By Mike Mushak
To the Editor:
NORWALK, Conn. – I was happy to read the excellent letter by Jud Aley in The Hour on Aug. 6th, which addressed the need for bike lanes on Strawberry Hill Avenue as it is being re-paved, and the importance of modern bike- and pedestrian-friendly street improvements in general to the economic future of Norwalk.
Norwalk needs to catch up to other surrounding cities that are installing miles of safe, separated bike lanes on their streets to attract and keep both younger and older residents who are now looking for these types of amenities, and to stimulate business activity which studies show increases on “livable” streets, meaning streets that are safe for everyone, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars.
We can be sure that almost every garage, shed, and condo storage unit in Norwalk has a bicycle or two stored there (and many more if there are kids around), often gathering dust because our streets are so dangerous to ride on with excessive speeding and no proper bike lanes as most other cities around the country now have. Imagine a bike-friendly Norwalk where kids can safely ride their bikes to school, where working folks can commute to work or to transit hubs to make their connections, and older retired folks can enjoy all of the offerings of Norwalk, all while improving their health and reducing car traffic. This is happening almost everywhere else in the country except here. Why?
Federal safety studies prove that installing bike lanes and slightly narrowing car travel lanes on local roads from interstate width (designed for 65 mph speeds, not local streets), slows traffic automatically without enforcement. Mayor Moccia has stated many times that the number one complaint from Norwalk residents to his office is speeding traffic. You would think he would see the simple and very effective solution here, which is really just inexpensive paint on the street. What’s the holdup?
Norwalk taxpayers have paid millions of dollars for professional plans and studies over the years calling for bike lanes and other safety improvements on our notoriously dangerous streets. These plans mean nothing if they are not implemented correctly, and unfortunately we have seen a dangerous and disturbing tendency for the Moccia Administration to reject or “compromise” these plans and ignore the experts’ recommendations, as we have seen most recently on Beach Road, Seaview Avenue, and West Avenue, where safe separated bike lanes were rejected on all three roads for dubious political reasons.
The 2011 Pedestrian and Bikeway Plan, which can be seen on the city website, calls for safe separated bike lanes on most of Strawberry Hill Avenue (between Westport Avenue and Norden Place with “sharrows”, or shared road, below that to Fitch Street) passing three schools, as well as on the upper half of Highland Avenue in Rowayton (between Flax Hill and Highland Court, with sharrows below that to Wilson Avenue), also passing three schools. Expert advice must not be ignored or “compromised” this time on these two newly re-paved streets, especially where children’s lives would be risked near the 6 schools.
We must demand that our politicians begin to start implementing the professional plans we have all paid for with our taxes to help bring Norwalk into the 21st century. Otherwise, every Norwalk resident who walks, rides a bike, or drives a car should vote in November for folks who actually will take the issue of speeding and safer streets seriously. In Norwalk, as elsewhere, public safety must never be ignored or compromised.
Mike Mushak, ASLA