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Look What He Found

by Thomas MacMillan | Jan 18, 2013 5:40 pm

(49) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Transportation

Thomas MacMillan Photos Chris Ozyck came upon a hidden pocket of the city—which he thinks offers the secret for how best to finish connecting the Farmington Canal Greenway through downtown streets to the harbor.

Ozyck, who helps run a tree-planting organization in the city, said he’s found a way to connect the canal trail to the waterfront while creating a scenic greenway that could be an economic engine for the city—right in downtown New Haven.

He proposes to install a trail alongside the train tracks that run between State Street and Olive Street, where a gravel drive already exists from Grove Street to Fair Street.

Ozyck has been pumping the idea—or rather resurrecting it as a proposed route—as the city heads toward a final plan for that last New Haven stretch of the hiking and biking trail.

City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg called Ozyck’s idea interesting but unrealistic. City planners already have considered and discarded it as too difficult and expensive, given that the area belongs to Amtrak, she said. She argued that the city has designed the best route it can with the time and resources available, and attempts to change course this late in the game can only delay the project and jeopardize funding for the $7.6 million project.

The Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway trail currently runs more than 80 miles, from New Haven to Northampton, Mass. It’s both a journey and a destination for cyclists, walkers, and joggers. The trail now ends in New Haven at Hillhouse Avenue. One phase remains before the trail extends all the way to the harbor.

The city will develop tunnels from Hillhouse Avenue to the corner of Orange and Grove Streets, where it will climb out of the canal and reach street level. That phase has been designed by local architect Dean Sakamoto and dubbed New Haven’s “Low Line,” similar to the High Line in New York City.

The trail’s very last leg, from the corner of Orange and Grove to the future site of the New Haven boathouse, is now in the design phase. The city’s plan calls for cyclists to take Grove to Olive Street and head south, sharing the road with cars.

The Olive Street plan was recently panned at the inaugural meeting (pictured) of the New Haven Friends of Farmington Canal Greenway (NHFOFCG), a newly formed group of which Ozyck is a member. The group argued that Olive Street is too narrow and full of cars to be a good option for cyclists, especially children and families who will have just ridden on a protected bike path all the way from Hamden or Cheshire, or beyond.

“It’s A Little Late”

Gilvarg said the greenway plans are running almost exactly one year behind schedule. The project is now at the “semi-final design” phase, or 60 percent designed. The route that’s been chosen is the result of a number of public meetings, and represents the best that can be done with the time and money available, Gilvarg said.

The total project cost is $7.6 million, with the city paying $1.5 million of that amount and the federal government paying the rest. In order to avoid losing the federal money, the plans need to be completely finished by July, Gilvarg said.

“It’s a little late for an alternate route. We’re at 60 percent design,” Gilvarg said. Re-opening the design process would “set the project back for months and jeopardize the funding.”

In the city’s plan, the greenway would come up to street level near the corner of Grove and Orange streets, an intersection which will be treated with colored paint or pavers to signal to drivers to slow down. Cyclists would head east on Grove Street using sharrows, crossing State Street and turning right onto Olive Street.

“It’s not perfect, but State Street [as a route] isn’t perfect either,” Gilvarg said. Olive Street was chosen because it has slow traffic and fewer cars on it, and it’s more aesthetically pleasing, Gilvarg said.

At the south end of Olive Street, the trail would take a left and become a protected cycle-track extending from Water to Brewery to Sargent. Originally, the intent was to turn right and connect with the Vision Trail, which runs between the post office and the back of the train station, but the city couldn’t get the right-of-way from the Post Office, Gilvarg said.

The “Low Line”

On a recent afternoon, Ozyck led a tour of the route he thinks the trail should take to the harbor. He’ll offer the tour again at least twice more, as part of a volunteer campaign to get the city to consider his idea. He’s meeting tour participants at the main IKEA entrance at 2 p.m. on Sunday Jan. 20 and 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2.

Wearing a bright yellow safety vest, Ozyck began his tour at the corner of State and Grove. He pointed up the block to where Grove meets Orange. He said both intersections should be converted into “speed tables”—raised intersections where pedestrians reign supreme. When cyclists and pedestrians emerge from the canal onto the street, there would be a guardrail to separate and guide them to the corner, where, when the traffic stops, they can cross diagonally and enter the eastbound lane on Grove Street, towards State, he said.

At State Street, the trail would enter what is now city staff parking (pictured) on the east side of State Street, Ozyck said. The path could run down the middle of the lot, and thus not take any parking spaces away, he said.

Then the trail would take a slight left turn, and go down the bank to meet an existing gravel drive next to the railroad tracks. An existing gate (pictured) and track, already open, shows how easy this would be, he said. It’s like dropping through a rabbit hole into a strip of seemingly available real estate right in the heart of town.

“We all walk around in the city thinking we know the city,” Ozyck said, “until we dig a little deeper.”

From that spot, it’s a straight shot several blocks south. “We’re going to walk all the way to the Knights of Columbus museum without having to cross a street,” Ozyck said.

Ample room exists next to the railroad tracks, enough for cyclists and walkers to be comfortably distant from passing trains. There’s so much room that the city could even extend the parking lot to make it even bigger, or have land to develop with businesses, Ozyck pointed out.

In Ozyck’s vision, this is the real Low Line, the attraction that could bring people to New Haven as the High Line does for Manhattan. The retaining walls and existing tunnels could be covered with public art and there could be seating areas and terraces for people to enjoy in the heart of the city.

The trail would run right by the State Street train station (pictured), which could lead to more people to take advantage of that underused stop. The proximity of the trains would also be a good advertisement for New Haven, Ozyck said. People riding by in trains would see happy walkers and cyclists having a great time on a beautiful greenway in the heart of town, and plan a trip to New Haven themselves. “Is that not a great way to tell people about New Haven?”

“My god, the potential,” Ozyck said, showing off the area.

If, on the other hand, cyclists were shunted off the canal and onto narrow Olive Street, danger, frustration, and road rage would ensue, Ozyck said.

“I think that’s insane,” he said. “A better alternative exists. ... Here, with a more expensive, graceful stroke, you can achieve so much more. ... It’s so obvious.”

“We looked at that route,” Gilvarg said of the train corridor idea. The route was discarded mainly because it would require easements and other cooperation with Amtrak, which holds the property and is notoriously difficult to work with, she said. “I don’t have enough years left to negotiate this with Amtrak.”

Gilvarg acknowledged that Ozyck’s proposed route has a certain attractiveness, as a car-free zone way right through downtown. But it’s just not possible right now, she said. In 10 years, if Amtrak is suddenly cooperative and easy to work with, you can change the route, she said.

Train Connections

In Ozyck’s vision, after four blocks running by the tracks, the trail would climb back up to street level and enter at Fair Street, the tiny road that connects Union Street and State Street. The westbound lane there could be claimed for bikes, Ozyck said. No one ever uses that lane, Ozyck said, demonstrating his point by standing in the middle of it.

Next, the trail would turn right onto Union Street, reclaiming what is now a trashed sidewalk with Jersey barriers running down the middle. Move those Jersey barriers over to one side and use them to separate pedestrians and cyclists from cars, Ozyck suggested.

Union Street (pictured) is a good option because it offers a great view of the city, he said. People pedaling north will intuitively head in that direction and have a sense of “Ah! I’ve arrived downtown in New Haven,” Ozyck said.

At the corner of Union and Water streets, the trail would take a left and connect with the Vision Trail, which runs under the highway, behind the post office, ending at IKEA. This is the route that Gilvarg said wouldn’t work because the city needs a right of way from the post office.

The Vision Trail could also easily be modified to take people to the train station, Ozyck said. “The trail turns. If you go straight you can get right on the platform.”

Ozyck said he envisions a service whereby people arriving by train in New Haven could text-message a bike shop like The Devil’s Gear to pick them up in a pedi-cab, take them to the shop and rent them bikes to explore the trail for the day.

“Are you kidding me?” Gilvarg said when she heard about Ozyck’s idea to connect the trail to the back of the train station. “Talk to OSHA [the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration] about crossing railroad tracks.”

In the future, there may be a way to do that with a bridge, she said. There are a lot of good ideas, “but the focus has been on getting this done.”

“There’s no question that Union Station is a key destination,” GIlvarg said. Nothing will stop people from taking a right at Water Street and pedaling themselves there, she said.

“An Economic Engine”

Heading back to where he started, Ozyck took Olive Street (pictured), the city’s proposed route for the trail. He pointed out how narrow it is, how popular it is with commuters taking a shortcut to the highway. “It’s not like this is a neighborhood road,” he said.

Ozyck acknowledged that his plan would be more expensive and more difficult. “Where there’s a will, there’s always a way,” he said.

At the very least, the trail should avoid Olive Street by going down quiet, one-way Artizan Street (pictured) and Union Street, Ozyck said.

As planners look at the final phase of the Farmington Canal Greenway, the question should be, “Do you really want to use this as an economic engine?” Ozyck said. “Look what the High Line did for New York City.”

 

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posted by: anonymous on January 18, 2013  6:22pm

The plan to continue the trail through the Yale campus and down to Orange Street, via the historic canal route, is much appreciated. 

But the idea of using heavily-trafficked Olive Street, from that point on, is absolutely ridiculous and should be a non-starter.  City planners were told this many times by dozens of people at the public meetings. Are they deaf?

Additionally, when the trail ends at Orange Street, safety improvements are needed. It’s a busy downtown street.  The money should be spent there, on traffic calming for the corner of Orange & Grove, for instance.  Look at what Southington did when they ran the trail through downtown.

Funding to finish the trail from Orange Street down the harbor could be attracted in a future phase of work. 

When it comes to promoting safety and economic development, it’s always best to do things the right way the first time.  Running the trail on Olive Street is a huge mistake.

posted by: swatty on January 18, 2013  6:52pm

Aaron Goode is a New Haven legend! He is seemingly everywhere working tirelessly for his fellow citizens. Thank You Aaron for all your hark work!

posted by: Esbey on January 18, 2013  6:56pm

Yes, yes, yes, yes and also: yes.  Chris Ozyck is one of the city’s greatest resources and this is brilliant.

The key is to get Rosa de Lauro and our two Senators to insert a little clause into some important bill that directs the Postal Service and Amtrak to allow this to happen.  It costs the Feds no money.  Can Amtrak really afford to piss-off pro-rail northeastern reps?  Can our bankrupt P.O. realistically fight back?

The key to that outcome is, in turn, to make it a city legislative priority and for Elm City Cycling and other groups to start a letter-writing campaign and so forth.

All that said, I have outlined an uncertain multi-year political effort.  Unfortunately, it might be better for the city to pocket the current grant money, finish the “low line” to Grove and Orange and implement the sharrow plan as a genuinely bad stop-gap measure.

But Ozyck’s plan has got to be the real goal, nothing stands in the way but bureaucracy (OK, and eventually some more funding.)

posted by: JuliS on January 18, 2013  8:49pm

“Olive Street was chosen because it has slow traffic… “

newsflash: there are ZERO streets in new haven with slow traffic. any person who has walked or biked anywhere in new haven knows this.

i absolutely think a completely protected route, free of car traffic, alongside the tracks is a great idea. if the project is already running late, then why not take our time and get it right for once?

posted by: Seth P on January 19, 2013  1:51am

“Where there is a will there is a way.”  It is great to have folks like Chris who get up, get out and act to affect change in our city.  How do I get down with the New Haven Friends of Farmington Canal Greenway?

posted by: anonymous on January 19, 2013  11:37am

I agree with JuliS. Let’s take our time and get it right, even if that means adding another phase of work for future city leaders to accomplish. 

Trails are not built overnight, especially when they go through a Downtown area.

The money that is being used to get to the harbor could probably be spent instead just getting the intersections of the trail around Orange and State correct.  The trail could end at State or Artizan, or even at Orange, until funding is found for the last section from there to the harbor.

As Ozyck points out, getting this right has important implications for economic development. The trail could be an asset, attracting hundreds of jobs to the city, if it is done right. 

Sharrows are almost as worthless as road signs, and worse than signs if they cause city officials to think that they have accomplished something.

posted by: SaveOurCity on January 19, 2013  1:27pm

Great idea!!

The concept of mingling this trail with city streets is extremely flawed. Anyone who has been on both clearly understands that they are entirely different and any mix will be equivalent to oil and water. 

We should demand that our government does what is best for us and not just what they have already started (or planned 60%).

posted by: streever on January 19, 2013  5:15pm

“It’s a little late”—Gilvarg told us this when we criticized the Route 34 Plan before it was even 30% done.

How long will this supposed public servant persist in a role that involves dismissing citizen input without actually considering the input?

Her alternative is frankly terrible. Experienced riders I know living AROUND Wooster Square are unwilling to use Olive street.

Olive Street is horrible. Elm City Cycling and every other advocacy group in town has told Gilvarg this at multiple meetings.

Why does our city expect us to solve every problem logistically? Why isn’t it enough to tell them that a plan is bad? Why don’t they ever go back to the drawing board?

Our city hall is infested with a “circle the wagons” mentality.

Where are our elected officials on this? CCNE? Access to off-road trails is a fundamental need of our lowest income residents, many of whom don’t own cars, and have dangerous commutes.

This is another short-sighted plan, and Gilvarg reveals that when she says that “the focus has been on getting this done.”

The focus is always on just getting it done—we are not proactive, we are not progressive, we do not plan ahead. We simply try to get as much mediocre work done as possible as quickly as possible, which is a recipe for failure.

Why are our bridge projects consistently years behind schedule? Why is EVERYTHING consistently behind schedule? Our city is corrupt—actual unbiased citizen input is not taken or used by anyone at City Hall because the people with money make the calls, and they demand that we get into the spending phases as quickly and erroneously as possible.

The developers who are working on this project made the maximum contribution to DeStefano—check it out! They don’t even live in New Haven!

You can’t make this junk up.

posted by: Nan Bartow on January 19, 2013  5:36pm

Out of the two proposed routes, I strongly favor running the greenway connection from the canal trail to the waterfront by way of a trail that would follow the train tracks along the gravel drive. That route would be off the street and could be made spectacular.  Having the trail pass by the State St. train station would be a real plus since people could get off the train and access the trail right away.  After reaching Fair St., crossing the bridge, and turning right onto Union St., the trail would pass by the High School in the Community where there is room for an off-street trail on the sidewalk behind the jersey barriers. Next the trail would cross Water St. and turn right under the highway overpass across from the entrance to HSC.  From there the trail would follow along the original Vision Trail, with a view of Union Station on the right hand side of the trail.  By the time that the trail emerges at Brewery St. and Ikea, the cyclists and walkers have traveled almost the whole distance off the street and have crossed only a few streets.  Running the trail along heavily-trafficked Olive Street with sharrows and so many street crossings would create a nightmare for cyclists and walkers.  As a former teacher at the High School in the Community, I can attest to the fact that the Vision Trail used to be a safe, interesting, quiet, and scenic way to take a group of high school students off-road from Water St. to the harbor.  It could be made lovely again with some widening and landscaping.  Let’s not be short-sighted.  Let’s do whatever is necessary to make the best greenway harbor connection possible.  History, along with the walkers and the cyclists, will thank us for our vision.

posted by: Syne on January 20, 2013  4:32pm

A route off the city streets downtown would be safer for both cyclists and motorists.  Let’s work with Amtrak and OSHA to make it hhappen

posted by: David S Baker on January 20, 2013  10:41pm

I took the ‘Ozyck tour’ this afternoon and have to agree that his idea is a far better investment for the city.  Every aspect of his alternate route was safer, the views of the city were better, the scenery more unique, the numerous dangerous intersections he avoided alone make this work pressing for in the next six months.  I can picture food carts and street performers along this route from State Street to the Harbor every warm sunny day.

I have not heard the oppositions side of this argument in person, but have to say that the bulk of what was quoted in this article strikes me as how I would react if someone casually dropped a simple reduction of a complicated problem in my lap after I had struggled with it for years.  I realize that dealing with Amtrak is not simple, but we still have six months.  The city can play the green marketing card, or the liability waver card, or the tax incentive card, etc…

posted by: Wildwest on January 21, 2013  9:40am

How can they talk about building expensive tunnels and then funnel people out onto Olive??? Do I have a screw loose or something that inhibits my reading comprehension? I did quite a bit of biking in this city a few years back and have to say that I would NEVER EVER tell a family of 3-4 to ride down Olive, never ever.

Do it right the first time or dont do it at all is what I say. Maybe the police plan on extending their protection of citizens(enforcing ALL laws) beyond the 3 block radius of the green by the time this is said and done???

posted by: Natalie on January 21, 2013  10:19am

I’ve had the same thought before and at this point, just want to echo the other commenters:  we should do it once and do it right.  Chris’s idea is brilliant.  It reminds me of the best greenways I’ve seen in big, classy cities—Philly and New York and D.C.  Why can’t New Haven have the same?  I’m tired of City Hall settling for something less than the best.  Chris’s route is inspiring—and I’m ready to be inspired!

posted by: S Brown on January 21, 2013  11:37am

Lots of public meetings were held. All public input was ignored. City pats itself on the back for following the required process.

This is standard procedure. “Get it done.” No time to get it done RIGHT. That’s a luxury we can’t afford.

Astounding arrogance on the part of they city as they prepare to botch yet another potentially transformative project. And once again it’s about “use it or lose it” funding. I don’t really care about spending the money or enriching some well connected contractor. If they aren’t going to do it right, don’t spend the money at all.

posted by: anonymous on January 21, 2013  12:07pm

S Brown, I agree. I’m still astounded that the public input on Phase 4 of the canal trail was mostly ignored. 

When trails are built through cities, they typically cost more money than what the city has proposed to spend here.  Even the tiny town of Westfield, Massachusetts is spending more money to run the trail through their downtown area than New Haven is. 

You can’t just slap a gallon of paint in the middle of a highway and call that a trail.  Even though doing it the right way the first time costs more and might require us to advocate for a “Phase 5” of work, it also has a much larger economic impact.

posted by: streever on January 21, 2013  12:08pm

Where is CCNE on this? Jaime Myers-Mcphail? Gwen Mills? Jessica Holmes? Adam Marchand?

This has the potential to bring new investment and new resources to New Haven. Where are our elected officials when a city planner arrogantly dismisses good ideas—yet again—because they are outside of the limited creative energy working for the Mayor?

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on January 21, 2013  12:13pm

I agree with all the others posters here.
Get it done right the first time and stop being arrogant.
“Federal $” = Our tax dollars. Don’t spend the money if all it buys us a crappy alternative.  There will be other grants to support a quality project when we plan it right.

posted by: HewNaven on January 21, 2013  1:24pm

Please, do this the right way, New Haven! I’m not worried about the young male and/or the collegiate demographic (they seem to crave danger), but why would we route the elderly, and disabled and - more likely - children and families onto a busy street like Olive, when we could just as easily (albeit more expensively) keep them on an auto-free trail, where they won’t run the risk of competing with much heavier and faster vehicles that could potentially harm them.

We all understand there’s a price difference, we’re just asking you to do it the right way and make it possible for people other than courageous, young men and women to get around this city without a car. Most people can’t afford a car anyway.

To those in charge, I say, “imagine it were your mother and her children trying to navigate to the harbor. Should they take a trail or just hop on Olive Street?”

posted by: Nathan on January 21, 2013  3:57pm

Whether they realize it or not, the cycling/trail advocates have presented a cogent and compelling argument for why this part of the proposed project should not occur.  In addition to the street safety concerns raised, I would add in a point about the consistent failure to ensure safety from crime on the existing parts of the canal trail near science park - how much more so if the trail was extended further?  While in theory higher usage should mean more safety, theory hasn’t played out very well in reality for the New Haven extension of the canal trail.  New Haven isn’t North Hamden, Cheshire, and Southington - and no trail will change those complicated factors that influence that reality.  Finally, with the city budget a disaster for years, leading to high property taxes that regularly influence the decisions of potential home-owner residents, saving 1.5 million dollars would be fiscally prudent both now and for the future.  Perhaps it’s best to leave the Fed’s money on the table this time.

posted by: anonymous on January 21, 2013  5:30pm

Nathan, you seem to be making a few assumptions.  First, is there more crime on the trail than on any other streets or sidewalks in New Haven? 

People have had their bikes or purses stolen every so often on Prospect Street or downtown, and dozens have been murdered on the Newhallville streets that are well away from the trail.  There is more crime in Newhallville as a whole than there is in East Rock or Woodbridge, but that was true before the trail was built.

My guess is that the trail is actually safer, even before you consider the fact that 20 pedestrians and many more dozens of motorists have died on our streets and not one (to my knowledge) on the trail.

Also, if the trail hadn’t been built, what would the land where it runs currently be used for - an abandoned rail line with weeds? The backyard of an auto repair shop? Would those things improve safety or economic development? Before the trail was built through Newhallville, the abandoned area where it runs was referred to as a “mud pit” and was the scene of many shootings.

posted by: streever on January 21, 2013  8:42pm

@Anonymous
Nathan has a strong and well-documented dislike of people who bicycle. I’m fairly sure that it is not productive to engage him when he vents about these issues.

posted by: Wildwest on January 21, 2013  9:34pm

Nathan makes a great point. Who here feels safe to bike alone on the trail through Newhallville? I dont and I spend time in that area. Maybe the city ought to spend a few of MY dollars on preventing people from getting their heads bashed in for a few dollars and a fancy bike first.

I was wondering when this section of the trail would come up… yet another NHPD disgrace. sure, its been quiet there recently(reality- people avoid it now)

posted by: Stephen Wilcox on January 21, 2013  10:03pm

I love this idea. As a resident of City Point I ride the Vision Trail on my bike from my neighborhood to downtown all the time. I take my kids as well and I never have to worry about them getting hit by a car.

The problem with the city’s plan is that cyclists will not use it. It is basically a walking trail from downtown to the harbor with improved sidewalks. But the sidewalks are there already. I am not going to ride down Olive Street when I can go down Union Street. Olive Street is so narrow I would not want my kids on it and there is hardly any traffic on Union Street. If we build a trail and no one uses it we are wasting money. Just because we have the money to build an inferior plan it not a good reason to build it.

Chris’s idea is far better. It would actually be used and could become an attraction for our city. And if Amtrak won’t cooperate then the trail should go down Union Street and State Street. The whole side of State Street from Grove to Court St. is nothing but dirt parking lots. Let’s do it right.

posted by: anonymous on January 21, 2013  10:31pm

Stephen, those are great points. Have you contacted your Alderperson in City Point about this?

posted by: Curious on January 22, 2013  11:21am

Proposal: someone organize a rally and march down the proposed trail.  That should generate enough attention for the city to take it seriously, if we can get enough people.

Maybe even a run, people love to run for causes.

posted by: Curious on January 22, 2013  11:28am

Also, people SPEED down Olive street, all the time.

There’s a crosswalk across Olive to Court, leading to Wooster Square, and it’s useless.  Despite signs saying to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, people speed through it all day and night.  By the time cars get to the crosswalk, they’re going 40, and just blow through it. 

There used to be a sign in the middle of the road to help alert drivers, but it has gone missing.  Even when it was there, though, it did nothing to slow down drivers. 

Furthermore, pedestrians trying to cross can’t see down Olive far enough to see if the coast is clear before trying to cross, because of all the cars parked on Olive.

If you want to cross, you have to peek out, hope wait for there to be a break in traffic, and then run for it.

How are people going to bike down here, especially in a manner befitting a bike trail? 

Gilvarg should go out and just walk her proposed route a few times at different times of day, to see how unfeasible this is.

posted by: Kevin on January 22, 2013  11:45am

Chris is a great guy and some of his ideas make sense(such as the speed tables and using Fair and Artizan Streets as alternatives to Olive). But while running the trail behind the post office makes sense from a design perspective, it is implausible that the Postal Service would give away property when it is fighting for its survival (an easement is a form of property). It is equally implausible that Congress, which has done virtually nothing in the past two years, would mandate the transfer by July. Similarly, it is hard to believe that Amtrak would voluntarily open itself to the liability and risk of vandalism associated with giving the public ready access to the tracks.

posted by: jlachance on January 22, 2013  11:47am

The canal route presently runs more then 80 miles. And there is a plan to extend the trail to the Harbor, albeit on surface streets. Who is to say what is the best option.  My military training included the lesson that you should not fight every fight.
  I have been fortunate to have visited other major cities around the world where cycling is very popular and well integrated into the transportation network.  In those cities it is recognized by everyone that bicycles belong in the traffic flow. In many of these cities cyclists and pedestrians share the margins of the right-of-way. In nearly all of them motor vehicles move slower and are smaller then what we are accustomed too.
We are fortunate to have wide streets with broad easements; our sidewalks could easily be widened to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians; this works well in some of the most densely populated cities in the world,Berlin and Tokyo for example.  There are currently many people cycling on the sidewalks here because they feel safer there, and indeed they are, but it is against the law for them to be there. I have been reminded of this on occasion by NHPD.
But, most importantly, in my view, is a need for courtesy on everyone’s part. We have to find a way to share, the roads and the sidewalks. I would like to see the speed limit in residential and central business districts be reduced to 20 mph; then maybe people would drive at 25 rather then 35 mph.
  I hope we will pick our fights carefully, less we look like congress.

posted by: Curious on January 22, 2013  12:18pm

Why can’t we have TWO routes for the Canal Trail? 

We could have the one that the city is working on now, and then a better one, like this, to continue to be developed?

posted by: streever on January 22, 2013  12:23pm

@jlachance
Yes, bicycles belong, but without some sort of inducement, we will never see bicycling grow in popularity here as it has elsewhere.

Look at Seville, Spain: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/seville

Seville is far more like New Haven than most of the cities you or I could reference. It had abysmal, non-existent, commuter bicycling adoption.

The city built 80 miles of bike lanes—outside of the flow of traffic—and saw an incredible increase in bicycling commuting.

The design goal was “a grandmother grocery shopping via bicycle”.

Olive Street is unacceptable for the vast majority of people. Remember, we aren’t building bicycle infrastructure for you or I (we ride anywhere), we’re building it for people who may never have dreamed of riding a bicycle.

When we look at these issues, we have to ask ourselves, is spending even 1 million on a project that fails the basic tests of the project worthwhile? No.

Minimum viable product in this case is a trail that anyone can use which has basic safety. That the current proposal does not even pretend to meet this criteria means that this project is a failure and should not be built as is.

Keeping the trail off-road is, more than most, a worthy battle to fight. It is local, high impact, possible, and even reasonable.

If the employees of the city lack the imagination to draft a plan for an eventual off-road trail, then they should get out of the business of managing this city.

posted by: streever on January 22, 2013  12:27pm

@Curious
Two trails was requested of Gilvarg at an ECC meeting in November (documented here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elmcitycycling/message/13940)

She said that she would look into this but we have seen no reply.

@Kevin
Private citizens aren’t responsible for proposing the best and most practical possible trail. Gilvarg has been told by every advocate and advocacy group that the trail as proposed is not sufficient—indeed, to think that an 80 mile off-road trail should be re-routed onto a street which even experienced cyclists do not ride for safety reasons is beyond baffling.

That Chris is offering a suggestion which may or may not have problems is one issue—that Gilvarg is pushing forward with spending public money on a project the public simply will not use is inexcusable.

If Ozyck’s plan is not good enough, and Gilvarg’s plan is not good enough, we need Gilvarg to use her position to find a better plan or explain why New Haven is incapable of fulfilling the plan.

posted by: anonymous on January 22, 2013  12:47pm

Kevin, you are too cynical.  There are many examples of “rails with trail” throughout the United States and world. 

Starting with our collective priorities, instead of with bureaucratic excuses from government, is the only way we can evolve as a society.

posted by: TheMadcap on January 22, 2013  1:23pm

“Who feels safe riding through NewhallVille?”

Literally the hundreds of people a day who use the trail in warm weather. We can’t help it if you’re paranoid of people.

posted by: William Kurtz on January 22, 2013  1:33pm

People do drive quickly on Olive but no more so than on lots of other streets, although it feels scarier, being so narrow. Union and Artizan are better choices, but if you’re really, really, going to route what has until that point been mostly a tree-lined, car-free trail onto a city street it will need some infrastructure improvements. It seems like any one of those would be a good candidate to be revamped as a low-speed ‘bike boulevard’ with the corresponding changes to allow local motor vehicle traffic, parking, etc. while still prioritizing bicycle traffic—or at least putting it on equal footing.

That said, Mr. Ozyck’s suggested alternative seems far more desirable even if it’s going to take a little schmoozing with Amtrak and the Post Office. I understand if USPS is still hating on cyclists after Lance Armstrong using their stamp money to buy EPO but c’mon. They’re not using that little stretch of sidewalk anyway. The train tracks are the bigger hurdle and I’m not 100% clear on how a trail will coexist safely with them but I’m confident it can be done.

posted by: jlachance on January 22, 2013  1:56pm

The “ddesigngoal was a grandmother, grocery shopping”, really?  Then we really need to devote our enenergiesnd resources to the streets and avenues we use everyday. My understanding of the railway option would have very limited access, and little more then recreational value.

posted by: Kevin on January 22, 2013  2:12pm

@streever (Hi David)

I agree that “private citizens aren’t responsible for proposing the best and most practical possible trail.” But if public funds are being used for a project, that is how they should be spent.

@anonymous

I know that there are many “rails with trails.” But I am unaware of any that provide unfenced public access to hundreds of millions of dollars of rail facilities and rolling stock. Obviously, this segment could be fenced but I am not aware of any funding that is currently available - are you?

posted by: SSSS on January 22, 2013  2:44pm

Who cares if we leave federal dollars on the table if it is a dumb design?  Wouldn’t the status quo with a possibility of a better design at some point in the future be better than guaranteed failure?

posted by: streever on January 22, 2013  2:58pm

@Kevin (Hi back!)
I agree, which is why I oppose the design that Gilvarg is proposing ;-) it is not a good design for the general public. It is only suitable for a very small number of active sports cyclists, like myself.

@jlachance
You gotta crawl before you walk, Joel. If we want to get more citizens on bikes, we have to give them infrastructure that makes it possible. This trail would be accessible to a grandma, or a child, or an adult, or a new cyclist, etc…. and they’d use it.

Once you get people on a bike, once you get them riding, you know the rest buddy! They love it. However, you aren’t going to get them on a bike by making them share space with 35 mph traffic on narrow Olive Street. You just aren’t.

So, if we’re going to spend even 100,000 on a public project to let ALL citizens ride their bikes on a recreational trail, we HAVE to do it right.

We can’t use public money to cater to a tiny segment of our population.

This is a trail that Kurtz and I might ride. I don’t know even a dozen other cyclists who express a willingess to ride on Olive Street—including some experienced riders who live on Olive and Wooster.

A little paint marking a road that experienced cyclists are too afraid to ride on is just a waste of money and time.

If the city can’t find a better plan, they should scrap this project.

It is irresponsible to spend how many hundreds of thousands of dollars of Federal tax money on a bike way for Streever + Kurtz. (and, maybe, LaChance!)

posted by: Mister Jones on January 22, 2013  3:01pm

Looking at aerial photography, I’m reminded that the canal line used to run across the Arena lot, and was presumably filled as part of the FBI building construction [another one that seemed like a good deal at the time]. I believe there is still a remnant behind the triangular building on the corner of Wall and State, and wonder if the old tunnel still extends beneath State Street.  If so, this presents an alternate route towards the “rabbit hole” tunnel under Grand shown in the photo.  Instead of running the path down Grove and crossing State, it could duck down Orange, left on Wall and under State. This would restore what’s left of the historical connection to the rail line.  At this point it would connect to the gravel drive towards the Grand Avenue underpass. If the “low line” route along the tracks can’t get done, then use the State Street parking lots all the way from Grand to Fair, avoiding most if not all of the Amtrak property [and avoiding safety concerns about cyclists and pedestrians so close to the tracks and their high voltage wires].

posted by: Curious on January 22, 2013  3:18pm

If New Haven cycling groups really feel that Olive is a bad design, why don;t they ride it, and record it, and then show the evidence at a public meeting?

posted by: anonymous on January 22, 2013  3:36pm

Kevin, the current funding is limited of course and could probably be spent to make the existing trail, where it transitions to downtown, be safer.  If there’s not enough money to do everything all the way to the train station and harbor, then the city should do things right the first time where it can, and advocate for another phase of work. The existing canal trail has functioned fine for decades, despite having uncompleted segments.

Completing the trail at least to Orange Street or State Street would be a major accomplishment.  The city could take pride in that.

The fact that it was still unfinished would be a constant reminder to everyone that we need to rally for the final phase of work connecting Orange Street to the train station and harbor.

posted by: Nathan on January 22, 2013  5:04pm

How unfortunate that someone would write from, what I would prefer to believe is ignorance, regarding both my position on cycling in the city and on the idea of engaging in reasonable, rational exchange of thoughts and yes, even arguments.  The twisting of my “well documented” previous comments about the proper use of the roads by everyone - motor vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians into a strange and incorrect position against cyclists is bizarre.  Why would one choose to characterize my position that cyclists and pedestrians must obey the same laws as motor vehicle operators as being a “dislike of people who bicycle”?  In fact, as I have noted, both I (not often) and another family member (often) use the city roads as cyclists in addition to other modalities, so my “position” stressing the importance of wise, lawful use by all users is not merely a theory.  Suggesting that not all users belong on every road at the same time has nothing to do with being “anti” anything and everything to do with an attempt at thinking about safety without polemic, something often missing from some overly pumped cyclist advocates.  There are also, as I mentioned, fiscal realities to consider, however unpleasant they may be, that are directly impacting the city now and in the future with regard to attracting the “middle class” that previously fled to the ‘burbs.

posted by: streever on January 22, 2013  6:03pm

Nathan:
I am ignorant as to your motives and thoughts. I typically see devil’s advocate and strawman arguments in your comments—such as stating what point we’re making in your previous comment on this or questioning the safety of the trail while ignoring the number of dangerous incidents that occur in other parts of the city—so while there may be more substance than I am witness to, I haven’t seen it.

I see you providing a “counter” force to people trying to improve cycling for everyone. You frequently refer to our viewpoints as being unnecessary and poorly thought out and a waste of time and money.

Our entire society presents that point of view, unconciously, and on a day to day basis, so while I may be ignorant, I don’t think there is much value in the type of debate you offer on this theme.

I don’t consider debates that rely on re-stating the oppositions point of view to be easier to defeat to be “rational”. I see it as a cheap excuse for debate, as sophistry, and as posturing.

posted by: Nathan on January 22, 2013  7:56pm

“I don’t consider debates that rely on re-stating the oppositions point of view to be easier to defeat to be “rational”. I see it as a cheap excuse for debate, as sophistry, and as posturing.”

Indeed - physician, heal thyself.  Your summary of my positions serves exactly what you wish it to serve, although at least you acknowledge that my centrist views are far more in alignment with the vast majority of society - tax payers, BTW - who have a right to have their needs and desires considered when making public policy and project decisions.  My “position” is that there is a complex matrix of considerations for all such situations, far more complex than suggested in the comments, or sometimes even the reporting, at NHI.  Suggesting that the proposed route for the trail is indeed too dangerous, when it comes from a radical left cycling advocate, is considered a good observation - yet when it comes from a centrist, it prompts a war cry from you.  Consider the truth from no matter its source.

posted by: Wildwest on January 22, 2013  8:41pm

Nice last post from Nathan, I especially appreciate the “radical left cycling advocate” comment. This trail is not all about biking and I’ll guess 50% of the use will be by “hikers”. Hikers/walkers will have zero problems with Olive, in fact it may take a few of them down Wooster St for an Italian ice or a slice. Having it go down Olive is not set in stone/permanent and gives everyone time to get it done right eventually.

Once again I have to mention the fact that if cops took radar and ticketed speeders in this town it would calm traffic more than 1,000,000 speed humps ever would.

posted by: jlachance on January 22, 2013  8:50pm

I agree, letting the canal trail begin and end at Hill House Ave. is,for me at least, an acceptable alternative, and lets work on making our streets and sidewalks more accommodating to people of all abilities.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on January 22, 2013  10:14pm

This is what radical cycling advocacy would look like:

A group of billion dollar multinational corporations with an invested interest in increasing cycling purely for increasing private profit while assuming as little of the cost of increasing demand for cycling related products. These corporations would donate to political campaigns in exchange for positions and representation on important infrastructure and planning boards and committees. Through the government these corporations would write roadway design standards, infrastructure bills, and public policy for urban planning all in favor of bicycling. The roadway design standards might require 2-6 foot bike lanes minimum on every street and existing roads of less than 48 foot right-of-ways might be recommended as bike preference roads since there isn’t enough width for separate car lanes. Infrastructure bills might call for interstate bicycling highways to be constructed throughout the country connecting city to city and town to country. And planning public policy might reflect development guidelines ideal for bicycling assess like dense, mixed-use neighborhoods connected by narrow streets that are practically inaccessible by car. Local zoning ordinances might require ample bike parking requirements, and car use might be discouraged on important thoroughfares, and streets might have multiple lanes for bikes and bike parking and a car sharrow.

That’s what radical cycling advocacy is and it is also the exact pattern that companies like General Motors, Firestone Rubber, and Standard Oil used to reorganize our country around the automobile in the mid-20th century, and which continues today. The city’s current approach to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure is to maintain the car-centric planning and design of the previous generations while adding cosmetic layers to the fundamentally car-centric infrastructure where it is easiest, cheapest, and least controversial. The most radical proposals from commenters on NHI have been for a more balanced approach to street design to include all users - motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, shop patrons, tenants, etc. I’ve never seen a suggestion for cycling preference - only cycling equity - hardly a radical proposal considering that most streets SHOULD have preference for non-motorized needs since this is a city and not the countryside.

posted by: HhE on January 22, 2013  11:05pm

Well, if someone will run camera, I am just crazy enough to try Olive. 

I did Whitney in Hamden once.  I’m not doing that again.

posted by: Natalie on January 22, 2013  11:37pm

Threatening the loss of Federal money on this project may be hyperbole, and in any event is distracting from the real issue. Spending someone else’s money on a bad project doesn’t make it a good project. It makes it a bad project that you feel less responsibility for.  And that there is less accountability for it, too.

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