Mayor Takes Candidate For A Ride

Allan Appel Photo In 2006 they only ran together for the state’s highest offices. This weekend they went biking together, to make a point about government’s role in making cycle-friendly streets.

Mary Glassman and John DeStefano were biking on the campaign trail, and on New Haven’s Farmington Canal Trail.

The two Democrats ran as a team in 2006 for lieutenant governor and governor, respectively. This year Glassman’s running for lieutenant governor again, this time with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont. DeStefano, who’s New Haven’s mayor, is supporting them.

Glassman rode into town Saturday to promote biking and walking as a campaign issue.  Mayor DeStefano climbed onto his Yukon Giant and hosted her down a mile of the Canal Trail.

Some 25 people joined the Glassman campaign’s ride across Connecticut as they rode from Goodrich Street at the Hamden town line down through to Science Park under a sunny sky.

Glassman said that if she and running mate Ned Lamont are successful in their race for the statehouse in Hartford, they’ll promote policies that advance the importance of everyday riding not only for recreation but as a legitimate alternative to motorized transportation in New Haven.

That means building more bike paths, filling in the gaps between the paths across the state, and going after more federal dollars for biking infrastructure.

Glassman was asked her opinions about the dangers of riding bikes on city streets, riding bikes on sidewalks, and the high penalties in New Haven for being ticketed for bicycle infractions. Glassman deferred to local bike advocate and her supporter Paul Hammer, pictured in his fine umbrella hat.

Hammer, past president of the Connecticut Bicycle Coalition, said that “municipalities apply different laws.”

While there are some clear state regulations such as helmet wearing for youngsters, you have to know an individual town’s other rules. Some towns, likeSimsbury have no problem with riding on sidewalks, whereas that is illegal in New Haven.

“We want to promote best practice,” said Glassman, and let localities take it from there.

Glassman is first selectman of Simsbury, which recently won a bronze medal for being bicycle friendly from The League of American Bicyclists. New Haven in recent years received an honorable mention designation for the city’s bike policies.

Glassman said New Haven’s done a good job in its cycling policies. “Something’s wrong when New Haven is ahead of Connecticut in bicycling [policy],” she added, as the two-wheeled entourage took off.

A third of the way through the ride, Glassman’s riding style tended to a zigzagging, whereas the mayor rode straight and steady. “She’s got more endurance,” he offered.

Her husband Andy said the candidate has ridden the three to four miles from home to town offices three or four times since the campaign began. The mayor said that his biking around Westville is mainly on weekends with his wife Cathy. “I always prefer the downhill,” he said.

Asked how her policy and the Lamont policy regarding biking differs from the Malloy campaign Glassman said, “They’re not talking about it. We’re the first campaign to talk about getting people out of their cars, for health and for the environment.”

Senior Advisor to the Malloy campaign Roy Occhiogrosso offered an email riposte:

“Dan’s been talking about a variety of transportation issues as long as he’s been on the campaign trail, including smart ways to get people out of their cars to reduce congestion and help the environment. Most importantly, he has a record of service on transportation issues unmatched by anyone in this race. As mayor he made major improvements to Stamford’s transportation infrastructure, including securing millions in federal dollars to improve access to rail service.”

Sarah Armstrong, her husband Peter Crumlish and their three boys accompanied Glassman on their cargo bikes. They had not made up their minds about voting for Lamont/Glassman but were intrigued because they ride their three sons across New Haven to school and camp every day.

“The more people ride, the safer it will be,” said Sarah Armstrong, who daily bikes her son Finn from the Edgewood neighborhood to the Cold Spring School in Fair Haven. In the meanwhile husband Peter Crumlish bikes twins Sam and Caleb to East Rock.

When the riders got to Science Park, while the twins pored over the Adventures of Tin Tin in their cargo seats, their dad talked with the mayor about the adventures of bike riding in New Haven.

Crumlish avoids high volume roads, such as Whalley. In that he agreed with the mayor, who said that Whalley scares him on his bike, as does Whitney. Asked if the state Department of Transportation’s redo of Whalley would involve bike paths, he said, “Are you kidding! That’s a state project. It’s designed for cars. My biggest fear of getting doored is on Whalley.”

It was, however, not a particular roadway that the mayor cited as the crux of the issue. “In New Haven, the biggest problem is inattentive drivers,” he added.

At Science Park, the mayor pointed out to Glassman the new businesses that he hopes increasingly will be reached by people riding their bikes along the nearby paths. He predicted that a hot homegrown banking technology company that just gone public, Higher One, will remain in New Haven, hopefully in the old Winchester factory being renovated by Forrest City Enterprises across the street.

Why didn’t Glassman and DeStefano bike together in 2006 but are doing so now? a reporter asked.

“We’re smarter,” said Mayor DeStefano.

Also these sections of the trail had not yet been completed

Crumlish was asked at the end of the ride if he had made up his mind to vote for Glassman/Lamont as a result of the ride and the bicycle chat.

“I don’t know enough yet to be tilting [one way or another],” he said. “I’m glad to know this [cycling issues] is on the radar of people running for office,” he said.

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posted by: Bill on June 28, 2010  8:44am

I have never been hit by a car while riding on the sidewalk. It might be because the cars are in the road.

posted by: streever on June 28, 2010  9:53am

And yet, Bill, statistically you are at a greater risk of accident.

Cars typically do not hit people on straight aways but at intersections. How do you cross an intersection without being in the road?

At any speed above walking, you are simply going too quickly to be safe—cars turning into driveways, out of driveways, in and out of intersections, etc have almost no chance to see you.

As you can see from the first link, using government data, cycling is actually 30 times safer than driving. If you continue reading, you’ll see that IF you are in an accident, your chance of survival is better than that of someone in a truck and equal to someone in an SUV and higher than a pedestrian.

And this study: shows the 2 most common cause of bicyclist fatalities are: The bicyclist exited a driveway in front of an on-coming vehicle. followed by: The bicyclist turned left in front of a passing vehicle.

Cycling is inherently a safe activity when undertaken by aware and cautious riders. That doesn’t mean that cyclists (who pay as much as drivers do for road construction & maintenance) don’t deserve transportation monies, but it does mean that you don’t need to retreat to the sidewalk.

posted by: Sidewalks end on June 28, 2010  9:56am

Very interesting, Bill! Sounds like you never leave downtown, since Sidewalks End!

Also, you’re safer in the road. If you’re riding predictably (not weaving in and out of parked cars, riding on the wrong way, or generally just following the rules of the road) there’s nothing inherently dangerous about riding in the road where VEHICLES belong.

Sidewalks are on the SIDE and for WALKING. They’re meant to facilitate walking, strolling, stopping suddenly to answer a phone call, etc. Bikes on sidewalks are a danger to pedestrians, and bikes on sidewalks are a danger to vehicular traffic when ultimately they dart into an intersection with no warning.

Candidates that take cycling seriously will seriously consider infrastructure & policy changes that put the power of locomotion back into the peoples’ hands. You don’t need insurance to ride a bike, don’t need to pay for registration or emissions, and generally don’t need to spend more than $100/year on maintenance. Cars are a very expensive travel OPTION and don’t need 99.9% of the investment!

posted by: Bill on June 28, 2010  10:02am

Uh, the links you posted indicate the cyclist was hit while in the road not on the sidewalk. Thanks for proving my point.

posted by: Rich Halkyard on June 28, 2010  10:42am

I ventured down the New Haven leg of the Canal Greenway on Saturday with Mayor DeStefano and Mary Glassman, candidate for Lt. Gov. with Ned Lamont, for the first time.

I was surprised to see such a nicely paved and well-maintained path to the inner city.

I especially enjoyed my sampling of chopped-barbecue at the Mt. Carmel Pentecostal Church. It was delicious and the brothers and sisters there were fantastic!

I have been skeptical about the safety of that route and I made some covert inquires of non-officials to get the real scoop. It turns out that the path is very safe with no incidents to people using the path. The incidents that have occurred there were between neighbors in the area of the path that spilled onto the path. One response I received was that the path is very safe because the community knows that any incident will be met with serious repercussions by the city.

And, yes, Mary Glassman is the real deal. She does own a nice bike and all the gear. She and her entourage, Lydia, Farah, Andy, et al, all knew their way around riding and are very committed to cycling.

We also discussed some of the economic, educational and budgetary issues facing New Haven and Connecticut. I was pleased to hear a candidate realize that we need to plan for now and the future.

Thank you to Elm City Cycling for posting this event. It was worth the time.

Rich Halkyard
proud advisor to the Alpha Xi Theta chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa-International Honor Society

posted by: streever on June 28, 2010  10:50am

Oh Bill.

posted by: Bill on June 28, 2010  11:15am

Yes, sidewalks end and since I cross the street with pedestrians I am no more likely to be hit by a car than a pedestrian. I cycle from the Stamford train station to my work location, daily and legally on the sidewalks, I can even go up one way streets on the sidewalk. I drive my car in New Haven to the train station. It’s unfathomable to me that New Haven doesn’t allow people the option to ride on a sidewalk.

As an aside, mopeds are parked with bikes at the Stamford train station but are not allowed at the New Haven train station bike racks.

New Haven is definitely NOT friendly to alternative transportation. Saying it doesn’t make it so.

posted by: HewNaven?? on June 28, 2010  11:48am

I can’t really blame an inexperienced bike rider for using the sidewalk on certain roads. However, on most roads, riders of all experience should be in the road with traffic, where it’s actually safer for them to be. That being said, the city could still be doing a lot more to make those who are hesitant feel more welcome riding with traffic.

If you’re on a street like Whalley or Whitney and you don’t really know what you’re doing, you’re probably going to opt for the sidewalk. It’s going to seem a lot safer when you see cars steadily speeding past you. The city shouldn’t reprimand and punish people because the road is poorly designed and encourages high-speeds. They should fix the road!

What happened to those sharrows that were going to be installed?

“The money to pay for the project has already been allocated in the budget for Fiscal Year 09-10, said Elicker.

A company called Hi-Way Safety Systems won the bidding process and the project will be complete by the end of June, said Mike Piscitelli, director of the traffic and parking department.”

They have exactly two days to finish the sharrows project according to the original timetable. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets pushed back a few months or a year. A lot gets promised to the groups that do the hard work of lobbying city hall (ECC, et al.), but not much actually gets done. There are bike lanes and other projects that have been “on hold” for years now. Meanwhile the mayor tells us drivers are to blame:

“It was, however, not a particular roadway that the mayor cited as the crux of the issue. “In New Haven, the biggest problem is inattentive drivers,” he added.”

That’s a subtle way of admitting that the city is not going to be spending much money on bike projects in the future.

And what exactly is the Mayor doing to tackle the problem of inattentive drivers which he says is the real problem? He rides his bike to work once a year to show solidarity?

For starters, why not issue a directive to the police department to be on the look out for inattentive drivers? Start seriously going after speeders, drivers using their phones, drunks, etc. I actually agree with him, this is a huge problem.

How about if a few, big-mouthed politicians actually used a bicycle as their primary mode of transport instead of just riding it around on the weekends at the very least. (Then they might actually understand the nature of the beast).

posted by: Brian V on June 28, 2010  12:18pm

I miss the mayors ‘Pedal Power!’ commercials.

posted by: Brian Tang on June 28, 2010  12:51pm

When will they ride the east coast Greenway through New Haven and notice the Tomlinson Bridge?

posted by: Brian Tang on June 28, 2010  2:03pm

Oh wait… apparently the Tomlinson Bridge is just part of the Harbor Trail, not the East Coast Greenway (which turns at Long Wharf and follows the Vision Trail up to the Farmington Canal Trail).

posted by: Paul Martin on June 28, 2010  3:06pm

It’s pretty great that we have a mayor who bikes and at least is capable of understanding the issues that concern so many readers of this site.

Compare this with, say, the former transportation (or was it parking?) director who sees people on bikes are some kind of hippie fifth column because they carry messenger bags.

Has anyone ever been able to get a straight answer out of NHPA about whether or not scooters will ever be allowed to park at Union Station? About every month someone starts complaining about how bike racks take up one precious car spot - it would be nice to have more of a pushback and expand access for alternative transportation so they’ll become less…alternative.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on June 28, 2010  4:27pm

Nearly all engineering standards for road design, municipal zoning ordinances, building codes, federal and state subsidies for new construction, marketing and advertising dollars, media and political rhetoric, and all other facets of American life support, continue, maintain, and encourage suburban sprawl and its infrastructures, networks of transportation and commerce, and entitlements over other living arrangements. The good streets, buildings, zoning amendments (Grand Ave BA-1), historic building tax credits, etc that do exist are greatly over powered by their suburban competition and counterparts in terms of shear volumes of cash made available for one versus the other and in terms of what is politically and socially acceptable to discuss and assume.
This is slowly changing and people are becoming more aware of these things every day, but it is imperative that the correct information is getting out there and is made available to people.
About half the country lives in suburbia, the other half in cities or rural areas. About half the country is able to operate an automobile, the other half is either too young, too old or too poor to do so.
How is it that we’ve allowed nearly all our zoning, codes, road design standards, etc to reflect a lifestyle that only half the country participates in, and of that half only a fraction participate in it comfortably?
Driving is the most convenient transportation option for those that are of proper age, physical and mental health, and can afford $10,000 per year per car on insurance, taxes, fees, general maintenance and gas. Driving is the most convenient for these people because the environments that they live in are not organized for walking from home to jobs, to shopping, to recreation and to transit options. Even when these things are within walking distance (like in many older city neighborhoods and downtowns), driving is still the most convenient option because the most money has been spent on making driving and parking easy and convenient as compared to bus stops and service, street trees, bike lanes, walking paths, etc.
If, for instance, we invested in roller blading infrastructure and subsidizing the cost of owning roller blades by exporting their manufacturing to other countries, and lowering the price of replacement wheels, and we rewrote all our zoning and building codes to relate to roller blading then roller blading would be the most convenient form of transportation.
There is nothing inherent in automobiles that makes them better than walking, biking or using transit. It is all in the subsidizing and tax distributing that determines how convenient one form of transportation is compared to others.
We should really fight for the allocation of our resources to be distributed into the forms of transportation that all people can use. Design for walking should be top priority (not necessarily receiving the most funding, but it should be first priority), which means shaded and visually interesting paths need to be in all public places. Street trees are great at shading sidewalks and protecting from sunlight and rain. Continuous building frontages of 2+ stories with fenestration, store fronts, etc are great for keeping pedestrians interested.
The next priority should be transit, followed by bike infrastructure and finally cars. When cars are the priority, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to adequately provide for the other forms of transportation. Our zoning and building codes need to be changed to reflect environments where daily life can be done by walking with an accessory of transit as an option to go to a particular restaurant you like, a grocery store that carries a specialty item that your’s doesn’t, or the city park/civic building/cultural institution. Biking and car transportation is a bit more elite in that you have to be physically able or wealthy to use them as primary transportation, but having these things available is what allows for people to live in rural and suburban arrangements.
Suburbs only become problematic when they allow for only one transportation mode and that mode is very expensive and restrictive, and then the burden to supply infrastructure for them falls on everybody, which creates huge parking garages in cities and ugly highways in the countryside, among many other problems.

posted by: anon on June 28, 2010  8:36pm

All this talk and how come our new plan for reconstructing Whalley Avenue, arguably our city’s most important street, between Downtown and Westville Center has almost no accommodations for cyclists? 

I refuse to believe that the Mayor has no pull with ConnDOT and the other agencies who have provided input on this plan.

posted by: ugh on June 29, 2010  1:44am

From what I hear, people are getting jumped and mugged like crazy on the new Greenway extension in New Haven. Anyone else hear this?

posted by: Ned on June 29, 2010  9:01am

The Canal Trail, south of Putnam, probably even Skiff St. - best avoided.  There’s lots of trash along the trail, usually some broken glass on the trail, the information plaques have all been vandalized, there’s graffiti and some characters that look like extras from “The Road” - complete with wobbly shopping carts.  The “cattle chute” design doesn’t help either - no easy escape routes.  I’ve talked with a few people who’ve had rocks thrown at their heads, there was the Yale professor who was dragged off of his bike and beaten, and one guy shot in the head (though that was at 10:30 at night).  Saturday, when riding north from New Haven, I watched employees, from a store on Dixwell, dump trash along the trail - of course there was garbage strewn about already…  Talked to one other rider who said that he felt that section of the trail was not safe; it certainly seems unpleasant.  North of Skiff St. - much nicer.
On the way home decided to take my chances on Whitney Ave (some driver really nailed that tree just north of Mather St…).  Beaten or run over - take your choice…

posted by: streever on June 29, 2010  9:29am

I’ve heard rumors but yet to see any problems. I actually find people are incredibly nice to me in the Hill part of the trail, which on average I’ve ridden 2 times a week for the last 5 weeks or so. Drivers stop—even though the trail is clearly set up to give them the priority. Whereas, just over the border in Hamden where the trail is given priority, I’ve had drivers act incredibly aggressive.

New Haven’s part of the trail is kind of a joke in design: it was designed to allow vehicular traffic to travel as fast as possible through it, with signs like, “Dismount bikes and walk”.

posted by: streever on June 29, 2010  4:37pm

Oops: slip of the finger. I meant “dixwell/newhallville”.

posted by: Melissa on June 30, 2010  11:35am

I felt fairly safe riding the canal trail from Putnam Avenue to the “end” of the trail near Science Park on a sunny Sunday evening by myself. I’d love to feel like I could ride it every day without worrying about my safety. Will New Haven be providing cycling police officers to patrol the trail?

posted by: Melissa on June 30, 2010  11:40am

My husband cycles back and forth from Whitneyville to downtown New Haven four (yes, four) times a day on Whitney avenue. I’ve never understood why Whitney Avenue does not have bicycle lanes, considering the sheer number of cyclists that use it and the dangerous way people drive on it. What is the reasoning in resurfacing it last summer without providing bicycle lanes? My husband says he has dangerous encounters with bad drivers quite frequently.

posted by: Brian Tang on June 30, 2010  12:01pm

It’s called the state traffic commission. Their job is to keep traffic flowing at all costs. I heard that they rejected New Haven’s proposal for bike lanes on Whitney on grounds that it could have led to gridlock at peak hours.

posted by: Melissa on June 30, 2010  3:21pm

Brian, thanks for explaining. What a crying shame! Traffic on Whitney could only be improved by a bicycle lane as far as I can see, since it already crawls through town at a cyclist’s speed anyway. I’d love to see it give preference to cyclists over cars someday.

posted by: Allan Broson on June 30, 2010  3:27pm

Paul Martin: “It’s pretty great that we have a mayor who bikes.”


But before you get too excited you might ask questions like,
“How OFTEN does he bike?” or
“Does he ever bike to work (City Hall)?”

Now that really would be something - if he ever biked to City Hall.

Don’t be too taken in by the occasional photo-opt.

posted by: Melinda Tuhus on June 30, 2010  10:03pm

I bike the trail alone regularly from Hamden as far south as it now goes, during various daylight hours. By far the most trash I’ve ever encountered is behind Stop&Shop; on Skiff Street in Hamden—almost all errant plastic bags.

I’ve seen very little trash on the New Haven section—I guess trash, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. I’ve also found everyone I’ve encountered to be either friendly or just keeping to themselves.

I think the whole trail is a great alternative to street riding.

I know there have been some problems, like with the yale employee several months back who was pulled off his bike, and if people say they’ve had rocks thrown at them, I believe them.

But the more people who use the trail, the safer it becomes for all of us. I have also seen yale cops on the trail at various times (not so much lately, so I wonder if they’re still patrolling).

I love that seemingly many residents of Newhallville (women walking there with kids, for example) are using it too, not just through riders from elsewhere.

For anyone interested in checking it out, the best way to start might be with a group of your friends or colleagues from work. As you get more comfortable, you may feel you don’t need a posse.

posted by: Rich Halkyard on July 1, 2010  9:03am

Hi Melinda,

Yes. The impression that I received from chatting with the Parks Dept. person that morning was that they cover the trail everyday looking for glass and overhanging tree limbs. My impression was that one person starts at each end with a leaf blower and they quickly blow away and problems.

As you say, that is not true on the Hamden leg up to Skiff Street. In my opinion, the New Haven leg looks a whole lot better than that Hamden section.

I also accept the fact that glass and potholes are a way of life even on suburban streets. I gave up several years ago and spent the few extra dollars for Kevlar tires and Kevlar insert belts.

Yesterday on Rte. 22 in No. Haven there were piles of broken glass. I called the State DOT at 203-265-2246 and they said they would come out today. Let’s see!

posted by: abg on July 1, 2010  1:23pm

Here are some questions Allan might have asked of Glassman:

Would you support a state version of the federal bicycle commuter tax credit?

Do you support a multi-use trail along the Merritt Parkway right-of-way (see

Do you support a “vulnerable user” law along the lines of the bill spearheaded by Rep. Tom Kehoe in the most recent legislative session?

Do you support allowing bikes full access on Metro-North?

What would you do to increase the number of “safe routes to school” programs in Connecticut?

Another good question could have been whether Lamont/Glassman would consider retaining DOT Commissioner Joe Marie, but now I guess that’s a moot point.