Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Is it OK to kill cyclists?

Now that I have your attention, this really is the title of a recent article in the NYTimes about how motorists get away with murder, literally. But, before your blood pressure gets too high thinking about this sorry fact, read the article right through to the end; especially the end (click here).
We cyclists bear great responsibility in how others perceive us. We are often our own worst enemy, blowing through stop signs and red lights with reckless abandon. So, if we want motorists and police to respect us and take us seriously as road users, we need to "ride different".

Preliminary Design - here we come!

It's been more than 4 years since the Town completed the Master Plan Trail Study, but little has happened in that time. There are lots of reasons, none of them very good. But now is the time to act, while the political and funding climate still favors closing the gaps. Read here about Plainville's latest efforts to start closing the 4 mile gap here in town.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Travel the East Coast Greenway without ever leaving your chair!

For each of the last three years, a small group of cyclists has been riding for one week on the East Coast Greenway, this summer from Hartford to Philadelphia. Click here to view a short YouTube video of this ride. 

The ECG passes just beneath the Big Gray Bridge (George Washington) and right next to the Little Red Lighthouse in NYC. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hartford Courant video editorial re: Closing the Plainville Gap in the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail

Just found on the web: a short, but very positive opinion by the Courant publisher about closing the gap here in Plainville. Click here to view.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why are these cyclists smiling?

They are smiling because they probably know something is up. Something that has been a long time coming here in Connecticut - full scale official recognition of and support for the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail (FCHT) by State planners and transportation officials. These happy cyclists, posing on the Flower Bridge over the Farmington River in Simsbury, are using the trail to travel from Hartford to New Haven today at the start of a weeklong journey to Philadelphia. They are using the part of the FCHT that is designated as a portion of the East Coast Greenway from Simsbury to New Haven. Much of their journey will be on-road, especially the 9.1 mile gap from Farmington thru Plainville to Southington. But that will change in the future as we advocates working with State and local officials find new and creative ways to complete this jewel of a trail that, when complete, will be 80 miles long and connect with the incredible trail system in and around Northampton, MA.

To find out more about this history making news, please click here to read about it in today's Hartford Courant. And, join us tomorrow to hear some details from the "horses mouth" (that would be Andy Carrier, the consultant mentioned in the Courant article). Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Commissioner Esty bikes and speaks

Our Town

Cyclists parade through downtown to promote trail



About 30 bike riders joined Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty in a 56-mile ride from New Haven to Southwick, Mass., two Saturdays ago, to promote the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. “This is a great day to highlight the partnerships between government and town,” Esty said outside of Plainville’s Municipal Center where the riders stopped for a quick break in their journey. Mark Swanson, a member of Plainville’s Bicycle Friendly Committee, said he was happy to see the ridehappening. “It is exciting and nice to see the trail getting support from the state level,” Swanson said before joining the other riders. “This has been taking years and years” to complete. The Farmington Canal Heritage Trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, which runs from Florida to Maine. However, there are gaps along the way. In Connecticut, the biggest gap is between Southington and Farmington, in Plainville. “We no longer want to be known as ‘the gap’,” Town Council Chair Kathy Pugliese said to the bike riders who cheered.

Earlier this year, Plainville’s Town Council voted to pursue a grant that would help fund the construction of a multi-use trail through Norton Park. The grant is sponsored by the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection through the Recreation Trails Department. If the grant were approved, it would cover 80 percent of the cost of the project in Plainville, which is being estimated at $406,000. The remaining 20 percent would have to be paid for by the town,. However Plainville can put “in-kind services” such as design and construction administration as credits towards the project, which would go towards the town’s remaining 20 percent share. That share is being estimated at about $50,000.

The whole point of the ride was to raise awareness about the gaps along the trail, and signify how important it is to have this line of transportation.

Steve Mitchell of Mitchell Auto Group, which sponsored the ride, is an avid bike rider and was involved in an accident when he was riding his bike and was hit by a car.

“It is not good to have cars and bikes on the same piece of pavement,” Mitchell said. “This is the right thing for our future.”

The gaps in the trail are there because the properties are currently owned by Pan-Am Railway, who hasn’t been willing to negotiate a price with the state. There are also some railroad tracks along the way that are still active.

Bruce Donald, president of the Farmington Valley Trails Council, said having the political support from state and town officials is a positive for the trail and allows the issue to become more high-profiled.

“To do and see this for the first time is a big help,” Donald said about the ride, adding that this is the 21st year of building and trying to complete the trail. Not only is having the trail safer for bike commuters, but Esty also said it promotes healthy lifestyles and will help economic development. “This is recreation and an economic resource (that will bring people into the state, and into other towns).” Throughout the ride from New Haven to Plainville, Esty said there were hundreds of people along the way utilizing the trails in each town. 

Comments? Email knaples@BristolObserver. com.


Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty joined 30 other bike riders during last week’s ride from New Haven to Massachusetts, and made a pitstop in Plainville.

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Friday, July 5, 2013

Close the Gaps

WED, 3 JUL 2013, Hartford, CT Courant
By Tom Condon

The Farmington Canal Heritage Greenway is the most important recreational asset developed in the state in the past two decades. Or so I thought, despite never having been on the trail south of Farmington. Saturday, I got to bike the southern corridor.

The whole trail is terrific, or will be, when we get those pesky gaps filled in.

Dan Esty, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, along with a bunch of hard-riding trail advocates, rode the trail from New Haven to Southwick, Mass. They were ginning up support for closing the last two breaks in the Connecticut portion of the 84-mile, multi-use trail that runs from New Haven to Northhampton, Mass. The gaps are a 4.7-mile breach in Cheshire and a nine-mile pause in Plainville. So, short press conferences were held in those communities. I rode as far as Simsbury, 40 miles or so.

The trail is a fortuitous accident of history. It began as a canal, dug by hand between 1825 and 1835. Alas, it never made money, and was replaced by a railroad in 1847. The railroad hung on until the early 1980s. Work on converting the corridor to a paved, multi-use rail-trail began in the 1990s. That it still isn't finished — and that it has taken more than twice as long to build a wide sidewalk than it took to dig the canal with shovels — is frustrating.

We — 15 to 20 bicyclists — gathered at the New Haven Green and picked up the trail behind the Grove Street Cemetery.

I rode for a time with Lisa Fernandez, president of the Farmington Valley Rail-to-Trail Association, the group that coordinated the restoration of the southern part of the trail. She said the word "heritage" is in the trail's name on purpose; that's what you see along the way.

And so you do. We passed through an industrial area of New Haven and by the post-industrial Science Park, where old factory buildings are being used by new tech companies. In densely settled Hamden, there are long stretches of trail through woodland and a park built around a restored canal lock, a historic jewel. Let your imagination roam and you can picture a time before sprawl when there was open land between towns.

What you also see are people. Early Saturday morning brought walkers, runners, rollerbladers, cyclists. A young couple out for a ride heard we were going to Massachusetts and joined our little peloton.

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, wife of the commissioner, greeted us in Cheshire. They are a power couple elsewhere but a local couple here. Their children learned to ride bikes on the canal trail, and really understand why it is a good thing.

I'm told the wheels are in motion, so to speak, to close the Cheshire gap. Plainville is a bigger gap and a bigger problem; there's still active rail traffic in the area. But officials at town hall, our second stop, said they too are making progress on closing that gap.

Why close the gaps?

The gaps force riders to use local roads. The ride is vastly more pleasant on the trail, and from just over the Farmington line, it's trail virtually all the way to Massachusetts, with great vistas of woods and the Farmington River.

The trail is a tremendous quality-of-life amenity. People want to use it and live near it. It promotes exercise. Some people use it to run errands and even get to work, which gets cars off the road and pollution out of the air.

And, not least, it spurs economic development. Developers and business owners are paying attention — it's called "trail-oriented development," said Bruce Donald, president of the Farmington Valley Trails Council, the group responsible for the trail's northern end. There aren't many long off-road trails in Southern New England, so thousands of people travel to use this one.

Make no mistake, local activists made this happen. The state Department of Transportation was indifferent to it for most of the past two decades. But we now have officials, at DOT as well as DEEP, who get the picture. So let's finish this trail, and get a few more going.

And yes, my butt was a little sore — thanks for asking.