With new lane, city promotes biking

A bike lane was added from York Street to Orange Street after Elm Street was repaved in August.
A bike lane was added from York Street to Orange Street after Elm Street was repaved in August. Photo by Wa Liu.

Following the addition of a dedicated bike lane on Elm Street, New Haven’s transportation department installed a 16-cycle bike rack at the intersection of College and Chapel streets last week.

The city converted a parking space on College Street into a corral for bicycles and marked a bike lane from York Street to Orange Street after Elm Street was repaved in August. Both initiatives are part of a citywide effort to promote biking and alternative transportation across New Haven.

“We want to improve cycling in the city,” said City Traffic Chief Jim Travers. “We have aggressively looked at how we could increase and expand our cycling network in the city, and having a bike corral front and center in a busy intersection sends the right message — that we want cycling to occur in the city center.”

New Haven residents initially attempted to crowd-source donations for the rack on SeeClickFix, a neighborhood problem-solving website, but the city stepped in after they were unable to achieve their funding goal. The Transportation Department purchased the $4,000 bike rack with funding for transportation enhancement.

The bike corral, which was fully occupied shortly after its unveiling, addresses the city’s high demand for bike storage and helps prevent bikes from clogging the street.

“It’s very helpful — it’s often hard to find places to lock your bicycle,” said molecular biophysics and biochemistry professor Chuck Sindelar, a frequent cycler.

The bike corral will be removed during the winter, as it interferes with snow plowing, but it will be returned in the spring. Though the parking space where the corral now stands was a busy and highly sought spot, Travers hopes that a more visible, secure location for bike storage will encourage cycling in the city.

In an additional effort to make biking infrastructure more visible, the city’s transportation department is also working to locate a vendor to paint the Elm Street bike lane green, as it is currently only demarcated by a single white line. There has been no negative effect to vehicle traffic as a result of the lane, according to Travers.

“It really speaks to our city’s smart co-existing campaign, in which we create streets where we all co-exist in the same space without any negative effects,” said Travers. “In fact, I think we’ve improved travel because we’ve improved cycling travel on Elm Street.”

New Haven saw an 11 percent increase in cyclists last year, Travers added, and is continuing its efforts to increase alternative means of travel throughout the city. In late August, Claire’s Corner Copia and the transportation department installed a vegetable-themed artistic bike rack, designed by Ben Green ’14, outside the Chapel street eatery.

“In order for New Haven to be the alternative transportation capital of the world or the north east, we’re going to need more dedicated bike infrastructure,” said Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen ’04. “We need to get to the point where a seven-year-old, a 70-yearold and a 25-year-old all feel comfortable riding their bicycles on our streets.”

Future developments for the city’s biking program will include additional bike lanes and storage racks, as well as an enhancement of cycling education programs, said Travers. New Haven will also look to work with the state to install its first cycle track — a bike lane with a buffer between pedestrians and traffic — on Water Street, which will connect downtown New Haven to the East Shore.

As 3.8 percent of New Haven workers commute via bicycle, Hausladen said that the city will also focus its efforts on building more indoor storage facilities for commuters.

“Bang for buck, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is some of the best government money spent, because it creates an opportunity for a resilient economy through local spending and money that circulates within our community,” Hausladen said.

New Haven’s only dedicated bike infrastructure is currently the Farmington Canal, a multi-use trail that runs from downtown New Haven to Northampton, Mass.

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