State’s First Protected Bike Lane Debuts

Christopher Peak Photo Just over a dozen cyclists took a five-mile spin together on Long Wharf for an inaugural test run on Connecticut’s first protected bike lane.

Cyclists —  some in suits, some in spandex —  were there Friday morning to fête the two-way, off-street “cycletrack” that officially opened this week.

The path, which is protected from cars by a curb, stretches for a mile down Brewery Street, near IKEA, to Long Wharf Drive. After that, the path links up with another mile of on-street bike lane, protected by delineator tubes, to the Long Wharf Nature Preserve.

Mostly hardcore enthusiasts turned up for the inaugural ride, a loop from City Hall to City Point. The improvements also target New Haven’s “potential cyclists,” the huge contingent who’ve thought about hopping on a two-wheeler for a commute or leisure ride but haven’t yet.

“It’s one of the bike amenities most effective in getting the biggest group of potential cyclists – the ‘interested but concerned’ – to take to the road,” said Melinda Tuhus, the co-organizer of Bike to Work Day, which took place Friday.

And even if that group doesn’t leave the car at home, the protected bike lanes will at least remind drivers that they need to share the road, said Matthew Feiner, owner of Devil’s Gear Bike Shop a founder of the group Elm City Cycling. “It’s so visible and so dynamic. It’s more than just a bumper sticker that says, ‘Hey, watch out for bikes,’” he explained. “For a New England city to have this, it’s unprecedented.”

Enhancing the city’s bike infrastructure is an important part of the mayor’s overarching plan to reduce barriers to employment, said Doug Hausladen, the city’s transit chief.

The civil rights issue “was, at one point, ‘Where do I sit on the bus?’ Now, it’s ‘Where does my bus go? And who’s on the bus with me?’” he said.

Likewise, Hausladen said he believes biking is important for access, even though bikers are often stereotyped as richer, more educated and whiter. “People think of it as a recreational sport, but really, when you’re out there in the neighborhoods of New Haven, you see everyone on bikes,” he said. “You see people biking to work at 3 a.m. going over to Chabaso, on James Street, to bake your bread that you’re going to eat at Atticus, where the waiter cycled in and so did the owner. For us, really trying to protect commuting options is what the protection is all about.”

The state legislature paved the way for the New Haven cycletracks with an update to state law in 2015. But two years later, city planners are still wrangling with Hartford over speed limits. Because the protected bike lane changes the geometry of Long Wharf, the state agreed to reduce the speed limit to 25 miles per hour. But elsewhere, officials haven’t seen the same slowdowns they’ve requested, Hausladen said.

Still, the city’s not braking on its plans. Up ahead, cycletracks are planned for Forbes Avenue, over the Tomlinson Bridge, and on Edgewood Avenue from Forest Road to Park Street.

Over free coffee and bagels (sponsored by Cold Spring School) near City Hall Friday, Hausladen passed out Elm City Cycle Maps, while passers-by picked up stickers, leg straps and pamphlets about Elm City Cycling’s Bike Plan.

Shortly after 9 a.m., Hausladen strapped on a neon green helmet for a test run, a group of about 16 hopped on their bikes (and one on a recumbent tricycle) to trek through Wooster Square to the waterfront.

The group “corked” intersections —  sending one rider out into the roadway to halt traffic, while the rest of the pack crossed —  and pointed out hazards, like shattered glass and deep potholes.

When the cyclists let down their kickstands back on Church Street, a senior citizen shooed them forward. The woman said she used to love biking —  “Now, I ride this,” she gestured at her walker —  but she said she worried for the riders.

“Be careful riding bikes in New Haven,” she warned. “Cars here have no respect.”

“Ain’t that the truth?” Feiner said as she walked off.

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posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on May 19, 2017  2:25pm

This is the first I’ve heard on the (much-needed) cycletrack for Forbes Ave across the bridge. Is there any more information on this? Gonna make riding to Lighthouse Point so much better.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 19, 2017  3:05pm

Glass in the road and on the sidewalks is a huge problem around New Haven.
What can we do about these hazards?
I don’t see street sweeping machines very often doing the roads and I’ve never seen an effort to sweep the sidewalks.
It’s not an issue as much in the downtown as it is on Chapel Street, Grand Avenue, Forbes Aveune and along Quinnipiac Avenue.
The increasing attention to safety for bike lanes is encouraging, the City has to step up its road and sidewalk
maintenance as well.

posted by: LookOut on May 19, 2017  6:34pm

I echo @betweentworocks - this is the first I’ve heard about the Tomlinson Bridge plan.  Also, does anyone have detail on the timing of the Edgewood track?  That’s a super idea - would hate to see it delayed by the recent battles for $$ between the city and state.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 19, 2017  6:45pm

Deluxe Stupidity and Arrogance Notes:

1. We did not need a deluxe bike track. A single lane or lane and a half would have been fine.

2. Hausladen and the handful of bike nazis have dubbed themselves traffic engineers that put the lives of many more people at risk.

3. The cycle track is so wide that anybody parking at Long Wharf will be opening their doors directly in the path of approaching traffic.

4. The travel lanes are too narrow for a tractor trailer and car to safely pass each other without one or the other moving into the lane of others or moving into the parking spaces.

5. The food trucks extend into the travel lanes as well.

6. This was all by design sources tell me.

7. These political decisions by someone with wet dreams of being mayor some day are ignorant and unsafe. The small cadre of bikers who collectively demand their own “safe space” and embrace this stupidity while putting others at risk is selfish and bear equal blame for the problems and lawsuits that will come.

8. Shame on Hausladen. Somebody needs to put a leash on him before the same BS happens all over the place.

posted by: wendy1 on May 20, 2017  9:18am

A great trail that runs the length of Longwharf before you get to Citypoint neighborhood although at the paved end is a dirt path less than 3 feet wide lined by plants including poison ivy which goes a quarter mile to the citypoint campus of the Sound School which leads into a city street near Shell and Bones and the waterfront restaurants nearby.  If it weren’t for the poison ivy I could bike to my favorite restaurant in 10 minutes.

posted by: wendy1 on May 20, 2017  9:28am

Dear Noteworthy—-Bikes are all over NH.  Rich and poor ride all kinds of bikes.  We have several bike businesses in town that supply a healthy lifestyle and also jobs.  Many books have been written about bikes and I suggest you read one.  New Haven has a long history with bicycle invention and use.  There are thousands of bike brands and bikes can be beautiful as art objects.  I have books of bike art.  As an old lady it is less painful for me than walking and less polluting than driving.  I rue the day I have to give up my bike (elderly can have balance problems).  Cars are killing machines really….so try a bike…and BUY LOCAL please.

posted by: wiseman12797 on May 20, 2017  12:23pm

Sometimes I wish that Long Wharf had more land. (For building and redevelopment purposes) I envision Long Wharf Drive to be a strip where there’s lots to do, but with I-95 in the way there’s pretty much nothing me or anybody can do about it. The newly installed protected cycle track serves a good purpose for bicyclists, but what good purposes can Long Wharf serve to the people there and for them to keep coming back to the area?

posted by: JCFremont on May 21, 2017  1:47pm

Never had a problem riding my bike on Long Wharf before. Understand Storm damage took out much of the path, biggest problem was getting to Long Wharf, I have to be very careful in the last industrial area left in New Haven on the east harbor area, but for years the pot holes on Water and East Streets one needed a mountain bike. Another Question are in the past thirty years has there been a train on the Forbes Avenue crossings? Has the rail line on the draw bridge ever been used, are there any planes to do so? If not how about paving it over? Until they find a way to find an easy way to link the Farmington Canal route to the water the Long Wharf trail will be underused. Seems there is a lot of room that can finding a rout rather then finding the route behind the post office.

posted by: t4nk on May 21, 2017  3:41pm

More posts, it seems like spots are already marked for them, towards the memorial end of the lane would help keep cars from parking in it.  I just saw two cars parked in the bike lane this afternoon.  Traffic was driving pretty slow through the area now that it is a tighter space for cars.

posted by: Frank Columbo on May 22, 2017  3:45am

Noteworthy for Mayor!

Mr. Hausladen just keep your Buffered Bike Lanes out of our and any apartment abundant neighborhoods.
They will degrade the Quality of Life because there are not enough reserved parking spaces at complexes at the Friendship Co-Op, the Smoothie Factory complex ect. I have commented enough on this matter and I will not get into specifics again, however I want to shout out about how the residents of Olive Street, deliberately kept in the dark about the “Pop-Up” BB Lane, by Doug H, United and Prevented this hostile take over!!!!

I caught him spewing alternative facts about Olive Street speeding. Around March or April last year the NH Independent quoted him saying that his Olive St, traffic study revealed that most drivers were in compliance with the posted 25 MPH limit. 

Hmmmm… this was about 3-4 months after Wooster Square resident Dolores Dogolo was killed crossing Olive st. I have to wonder if DH was told to say that by ????? because the official NH police report determined that driver Patricia Cofrancesco’s minimum rate of speed was a convenient 24.7 MPH yet curiously Never calculated a maximum rate of speed. Perhaps Sgt. Rose Dell can weigh in on this fact.

Fast forward to April 2016 when he does a complete 180 and now acknowledges Olive Street speeding because it’s advantageous to do so-he has a 1million dollar grant to utilize and was imposing a May Pop Up Bike Lane on Olive ST. and had the gall to exploit Dolores Dogolo’s death to advance his obsessive bike agenda.

Wendy1- Cars are killing machines and pollute. Guess you won’t be addressing the annual United Auto Workers convention any time soon. An industry that provides millions of jobs, not just factory jobs but in LOCAL communities such as dealerships, and repair shops. Cars are now being manufactured to be less polluting.

I applaud your philanthropy and engage in it myself, however some of your comments re this matter seem rather tunnel vision.

posted by: William Kurtz on May 22, 2017  6:00am

Deluxe stupidity and arrogance notes:

1. Bikes are a way to travel. Space for bikes doesn’t take over travel lanes; it creates space for travel.

2. Bike lanes in no way “make many more people unsafe.” This is a ridiculous assertion.

This is a great first step but still, much more needs to be done. It needs to be done more quickly and more comprehensively throughout the region if Connecticut cities are going to hold on to any shreds of their economic viability. To answer JCFremont’s question, ECC and others argued for years to close down or fix the rail crossing on Forbes Avenue but the Providence and Worcester Railroad claimed it was still needed. Several trains a week used it to access the port area. I am not sure whether that is still the case. After a long campaign, P&R installed a rubber flange filler in the rail grooves which made it safer to cross, but that area remains risky.

posted by: Noteworthy on May 22, 2017  8:57am

Kurtz - dont be blind. Its not “bike lanes” that make others unsafe. It is the idiotic requirement of Hausladen that the travel lanes be ridiculously narrow so that two vehicles can barely pass each other and parkers open doors into traffic. This was done to provide an overly generous two lane bike lane for the few andf the connected. This decision is arrogant, short sighted and creates a hazard where there was none.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on May 22, 2017  10:15am

Why do car drivers despise bicyclists so much? The entire city and state is covered in paved roads for your emission-spewing vehicles. There are ugly surface lots everywhere and several behemoths of parking garages for your precious cars. But if we get a couple of protected bike lanes it’s the end of the world?!

What an egregious offense, to encourage people to use a form of transportation that doesn’t destroy roads or contribute to global warming but instead connects us to our communities and makes us healthier.

The horror, the horror.