Bikes Getting Their Own “Track” Across Town

Thomas MacMillan PhotoCity 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.


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posted by: DingDong on May 2, 2013  4:23pm

Great work.  Hope that Jim sticks around after DeStefano retires.

(I also like—I think—the shout-out to Walt in the tag “bikist agenda”).

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 2, 2013  4:29pm

How about a Commuter Tax on bikes.

posted by: TheMadcap on May 2, 2013  5:19pm

Well this is rather fantastic. When I heard they were putting the cycle lane over the bridge I was thinking I hope they expand it towards State and East Shore, you’d have access to downtown/Union Station from the east. If they eventually try to put a lane down as much as State St as they can until it gets to Union Station or the bike lanes on Howard Ave along with this, you’ll be able to get around a decent part of the city without having to leave a bike lane that much, especially if most of the missing parts on Dixwell are filed in to come almost to Elm.

posted by: Curious on May 2, 2013  7:35pm

I really like Jim Travers.  He seems competent, forward-thinking, and really into his job.  Whenever I read about him I like what I hear.  I really hope the new mayor has the sense to keep him on, at least for a while.

posted by: New Haven Taxpayer on May 2, 2013  7:57pm

This is awesome! I thought it would be ten more years to see this begin to happen. I ride the east shore route during the warmer months and on the Tomlinson bridge I use the sidewalk (illegally, I know) because the traffic zips by at 70+mph and scares the crap out of me.
Really, really psyched about this. Nice job Mr Travers.

posted by: FrontStreet on May 2, 2013  8:04pm

Word to the wise, the stretch of Connecticut Ave to Nathan Hale Park is a favorite drag strip for the dirtbikers.  They will, most likely, tear that path up and terrorize any bikers they meet.  And perhaps provide them with convenient access to downtown.

Unless, of course,  NHPD can find the will and wit to control the dirtbikers (unfortunately not holding my breath on that one).

posted by: Fairhavener on May 3, 2013  6:55am

@Threefifths: I would gladly pay a tax if it meant that it would increase cycling infrastructure in this City and the State.

posted by: BetweenTwoRocks on May 3, 2013  7:07am

This sounds like a tremendous idea.  The more we can encourage bicycle use in this city, especially at these incredibly low costs, the better off we’ll bee.

I assume Three-Fifths is kidding, but if not: The reason car owners have to pay property tax is the burden on society from car ownership. Licensing and regulation, maintaining roads and highways, setting insurance standards, the inherent dangers of driving large metal objects at high speeds, etc.

A bike path requires very little maintenance and increase bike use is a net gain for society, so there’s no reason to discourage its use through a commuter tax.

posted by: streever on May 3, 2013  7:21am

I’m very excited and thrilled by this.

Curious, I agree: Travers is good at his job and a dedicated worker. He has been planning this for a very long time, and quietly making it happen. I hope our next Mayor keeps Jim on.

(I also hope they expand the department, increase the budget for bike projects, hire a bike/ped person, and set a minimum spend on bike projects!)

3/5ths isn’t joking, his ideas on taxation are that it is purely a penalty—basically, taxes as sticks to hit you with.

For instance, if you tell him that in Denmark, where cars are more heavily taxed, cyclists PRODUCE 30 cents per kilo cycled and cars—after taxes—COST 21 cents per kilo driven, he still will not agree.

It is irrelevant to him that cycling has been proven to produce GDP and general benefits to society as a whole, whereas automobiles have been proven to produce a net negative: he will tell you about someone who can’t bike easily, or how much he loves his car.

Sorry if I sound bitter. I’ve just seen years of this self-oriented commentary, and I’m hoping to intervene before you go too far down the rabbit hole.

posted by: Witchburner on May 3, 2013  7:50am

Did I read that right? Are they really taking away one of the lanes going over the drawbridge?  Do they know how bad that’s going to affect traffic in the afternoon?

posted by: TheMadcap on May 3, 2013  8:10am

It’ll probably affect traffic the same way it did when one lane in both directions was removed on Dixwell, i.e. not very much at all.

posted by: Witchburner on May 3, 2013  8:17am

Guessing you have never had the pleasure of sitting in Friday afternoon traffic when it takes a half hour to get from east st to waterfront when 95 is backed up

posted by: anonymous on May 3, 2013  8:26am

Witchburner - using extremely conservative models about increased cycling here the net economic benefit of a decent cycling route over the Tomlinson is in the vicinity of $100,000 per year. 

Even if you made a wild assumption that a couple drivers might have to wait another minute at a red light a few times per year (which is highly unlikely), what would be the economic cost of that? Probably something close to $5,000.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on May 3, 2013  8:41am

posted by: streever on May 3, 2013 8:21am

3/5ths isn’t joking, his ideas on taxation are that it is purely a penalty—basically, taxes as sticks to hit you with.

For instance, if you tell him that in Denmark, where cars are more heavily taxed, cyclists PRODUCE 30 cents per kilo cycled and cars—after taxes—COST 21 cents per kilo driven, he still will not agree.

It is irrelevant to him that cycling has been proven to produce GDP and general benefits to society as a whole, whereas automobiles have been proven to produce a net negative: he will tell you about someone who can’t bike easily, or how much he loves his car

Try geting to a hospital in a emergency on a bike.And this has proven to be better then a bike.

posted by: nutmeg on May 3, 2013  9:00am

Witchburner - you might have noted the cycle track won’t be a reality until 2015, about the same time that capacity on the Q-bridge is substantially increased and the 91-95-34 interchange is rebuilt.  presumably this should end any queues on the tomlinson bridge.

after spending $2 billion adding highway capacity in the area, it’s great they found a surplus lane here and there for cyclists.

posted by: P Christopher Ozyck on May 3, 2013  9:03am

Nice work Jim and city plan.  It is interesting to note that the first big idea by the newly elected John DeStefano in a New Haven Register article was to link up lighthouse to west rock with a trail along the waterfront.

posted by: anonymous on May 3, 2013  9:19am

“after spending $2 billion adding highway capacity in the area, it’s great they found a surplus lane here and there for cyclists.”

Agree.  The unnecessary “flyover” alone was probably $200 million.  At least $20,000,000 should have been spent to improve cycling and walking capacity in the area.  As Christopher Ozyck suggests with his post, it is a testament to our failed leadership and a severe lack of vision among our elected officials that that didn’t happen.

posted by: streever on May 3, 2013  9:56am

Why should society invest 100% of available resources into making automobile driving as easy and problem-free as humanly possible?

We can service the truly needy people in our society at lower cost and greater numbers by re-directing some of that investment into pedestrian access, bicycle access, and mass transit.

I don’t understand the argument you are trying to make. Is it that we can only degrade quality of service to people who aren’t in cars? Why is that? Cars have a net cost on society, even if we were to increase the taxes, meaning that people who drive less subsidize those who drive more.

Why do those who drive more just get to take from others? I don’t understand the rationale behind the argument.

posted by: streever on May 3, 2013  9:57am

(oh, and I’ve DEFINITELY sat in backed up traffic! how awful. It frustrated me so much I got rid of my car and bought a bike, and I’ve really been grooving ever since. I think the Republican party needs to get behind this as a form of budget-cutting & self-reliance!)

posted by: TheMadcap on May 4, 2013  12:00pm

For god’s sake not everyone can own a bike. Not everyone can also avoid traffic either. Sitting in traffic for an extra 5 minutes on Friday isn’t going to kill you. We don’t design roads for their peak use which only happens 2% of the time.