Friday, February 3, 2012

Livable Norwalk's proposal for Seaview Ave adds bike lanes and on-street parking

There has been some discussion in the press today on how best to configure Seaview Avenue. Unfortunately, the issue has been misunderstood as bike lanes vs parking. (In fairness, that was my initial take too.) However, Seaview is plenty wide enough for both parking and bike lanes. We can build both.

In a meeting last week the Traffic Authority allowed one additional parking spot near the Mill Pond. We say make it six additional spots and build bike lanes too!

Below is Livable Norwalk's proposal. We hope it can be a blueprint for a Seaview Avenue will work better for businesses, residents and cyclists.

Seaview Avenue in front of the East Norwalk Yacht Club
Currently Yacht Club and Overton's customers park their cars front-first. If the Yacht Club instead had parallel parking, there would be space to have bike lanes plus six new parking spaces across the street
The owner of Mr Frostys has generously agreed to give up some curbside spaces. New spaces would be created in front of Sign Smarts and Harbor Lights.
This unattractive and dangerous field of asphalt will be better used as parking and bike lanes
So, on behalf of the many Norwalkers who enjoy riding our bikes to the great restaurants on Seaview, let's put down the war drums and smoke the peace pipe.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pedestrian and Bike projects struggle to survive the capital budget process

Thanks to all the Livable Norwalkers who braved overturned tractor-trailers yesterday evening to attend the capital budget meeting. There are some great initiatives this year, particularly around funding for the Norwalk River Valley Trail, the Harbor Loop Trail, sidewalks and bikeways.

I was impressed that all of the people who spoke in the Public Works department's comment session called for making sidewalks, bikeways and beautification the top priorities. Not one dinosaur turned out to kvetch about traffic and demand more asphalt.

Westport Ave could sure use some livability improvement. Putting in sidewalks, as requested by Planning & Zoning, will be a start.

Public Works director Hal Alvord, to his credit, spoke to the fact that he never gets his full sidewalk budget. This is a travesty, given that the crumbling and absent nature of Norwalk's sidewalks is a source of widespread civic embarrassment. As you can see from the finance director's recommendations summarized below, Hal's request has been reduced again this year. Hopefully this reduction will be corrected by a forward-thinking planning commission.

One of the biggest mysteries this year is the status of the ambitious $1.5 million requested by Public Works for the Norwalk River Valley Trail. These funds will go a long way towards building the north-south spine of Norwalk's bike network. They weren't mentioned in the finance director's recommendations. Hopefully this was an oversight and the funds survive.

Also missing in the finance director's recommendations was the Safe Routes to School program. I have an email into the DPW to better understand the fate of these programs.

Here is a summary of capital budget requests that impact Norwalk's walkability and bikeability, based on the department requests and the finance director's recommendations.

Agency Project Department's Request ($000s) Finance Director's Recommendation ($000s)
Redevelopment Monroe Street Improvements $360 $360
Redevelopment Wall Street Improvements $642 $434
Planning & Zoning Harbor Loop Trail $1,465 $145
Planning & Zoning Bikeways $140 $140
Planning & Zoning Westport Ave Sidewalks $120 $120
Public Works Norwalk River Valley Trail $1,500 Status Unknown
Public Works Sidewalks $525 $350
Public Works Safe Routes to School $200 Status Unknown