Fair Haven Kids Steer Bike Share Planners

Nursing home residents may not have any need for a bike share—but the people who take care of them may.

That idea—to put a bike share station outside of Mary Wade Home in Fair Haven—came not from older adults or their caretakers, but a group of Spanish-speaking students at Fair Haven School.

Tuesday afternoon, they welcomed city sustainability consultant and goNewHavengo Program Manager Krysia Solheim into their classroom for a Spanish-language presentation about global warming (el cambio climático) and New Haven’s sustainability-minded bike share program, still in its early stages.

Under the program, modeled after efforts like New York’s Citi Bike, New Haven plans to set up 30 stations around town where members can pick up a bike at any time, then leave it at another station.

In their quest to spread the word about a bike share program, Solheim, city transit chief Doug Hausladen and city deputy transit chief Michael Pinto have been visiting neighborhoods, including Downtown/Wooster Square and East Rock. In those meetings, Pinto and Solheim have pointed to Hoboken, N.J., Portland, Oregon, and Philadelphia as models for New Haven’s bike share. In phase one, envisioned to start in several months, New Haveners will see the first 30 bike share stations pop up around the city, with 10 bikes at each station, for a total of 300 bikes. Phase two will comprise 100 bike share stations in the city with 10 bikes at each station, for a total of 1,000 bikes. 

City residents, in return, have begun to weigh in on possible bike share locations on SeeClickFix.

Solheim said that Tuesday’s session at Fair Haven School was a dry run for a March 22 presentation to the Fair Haven community. That presentation will be delivered in Spanish in Fair Haven School’s main auditorium from 6 to 8 p.m.

The students at the school offered a fresh viewpoint in coming up with suggested stops Tuesday. They also learned about why the city is bringing the program here.

Solheim came armed with a PowerPoint in Spanish, with clip-art images of the earth sweating as its temperatures rise at unprecedented levels. Instead of lecturing students for two hours, she gave them an assignment: think about how the city could have more sustainable transportation options. Then, find the best 10 spots for bike share stations in Fair Haven. That’s where most of the students, recent immigrants between 10 and 14 years old, live.

Lucy Gellman PhotoListening to Solheim as she introduced the program, students wriggled in their seats, hands shooting into the air as they listed off the factors that might make a good bike share station.

It might be helpful to have them close to parks, suggested Fabrizio Sangurima Matute.

What about places where parents and families can use them? asked Lileschka Martinez Vasquez.

“Supermarkets?” asked their teacher, David Weinreb, in Spanish. Students nodded, some jotting down the word on small whiteboards at their desks.

Then a gaggle of students came to a suggestion everyone seemed to agree on: Mary Wade Home, to which Weinreb has taken his classes multiple times. Not for the homebound elderly residents, one student added. For the people who work there, who may need to commute to or from their jobs by bicycle, or run errands during the day. 

The room transformed into a zoning and transportation focus group. Handing out large maps of New Haven, Solheim and Weinreb worked between four groups of students, watching as small bodies huddled over a section of Fair Haven, scoped out potential locations on Google Maps, and committed them to paper in colorful magic marker, marking bike share stations with green, blue, yellow and orange stars.

Fifteen minutes later, Weinreb and Solheim gave students a second challenge: work with another group to streamline those 10 station locations. Any disagreements had to be solved without argument. Once they got through that round, they’d have to do it again—as a class, until everyone agreed.

As groups condensed, the volume rose, students crowding over a single map at the center of the room. Everyone seemed to agree on Mary Wade right away. Other decisions prompted debate: Why would the class put a stop at Criscuolo Park, but not Chatham Square? Was the C-Town right next to the school more or less deserving of a station than La Super Marketa on Grand Avenue and Fillmore Street? Did one neighborhood school get a bike share while the other was left without? Students began to clamor over each other.   

Uno por uno, por favor! yelled Fabrizio, gesticulating wildly. One at a time, please!

Final Results


As the group came to its final conclusions, Weinreb dropped locations on a Google Map, putting them up to a vote as students looked at how they were spaced out.

Fairmont and Ferry Streets got unanimous approval; people who live nearby can use the bikes to get to work and to the market, suggested student Esteban Calderon Gonzalez. That was also true for a station on Grand Avenue between Bright and Atwater Streets, because the location is accessible to both students and potential C-Town shoppers.

Mary Wade Home passed with a smattering of applause, as a student explained that the bike share would benefit the employees who work there each day. So did Criscuolo Park, a favorite of many of the students, and a station at Wolcott and Poplar Streets where the church St. Rose of Lima is located. Many people work and live around there, said student Stacy Alejandra Salazar—so it seemed kind of like a bike share no-brainer.

Other locations remained up for debate. Students needed to be convinced when it came to a station at Clay and James Streets, until Weinreb mentioned that both the Chabaso Bakery and and LULAC Head Start are located there.

A moment later, the room had become divided over a geographic problem: There were no stations right in the center of the neighborhood yet. Focus group partners from earlier in the exercise turned toward each other. A discordant chorus filled the room once again. 

What about Pine and Blatchley streets, close to Christopher Columbus School? Weinreb proposed, bringing students’ attention to the front of the classroom. Families and kids would be able to use the bikes to get to work and school, and travel for little errands throughout the day.

A momentary silence in the room. Then hands rose, one by one, triumphantly into the air, followed by applause.

“It takes a city months to do this,” he said as students prepared to head home for the day. “We had two hours.”  And New Haven had a draft bike share plan for Fair Haven.

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