Sunday, November 1, 2015

Why Bike Culture Matters in Hartford

Things start to happen when the voters and organizations in Hartford demonstrate that they are a coordinated group with agreed upon goals.  Transport Hartford is a loosely moderated discussion group on Facebook, less than a year old, but the topics discussed and suggestions made have already influenced transportation projects in Hartford and beyond.  Discussions from Transport Hartford get printed up and handed to state legislators.

If a candidate for mayor or city council doesn't talk intelligently about transportation, do they know how cities actually work?
Day of voter registration is available at Hartford City Hall.
Slow Roll rides start in Parkville and twice a month (1st and 3rd Sundays) wander Hartford streets.  The rides have organically connected existing bicycle riders and introduced newer cyclists to the ease of cycling for transportation (and fun) in our city.  The rides are sometimes rolling meetings where the next infrastructure comment session or new business tumbles about in conversation as riders pair, separate, and pair again. New bike lanes are explored.  Parks and street routes not obvious to a newer rider are shared.  Speed dating and strategizing, all in the same group.

Increased bike parking at Hartford Public Library
The Hartford Public Library gets more bike parking to serve their large percentage of bicycle mounted clients.  Bike parking gets installed in a small park by the court house when jurors complain about no available bike parking.  Wethersfield Avenue deletes a parking lane and adds bike lanes that serve Colt Park, Bulkeley High School, and is an active transportation gateway to the Southend.  Zion Street and Farmington Avenue add bike lanes.  The Sigourney Street redesign pull in local Complete Streets experts and advocates to evaluate options including a protected bikeway.  Draft updated zoning regulations include forward thinking street types that serve pedestrian and bicycle travel modes.  The I-84 redesign public comment sessions and the working groups all include pedestrian and bicycling advocates.  A Complete Streets Challenge Team, formed by the city, is meeting monthly to identify and push actions that improve pedestrian and cyclist safety.  All these incremental, but real changes.  Before long, I predict that Hartford will even have a network of connected (and safer) cross city bicycle routes.  With engaged leadership, a blossoming and inclusive bike culture, and grass roots organizing, very real changes can take place within three to five years.
Bike parking added to a park near the court house
The Center for Latino Progress is starting a community bike space, BiCi Co., with youth programs and DIY bike repair.  In 2016, BiCi Co. will be offering used bicycles, parts, and accessories for sale.  Many months before BiCi Co. started, a group of local cyclists and advocates were discussing how to best bring a bike shop back to Hartford.  That group found a wonderful partner in the Center for Latino Progress, and can't wait to bring this vision of a membership, teaching bike shop to fruition.

BiCi Co. now has Demo Member Hours to introduce folks to Do It Yourself repair.  Learn new bike repair skills.  Get started as a BiCi Co. Volunteer.  Just hang out and talk about bikes.  The Demo Member Hours are very informal.  For those that haven't been here yet, we're at 97 Park Street.  Enter via the alley to the right of the building.  You don't have to be a member to attend these demo hours.

Demo Member Hours!

Wednesdays, 5:30-8:30pm (except Nov 25th)
Saturdays, 1:30-5:30pm (except Nov 28th)

For now, enter BiCi Co. via the alley.
Would this be happening without grass roots organizing?  No.  It wouldn't.  Hartford would be stuck in the car-centric street design rut that has until now held the city back.  Streets that aren't safe enough to ride leave all city residents with limited mobility options.  Supporting and growing the advocacy organizations, discussion groups, informal riding groups, and the BiCi Co. project will carry this momentum forward.  Winter is a time for preparing, planning, and ready-making for the re-explosion of cycling that occurs every early spring.  Don't go into hibernation.  The CT DOT projects don't get shelved when the temperature drops.  Public comment sessions continue year round, just like the cyclists on our city streets that don't have the economic luxury of a personal vehicle.  Stay engaged, and help these efforts root even stronger.
Invitation - Come learn about BiCi Co. while enjoying live, local music on Saturday, November 7th.  Hook and Ladder is just two blocks from the BiCi Co. Park Street location.  Bicycle commuters support our local economy, especially when beer is involved.  We'll see you there.  Show up on foot or bicycle and Tony C will give you a free hug!


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