Downtown’s first bicycle lane rolls down Orange Street

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As New Haven roads are resurfaced this year after deterioration from previous winters, a white line will be added along Orange Street to indicate the construction of the first bike lane in the downtown area.

After working with members of organizations like the Connecticut Bicycle Coalition and Elm City Cycling, the city has decided to create more on-street lanes to accommodate the large number of commuter bikers.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said the city decided to consider the construction of bike lanes in the downtown and neighboring areas after the success of the first bike lane in East Rock, starting at Cold Spring Street.

“We are currently looking to add more [bike lanes], potentially in places like Howard Avenue, the Route 34 Connecter, and a lane that would run all the way from Westville neighborhood to downtown,” he said.

DeStefano said the city hopes bike lanes will alleviate some of the problems caused by motor vehicle transportation.

“When we create bicycle lanes, we help create a safer environment for current bicycle commuters,” he said, “and we can reduce traffic congestion and pollution at the same time.”

Bill Christian, partner in ownership of Bentara Restaurant at 76 Orange Street, said he was in favor of building the bike lanes along the street adjacent to his business.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “[The bike lanes] will encourage the use of alternate forms of transportation.”

But Yale Cycling Team President Chris McPhee ’04 said he has been fine with riding outside of the city with his team because of the lack of bike paths in New Haven.

“The problem with trying to add bike lanes to a city like this is that the roads are already too narrow,” McPhee said.

Yale Cycling Team member Nick Maier ’04 said his concern about the bike lane was its placement on the road.

“There is a crossover between parked cars and the bike lane which makes safety a concern,” Maier said.

Because the bike lane is sandwiched between the traffic and parking lanes, it creates a situation in which people stepping out of parked cars can open the door and swing it into the bike lane space, Maier said.

Christian, whose window overlooks Orange Street, said he was concerned about how the bike lane would be placed in the narrow, one-way road.

“Logistically, I’m not sure how they’re going to do it,” Christian said. “I just hope that the motorists will drive at a reasonable speed that is safe for the bikers.”

Maier said drivers’ disregard for traffic safety laws, such as ignoring the use of blinkers or indicator lights, increases the dangers of riding on the road for cyclists. However, the new bike lane would increase safety for pedestrians.

“Bicycles can be dangerous on the sidewalk in the same way that cars on the street are dangerous to bicyclists,” Maier said.

Part of the impetus to create the city’s first bike lane came from Critical Mass, an activist bicycle group that rides the last Friday of every month in towns across the country — including New Haven — in order to celebrate cycling and assert cyclists’ right to the road.

A cyclist rides down Elm Street among automobile traffic. New Haven is working with various bicycle groups to construct more bike lanes to accommodate the large volume of two-wheeled commuters.
Stephanie Dziczek
A cyclist rides down Elm Street among automobile traffic. New Haven is working with various bicycle groups to construct more bike lanes to accommodate the large volume of two-wheeled commuters.

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