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Bike Lane Too Tight

FAILED EXPERIMENT Narrow street shows need for bike path

Hartford Courant

December 09, 2008

Well, it was a good try.

Several months ago, Hartford officials relined Asylum Avenue through the Asylum Hill neighborhood with bike lanes on the outside, one travel lane and some central turning lanes. But the changes drew many complaints, and now the city has mostly painted them over and abandoned them.

The problem, said city transportation chief Kevin Burnham, is that the street is just too narrow. If it were four to six feet wider, it could accommodate a bike lane. But as is, the bike passage was too tight. The problem would have been accentuated after a snowfall and yes, some people ride bikes after it snows.

Mr. Burnham was also concerned that a bad accident might threaten the citywide bike lane program, so he chose to cut his losses. No argument here; the question is what to do next.

Cities around the country are pushing "complete streets," streets that accommodate cars, transit, bikes, pedestrians, in-line skaters and outdoor diners, but that presumes a certain width. Some older New England streets are too narrow for all of the above.

One approach gaining popularity in Europe and just starting to be used in this country would be to somewhat widen the sidewalk and make it a combination bike and pedestrian way. Another possibility is the "sharrow," a bicycle-and-chevron symbol painted on the road telling cyclists and drivers that bikes are allowed on the road. These are now being used in West Hartford.

Perhaps the best solution, which has been talked about for at least a year, is a dedicated east-west bike path that parallels Asylum Avenue, partly along the I-84 corridor. Such an amenity would bring more people into the city, keep some cars off the roads and be considerably safer than a lane next to automobile traffic.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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