Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Oyster Shell Park work happening soon

Oyster Shell Park will finally be completed, with work starting early this summer. (Update: it looks like the project is only going out to bid this summer with work starting later this year.) It's great to know that, despite our city's tough finances, progress is being made. The design from the BSC Group looks great. I especially like this conceptual drawing of a place to pull up a boat, with some nice lighting along the path.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Make Gregory Blvd a bicycle corridor to the beach

This week, Gregory Blvd will be repaved and then restriped. Gregory is the road that leads south from East Norwalk to Calf Pasture fact, it's the primary access route to the beach. It's a natural bicycling corridor, however its current configuration is far from ideal.

Given the volume of traffic on the road, it makes sense to establish a safe space to bicycle away from the travel lanes. The best solution would be to eliminate parking from one side of the street and use the space to add bike lanes, but this might require all sorts of analysis and process and the restriping is happening now.

The solution that can happen is striping shoulders on Gregory Blvd. Striped shoulders make Strawberry Hill Ave and West Rocks Rd comfortable places to bike. They can do the same for Gregory Blvd.

This decision is being made now. DPW, please give us a cycling corridor to the beach.

Update 7/15/10: Just received word that striped shoulders will be added to Gregory after the repaving work is done! Thank you DPW!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Bike to Work Day, Friday May 21

Will you be biking to work this Friday? Let us know on Facebook.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Visualize the Norwalk River Esplanade

Photo Credit: Osman Parvez, Slapdash Adventures

The Norwalk River is the single most underutilized, under-appreciated asset in town. Whereas as other towns, like Boulder, CO, above, have made their rivers into town centerpieces, ours flows mostly out of sight along the backs of buildings and parking lots.

Someday, hopefully, we will see tubers and kayakers paddling past riverfront cafes and restaurants. That vision is a ways off. As a first step, however, we need to reconnect the town with the river by building an esplanade. This is a work in progress.

In the Wall Street area, there is the beginnings of an esplanade. Along the Mechanic street parking lot (at bottom) there is a walkway from Wall Street to under the Burnell Blvd bridge. Meanwhile, the Avalon development (pdf site plan) is building a riverwalk north from the Burnell/River intersection (at top).

This leaves a missing piece around the Burnell Blvd bridge. Fortunately, this bridge is scheduled for a major overhaul. I've reached out to the ConnDOT engineer (with another assist from Bob Duff's office) to build the missing link in the esplanade as part of the bridge replacement project and she was receptive. It would most likely be included with Phase II of the bridge replacement, which won't be advertised until 2013. So, hopefully in 2014, we will have a river esplanade in the Wall St area and the reconnection of the city with the river will have begun.


Via buzzfeed, this is what investing in bike infrastructure can create. The city is Utrecht, Netherlands.

Some might say, well, that's Europe. They do things differently. But, as others have observed, when Americans visit places like Utrecht, we don't drive. We walk, bike and use transit because they make the most sense. And in European cities built around cars, Europeans drive everywhere.

It's not the culture. It's the infrastructure.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I-95 walkway has been swept and trimmed

The walkway that follows I-95 across the Norwalk River isn't the prettiest path in town, but it can come in handy. North of SoNo and south of Wall Street, it's the only option for crossing the Norwalk River.

Recently, it had become overgrown and covered with broken glass and gravel. I submitted a maintenance request to ConnDOT last month and to their great credit they have come through. The path is now as clean as possible given its freeway-side location. Ride it while the riding's good!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Changes Happening on West Ave

Wondering what's going on with the West Ave constructrion? The work from the 95/7 up to Lockwood Mathews will have a big impact on pedestrians and cyclists. From the Norwalk Connecitivity study's Task B Report, I grabbed a picture of what the new road will look like. (Sorry if it's a bit fuzzy.)

The key points:
  • At the north end,the offramp from I-95 will not have the right turn ramp. This will slow traffic coming off the freeway and make the crossing safer for pedestrians.
  • The I-95 / US-7 on-ramp will get signalized. This will give pedestrians a signalized crosswalk and will make the corridor more street-like and less freeway-like. It will also help southbound West Ave traffic to turn onto the ramp.
  • Just south of the I-95, the intersections will get much safer. The US-7 offramp will lose the right turn ramp, making the crossing safer for pedestrians. The I-95 on-ramp will be simplified by being disconnected from Crescent Street.
  • Rounding out the good news, sidewalks are being widened and street trees added along 95/7. Also, off the north end of the map, the great chasm in the Norwalk River Valley Trail is being bridged by crosswalks and pedestrian signals.
  • Now the bad news...near the new Reed Street extension, West Ave is being widened from 4 lanes to 7 lanes. There will be no median so crossing West Ave will get very difficult. Bicycling along West Ave should also get significantly more dangerous.
  • The Reed Street extension will be 5 lanes wide near West Ave, meaning that crossing Reed Street will be a barrier. This is one of the most disappointing aspects of the project, as it will impede pedestrian flow between SoNo and 95/7.
Overall, the work that is being done is a positive. It solves some longstanding issues with intersections that were incredibly dangerous and finally connects the two sections of the Norwalk River Valley Trail

The wide roads (7 lanes?!), on the other hand, will bring new risks to pedestrians and cyclists. I was told they were required by ConnDOT based on the planned size of the 95/7 development. Hopefully, some future upgrade more mindful of complete streets principles will use all that road space to build bike lanes and a landscaped median.