Hit Cyclist Joins “Tomlinson Bridge Club”

TM_090409_060.jpgOn an online forum, Ian Cassell warned that Tomlinson Bridge is dangerous for bikers. A week later, he proved it.

Because of cars parked illegally on the sidewalk, Cassell got hit by a car in the very spot that he had flagged as a danger on the community action website SeeClickFix.

Cassell inadvertently joined the “Tomlinson Bridge Club” of bikers who have been hit while trying to cross.

TM_090409_087.jpgTomlinson Bridge, which carries Forbes Avenue across the New Haven Harbor, poses a challenge for cyclists. It’s a busy thoroughfare with cars zipping by, and it has little or no shoulder for bikers to ride in the road. There’s a sidewalk on one side, but it’s often completely obstructed by cars belonging to the fishermen who cast their lines off the bridge.

Cassell posted the sidewalk parking problem on SeeClickFix on Aug. 24. One week later, he was riding his bike over the bridge, coming home from his job at Yale. He took the sidewalk to avoid getting hit by a car. As he came up on the fishing pier that extends from the south side of the bridge, he found the sidewalk blocked by cars.

So he hopped down into the road and kept pedaling. He had to enter the road where the bridge’s already narrow shoulder disappears completely. Fewer than 50 yards later, he was approaching the curb cutout where he could get back on the sidewalk. Suddenly a passing car clipped his handlebars, sending him over top of his mountain bike and into a nearby fence. The driver never stopped to see if Cassell was OK.

Cassell’s bike was lodged under the fence. His shin and forearm were scraped up. His torso was bruised. Although he didn’t know it yet, he had separated a joint in his shoulder.

He was still gathering himself together when his friend Kirk Norton pulled up in a car and offered him a ride.

“Welcome to the Tomlinson Bridge Club,” said Norton.

Norton was already a club member, having broken his elbow on the bridge a year ago. Norton had been riding towards downtown New Haven when a car rode him into the curb, he said.

“It’s a pretty known thing that that bridge eats cyclists,” Norton said.

“Not Safe For Anyone”

On Friday, Cassell returned to the scene of the accident wearing a dark blue sling on his left arm. X-rays taken after the accident revealed that he had a separated AC joint in his shoulder. He’ll be off work for a week while it heals. Cassell said his shoulder might need surgery.

Casell works as a building superintendent at Yale. He rides over the bridge once or twice a week. Normally he avoids riding on city sidewalks, because it’s illegal. But he makes an exception when he goes over Tomlinson Bridge. It’s just feels too unsafe to ride in the road, he said. He pointed out where the shoulder disappears, two-thirds of the way across in the eastbound lane.

He said never saw the car that hit him. “Nobody stopped. That’s all I know.”

“Luckily, I flew into the sidewalk” rather than into traffic, he said. He said he was also thankful that he was wearing a helmet.

The bridge is too narrow, Cassell said. “They’ve got no room. I’ve got no room,” he said, pointing at the cars whizzing by. “It’s not safe for anyone.”

With fishermen parked on the sidewalk, a dangerous situation is made worse, Cassell said. He has no problem with anglers, he added. “I love fishermen. My friends fish.” But they should park somewhere else, he said.

Cassell said that five or six cars were parked on the sidewalk on the day of his accident. “I couldn’t have even walked my bike through,” he said.

Park and Fish

TM_090409_071.jpgRay Rivera, a corrections officer at the Whalley Avenue Jail, had his blue BMW parked on the sidewalk on Friday afternoon while he fished for stripers off the pier. He said he didn’t know he was doing anything wrong.

Parking on the sidewalk is a longstanding tradition for Tomlinson Bridge fisherman, Rivera said. “I’m just following suit.”

“I’ve seen cops pass by,” he said. “I’m assuming it’s legal.”

Rivera said he recognized that cars on the sidewalk might be a problem for cyclists. He said that he’d try not to block the way next time.

Down the other end of the pier, Lillian Becks had had some luck. She had a big porgy gasping in her bucket.

TM_090409_068.jpgHer white Ford Focus wasn’t blocking the sidewalk, she said. “There’s plenty of room.”

“They’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk,” she said, referring to cyclists.

At times, there can be as many as 10 cars parked on the sidewalk, Becks said. “That’s where everybody else parks.”

TM_090409_081.jpgBecks mentioned that she is a dialysis patient and can’t walk very far. “I’ve got bad legs,” she said. “Very weak.”

Dereck Reid pulled his big Chevy truck onto the sidewalk and set up a pole near Becks’.

TM_090409_083.jpg“I used to park down there,” he said, pointing toward the west shore. When he saw that everyone was parking on the sidewalk, he joined in. “This is a lot easier.”

City To Enforce Laws

Via email on Tuesday, city transportation chief Mike Piscitelli acknowledged concerns about sidewalk parking on the Tomlinson Bridge: “The City was made aware of the problem on the Tomlinson and has initiated enforcement. Residents are encouraged to use the designated off-street parking area on the southwest side of the Bridge.”

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posted by: MORRIS COVE MOM on September 10, 2009  9:37am

Ian, glad you’re feeling better and talking about this. But all I hear from the owners of the cars parked on the sidewalk is excuses. Everyone knows it is illegal to park on the sidewalk. If cars were parked on the sidewalk in front of their house, they’d be calling the police.

The question is, what can New haven do about this, and who is going to make sure it is done?

posted by: anon on September 10, 2009  9:47am

The parking is a major issue in its own right, but only a tiny piece of the problem on this bridge.

Some of the other concerns about the bridge have been documented here: http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/1300.html.

Dozens have been seriously injured.  A list of injured residents has been compiled.

It is amazing that ConnDOT has taken little action in the face of such a widespread public health emergency.

posted by: Cheri on September 10, 2009  9:50am

Unbelievable.  Cops are ticketing cyclists for biking on sidewalks, but not ticketing the cars who are parked on the sidewalk over the Tomlinson Bridge.  I frequently bike over that bridge to get to Lighthouse Point.  The road is not very safe (narrow, no bike lane on either side), so I do bike on that sidewalk, and when I get to the usually huge trucks/suv’s parked on that sidewalk, I have to get off my bike and manouver my way around them until I can get back on my bike.  I’m sorry Ian got hurt.  Sometimes you just have to get off the bike and walk for a bit because drivers usually don’t care what happens to cyclists, but seem to be more alert to pedestrians.  There seems to be an exceptionally adversarial relationship between cars and bikes in this city. But I’m not saying anything new here, am I?

posted by: Tom on September 10, 2009  10:11am

Between the unsafe railroad crossing, the excessive automobile speeds and cars parked illegally on the sidewalk, the bridge is an absolute nightmare in terms of safety. Countless people have already gotten injured crossing this bridge and it is only a matter of time before someone gets killed on this stretch of road.

The city and state should consider constructing a separate bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, or undertake major improvements to the existing bridge. If we can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new 10-lane Q bridge, we can certainly spend a fraction of that on providing a safe, enjoyable, and direct route for pedestrians and cyclists. Many cities already have pedestrian bridges - this idea is not new or novel.

Residents should have the option of going to Lighthouse Point and Eastshore park in the way that is most convenient and enjoyable for them, whether it be in the car, on bike, or on foot, without feeling like they are putting themselves at excessive risk. The city has committed to a complete streets program aimed at giving citizens a real choice of transportation options. We should start completing the streets by fixing the Tomlinson Bridge, one of the major gateways into our city.

posted by: HewNaven?? on September 10, 2009  10:12am

Its bad enough that one person had to sacrifice his body in order for this problem to be acknowledged by NH Traffic and Parking, but I’m wondering, exactly how many members are in the Tomlinson Bridge Club? How did it ever get this bad, given that Mike has been so responsive in the past?

I hope that he hasn’t gotten bored with the city’s Safe Streets Campaign.

posted by: Kira on September 10, 2009  10:14am

I ride over this bridge every day and this story is the reason why I take an ENTIRE lane of traffic every time I ride over.  It is the only safe way to do it.

posted by: steve ross, human on September 10, 2009  10:21am

Sarah mentioned this to me and Robin when the three of us rode to Lighthouse Monday; we also discussed Mr. Norton’s debacle. Had I seen this article beforehand, I probably would have walked my bike (especially my 6mph, 40 lb. 3 speed).

The bridge is a nightmare. Thanks for speaking out about it, Ian.

posted by: Brian Tang on September 10, 2009  10:44am

Great article, Mr. MacMillan!

Personally, I wouldn’t consider a roadway with two 14 ft-wide travel lanes in each direction to be particularly narrow, as some have suggested. Perhaps I’m wrong, but a substantial number of the car-bike collisions that have happened here actually seem to be the result of drivers thinking that there is sufficient space for them to pass bicyclists in-lane at high speeds. I would like to remind any drivers reading this that Connecticut state law requires motor vehicle operators to give bicyclists at least 3 ft of space while passing. Depending on the speed at which you are traveling, it may be necessary for you to change lanes in order to safely overtake people on bikes. Fortunately, most truck drivers I have encountered do a pretty good job of adhering to this rule of thumb. Drivers of private vehicles are another story…

posted by: Um Duh on September 10, 2009  10:49am

“I’m assuming it’s legal” is what bothers me the most, since when is it legal to park on a sidewalk? This is why people roll through stop signs and speed, because they are ignorant and have zero personal responsibility.

posted by: kevin on September 10, 2009  11:07am

I often cross over the bridge on my almost daily runs.  There have been times that in order to pass the vehicles parked on the sidewalk, I have had to run in the street with traffic. 

If this problem gets resolved that would be great, however I feel the major part of this story is being overlooked. Why is it that people think they don’t have to stop after hitting a cyclist?

posted by: Cheri on September 10, 2009  11:09am

Brian Tang:

You’re right about the lane not being particularly narrow.  I think, however, that it’s narrow enough to be a problem with large fast vehicles.  Also, as is the case on many streets, I notice a lot of industrial debris on this road, where a bike would usually be (on the very right side, sort of in the gutter) making it harder still to keep out of cars’ way. That’s where all the nails, broken glass, etc. ends up…

posted by: Matthew@ the devils gear bike shop on September 10, 2009  11:12am

Sorry to hear about your injuries.Its a shame.
That bridge is one of the worst traffic problems around and something neededs to be done.
Far too many people have been injured there and the powers that be have yet to take it

posted by: taylor on September 10, 2009  11:28am

hey ian, sorry about the car thing! i love the drivers in new haven. see you thanksgiving and chrismas!

posted by: anon on September 10, 2009  11:46am

Time for a class action lawsuit. That’s probably the only thing that would fix this.

posted by: fairhavendoc on September 10, 2009  12:22pm

i am all for better enforcement, and it does seem common sense not to park on the sidewalk, but why not put up a bunch of no parking signs?  if these people really don’t know that they aren’t supposed to park there, the signs will at least tell them.

posted by: Bruce on September 10, 2009  12:30pm

We tried to get the state to incorporate a separated bike lane to no avail.  Instead they installed a sidewalk large enough to park vehicles.  I have no idea what they were thinking. 

Narrowing the automobile travel lane to 11’ would slow traffic and provide room for a 6’ bike lane on either side.  All that would cost is some paint.

Or, it might be possible to turn that sidewalk into a multi-use trail, with painted lanes for bikes and for foot traffic.  This would be similar to the Freedom Trail as it passes Ikea and the Farmington canal.  I seem to recall the sidwalk narrowing at one end or the other so maybe this wouldn’t work.  Also, it would take parking space away from the fishermen.

posted by: tired of people getting hurt! on September 10, 2009  1:09pm

Personally, I think its time for some civil disobedience…lets paint in bike lanes, cross walks, etc. ourselves since the City won’t do it!

posted by: john on September 10, 2009  1:20pm

“I’ve seen cops pass by,” he said. “I’m assuming it’s legal.”

This attitude, combined with a sporadic (but improving) lack of enforcement could be said to account for *A LOT* of bad behavior in New Haven.

posted by: anon on September 10, 2009  1:37pm

The other problem area is the Kimberly Avenue bridge going into West Haven.  That is at least as bad as this.

posted by: William Kurtz on September 10, 2009  2:58pm

The only thing the Kimberly Avenue bridge between West Haven and New Haven is missing is the railroad tracks, but it does have four interstate highway access and egress points to make up for it.  It does have a raised sidewalk (albeit a narrow one) on each side and one often sees casual cyclists riding up there rather than in the street.

posted by: Betsey Cassell on September 10, 2009  3:02pm

I am Ian’s mother and I am very thankful he ia alive and not hurt worse. I wish the person would havecome forward who hit my   son. I understand in the area and on most bridges there is no room for bicycles, so of course for a short area they have no romm on road with heavy traffic they go up on the sidewalks. How man Policeman drive by the area and give out any tickets or warnings. Just because “EVERYONE DOES IT” is a rediculous excuse , and something should be done about it SOON. I am sure my son will keep his eye on the situantion, as he goes this way to work.

posted by: Rob Smuts on September 10, 2009  4:09pm

This incident and the comment thread bring up a bunch of different, really important issues.  I wanted to quickly comment on a few of them from the City’s perspective (and my own two cents).

1) General traffic enforcement - speeding, giving proper passing room, etc - is our responsibility, and obviously not just in this location. Starting under Chief Ortiz and continued and dramatically increased now under Chief Lewis, the NHPD has implemented a major push on traffic enforcement.  From about 10,000 MV violations issued in 2007, we went to over 15,000 last year and expect to hit 22-24,000 for 2009. Any change in motorist behavior will require this effort to be sustained over several years and probably increased some more - both points Chief Lewis tells me we can expect to see.

2) Illegal parking on the sidewalk - two incredibly responsive public servants (Mike Piscitelli and Chief Lewis) are now fully aware of the issue and have committed to addressing it. Give us feedback on how we’re doing on this issue - you can reach me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). I will speak with the City Engineer to contact ConnDOT about the possibility of putting up posts or bollards to physically prevent cars from illegally parking there - not something we can directly do, but we will certainly convey the idea.

3) Pointing out trouble spots - the article mentioned SeeClickFix, and I want to strongly recommend it (please don’t email me directly with every issue, in other words). City departments pay attention to the issues reported on that site: the NHPD use it to identify many of their targets for traffic enforcement, and even narcotics enforcement. DPW, Parks, LCI and other city departments do respond also. Some complicated issues like this one (because it’s a state bridge and a state road, and involves the railroad company) aren’t easily resolved right away, but none of the issues are ignored.

4) The railroad cut - this particular Tomlinson issue wasn’t raised in the article, but is the one I have most heard about and personally experienced.  I broke my elbow May 2008 crossing the Tomlinson on my bike after I took a spill on the railroad crossing.  Thankfully there was no car going 40mph+ right behind me and I wasn’t hit when I was sprawled out in a travel lane (as Anon would point out, the typical speeds on this stretch would be much more likely to kill me in that situation than on a road where vehicles travel slower). I shared my experience with the City Engineer, Dick Miller, who is our main point of contact with ConnDOT, but this is not something under the City’s authority. A similarly problematic railroad cut on Grand Avenue, however, is something Dick has been fruitfully working on - the City couldn’t fix the issue ourselves, but we have been working on that railroad cut with the railroad company and expect it to be fixed very shortly. So while the City can’t do much about the Tomlinson railroad cut, we are addressing the analogous situation for which we do have some responsibility.

- Rob Smuts
Chief Administrative Officer & fellow “Tomlinson Bridge Club” member

posted by: Norton Street on September 10, 2009  5:29pm

“The city and state should consider constructing a separate bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, or undertake major improvements to the existing bridge.”

More infrastructure should not be a solution. The “planners” of this city (aka everyday citizens-not planners-of the last centuries) ingeniously designed our neighborhood streets around people walking to groceries, trolley stops, church, etc by lining them with trees which, along with narrow streets and buildings built out or close to the sidewalk, define space and create a wonderful sense of enclosure outdoors. These “planners” also designed large thoroughfares meant to carry trolley lines, farmer’s horse drawn carts (and later trucks), and the heavy foot traffic of whatever neighborhood the main road was passing through. The problem is that the previous generations of this city’s inhabitants never foresaw America’s enormous period of wealth and expansion that was to come. Traveling across country on interstate highways was never in their radar; everything was extremely localized to the people who built up central New Haven. Beginning in the early 1930s, we tried to retrofit urban areas to accommodate for automobiles. Beginning in the 1950s, we began drastically altering our urban centers to accommodate for a massive cultural and economic shift that began to spread city’s purposes (services, resources, populations, etc) over vast amounts of land. But this process was a failure; it was not completed (in New Haven, or anywhere else) because it could never really have been completed. In order for urban renewal (or things like it) to be successful, what really needed to happen was restarting from scratch to design roads that carried cars instead of trolley’s and pedestrians. We currently live in a hybrid city; partially historic and human-being (or human-made) scale, and partially modern and human-mind (machine engineered) scale. What people need to realize is that we should move in one of two directions; forward to try and retrofit the city more, or backward to try and re-localize life and return to patterns of design that reflect that lifestyle. Now, everyday that we get in our cars and drive up and down streets, back and forth between super markets and home, we are failing to inhabit an historic New England town/city. And everytime we try to narrow streets, add bike paths to slow cars, put in speed bumps, cross walks, etc we are failing to complete New Haven’s modernization. People will argue that both localized and the modern era are over and we are now post-modern, and therefore we can accommodate cars and pedestrians and bikes. Which in theory makes sense, but that can only be accomplished on a blank slate, or undeveloped land. New Haven is already here, we have the canvas already painted on, we can either remove the bright red, yellow and blue streaks from the modern paint brush or we can continue it by painting over everything, there is no starting from scratch.

I personally believe that we do not have the resources to finish renewing New Haven, so to look backward and see how people used to successfully inhabit this city is the best way to go.

“Residents should have the option of going to Lighthouse Point and Eastshore park in the way that is most convenient and enjoyable for them”
Should we? I personally enjoy riding my bike while throwing knives randomly with my eyes closed, but what I think is a move productive way of moving about this city in relation to my peers is to use a small human scaled device like a bicycle or use a collective mass transport like a bus, and what is not a good option is a car, because it takes up an enormous amount of space.

posted by: Edward Anderson on September 10, 2009  7:16pm

Hey Ian, just glad you are okay. Hope you don’t need surgery, and good on you to have been wearing a helmet.

I also want to say thank you to the New Haven Independent, Mr. McMillan, and SeeClickFix. You guys give me hope that problems like this can somehow be fixed.

Does anyone know who at ConnDOT I should be calling?

posted by: streever on September 10, 2009  7:19pm

Nice response Rob—thanks.

I’ve been in contact with DOT for ECC. As of early august they indicated that this is important to them, and have undertaken a large research & fact-finding project, including actually riding the bridge with different bikes (road & mountain and no I am not kidding you, they sent me photos to prove it).

The two people who are running the project at DOT both had their vacations—the first in mid-august—and the second right now.

So while it is urgent that action come sooner rather than later, I would like to just make sure everyone is aware that they are working on this. I’ve forwarded an e-mail from DOT to Thomas MacMillan in hopes that he will publish it.

Thank you all,

posted by: L on September 11, 2009  7:42am

Can the city please put up obvious No Parking signs w/ a fine listed, and regularly ticket these guys illegally parking?! This is crazy. Ray Rivera, Lillian Becks, and friends - we’re talking to you, too - stop parking here! Get some exercise and walk a little ways. If fishermen love the great outdoors so much, they can walk from their cars left off the bridge.

posted by: Mike on September 11, 2009  8:28am

I hope we get a follow up on this stories claim of city transportation chief Mike Piscitelli . It seems to me city officials say just about anything but usually do just about nothing.

posted by: anon on September 11, 2009  9:54am

So in other words, ConnDOT is taking multiple “vacations” while people continue to be seriously injured here on a very regular basis? 

Where is the accountability?  In any other place that recognized the ongoing injury rate here, this would have been fixed immediately—at least with some kind of temporary solution such as barricades, until a more permanent fix could be put in.

This lack of consideration seems analogous to the city’s Whalley Avenue Widening Project: despite a girl being run over and killed, and many others seriously injured, and despite hundreds of residents coming out and virtually every neighborhood group requesting changes to improve safety and accessibility, the city and state moved forward with their plan to widen the 40-mile-per-hour highway through the middle of our dense residential neighborhood.

posted by: ParkStTaxPayer on September 11, 2009  10:14am

I’m a member of the Tomlinson Bridge club. Summer ‘08 saw two crashes; one at Elm and College St, where there is NO SHOULDER on Elm, so I was forced to take the lane. Hit a pothole so deep I heard Chinese, flew over the bars. Passing motorist was laughing loudly at me, despite my bleeding shoulder and obvious pain. Helmet saved me- had three scuffs on it!

My first reaction when I went over was GET OUT OF THE ROAD ASAP- CARS BEHIND!

My second accident was at the Tomlinson Bridge RailRoad Crossing. Lifted my front tire over the first track, but when it landed, slipped sideways on the steel (2nd) track. Went over, landed on the SAME SPOT on my shoulder (scab turned into a scar!) and went down in the righthand South-bound lane at the beginning of the bridge. Luckily, no traffic, and I skipped as I fell, breaking up the impact a bit. Two other riders with me stopped traffic while I got up.

This bridge is DEADLY and the APATHY of Law Enforcement and DOT is appalling! Jersey barriers or the reduced-height barriers such as on the Ferry St Bridge would deter people from driving up onto the sidewalk. A 4” curb isn’t enough deterrent. Also, the parking lot mentioned in the article has a sign saying “bridge operator parking” which would indicate it was NOT public.

Targeted enforcement would work; post an officer of Traffic and Parking to ticket cars as they park,consistently until they no longer park there. Planters such as the ones formerly in front of the FBI building on Orange St would prevent cars from pulling onto the sidewalk. Perhaps staggering them to prevent someone from moving one planter and driving past the rest would help. These weighed over 200lbs each!

Targeted enforcement, physical barriers, an actual shoulder, and reduced speeds on the bridge are the only practical solutions to the impractical bridge design. A side note: if the railroad is NOT being used, let’s remove or pave over the tracks, and utilize the Rails to Trails project for that portion of the bridge!

posted by: streever on September 11, 2009  10:38am

Conn DOT is a large organization, and as you know, vacations in August are very popular. The bridge has existed in it’s current configuration longer than you have lived here.

While I think it is vital that they change it, I think your histrionics are a far cry from what will get us there.

posted by: anon on September 11, 2009  11:08am

I disagree, Streever. Mass citizen mobilization across the entire city, and state, are the only reason why they are taking action on these and other issues.

posted by: anon on September 11, 2009  11:33am

Rob: “Any change in motorist behavior will require this effort to be sustained over several years and probably increased some more - both points Chief Lewis tells me we can expect to see.”

I agree and everyone I know has commended the city’s effort to add traffic details.  But please keep in mind that the city’s construction of roads like the expanded section of Whalley and the repaved, 13’ wide-laned Whitney, which are designed to have 40 mile per hour traffic yet are posted at 25, will require more enforcement resources because they are physically designed to carry traffic at much higher speeds than what are posted, and ideal for, the neighborhood. 

Repainting and/or redesigning the roads, using the suggestions gathered by Justin Elicker and other residents, would not only be a far more cost-effective solution, it would have other benefits.  For example, making it possible for elderly residents and children to once again walk around their neighborhoods in comfort and safety.

posted by: Ride Alot on September 11, 2009  12:51pm

We were driving across the bridge one day, and saw someone clutching their chest and fall to the ground, so we called 911 and heard the response come right away. Every time we cross it now, we think of how we may have saved someone’s life, as no one else was around. If, as a cyclist, I needed help passing over that bridge, who would care? How do you make people notice us? Lanes and signage. Cheap to do, but it takes someone who can who cares, too.

posted by: streever on September 11, 2009  1:10pm

“Mass citizen mobilization across the entire city, and state, are the only reason why they are taking action on these and other issues.”

Mobilization: not personal attacks against employees of the DOT. You are absolutely right. Citizens must organize and mobilize. Criticizing employees for taking their scheduled vacations when they were pulled into a project last minute is not mobilizing, it’s mob mentality attacking.

posted by: nfjanette on September 11, 2009  1:34pm

Targeted enforcement, physical barriers, an actual shoulder, and reduced speeds on the bridge are the only practical solutions to the impractical bridge design.

Agreed - in this case, the most immediate and obvious solution is to facilitate bikes on the sidewalk by removing the illegally parked vehicles.  Although I don’t always side with the “bike mafia” on these issues, in this case, there appears to be sufficient room to safely reduce the width of the vehicle lanes to facilitate new bike lanes.  Vehicles do travel at highway speeds on that stretch of the road, which is dangerous in itself.  Getting the state to agree is a different matter.

A side note: if the railroad is NOT being used, let’s remove or pave over the tracks, and utilize the Rails to Trails project for that portion of the bridge!

Hands off those rails, please. That linkage, if ever properly completed by the incompetent agencies charged with working on the project, will be an important connection between the docks and the main rail lines.  Clearly there are safety issues for bikes at the crossing; I don’t know how to fix them, but how about a short-term warning sign alerting cyclists about the danger?

posted by: anon on September 11, 2009  1:34pm

That’s a good point, Streever, but criticism of the DOT’s inaction, incompetence, slow schedule and/or misplaced priorities, which have led directly to putting many fellow citizens at risk of death, shouldn’t be misinterpreted as criticism of individual employees. I am sure they are working hard there, given the fact that Rell has made significant staff cuts.

posted by: streever on September 11, 2009  2:33pm

Right—crit of the organization would not be misinterpreted that way. I’m actually speaking about your criticism of the two employees who took vacation.

The way vacation scheduling usually works, and the time frame in which we reached the people working on this, means that they probably had the vacation already scheduled.

We can go back and forth on this or not—I think it’s a bit silly. You can type walls of text all day if you like, but my original point still stands.

posted by: Walt on September 11, 2009  3:24pm

Looks like the biker, the driver and the parker each willingly broke the law at some stage of the story but odd that only the driver and parker are criticized.

Sorry the guy was hurt, and agree safer conditions should prevail,  but the main complaint seems to be that the parkers being illegally   on the sidewalk,  prevented the biker from illegally traveling on the sidewalk, leading to the accident.

Biased views.

Stop the illegal parking   and make a legal bikeway,  possibly beside the overly-wide sidewalk..

posted by: Norton Street on September 11, 2009  4:15pm

Walt, valid point but you are ignoring the hierarchy. A cyclist-pedestrian collision is a fraction of the severity of an automobile-pedestrian or automobile-cyclist collision. Cars command thousands of more pounds and many multiples of mph capability than the other two, they therefore have more responsibility (proportional to their weight and speed vs other users of the round). I guess it could be compared to someone who chooses to carry a gun has more responsibility to society than people who walk around with clenched fists.

posted by: Johnnie Walker on September 11, 2009  10:26pm

I walk everywhere and use the sidewalks exclusively. I am an endangered species called a pedestrian. Why you may ask. I am forever being mowed down by manic cyclists zooming along the sidewalks illegally. The rules of the sidewalk dictate that cyclists exceed even the road speed limit of 25mph. Those with helmets on can put their heads down and not even bother to look where they are going. Its the greatest sport on earth to zoom in on unwitting pedestrians to see how far they must jump in terror to avoid a collision and serious injury. God forbid that even the stupidest cyclist use the grey matter between their ears and dismount and walk where the road is dangerous. Putting one foot in front of the other requires too much concentration, and using our bodies as they were intended is such a downmarket thing to do. And, oh, the effort of pushing a bike along. How tedious, and what about the risk of a lifetime orthopaedic injury. And the pain, and the thought of taking the occasional tylenol and the stigma of becoming a drug addict in consequence. No, its certainly not possible for a real cyclist to take such avoiding action. No photograph in the Independent, and no bragging rights to colleagues at happy hour. How life would dim to be a dismal drudge. Why, it would be almost as bad as becoming one of those sub human things called a pedestrian. But as a mere pedestrian I implore all motorists to park their cars illegally on sidewalks to provide adequate traffic calming to cyclists using the same sidewalks illegally. Save the pedestrian. This is the only way to do it. Or is it. To avoid extinction I suppose I could get back in my car again. Thinking about it, this becomes more appealing by the minute. Why bother being socially conscious and green by walking when I could enjoy the adrenaline rush that comes with might being right. I could terrorize the cyclists on a daily basis as they now do me. What an appealing thought.


posted by: Walt on September 12, 2009  5:46am

Norton Street


Really meant, take part of the overly wide sidewalk for legal bikelane.

As a driver, I know that there are many legitimate complaints re cars,  but the prevalence of bicylists making illegal turns, riding 3 or 4 abreast, ignoring traffic lights, hopping on the sidewalk and   flouting traffic rules in general.  ,  while picturing thamselves as the innocent,  brings out my own biases.

Enforcement against bicyclists would help too,

Hope Ian is OK and the driver is   caught,

posted by: Brian Tang on September 13, 2009  2:53pm

Because bridge roadways are often especially dangerous, it is not at all uncommon for bikes to be routed onto the sidewalk (i.e. transitioning from a bike lane to a sidewalk-level bike path—a.k.a. “cycle track”). In fact, I had never seen it done any other way before moving to the east coast.

In doing this, the important thing is to make it 100% clear where bikes are supposed to be. For example, the street markings on the Broadway Bridge in Portland, OR direct bikes directly from the bike lane up onto the sidewalk (see aerial photo from bing.com/maps: http://bit.ly/lHAk1). The Morrison Bridge in Portland is currently being retrofitted to widen the sidewalk on one side from 5 ft to 15 ft by eliminating one travel lane. (shortened link to project website: http://bit.ly/1pDrea). This 15-ft sidewalk will serve bi-directional bike traffic and I think it would probably be the closest model for the Tomlinson Bridge.

Bike riders are not required (nor intended) to dismount while riding on cycle tracks, as they are basically considered bike lanes that just happen to be located at the sidewalk level as opposed to the roadway level.

There are two major engineering obstacles to accommodating bi-directional (non-dismounted) bike traffic on the Tomlinson Bridge sidewalk:

First there is the problem of safely getting bicyclists traveling toward downtown on the East Shore side of the bridge from the right-hand side of the road to the left-hand side where the sidewalk/shared-use path is located. I recommend that this be accomplished using a bike signal at the RR crossing that would halt all traffic and permit bikes to cross Forbes Ave at a diagonal, riding from the right side up to the sidewalk on the left-hand side. Conveniently, this would also solve the problem of the awkward geometry of the RR crossing.

The second problem is that the Forbes Ave right-of-way narrows down substantially between the RR crossing and the bridge itself, perhaps to as narrow as 40-50 ft (don’t quote me on this, as I’m just eyeballing it from aerial photos). I honestly have no idea how to overcome this problem, seeing as how there are huge gas tanks preventing CTDOT from having any realistic prospects of widening the right-of-way. The only think I can think to do would be to eliminate at least one travel lane to widen the sidewalk. This would unfortunately leave us with a 60 ft roadway on the bridge itself and only two or three lanes to fill it. Perhaps the extra space on the bridge itself could be used for on-street parking for the fishermen? This seems unlikely, as you wouldn’t want to have a situation where you need to lift the bridge and there’s a car parked on it.

I, for one, am stumped. It’s too bad the ROW narrows down so substantially at the gas tanks on the east side of the bridge/the roadway widens so substantially on the bridge itself and on the west side of the bridge. ANON, any ideas?

posted by: Bruce on September 14, 2009  8:09am

Norton St:

“And everytime we try to narrow streets, add bike paths to slow cars, put in speed bumps, cross walks, etc we are failing to complete New Haven’s modernization. “

I disagree with the notion that modernization of a city requires fast driving on city streets.  I also think that there is a lot we can do within the existing infrastructure to save lives and prevent injuries.  This has nothing to do with stepping forwards or backwards.  We have a hazard in the road and we have the ability to fix it at relatively low cost.

posted by: jmc on September 14, 2009  11:16am

Before advocating for a bicycle signal on that deplorable excuse for a bridge, spend half an hour at the Farmington Canal bike signal at Skiff Street in Hamden. Take note of how many motorists fail to stop for the red signal, to say nothing of the yellow. Watch them speed up, in fact.

New Haven is not Portland, Oregon, not Canada, not northern Europe. New Haven is something else.

posted by: Norton Street on September 14, 2009  11:23am

I use the work “modern” specifically for its connotations, making it a vastly different word than “current” or “present”. The modern era is defined by a desire for individuality, which was thought to happen by leaving the toiling of industrial work, leave the housing of the industrial city, own lots of stuff that would make one different from their neighbor, and have convenient, affordable, fast transportation choices. People got new jobs at insurance companies, banks, software developers, etc; then they moved to the suburbs and filled their homes with plastic stuff and used their cars to get from their house to the city quickly along highways. The modern lifestyle is very much connected to being a professional, suburb dwelling car owner.
I think, when it comes to New Haven, it is logistically impossible to use the existing infrastructure of the city to accommodate for the modern lifestyle and the local(historic) lifestyle. For city dwellers living locally, the roads will always be too busy and noisy and there wont be enough shops within walking distance, while for commuters, the streets will never move quickly enough, will never be wide enough with enough lanes and there will never be enough parking. Life will continue to be unpleasant for all lifestyles, because we are trying to accommodate for two (or more) entirely different ways of living in one space. The parking lots are replacing shops to the city dweller, while shops are replacing parking lots to the suburb dweller. It cannot work.
We have a hazard in our society, and depending on what your point of view, that hazard is either the local lifestyle or the global lifestyle. I push for local living because it consumes resources at an unbelievably lower rate and it encourages meaningful, long lasting relationships with people you see everyday. Local is connections to people, global is connections to one’s iphone.

With that being said, immediate actions should be taken to save lives across the state; through traffic enforcement, traffic-calming devices and awareness/rules education. But the long term goal should be thoroughly studied and complete, and the solution doesn’t just have to do with roads or cars, it has to do with how people live.

posted by: Jenny Blair on September 14, 2009  2:49pm

Only one person on this forum has mentioned taking the lane—that is, as a cyclist, riding right down the center of the lane, as is our legal right. I’m an avid cyclist but haven’t used this bridge. Is it feasible and reasonable simply to take the lane and “let ‘em honk”? That’s what we do in Manhattan.

posted by: Brian Tang on September 14, 2009  11:27pm

It depends on your level of comfort (and how fast you ride), Jenny. Personally I find it nearly impossible to take the lane on the bridge itself. The lanes widen substantially (to about 13 or 14’ would be my guess) on the bridge roadway. This lane width is somewhat awkward, as it’s almost safe—but not quite safe—for motor vehicle traffic to travel side-by-side with bikes in the same lane at 45 mph. To make matters worse, the lanes narrow back down on the bridge approach on the east side, near the angled railroad crossing. I believe this portion where the lane width narrows is where Ian got hit (correct me if I’m wrong…). It would be nice to have consistent lane widths. Maybe the extra space on the bridge roadway could be used for bike lanes? You’d just have to figure out how to safely merge bike traffic back into the travel lane on the bridge descent.

posted by: anonk on September 15, 2009  9:26am

It sounds like taking the lane on the bridge as it is currently configured is difficult, because the 14’ width at one point encourages (legal but threatening) in-lane passing by cars doing 45 mph.  (The solution is to *really* take the lane, travelling in the middle, and risking driver-rage behavior from those whom you have delayed by 20 whole seconds.)

In general, I don’t see a lot of vehicular cycling in New Haven.  Also, all those cops writing tickets to cyclists on the sidewalk near the Elm St. area downtown don’t do much to encourage/explain vehicular cycling.  ‘Sharrows’ (graphic design painted in the middle of the vehicle lane showing a bicycle and words such as ‘share the lane’) might help?

posted by: JOHN DOE on October 5, 2009  8:01am