Sunday, February 10, 2008

Trails Serve More Than Recreation

Image of snowy bike path
From the Hartford Courant, 01.09.08:

Federal transportation legislation passed in the 1990s called for the integration of bicycling and walking into the transportation mainstream. Agencies were directed to accommodate walking and biking as "a routine part of their planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance activities."

It is remarkable how little progress Connecticut has made on this policy.

When challenged on this, DOT people have taken the position that biking and walking are recreation, not transportation. On the Canal trail, we funded a laser counter that recorded trail users at one piece of the system in Simsbury. From November 2006 to November 2007 it counted more than 110,000 individual visits with an overall gross traffic count of 167,424. It stretches credulity that this safe, multi-use trail linking Farmington Valley towns is not being used for commuting and short trips apart from recreation.

The state is in the process of selecting a new DOT commissioner. One test should be the understanding that biking and walking are not merely recreational activities, but integral parts of a well-balanced transportation system. There is irrefutable evidence that where trails have been built, commuting by bicycle has increased enormously. To put it succinctly, there is demand.(Read more.)
Strongly reasoned editorial arguing for more action from Connecticut transportation officials on bike paths. So called "recreational" bike paths inevitably become important bike commuting corridors.

Image: Jeffrey Beall/Flickr.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

2 comments:

aryxmyth said...

Jodi Rell, the Governor of CT, is pressing to have the current DOT split into two entities - one for highway and one for mass transit and other forms of transportation. Currently it is widely recognized that the current DOT is focused only on highways. Now is the time for CT bike commuters to write letters and get involved in order to help influence what may shake out as monies are allocated in a new transportation organization.

Living in lower Fairfield County has many benefits, but bike commuting is a very dangerous task here. On my 15 mile each way commute there are no sections of trails. Because this is an "old" part of the country, most of the roads were built around farms and geography like hills and streams, so there are few parallel roads for alternate routes away from heavy traffic areas. If there were a bike trail along the Long Island sound, or even the one proposed for the Greenway along the Merritt Parkway, it would be a phenomenal boost - and I would imagine it would not be long before there was congestion on the bike trail!

Patrick, Jill, Zelda...and Milo said...

"If there were a bike trail along the Long Island sound, or even the one proposed for the Greenway along the Merritt Parkway, it would be a phenomenal boost - and I would imagine it would not be long before there was congestion on the bike trail!"

I agree wholeheartedly. I’m new to Connecticut and for a couple of weeks now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to commute by bike from Hamden to Sacred Heart University (Bridgeport/Fairfield), where I work as a librarian. I initially thought about biking to the New Haven train station, catching the Metro-North to Bridgeport, and then biking up to campus. That would be a 16 mile, round-trip commute (with a 20 min train ride). This, however, won’t work, as the Metro-North does not allow bikes on the train during peak hours (the same hours that potential bike commuters would need to be on the train…if only we had a couple of those bike cars I saw on trains all over Europe).
I think I might try the 25 mile morning commute to work and then catch the last non-peak train home…which would mean a total of 33 miles for my commute. The major problem is the route to work. If there were a trail along the Long Island Sound or something along the Merritt, things would be great. Instead, there are only three ways over the Housatonic: the Merritt, I-95, and Highway 1. I guess it’s Highway 1.