Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Giant roads of death

What will West Ave look like when it grows to 7 lanes? To get a sense, check out this recent video from PBS on the 6-lane Buford Highway in Georgia. (h/t

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

This is not what we want for the future of SoNo. A giant West Ave was designed based on the expectation of a massive amount of office space at 95/7...plans which are currently being scaled down and, in any case, are years from completion.

Livable Norwalk has a call for ideas on ways to use this road space to improve the SoNo streetscape and make life easier for pedestrians and cyclists. Please share your thoughts.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A better West Ave

The West Ave improvements keep moving forward, even as the 95/7 project is delayed. This means that we will have an expanded West Ave (from 4 lanes to 7) without the traffic to justify it. Roads that are built too wide tend to have very high travel speeds, are dangerous for walkers and cyclists and are decidedly un-SoNo.

I have heard that the Norwalk Connectivity study will likely recommend provisional use of the extra space for bicycle facilities. Let's jump the gun and talk ideas for what we could do with this space. Think bike lanes, protected cycle tracks or the like.

The image at right is the starting point: the plans for the new West Ave. (Sorry it's blurry...this is the best image I could track down.)

Keep in mind the constraints...

  • the widening is only happening between the Walgreens and the I-95 interchange
  • there are some challenging freeway onramps
That said, how could we make West Ave a place where people want to bike?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Forward progress: shoulders for Gregory Blvd

Shoulders already make Winfield St (Rt 136) a more bikeable road.

We asked for shoulders on Gregory Blvd. We waited, in nervous anticipation of DPW's decision. And now we've heard back. Gregory Blvd will get shoulders! This is a much-needed improvement for a primary route to Calf Pasture Beach.

Thanks to engineers Mike Yeosock, Drew Berndlmaier and Fred Eshraghi for responding to the community and moving this forward. Hopefully this can be the first in a number of upgrades that will make Norwalk a truly great place to bike. (I'm looking at you, Calf Pasture Beach Blvd. You can't be a four-lane monster forever.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Norwalk moves forward with the bike/ped plan

We had a very exciting public meeting for the Norwalk Bicycle/Pedestrian Plan. A few dozen passionate Norwalkers came together at city hall and asked for a more walkable, bikeable city. We even got a pat on the back from Mayor Moccia, who pointed to the BP oil spill as one consequence of overly auto-centric transportation planning.

The planners from FHI showed us a toolkit of what we can do to have a more livable Norwalk...things like road diets and sharrows. Given the level of support in Norwalk for livability, the question may not be whether we will get improvements but where we will get them first. (These were my suggested priorities.)

The planners emphasized that this is a 10 year plan, and it is important that we have a strong forward-looking vision. We should also be sure that every year we make progress on this vision so that 10 years from now we are enjoying every piece of the plan. I've suggested that we start with something easy but effective--designate a network of bike routes and support it with signage and sharrows or bike lanes--to get the ball rolling.

Thanks to all you Livable Norwalkers who turned out. Keep sharing your ideas with each other, with the planners and with me. This is turning into a movement!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Priorities for the Norwalk Bike/Ped plan

The public meeting for Norwalk's bicycle/pedestrian master plan is at 7pm tonight. Here's what I'll be looking for:

  • a signed bike route network
  • continued progress on Norwalk's planned bikeways
  • a bikeway paralleling I-95, especially to provide an alternative to Connecticut Ave
    • It's in Greenwich's plan. It should be in Norwalk's too. There's already a great start through Norden Park.
  • road diets for arterials that are key bicycle connections, especially the Stroffolino Bridge, East Ave and Calf Pasture Beach Blvd
    • It can be done. Did you know Hartford has the most road diets per capita in North America?
  • policy commitment to make the bicycle a viable option for every trip in Norwalk
  • a policy to have pedestrian signals at stoplights by default (on all sides of the intersection)
  • sidewalks along Norwalk's major commercial streets: Connecticut Ave, Westport Ave and Main Ave
  • a plan to increase connectivity between roads, at least for those on foot and bike

Monday, July 12, 2010

Norwalk needs bike routes

At the public meeting for the Norwalk bike/ped plan on Wednesday, we'll be talking about some big-picture priorities like Norwalk's planned bikeway system. These projects will take time, money and engineering to see through. However, there is a lot that Norwalk can do for cyclists very quickly.

Currently, Norwalk does not have a single signed bike route nor a single bike lane. Let's fix that! Signed bike routes serve three purposes:
  • make it easy for cyclists to navigate the side streets
  • let all road users know that cyclists are expected and welcome on the street
  • identify priority corridors for bike lanes or sharrows

The city policies necessary to make these routes work are:
  • identify routes that lead to destinations, like SoNo or the beach
  • place signage that shows distance and time to destinations (generic bike route signs are useless)
  • when a route is repaved, add bike lanes or sharrows
I have put together a proposal for a Norwalk bike route network. It connects destinations like Wall St, SoNo, Calf Pasture, Rowayton, NCC, etc.

View Proposal for Norwalk bike routes in a larger map

These routes do not require an inch of new pavement, just some initiative and a modest budget for signs. Norwalk is long overdue for bike routes. It's time to make this happen.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Norwalk's planned bikeways

View Norwalk trails already proposed in a larger map

In anticipation of the Norwalk Bike/Ped Plan public meeting on July 14th, here is a summary of three paths that have been in Norwalk's plans for some time:
  • The Norwalk River Valley Trail (in blue), a planned trail from Calf Pasture Beach north to Danbury, generally following the Norwalk River. Portions of it have been constructed, the longest being from the aquarium north to Union Park. Other segments continue to move forward.
  • The Merritt Parkway Trail (in purple), a long-planned trail in the Merritt Parkway right-of-way, may finally be moving into the study phase. The trail itself is years from being constructed, but there are plans to build a segment near the Merritt Pkwy / US-7 interchange as part of the project to expand the interchange.
  • The Norwalk River esplanade (in green), along the east bank of the Norwalk River, has been completed in some segments. With a few gaps filled in, it could provide an essential alternative to East Ave.
These trails will give many more Norwalkers the chance to bicycle around town, improving lifestyles and property values. They should be a major civic priority.

The one missing piece will be an East-West option for reaching destinations along the Post Road (US-1). It would be great if we could find ways to use the I-95 or Metro-North right-of-ways to serve this important corridor.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

July 14th: Help shape Norwalk's Bike/Ped future

 July 14th, 7pm, City Hall Community Room. RSVP here.

This is it, Livable Norwalkers. The city is putting together its Bikeway & Pedestrian Transportation Plan, the road map for future walking and cycling facilities in Norwalk. This plan will shape the city's priorities for the next several years. If you want to see Norwalk have sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths, bike lanes and safer streets, come out.

The public meeting is at 7pm on July 14th in the City Hall Community Room. RSVP here. Celebrate Bastille Day by starting Norwalk's livability revolution!

I've heard that in the past there has been low public participation, sending a message to the city that residents aren't interested in pedestrian and bicycle improvements. This year has to be different. The most difficult part of the plan isn't setting down priorities, it's making them happen. Come out and show the city that Norwalk residents want to make this happen!