City traffic czar Jim Travers has found a way to extend the state’s first cycle track—a separated, slightly raised asphalt path for bikes only alongside streets — all the way from the East Shore to downtown, while costing the city hardly a dime.
It’s one of three pending bike-infrastructure improvements Travers unveiled during a (car) drive through town Wednesday morning.
The planned cycle track (essentially a high-speed sidewalk for bikes only) would run next to Water Street from Olive Street over the Tomlinson Bridge and then through the port district to Nathan Hale Park.
The city will also soon have dedicated (non-separated) bike lanes on a downtown section of Elm Street and on State Street in Cedar Hill, north of James Street.
Travers said all three projects will come at minimal cost to the city. Two are piggybacked onto state projects; the third is an add-on to routine city paving this summer. Although some final details remain to be worked out, all three projects have the necessary commitments lined up from the state and other players.
Local bike-advocacy group Elm City Cycling (ECC) hailed Travers’ plans in a statement Thursday: “Elm City Cycling is pleased to see the City’s Transportation Department responding to our requests to make key citywide transportation corridors safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike.” Travers’ proposals were among the top requests in a draft Bike and Pedestrian Plan ECC shared with the city last year.
East Shore Cycle Track
Travers began his Wednesday bike-improvements tour by climbing into his silver Ford Escape, parked near the Hall of Records on Orange Street. He headed first toward Wooster Square.
Travers went south on Olive Street, following the path that the Farmington Canal Greenway will take when the city completes a $7.6 million project to connect it to a planned new boathouse on Long Wharf.
Where Olive Street hits Water Street, a new eastbound cycle track is planned as part of the Farmington Canal project. That bike path will turn south at Brewery Street, as the canal trail heads toward IKEA and the waterfront.
Travers (pictured at Brewery and Water) plans to continue the cycle-track eastbound past Brewery Street along the south side of Water Street. The state is working on the Q Bridge project and will need to put a sidewalk there anyway, Travers said. Instead of making a regular concrete sidewalk, the state can leave the city with a 12-foot-wide asphalt sidewalk on the south side, which the city will make into a bikes-only two-way cycle track. Pedestrians will still be able to walk down Water Street on the north side.
That cycle track will significantly add to the city’s off-street biking network, and create a dedicated bike route between downtown and the East Shore, Travers said.
As he drove east on Water Street to the top end of Long Wharf Drive, Travers said the cycle-track will at that point shift over to what is now the southernmost lane of traffic heading east over the Tomlinson Bridge. That lane will become a cycle track, separated from cars by a row of tall plastic markers, Travers said. The bridge will have one eastbound and two westbound lanes for cars.
Travers pointed out a cyclist using the sidewalk rather than riding in the street across the bridge, which has long been an unsafe passage for cyclists.
Across the bridge, the city will tap into planned port improvement work using money from the South Central Regional Council of Governments. The track will continue east on Forbes Avenue to Fulton Street, where it will turn right, connecting with Connecticut Avenue (pictured), which runs through an industrial area without a lot of traffic.
At the roundabout at the southern end of Connecticut Avenue, a metal gate would be replaced by bollards, allowing cyclists to pass through and continue south to Fort Nathan Hale Park.
The cycle track plan will likely become a reality in 2015, Travers said.
State Street Bike Lane
Other bike-friendly projects will happen sooner—like this summer.
Travers pointed his Escape next to State Street, where big orange state Department of Transportation trucks were already at work north of James Street. The state is working to mill and pave Rt. 5/State Street there.
While planning the project, the state saw that there might be room for bike lanes. The state presented the idea to Travers, who jumped on it, he said.
It’s another chance to add some biking infrastructure at no extra cost to the city, Travers said. It’s also a sign that the state is starting to get what New Haven is doing for bikes and beginning to pitch bike-friendly projects of its own, Travers said.
“DOT has started to change their mindset from movement of vehicles to movement of people,” Travers said.
The state’s mill and pave project extends from James Street to Rock Street. Travers said the city can run bike lanes even farther north on State Street without any major roadwork, just by laying down paint. He pointed out how wide the street (pictured) is north of Rock Street. Bike lanes would calm traffic and provide another major route for cyclists heading from Hamden to New Haven, he argued.
Elm Street Bike Lane
Travers said cyclists will see another welcome new feature this summer: a bike lane on Elm Street downtown.
By making car lanes slightly small on Elm Street between York and Church streets, the city will be able to paint in a bike lane on the south side of the street when it’s repaved this summer, Travers said. The bike lane will be five feet wide. East of College Street, where Elm Street widens, the path will include a small buffer to reduce the chance that cyclists are “doored” by people getting out of parked cars.
Elm Street now has generous 12-feet-wide travel lanes, Travers said. Those will go down to 10-feet-wide when the bike lane goes in, which will make it less likely that people speed through Yale and downtown. And it will mean a safer ride for cyclists who now have to navigate a tight shoulder-less stretch of Elm Street, heading into town from the west.