Photo: Bike Walk Connecticut Photo
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MIDDLETOWN — Local and state officials are reacting to the governor’s 10-year plan for solving Connecticut’s transportation needs, saying it lacks a very important mode of travel used by those without vehicle access.
In CT2030, Gov. Ned Lamont envisions a multi-modal, congestion-reduced Connecticut through smart enhancement projects for the state’s highways, trains, buses, airports and ports, according to his office.
John Hall, executive director of Middletown’s Jonah Center for Earth and Art, and a member of the Complete Streets Committee, has been collaborating for years with officials and community stakeholders, hoping to get the outlying areas of the city connected to downtown by bicycle.
He is disappointed Lamont’s outline barely mentions bike travel.
Talking about issues such as “climate change to carbon emissions resulting from transportation, the governor’s transportation plan should at least acknowledge that bicycle travel has a role to play. We need to create infrastructure to make it easier and safer so more people will use bicycles in particular,” Hall said.
While he now primarily bikes for recreation, Hall for years commuted from his home in Portland to work in Middletown.
“It seems we’re trying to create a society where we’re not living so wastefully, we’re not creating such carbon emissions, and we’re not driving in our individual cars everywhere. Any thoughtful plan to do that should at least mention that bicycle routes and trails — and any kind of infrastructure that connects people by bicycle — should be a part of that,” Hall said.
“It’s not that cycling is completely [missing in Lamont’s plan] … To say it is 100 percent devoid is an inaccuracy. Ninety-nine percent? Yes,” said Susan Smith, executive director of Bike Walk Connecticut, based in West Hartford.
Her organization is focused on making streets safer for walkers and bikers in Connecticut.
“It is woefully inadequate when it comes to addressing the needs of cyclists and pedestrians or even recognizing viable modes of transportation in Connecticut,” Smith said.
“I’m not saying the governor is opposed to this, but it seems like a bit of an oversight,” Hall said. “I’m trying to get the public to express their thoughts so the governor will get the message” when he talks about transportation, and is trying to sell his tolls program.
Avid biker Lisa Lieserner is the new chairwoman of the Complete Streets Committee.
As a mother, it’s especially important for parents to encourage their older children to ride for exercise and, as they get older, use bikes to become more independent, she said.
In fact, her son missed the bus Friday morning. She promptly told him to ride his bike to school.
Bicycling is a great way for teens to meet their friends for an outing and socialize with their peers. Always at the back of Lieserner’s mind, however, is safety.
Many times over the years, she’s witnessed motorists speeding on well-bicycled roadways.
To address safety, Bike Walk Connecticut is holding a legislative reception to discuss and support safer cycling and human-powered transportation in reference to proposed state legislation later this month.
“One of the ways we can improve the city is to work with police and public works. We don’t have to rip everything up but when things are up for renewal anyway. That’s the point of the Complete Streets Committee, people who are interested in making our town more sustainable and more attractive to young families,” Lieserner said.
She’s walked many intersections in town, even stopping to talk to employees and customers at businesses, to gauge public perception. South Main Street/Route 17 and Saybrook Road particularly worry her and Hall.
The state is in charge of its routes, however, and even examining the issue takes a long time: to conduct a study, talk with police traffic coordinators and local officials, Liesener said.
“Nothing really makes sense: There’s a signal here, there’s a walk light there.” It’s not continuous, Liesener said, and those designing these traffic features aren’t doing so from the perspective of pedestrians and cyclists.
“Everything is for cars, and we quite simply don’t really want to be encouraging that. I want to be encouraging people to use their legs,” she said.
Smith’s goal is to get the word out to both state leaders and residents, and hopefully engender grassroots support.
“We need to get people thinking more about modes of transportation beyond the automobile. The automobile has its place, there is no doubt. But there are other ways of getting around the state and benefits by using those other modes,” Smith said.
The forum will take place Jan. 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the state Capitol’s Old Judiciary Room, 210 Capitol Ave., Hartford. Speakers will begin at 11:30 a.m. The public as well as legislators are invited, with refreshments provided.