Two Connecticut cities were named Bicycle Friendly Communities by the League of American Bicyclists this week. Both New Haven and New Britain received Bronze-level designations, joining Farmington, South Windsor and West Hartford.
The Bicycle Friendly Communities program evaluates communities based on how welcoming they are to cycling from the entry level (Bronze) to all-star (Diamond). Bicycle Friendly Communities often have Complete Streets policies, active cyclists groups, bike lanes, relatively low crash rates, and higher than average percentages of people who regularly bike to work.
New Haven‘s selection as a Bicycle Friendly Community is an obvious one: the Elm City has strong local bike advocates, adopted the state’s first local Complete Streets policy, published its own Complete Streets design manual, and has had visionary leadership in its Department of Transportation for the last several years. Former Director of Transportation Jim Travers launched the City’s Street Smarts campaign and oversaw a tenfold increase in marked bike routes, while his successor, Doug Hausladen, is seeking to speed up the implementation of traffic calming projects and separated bicycle facilities.
New Britain launched a bike connectivity study in 2013 and has been working on promoting its bicycle-friendliness in recent months. With CTfastrak — the region’s first true bus rapid transit system — set to open in 2015, local leaders see the benefit of an improved cycling network in becoming a more multi-modal — and less car-oriented — community.
The Town of Simsbury, which became a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community in 2010, was the only Connecticut town that advanced in the rankings this year, becoming the first in the state to receive the League’s Silver designation.
While this is great news for New Haven, New Britain and Simsbury, more can be done at the state level to improve bicycling in Connecticut. For example, an outdated state law prevents planners and engineers from designing streets with two-way cycle tracks, contra-flow bike lanes, or bike lanes on the left side of one-way or median-divided streets.
There were no new additions to the list of Bicycle Friendly Communities elsewhere in the region, but Hammonton, Morristown, and New Brunswick, New Jersey all were recognized as honorable mentions — an encouraging bit of news for the Garden State, which was demoted earlier this year in the League’s Bicycle Friendly States rankings.
Achieving Bicycle Friendly Community status shouldn’t be an excuse to backpedal on efforts to improve bike-friendliness. New York City, for example, is a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community (and was even named the country’s top bicycling city earlier this year by Bicycling Magazine), but it’s no secret that a lot more can be done to safely accommodate bicyclists in the five boroughs.