The subtitle of our blog is "Riding bicycles in Hartford". We talk about it less and less because, well, we've got a lot of posts at this point. It'd be boring. However, every so often there's an affront to riding a bicycle in Hartford and we must respond. Chris will be responding in greater detail soon, but I'd like to offer some preliminary anger.
Recently, The League of American Bicyclists came to Hartford to talk about making things bicyclely friendly. I didn't go and I'm not even sure if I heard about this event. Through our friend Kerri at Real Hartford, who went, I learned that the League ranked Connecticut 44th (out of 50 states) in terms of bicycle friendliness. Much like an American in Europe, I am compelled to defend my homeland.
How can this be? What the hell? What does this even mean? Why am I standing up for Connecticut even though I just got hit by a car? These questions are just for rhetorical flourish, but I am pretty perplexed by all these states that rank ahead of Connecticut. I will admit that I have not ridden my bike in all 50 states, not even close, but I have ridden in several states that rank far ahead of Connecticut, like Maine. Third place? Come on! I have ridden in greater Portland a bit and it felt a hell of a lot like riding in greater Hartford. It didn't feel fourteen times better. Drivers were about the same and the infrastructure felt about the same. They had some bridges with bike lanes and we have some bridges with bike lanes. They have some bike paths and we have some bike paths, etc.
Connecticut probably does not have as many cycling advocacy dorks as other states, because the vast majority of people who commute to work drive. Whatever. We're a hypocritical "progressive" state. However, our aged, not very wide roads are pretty easily traversed by a bicycle. Compared to other states that rank much higher, our roads are much better for having a relatively dense population. Greater DC? They have some nice bike infrastructure, but if you're not in the more affluent places that have those improvements, good luck riding on the 17 lane roads. I suppose it's conceivable that a state deserves a higher ranking if it has made an effort to address bike problems because of it's really wide roads.
My 5 mile commute (round trip) is pleasant, very short and is entirely in Hartford. Yet, when I ride to work from my parents' house in Avon, it's 20 miles and more or less without incident (unless someone takes a left in front of you). During weekends when the weather is more pleasant, cyclists flock to out where my parents live. They wouldn't do that if the roads were unrideable. Although, I do admit that the distracted drivers of large, powerful vehicles in the affluent suburbs are occasionally menacing. We really need to pass and enforce some distracted driving legislation.
I don't know. I'm totally perplexed. It would seem that a ranking of 44 would that it's barely possible to even ride a bike in Connecticut, but I do it all the time with considerable enjoyment- especially with the pleasant snow conditions as of late.
Heck, Florida ranks 12 places ahead of Connecticut and it's the most dangerous place to ride a bike in the country.