Saturday, November 16, 2013

Painting with a Broad Brush: New Bike Lanes and Hartford's First Bike Boxes on Broad Street

Broad and Farmington today
 The Broad Street Problem
Broad Street looking northward
Broad Street has a well-earned reputation as a terrifying route for bicyclists and pedestrians alike. The lack of bike lanes and the I-84 on-ramp have made it especially dangerous for northbound bicyclists faced with both an uphill climb and high-risk spot for right-hook crashes at the highway entrance. Late this past summer, some City of Hartford DPW, CT DOT, and neighborhood people met to discuss ways to make this area safer for bicyclists and I came away with cautiously optimistic thoughts. I'll admit I was among those worried about the future of those improvements when then-DPW director Kevin Burnham resigned shortly thereafter, but October saw the first visible sign that progress was continuing as the heavily-damaged pavement at the southwestern entrance to Bushnell Park was patched. With the painting of these new bike lanes, another phase of these improvements goes into service less than three months after they were discussed, and we are reminded that city, state, and citizens can actually communicate efficiently and make good things happen. There are good people at the DOT. They just need more of them.

Broad and Capitol today

First Observations

This Saturday morning was my first chance to walk this length of Broad in daylight. During my 20-minute walkaround, approximately 2/3 of the motorists I observed used the proper lanes and stopped short of the bike boxes. The rest pulled right up to, or into, the crosswalk. The northbound right-turners were the worst, with about 1/3 of them driving up in the straight lane before cutting through the bike lane and a One southbound driver cut their left turn so short that they actually drove across all of the northbound lanes, including the bike lane, as they made their hasty way to the interstate. The sidewalks are improved, but the crosswalk at the I-84 on-ramp still feels like a dicey place to be a pedestrian.



It can get better

These bike lanes and boxes are slated to be painted green-- the first such painted bike zones in Hartford. This is bound to increase visibility when it happens. Something that was discussed with Mr. Burnham was the installation of recessed flush-mount (snowplow compatible) reflectors in the pavement along the borders of the bike lane. I think these and some limited-but-deftly-placed rumble strip milling would make the defined lanes harder to ignore in that crucial northbound stretch of bike lane. Hopefully, some lane-identifying street signs will go up as well. Education and enforcement will be important ways to further motorist awareness, but I've been watching how people drive in this spot for over a decade, and this will never be my first choice for a northbound trip. The hard truth is that this (and any) interstate on-ramp will always be a dangerous spot.

The Glitch: I've seen the lights go out on Broad Street

The dark side of this news, literally, is that the street lights on this stretch of Broad don't work yet. Workers were feeding wires on site Saturday morning, and one of them said that DOT and CL&P people are meeting early this coming week to sort out some unnamed design problem that is apparently to blame. Best guess I got on-site was maybe another week to get the lights working, meaning pedestrian commuters diverted from the now-barricaded Flower Street will have to pick their way through another week of darkness after work.

No comments: