EcoMan — Bike Month offers opportunity to reflect

Jun 20th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Story

by Richard M. Stowe
Tuesday, 14 June 2011

May was Bike Month. Friday, May 20 was bike-to-work day; May 16-20, bike-to-work week. It rained so hard in Connecticut on Wednesday, May 18 that Ms. Joaquim, the owner of Fairfield Trek Store, canceled “Ride of Silence” scheduled for 7 p.m.

Connecticut Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Board members Tom Harned and Rod Parlee in Connecticut DOT surface parking lot after May 19, 2011. Tom, who also serves on the Elm City Cycling board, holds the 2010 CT Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Board annual report, while Rod Parlee shows off his new Toyota Prius.

But while rain deluged the Northeast, my friend Peggy called from San Jose, Calif., while soaking up the sun on Sierra Road. There, bicycle racers climbed a 9.4% grade (1,759 foot elevation gain) to the finish line of the fourth stage of Amgen’s Tour of California after hammering a 81-mile course from Livermore through Mount Hamilton’s backside to San Jose.

On May 20, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood blogged about bike-to-work day. In Connecticut, Elm City Cycling drew 50 bicycle commuters to a bike-to-work breakfast in New Haven though “the weather wasn’t that great.”

I got soaked riding through the streets of Manhattan that day. So did New York City Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson. Mr. Wolfson bicycled from his Upper West Side digs to City Hall. A former strategic message coordinator in Senator Clinton’s nearly successful 2008 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Mr. Wolfson’s new assignment under Mayor Bloomberg is to encourage New Yorkers to commute by bike.

New York City’s investment in bike-friendly street redesign has accelerated rapidly since April 27, 2007, the day Mayor Bloomberg appointed Janette Sadik-Khan as commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation. From 2008 to 2010, the city added 200 miles of bike routes in its five boroughs. The city’s separated green bike lanes, in which parked cars may serve as a protective barrier from motorized traffic, have been lauded by cycling advocates.

The Federal Highway Administration subjects green bike lane applications to formal Request to Experiment procedures that include extensive before and after documentation. The minimum width for a green bike lane are subject to regular bike lane standards. Painted buffers and flex posts may be used in conjunction with green bike lanes.

On March 9, Ms. Sadik-Khan unveiled the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guidelines, which describes state of the practice solutions for on-street bicycle facilities, at the opening plenary of the 2011 League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. Viewable at, the guidelines were launched by NACTO, an association of 15 major U.S. cities, due to the limitations of existing design manuals.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation released a press statement on Tuesday, May 17. Acting Commissioner James P. Redeker said: “The Department supports and advocates multi-modal mobility transportation options. Combining public transportation with bike transportation bolsters a natural, seamless, multi-modal integration. To do that, it is necessary to provide a safe and secure method for bicycles to travel on the trains while at the same time provide adequate seating for passengers. We hope that this prototype system will accomplish that goal for the first time and we look forward to testing this system with MNR during the coming months.”

The bicycle racks will be installed later this year on two M-8 cars and the department will seek out customer feedback.

On Monday, May 23, USA Today published the League of American Bicyclists annual 2011 Bicycle Friendly State Rankings. Connecticut came in 21st. In prior years, Connecticut ranked 40th, 44th and 42nd. One notable Connecticut DOT policy change was to reduce minimum lane width from 12 feet to 11 feet on state roads — the extra foot-wide shoulder benefits bicyclists. With narrower lanes, bicyclists and pedestrians still must yield to emergency vehicles.

Even environmental writer Bill McKibben is talking up bicycling as plans carbon-free Moving Planet rallies on September 24. Bicycling is efficient — 6.2 times more than walking — when you factor in energy output and time for a given distance.

One of downtown New Canaan’s defining characteristics is its train station. Interestingly, New Canaan may apply for Federal Transit Administration Safe Routes To Transit grants, if it can meet the eligibility criteria. For bicycling, those routes must be within three miles of the station. That covers much of New Canaan!

Where bike lanes aren’t feasible, New Canaan could narrow vehicular lanes and utilize sharrows — bike-and-chevron shared lane pavement markings. Originating in Paris, sharrows migrated to Chicago and San Francisco — New Haven has eight miles of the markings.

Bicycling can be practical and enjoyable on warm nights, but it’s important to see, or be seen on New Canaan’s dark roads. Light & Motion, whose sustainable business practices wins awards, designs and manufactures all of its bike lights in Monterey; its lightweight helmet-mounted headlight/taillight, rechargeable via smart phones, is designed with women and children in mind.

Richard Stowe is a member of the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board and founder and director of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling. He may be reached at

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