Norwalk officials seem to be stuck in a car-oriented time warp

NORWALK, Conn. – In the spirit of Sunshine Week, celebrating “open government” to improve efficiency and effectiveness to strengthen our democracy, I submit this essay and hope you will take the time to read it.  There is always much going on in Norwalk, and much to discuss. Much gets missed as well in our busy lives. Being a passionate life-long student of cities (visiting over a hundred a year in the US and around the world, meeting local residents and officials, and taking thousands of photos) and being a professional landscape architect licensed in three states with an urban planning background,  I bare my soul and my research periodically in an essay to make Norwalk a better place for all of us.


Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak talks to the Common Council Tuesday.
Zoning Commissioner Mike Mushak talks to the Common Council Tuesday.

Thank you to city officials for listening and responding to my concerns at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting when a good discussion on paving happened around the approval of the $3.8 million paving contract with Deering, a Norwalk based company.

To clear the record, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord stated that he had never mentioned Deering’s long record of past poor performance in the press, after I had just indicated that he had in my statement.  I’m sure he just forgot with all he has on his plate, but here is the article from July 18th, 2011, in the Daily Norwalk, written by Nancy Chapman:

“Hendricks Avenue also sat for weeks in a milled but unpaved state. Deering Construction asked to mill other roads before paving it to maximize equipment efficiency. ‘While they were there the milling machine broke down,’ Alvord said. ‘Then the paving machine broke down. That’s why Hendricks sat there longer than we would want it to sit there.’  Alvord said that ideally, the DPW would like a road paved within a few days of being milled.”

Norwalk Paving 071411 001-18I have to ask if it is acceptable to allow Deering to maximize efficiency for their equipment, presumably to save them money, at the expense of Norwalk residents who have to then risk their safety maneuvering around the resulting obstacle courses left in the streets for weeks and months? This was a main source of complaints on the record about Deering over five years from 2007-2011, and here we have our own DPW director stating that he would prefer paving within a few days of milling, just as we all would for issues of public safety as well as convenience. We all remember, including police officers and many officials who heard the complaints, of  the debacles on Fort Point, Union, France, West, Hendricks, etc.  Let’s hope that message gets through to all city supervisors and the owners of Deering when they begin the large number of paving jobs this year.

We must also make sure Mr. Alvord has the resources and staff to properly supervise this large amount of work, another issue not brought up last night but that has been a big concern of his and the Common Council in the past. Short of hiring new staff, which will not happen, we all hope that responsibilities of the already stretched-thin staff could somehow be shifted to allow for more inspections and oversight, to protect public safety and ensure the top quality work taxpayers deserve.

I am happy to hear that Deering has promised to change their past ways, and that city officials including Mayor Richard Moccia and previously skeptical Common Council members are now confident that rules and safety standards will be followed from now on. That is an amazing transformation for a company to go through in just one year, and should be applauded by all Norwalk residents. We all look forward to the newly paved streets. Also, always good to keep business local. Great point made by Mayor Moccia and Mr. Alvord.

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The January 2012 Norwalk Pedestrian and Bikeway Transportation Plan offers this plan for Highland Avenue.

I also mentioned bike lanes for newly paved streets last night, and the four studies that recommend bike lanes for Norwalk that taxpayers have paid for totaling close to $1 million in the last 3 years (P and Z: $90,000; Connectivity: $200,000; NRVT: $200,000; and the new Transportation Plan, in final draft, $500,000). Any new street that is paved should be cross-referenced with these plans and have the bike lanes installed when re-striping, unless a very strong reason not to is offered up by city officials. We certainly do not need any more plans, since we already have four.

This year, a major street in Rowayton (Councilman David McCarthy’s district), Highland Avenue, is scheduled for repaving, and the P and Z study shows a mile of striped bike lanes from Flax Hill to Highland Court, passing in front of Brookside and McMahon schools. South of Highland Court, sharrows (arrows indicating shared road for bikes and cars, but no bike lane) will be installed where there is not enough room for separate bike lanes, which is the ONLY situation sharrows are recommended for as laid out in our multiple studies and in federal standards (low volume, low speed under 35 mph, no room for bike lanes).

Bike lanes are not just for 20-something cycling extremists, as some in Norwalk still believe (including some city officials), but they are for folks of all ages and abilities, including children and elderly, exactly the kinds of folks we are trying hard to attract and keep from leaving our communities.  Almost every garage in Norwalk has at least a bike or two, or sometimes many more when families are included, and yet most folks are too scared of speeding traffic and lack of state-of-the-art biking infrastructure to actually go out on our roads at this point.  Our many expert studies support this. We also have many low income folks who ride bikes now out of necessity, and this would surely increase if safer bike lanes were installed, helping folks who can’t afford expensive cars to get around the city without risking their lives as they currently are forced to.

Norwalk 020412 018Parents will be thrilled to find out that their kids may want to ride their bikes to both the elementary and high schools on Highland Avenue on these new bike lanes when they are installed later this year, hopefully, if Mayor Moccia and the Traffic Authority approve them as they should. Surprisingly, we are still waiting for bike lane signage and markings on Seaview Avenue, three years after repaving, despite promises from city officials that they would be installed. What happened? There should be no more delays on this, as all other cities around us are rapidly installing on-street bike lanes to improve safety and attract economic development. I look forward to hearing Mayor Moccia’s and the Traffic Authority’s reasons for not striping new bike lanes in Norwalk, when thousands of residents are eagerly waiting for them.

A very important point about paving and streets I did not have time to mention last night (three minutes is a short time to discuss important issues affecting Norwalk’s future, and I appreciated the extra two minutes the mayor granted me as it was),  was the rejection by the city of the ‘Complete Streets” solution for West Avenue, from Mathews Park to Wall Street,  recommended in the $200,000 Connectivity Study completed last year.  The experts recommended a “road diet,” or three-lane solution, to slow traffic and add bike lanes, increasing safety for pedestrians, bikes, and cars. See a description here.

The city has decided to keep the obsolete four-lane solution that exists on West Ave., except with new expensive traffic islands, and install “sharrows” instead of bike lanes.  Speeding on four-lane streets is guaranteed by the design (as well as higher injury and accident rates) and West Avenue has extremely high speeding traffic as any police officer, local resident, or business owner will attest to (ask Curry Tire owners, who have been there for decades).  As mentioned already, sharrows are NEVER recommended (per our own studies and federal standards) where traffic volume and speeds are high, and where there is potential room for bike lanes. West Avenue has high volume, high speed (which will continue with four lanes as experts tell us), and there is room for bike lanes with the three-lane road diet, as recommended. Therefore, the choice of sharrows and the four lane solution, by a small number of city officials, is out of code, and must be rejected as a serious planning mistake.

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Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord discusses options for Calf Pasture Beach Road at a Traffic Commission meeting last summer.

Bike lanes are always PREFERRED for safety for both cars and cyclists. That is exactly why the Beach Road sharrows are so dangerous, and were not recommended by any experts the city hired. The decision to abandon the road-diet trial period last year was highly politicized and sad to watch, for the hundreds of safety advocates who worked so hard on promoting the three taxpayer-funded professional studies that showed bike lanes and or a road diet as appropriate solutions for the conditions. The resulting “sharrows” solution, passed by the Common Council by a slim margin, gave Norwalk the honor of receiving a “Loser Award” from the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. I think most Norwalkers would prefer we receive “Winner Awards” when it comes to public safety improvements. Hopefully that will happen, but not if we continue on the same path we are now.

I don’t think any parent would allow their child to go out on a bike onto the Beach Road “shared lanes” in the summer with speeding and passing traffic, and high volumes on weekends, because even adults are intimidated by these sharrows that were installed as a poorly conceived “compromise” by the Traffic Authority. Now we are about to repeat the same mistake on West Avenue, defying advice from experienced professionals and federal standards.  This is just mind-boggling at this point, to be blunt. It is also potentially a serious legal issue, as city liability is increased when accepted standards are not followed. Beach Road is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and so is West Avenue if we do not change the bad decision by city officials.

Waypointe West Avenue March 13 2013
A man walks past the Waypointe construction site Wednesday.

The biggest tragedy of the city’s rejection of experts’ plans for a state-of-the-art “Compete Streets” solution for West Avenue is that the new developer of Waypointe has stated a preference for bike lanes in front of its $250 million project it is now building, in the last Zoning meeting. In fact, the developers stated that they were required by Stamford, just down the road, to install the bike lanes at their own expense in front of another one of their large projects, which Norwalk has never required, but which clearly indicates the strong commitment to bike lanes that our neighbors have as they install miles of lanes all over town for their residents.

All studies indicate that the marketing potential of new apartments relies heavily on proximity to transit options and the availability of biking infrastructure, as folks looking to move into more urban environments such as Waypointe are hoping to use their cars less, or not even own one (the majority of 18 to 35-year-olds do not own cars in recent studies).  This includes older folks as well, sometimes called empty nesters, who are moving back into more vibrant and culturally rich cities near transit in droves across America. That is why the developer is including bike storage areas in the new complex.

Imagine the disappointing news potential residents will hear upon visiting Waypointe’s sales office when they find out the city has no downtown bike lanes like other cities, but only short stretches of dangerous “sharrows” on busy four lane roads full of speeding cars where they take their life in their hands. They can forget about riding their bike to the SoNo train station along West Avenue, based on the lack of a bike route along West Avenue.  I am sure many will decide to live in a different city that promotes safer streets and a more vibrant urban scene.

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Cars pass the 95-7 site on West Avenue.

Someday, the (potentially) fatal planning mistake the city made to build the seven lane West Avenue expansion in front of 95/7 without bike lanes will be corrected, with re-striping and narrower lanes, but I suspect we will have to wait for new leadership to do that. The CT DOT, who mostly designed and funded the expansion, would have responded with a bike-friendly design if Norwalk officials had simply requested it, but we didn’t. At the same time, other cities were spending state money on new roads with bike lanes upon their request, including Stamford next door.

Unfortunately, our Planning and Zoning department offers no feedback, review or input on major transportation projects like this, despite the fact that the American Planning Association lists transportation planning as the most crucial element of good urban planning, and our 2008 Master Plan of Conservation and Development has an entire chapter devoted to transportation design including bike lanes. We must do a better job of coordinating our departments and making sure all road projects follow the intent of our master plan and our numerous studies, before crucial decisions are made.

One of several plans that are being ignored, according to Mike Mushak.

Above is a short video of a coastal city similar to Norwalk — Portsmouth, Va. —  that has incorporated smart transportation design into its zoning code and street design, including bike lanes.  Please note how crucial bike lanes are to this vision of a more livable city. Contrast this video to the broken planning process Norwalk has in place, where departments do not communicate, and our leadership lacks any vision for what Norwalk wants and needs to become to remain healthy and vibrant, with a growing tax base and great quality of life. Strong words, but necessary.

Renowned planner Jeff Speck, in his new book “Walkable City,” which I am recommending to everyone I know who cares about the future of Norwalk, states that one of the biggest mistake modern cities can make is having their streets designed by their Department of Public Works, which is exactly what Norwalk is doing.  With all due respect, engineers are not urban planners, and have a limited perspective when it comes to what kind of city we are trying to become, which is more walkable, bikeable, and livable with a vibrant street life to attract the kinds of folks to fill the thousands of new apartments we are building in the next decade.

This is a great short interview with Speck, who has interesting things to say about how important mayors can be to ensure good urban design as well as the common mistakes cities make (Norwalk is making all of the mistakes as we speak).

We simply can’t afford to keep making these same mistakes now, just because of an apparent knee-jerk fear of bike lanes based on obsolete perceptions by DPW, Mayor Moccia and the Traffic Authority, who seem to hold all the power in these decisions despite the pleadings of the Redevelopment Agency, the private sector including major developers, the national experts taxpayers paid for, and the thousands of Norwalk residents and businesses who are waiting for state-of-the-art progress on street design in Norwalk. Everyone I know, professional and layperson alike, seems to get it, especially if they travel to other cities, but many of our city officials seem to be stuck in a car-oriented time warp from the last century. I hope they read this essay and the links carefully, and forgive me for being so blunt. Someone has to do the dirty work of shaking things up sometimes, and I guess that’s me in this case.

A view from the Yankee Doodle Bridge, part of the Norwalk Harbor Loop trail.
A view from the Yankee Doodle Bridge, part of the Norwalk Harbor Loop trail.

Another disappointing effort by the city is the frustrating and delayed opening of the long-awaited, beautiful, and transformative 3-mile Norwalk Harbor Loop Trail, which will easily turn Norwalk into a more walkable and sustainable city instantly if it can even just temporarily open this year, which it can do without much effort using easy detours around missing links.   It will immediately boost economic activity and property values as many studies show these types of trails will do, as well as enhance the city’s image and marketability as many new projects come on line in the next few years.   The NHLT has been under construction for 35 years and is 90 percent complete, yet we still have a few missing links with no progress on them over the last two years, despite many promises from city officials in the last election cycle.

We need a summit meeting with Mayor Moccia, Economic Development Director Tad Diesel, and department heads to find out what exactly is going on with this trail. It seems to have slipped quietly into the background and been forgotten about by officials, but not the thousands of folks, including residents of condos, businesses and cultural institutions that are located along its route, who are waiting patiently for it and asking constantly about the delay.

There will hopefully be many events scheduled this year on the NHLT, including potential events involving the Chamber of Commerce, citizen groups, and cultural institutions,  and we need to get a renewed commitment from city officials that progress will be made, especially on the crucial missing links at 130 and 148 East Ave., and at the Riverwatch Condos on St. John Street, where a zoning approval and Certificate of Occupancy were granted by the city despite the owner not fully completing the zoning requirement for a public access boardwalk on the river (staff never fully explained how this happened, and legal action may now be needed to get this fully completed.)

The public deserves a full explanation about why nothing is happening on the Norwalk Harbor Loop Trail, the single most important project we have to enhance walkability and livability in the city, and which was started in 1981.

Thousands of Norwalk residents (and voters) will be watching for progress on the above issues. Thank you for your time, and sorry for the long read but hope you learned a few things. Have a happy spring filled with all kinds of “sunshine,” including celebrating “open government.”

Mike Mushak, zoning commissioner


17 responses to “Norwalk officials seem to be stuck in a car-oriented time warp”

  1. M. Murray

    Is a bike lane really necessary on West Ave? There is a bike path that runs parallel through oyster park and ino Sono. Millions were spent to develop it

  2. LWitherspoon

    I applaud your efforts to promote bike and ped accommodations in Norwalk. The more bike lanes we have the better. Like you, I would have preferred to see an entire lane devoted to pedestrians and bikes on Calf Pasture Beach Road, but the sharrows were better than nothing. I hope your advocacy will continue.

  3. Mike Mushak

    Thank you MM and LW for your comments. Norwalk has done a good job with our portion of the 28-mile Norwalk to Danbury Norwalk River Valley Trail over the last few years, which is the trail behind the old YMCA on West Ave., but the frustration with Beach Rd, which is the actual southern terminus of the NRVT, was that the $200k NRVT Study completed by a nationally prominent consultant recommended bike lanes or a road diet
    for Beach Rd, not sharrows. In fact, they said they were shocked at the city’s decision, as sharrows should never be used in those conditions when there is plenty of room for separate bike lanes. M. Murray, you make a good point about West Ave’s proximity to the NRVT, but federal standards and at least 2 of our 4 separate studies mention that the existence of a nearby separated bike trail does not replace the need for on-street bike lanes, as common sense tells us that cyclists need the same access to all of the same facilities (stores, apartment buildings, transit, schools, etc.) as cars and pedestrians. Daily living using bicycles, which is the trend across the country in vibrant urban areas, which is exactly what Norwalk is investing millions to become from both private and public sources, and why we are building thousands of new apartments in our downtown, makes on- street bike lanes in Norwalk and absolute necessity. It is unbelievable for me and many others to watch Norwalk’s leaders make short-sighted decisions against bike lanes based on irrational fears and petty politics, as if somehow Norwalk will buck the trend and always be completely car-oriented, at the same time smart and well-managed cities around the country and even nearby can’t seem to get on-street bike lanes installed fast enough to attract economic development, to attract both younger and older residents, and to create a more family-friendly city with different recreational and commuting options. More and more, with each passing month, it seems the only option to move Norwalk forward is to get a new mayor, a new Traffic Authority, and engineers who understand what 21st century urban design is all about. The implications of these continuous bad decisions may be too grave to recover from, as many potential new residents and businesses may find that our city may not be the vibrant nirvana we promised it would be with all of our expert plans that are routinely ignored by our current myopic leadership, to be quite honest based on the long record. How sad for all of us.

  4. Suzanne

    As a former West Coaster and distance bicyclist, I find the lack of accommodation to bicycling very sad for this town. Giving into an overwhelming amount of traffic for a less-safe and not recommended solution as with West Avenue is opening up the City of Norwalk to liabilities. There are expert opinions that agree about assigned bike lanes for this space while reducing the number of traffic lanes to slow speed down. If anyone, heaven forbid, gets hit while riding in this ill-found “sharrow” solution preferred by Mayor Moccia’s government, those studies can point to a safe solution not chosen. Or, maybe it’s a “kick the can” scenario: none of these people will still be around should anything untoward and actionable happen so why would they do the right thing now? I hate to be so cynical but it is SO OBVIOUS what the right thing to do is in order to make it safe to bicycle on West Avenue. And, sadly, I do not bike much here because I, like Mr. Mushak points out, do not feel safe with ill-paved streets, no shoulders and no accommodation for shared space in our roadways. It is urban planning 101 and the City of Norwalk just flunked.

  5. Suzanne

    Mr. Mushak, I just watched the video on Portsmouth, VA and it’s super! It is completely applicable to a re-envisioning of the City of Norwalk. They have done the hard work of re-evaluating and re-writing their development and zoning regulations and look at the results!!! Excellent!!! It reminds me a bit of downtown Tampa but even better. Thank you!

  6. Joe Espo

    I can count on one hand the number of people I see riding bikes daily along the routes that the Mr. Mushak mentions. There are more people playing golf at Oak Hills than I see riding bikes in any one day. And yet we spend millions upon millions of borrowed tax dollars on studies and sharrows chasing utopian ideals that cater to the 0.01% of twenty- and thirty-something Norwalk bike riders; those young fools who want to tempt fate and ride their bikes on West Avenue… or on Highland Avenue when convoys of wild parents are racing their kids to one of the three schools on that road. We spend millions of dollars catering to the loud, effete, namby-pambys who want to walk a trail once or twice a year but want to block acres and acres of land for other more productive uses year-round. Mr. Mushak has no qualms about diverting millions of dollars that could be better used to fund education, but he has a kanipshin when $150,000 is loaned to Oak Hills.

    Where do the middle-agers and seniors get any value from their tax dollars being used to build little-used bike lanes? Seniors riding bikes? Yep, I can just see my grandmother going to Stop and Shop on her Schwinn. What I’d rather see are more people being encouraged to make use of the nearly empty buses that we’ve invested in, chasing another stupid utopian ideal. Then grandma need not bother dusting off that bike she got for her sixteenth birthday. Instead, she can ride in one of those comfy mile-long tandem buses that go everywhere but take nearly no one anywhere.

  7. Suzanne

    I don’t know what “seniors” you are talking about Mr. Espo, but I happen to have family members approaching their seventies (and I think that qualifies as “senior”) who not only ride bicycles in their respective urban communities but, also, all over the world, especially in Europe. It is clean transportation requiring no dwindling petro-chemical resources that, if respected and allowed to properly exist, enhance a communitie’s value. And, yes, my relatives shop, go to the library, pay their taxes, visit the local museums and ride to work on their bicycles. I think you would see a lot more people of all ages doing just that (after all, they don’t require insurance, property tax and petrol) if given the opportunity. It has the potential to save the City of Norwalk a lot of money in car-related transportation costs as well as to the quality of the environment (potholes, for example, and the tested “dirty air” that seems to be concentrated over our town.) While this may not be the norm for you, Mr. Espo, it is for a lot of people and could be for a lot more. The only thing wrong with doing those studies is that the Moccia administration did not follow the expert recommendations thereby cheating Norwalk citizens out of the opportunity to improve their community. (And that would be all over Norwalk, not just the 144 acres of land that Oak Hills represents.)

  8. Tim T

    The bike lane thing is getting to be a bit much. Roads are made for cars not bikes. These bike lanes make a bad flow of traffic in Norwalk even worse. People need to remember Norwalk is not martha’s vineyard.

  9. Suzanne

    Traffic corridors as shared space: Tim T., you are looking at roadways, by-ways and traffic ways with a singular vision: that is, it must be for automobiles only. In fact, if these thoroughfares did not exist as shared space for all kinds of transport including bicycles and pedestrians, Norwalk citizens would not be able to get where they are going. Believe it or not,some people cannot afford to own cars much less insure them and pay taxes on them in this state (or other states for that matter.) Bicycling and on foot is not just a viable form of transport, it is the only option besides a sparse public transit system. If you want to see “bad flow of traffic” go to anywhere in Southern California, New York City, many places on Long Island and Westchester County, the list goes on. Norwalk is doing just fine and could be doing even better by taking measures to regulate traffic patterns including all the people of Norwalk who use roadway space.

  10. Mike Mushak

    I agree with everything Suzanne is saying, and disagree with Mr. Espo and Tim T. The reason you do not see many bikers now (which I disagree with, as I see hundreds every day in SoNo and around town, often on sidewalks or dodging speeding traffic)is that we have unsafe road coinditions for bikes. All other cities are moving ahead on this rapidly. Its coming. Why does Norwalk have to wait until the rest of the world passes us by? Are we backwards here? Are we old-fashioned? Or are we just plain stupid to not want to improve public safety and reduce speeding, and encourage residents (of all ages, including many retirees who love to bike!) to use the thousands of bikes that are sitting in their garages and sheds gathering dustbecuase our streets are too dangerous?
    Mr. Espo states that I am a “loud, effete, namby-pamby” chasing utopian ideas. LOL! The $500k Traffic Study that calls for bike lanes and narrower traffic lanes to slow traffic was 100% supported by Mayor Moccia, DPW, and the GOP controlled former Common Council! I guess Mayor Moccia is a loud, effete, namby-pamby since his own study he pushed for is calling for radical changes to our roads. All experts agree, Norwalk is decades behind other cities. The reason why the number one complaint Mayor Moccia gets, which he says all the time, is speeding. Cars speed on wider traffic lanes, since many of our 25mph streets have interstate-size lanes that encourage speeding. Our $500k study is quite clear about this, as well as all of our other studies. For example, Highland Avenue in front of Brien Mcmahon has 15 ft wide car lanes, which is 3 feet wider than the 12 foot interstate size designed for 65 mph, and is 5 feet wider than the 10 foot lanes recommended by federal standards and experts for low speed roads. So, everyone speeds in front of Brookside and McMahon schools, exactly where you dont want speeding near schools and where kids are. Folks have complained for years, and the city has done nothing to improve public safety here. Now, we have a plan that we all paid for, to put in 5 ft wide bike lanes on both sides, which will make the car lanes 10 feet wide, which will slow traffic as research shows, and our studies tell us, and we will have a safe route to school now for the thousands of kids and adults who may want to ride their bike to school or work. This is NOT a utopian idea. It is what is happening everywhere except Norwalk! Why do we have to accept mediocrity in almost everything we do all the time? Why cant Norwalk be ahead of the curve, instead of always decades behind it? Is it becuase folks like me who ask for change and improvement are called names by the reactionary old boys network (including Dave McCarthy now, which honestly I thought he was too young top be an old boy, but thats what he has become!) who run this city who sit around and conspire against anyone like me who wants to hold the city accountable to the experts studies, and make improvements to public safety. Mccarthy ran last election on supporting bike lanes, even showing up in a brand new lycra outfit to ride with bikers calling for bike lanes and safety improvements, and as soon as he was elected, he had a major change of heart,he stopped supporting bike lanes, and the city has not put in a single inch of bike lanes since he was elected. You call that effective governing? I call it bait and switch. Lets see what McCarthy does about Highland Avenue, in his district. Stay tuned for what will undoubtedly become another major fight for public safety, which is what is required anymore by folks like me who want state-of-the-art street design we all deserve. Again, it’s just paint, and costs very little to put in the bike lanes. Mr. Espo’s argument that it costs millions is just plain false. Mr. Espo goes on to say I have no problem diverting “millions” for studies and “namby-pamby” ideas. That is funny! The solution I support, recommended by the national experts, for West Ave is much cheaper than Mayor Moccia and DPW’s s poor solution for traffic islands and no bike lanes! The 3 lane road diet with bike lanes for West Avenue recommended in the $200k Connectivity Study (that talks about a lot of other things than just bike lanes, and also was initiated to promote new investment and protect the $250 million private investment already committed at Waypointe), is a smart approach to slow speeding traffic which is a real problem there, and help folks get around the city. If we continue with mayor Moccia’s continuing rejection of his own plans he commissioned and we all paid for, the city economy will suffer, trust me. Norwalk has already proven over 50 years of poorly managed taxpayer investment that it could screw up an entire section of the city (Wall Street) through bad planning decisions and short-sighted knee-jerk reactions like we are getting now from Mayor Moccia on West Avenue and elsewhere. Are we ever going to learn that we can be better than this? If we don’t start acting like a real city and put in the bike lanes new residents and businesses want, just like all other cities are doing, we may just be squandering the hundreds of millions of investment that we are trying so hard to promote to grow our tax base and create a vibrant downtown. This is not a time to let the old boys network with old fashioned ideas, who Mr. Espo seems to represent, screw it up, yet again. Its just plain stupid.

  11. Suzanne

    Mike, after viewing the video on Portsmouth, VA, I thought, “So this is what mature city government looks like. This is what good governance looks like! Look at the result!” It is exciting to see COLLABORATIVE efforts create a downtown as destination and lovely living. Unfortunately, I think the “plain stupid” and self interest reign in Norwalk. I can’t quite tell if it is the longstanding history of Norwalk to be mediocre or if those who are running the place have to much self interest to really be of service to the City and create a wonderful place. It is possible! Vision, accountability and imagination: all qualities sorely needed and still missing. I am glad the town has you in their corner!

  12. Tim T

    One of the great things about this country is that we have the freedom to have our own opinion. My is that I disagree with both Mike Mushak and Suzanne. I also could care less about $500k Traffic Study that calls for bike lanes and narrower traffic lanes to slow traffic that was 100% supported by Mayor Moccia, DPW, and the GOP controlled former Common Council. I consider that a waste of a half million dollars in a time when we can’t afford to fund our schools. What I do care about is the real world which I and most of Norwalk see on our roadways daily . Please note this is note Mr Rodger neighborhood.

    Mike I do agree with one statement you made about Moccia as a loud, effete, namby-pamby.

    The issue is simple we are never going to have bikes as a true form of transportation. It is and will be for recreational purpose only due to weather and the fact that most people are not going to ride a bike to work. Mike please show me one example in CT that bikes are a true a form of transportation. I see none. It’s all well and good that you want to ride a bike for exercise and that’s what we have parks for.

    Also if what you want came true, which it will not then we need to

    Tax bikes to use the roadways as we do cars
    Register bike
    Have liability insurance in case the biker causes an accident
    Have traffic laws that are actually enforced with fines against biker
    Have training and licensing for bikers

    What bike lanes will do is cost the taxpayer more money for the hobby of a few and make a bad traffic situation even worse such as is has on beach road.

  13. Tim T

    We have found common ground, not on the bike issue but the statement you made
    “I can’t quite tell if it is the longstanding history of Norwalk to be mediocre or if those who are running the place have to much self interest to really be of service to the City.”

    I do believe that you hit the nail on the head about Norwalk in general.
    It seems it has become common place to accept failure from our city
    leaders and mangers and when you dare question them you are demonised.
    We have seen this right on these blogs when anyone dare question why the mayor of the NPD fail to do what they are overpaid to do. The old guard of Norwalk comes to the rescue of the old boys club.

  14. Suzanne

    Tim T, I’m not sure why, but you seem to really not like the NPD (this is an ancillary comment, I realize) and I just don’t get it. Could you accept that maybe some have had good experiences of the Norwalk Police Department even if you have not? I am one of those people: I have had nothing but good experiences both in crisis and administratively. I have been especially assisted well by Officer Daley on two occasions and, frankly, when you are in a situation where you need a cop, are treated well, feel safe and cared for, you feel nothing but gratitude. So, whatever your reasons are, and we now know we can agree on at least a couple of things (yay!), I hope you can see that there are at least a few individuals in the NPD that are good at what they do. I, for one, feel secure in calling them should I need them and feel glad they are there.

  15. Tim T

    I and many many in Norwalk feel as if the NPD are a complete and total failure as a department. I am sure they have some cops that truly want to do good unfortunately that is not the majority. If you like I can list the many officers themselves that have been arrested and or violated major department polices. You ask what is my reasons that is simple the almost ZERO violent crimes solved by the NPD..I am a life long Norwalk resident and I have seen this police department become what many consider is a joke. I am glad you feel safe in Norwalk. Its a shame that many do not.
    I also find it comical how so many come to the defense of a police department, but would do the exact opposite if it were a different set of circumstances. Here is an example if you brought you car to the dealer to be repaired and they failed to do the repair, would you say great job? I think not. However these same people say great job when a police department fails to prevent of solve crime.

  16. Don’t Panic

    I’m really glad we have someone as civic minded as Mr. Mushak who continues to advocate for those of us who would like to ride our bikes without fearing for our lives.

  17. EveT

    Merchants also need to provide bike racks. If there’s no safe place to leave a bike while shopping or having a restaurant meal, people won’t ride their bikes for those purposes.

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