NORWALK, Conn. – A plan for bike lanes in all of Norwalk is expected by November, Bike/Walk Task Force Co-Chairman Mike Mushak said, just one indicator of the “full steam ahead” approach taken by bicycle advocates.
A wish list has been delivered to Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord that includes five major areas that the task force would like to have bike lanes or sharrows put in, based on recommendations in studies paid for by Norwalk. A summary of the plans, that includes a priority list, is expected by the end of the year, Mushak said.
One fast result: The Strawberry Hill Avenue bike lanes in the vicinity of Nathan Hale Middle School are going to be tweaked, Alvord said last week, even if it’s not as drastic as the task force was hoping for. Bike lanes are coming to Fitch Street.
“Our plan did have an actual dashed line showing the bike lane through the intersection, but it meant narrowing the lanes and shifting all the center lines around,” Mushak said at last week’s Traffic Authority meeting. “That’s a radical approach. We think that’s the safest solution but we’re willing to compromise if the most egregious, dangerous parts of the bike lanes were fixed for now and then someday we’d have to come back and revisit the whole thing.”
Alvord said some of the turn lanes in the area aren’t needed, allowing for the creation of better bike lanes. That is where bike lanes abruptly become turn lanes; Alvord said a clear transition will be created.
Better signage will be installed to alert motorists to the possible presence of bicyclists, Mushak said. Alvord gave that a tepid endorsement.
“We can have sign pollution in Norwalk if we are not careful, and I am not sure signs help us that much,” Alvord said.
As preparation for bike lanes on the southern end of Strawberry Hill, the Traffic Authority voted to put up “no parking” signs on the east side of the street, between Beacon Street and Fitch Street.
Bike lanes are going to be installed on Fitch Street, Alvord said.
Alvord met with the task force Friday morning and went over the plans for road paving over the next five years. Mushak called the meeting productive.
“I suggested that we could look at roads that aren’t scheduled for repaving to put new stripes down and he was open to that idea,” Mushak said. “We are having a monthly meeting.”
The wish list includes Richards Avenue, where Mushak said there is plenty of room for bike lanes north of Connecticut Avenue
“Paint is cheap. None of this stuff is expensive, it’s just paint on the ground. We’re not asking for any curbs to be moved or anything,” Mushak said, after informing Commissioner Charlie Yost that, “We will be coming to you frequently with many requests.”
France Street and Park Street already have room for bike lanes, he said. Highland Avenue needs bike lanes in the area of the schools, and sharrows further south, he said. Seaview Avenue and Winfield Street have room for bicycles, he said.
Yost asked if there would be any effort to inform cyclists of the rules of the road. He asked if bicyclists could ride two abreast; the answer was that they can do that in a traffic lane but in a bike lane they are expected to ride single file.
“I have seen an awful lot of twos, and that is where the objections come, I think, from motorists,” Yost said.
“The educational component is actually critical now that we are moving ahead with a bike lane program,” Mayor Harry Rilling said, indicating that he meant educating drivers as well as cyclists.
“We intend on addressing that in the next few months, doing a concentrated educational effort,” Mushak said. “The rules of the road do apply to everyone.”
“I am very impressed by the amount of work put forth by the Bike/Walk task force in a short period of time,” Rilling said. “I know that we have been wanting to move forward for a very, very long time in the city of Norwalk with bike lanes that are appropriate for everybody.”
“Most cities can’t put in their bike lanes fast enough. That’s the kind of attitude that we are kind of hoping that Norwalk will be at very soon,” Mushak said, “where it will be so exciting that every time we repave a road we are going to look at all of our plans and we are going to get invited in and we’re going to say yes we are definitely going to do bike lanes here.”