connect Waveny and the train station to Darien’s beaches, we should add bike rental racks at Irwin Park, Kiwanis Park, the Glass House, Grace Farms, the historical society and the library. We must take the first steps to becoming a bike friendly town. This is an inexpensive initiative. It benefits our residents. It’s healthy for the planet and it’s the right thing to do. I’ll be adding this to our Town Council agenda.
John Engel is chairman of the Town Council. Chairman’s View represents the views of the chairman and not necessarily the views of other council members.