Rilling: Norwalk Bike/Walk Task Force has left the gate

Then-mayoral candidate Harry Rilling bikes to Calf Pasture beach in a campaign event attended by three of four Democratic mayoral candidates last August. Coming up behind Rilling is Peter Libre.
Then-mayoral candidate Harry Rilling bikes to Calf Pasture beach in a campaign event attended by three of four Democratic mayoral candidates last August. Coming up behind Rilling is Peter Libre.

NORWALK, Conn. – Belden Avenue is being eyed as a potential road to put in bike paths, Mayor Harry Rilling said.

Rilling said he met last week with Norwalk Bike/Walk Task Force members. “We went over some things that I thought were important,” Rilling said. “One of them is the restriping of Belden Avenue, by the courthouse, where they have just repaved it. We are looking at making some modifications to the striping so we can do a bike lane.”

Task force co-chairman Peter Libre said Belden Avenue has “great potential.”

“The task force is extremely pleased that the mayor is so supportive of a Complete Streets approach to the city, that he understands the value of having streets that are usable for everybody and that don’t discourage local businesses,” Libre said. He said Norwalk Police also attended the meeting, but deferred further comment to Rilling.

“I focused the task force on other roads,” Rilling said. “The problem with Norwalk is we need some infrastructure improvements in order to accommodate bike lanes. We’re not pleased with Strawberry Hill Avenue so we’re going to redesign that, looking at that. But also I told them look at West Rocks Road, East Rocks Road, Richards Avenue. Look at Main Street, look at all of those streets that are no parking on either side and that are wide enough to accommodate vehicles.”
The idea is to see if those wide lanes can be narrowed to accommodate bike lanes, Rilling said.

“That does two things,” he said. “One is it gives people a safe place to ride their bicycles and number two, the visual effect of narrower lanes ends up making people drive more slowly. It’s a traffic calming measure that’s widely accepted and widely used. So quite frankly it’s a no brainer. Even if people don’t use the bike lanes we make the bike lanes and narrow the travel portion. Therefore people are going to slow down – so the residents get some relief because one of the biggest complaints we get through the city is speeding.”

Altering Calf Pasture Beach Road, where sharrows were put in last year over the protests of Libre and task force Co-Chairman Mike Mushak, will be difficult, Rilling said.

“They’re looking at that to see how we can make an improvement there but in absence of – If you were to make Beach Road one lane in and one lane out that’s really difficult,” he said. “There would be a traffic backlog especially during times of fireworks and the boat show and other things that happen down there. So Beach Road, that’s difficult. I don’t know, they’re going to look at it and see if they can come up with some viable recommendations.”


8 responses to “Rilling: Norwalk Bike/Walk Task Force has left the gate”

  1. John Hamlin

    This is a great effort. Norwalk deserves to move into the 21st century and transform itself into a bike and walk friendly city. This will make the city more attractive to young professionals and young families. It will benefit everyone.

  2. Bruce Kimmel

    As a member of the task force, I was at the meeting and feel it is important to mention that, besides having the police on hand — since safety is always a concern — we also had an engineer from DPW.
    Also, it should be noted that we are trying to implement the recommendations regarding bike lanes that are contained in several expensive studies paid for by the city. These are excellent studies and will be the basis for most of what the task force does.
    Of course, national guidelines that deal with lane widths for cars, bicycles, parking, etc. will always be followed. We intend to work closely with the police, DPW, the traffic and police commission, and the city’s Redevelopment Agency.
    What needs to be highlighted is the point that Mayor Rilling made above: the presence of bike lanes, when done correctly, is one of best traffic calming measures around. Speeding has long been an issue in Norwalk; perhaps we can begin to effectively address this issue by implementing the bike land recommendations in the various studies that the city has paid for in recent years.

  3. Just curious

    I hope who ever designs this does a better job than the abysmal bike.path along strawberry hill avenue.I commute this road twice daily and still have not sen it used once other than this past Sunday’s bike race.

  4. Bruce Kimmel

    Just Curious: We are looking into Strawberry Hill. What’s there now has raised lots of questions form bikers, who avoid it, and motorists.

  5. Ed

    I’d add a couple things:

    1) Beach Road should not just be about bike safety, but about pedestrian safety. You have non existent and ridiculous narrow sidewalks at the start of it, which just so happens to be where the school and park is. Walking children to school or trying to cross from the park is impossible, daily mothers with strollers are forces in to the road and joggers / walkers must negotiate each other while passing, forcing one wider in to the road (of always speeding cars).

    Marvin School and Marvin camp walk children down to the beach many times throughout the year and summer. It is sad to always see how many teachers are forced to walk in the road to keep the speeding cars away from the children on the sidewalk (or no sidewalk depending on where they are).

    2) Oddly the Mayor points to 4th of July as to why beach road should be kept at two lanes but in all my recollections of the fireworks beach road is always made one lane out by the police. So we already make it one lane, on the busiest day of the year no less.

  6. LWitherspoon

    Three cheers for whatever additional bike lanes Mayor Rilling and the task force create in Norwalk! We need more bike lanes.
    I see frequent comments that nobody ever uses the bike lanes on Strawberry Hill. Not true. I have used them and I have seen many others use them too. It has been reported that the bike lane shifts to preserve parking, and this is confusing and intimidating to cyclists. Most cyclists know that it’s safest to ride as far to the right as possible. Therefore if you’re riding your bike and don’t like how the lane shifts, just stay to the right, as there are rarely cars parked there.
    The traffic from Fourth of July fireworks is not a credible explanation for why there can’t be a bike lane on Beach Road. The bike lane striping would not create any physical barrier preventing cars from driving in the road’s outer lane. Therefore on the one day a year that two lanes of traffic must occupy Beach Road, simply allow cars to drive in the bike lane.

  7. Mike Mushak

    LWitherspoon, Ed, Bruce, John, and Just Curious, all great comments. The important thing here is that we are moving forward to catch up to other cities around the country. You cannot travel to any city in America including smaller ones like Norwalk without running across extensive bike lane systems. My favorite example is Indianapolis, which I plan on travelling to this summer with my bike on the back of my car, to use first hand their amazing bike trail and bike lane system (as well as Fort Wayne, IN, and Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnatti Ohio, which all have extensive bike lane systems in place.) Indianapolis has a conservative GOP mayor who has supported expanding bike lanes over the last 8 years, to attract businesses and economic growth. That city has become an economic engine of growth and the mayor credits the bike lanes with a lot of that. He totally gets it, and its time Norwalk gets it too, to attract millennials and keep middle age folks and retirees, who all want the benefits of getting around by bike and foot on safer roads and sidewalks with less speeding traffic and more accommodations for ALL users. DPW may be stubborn at times but they are slowly coming around, which is great.

  8. Debora

    The road on East Avenue that is scheduled to be widened needs to be redesigned to the complete streets standard too.

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