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Farmington Chasing the Bicycle Friendly Designation That Simbury Has

Recognition would bring benefits to the town.

Bicycling in the United States has become increasingly popular in recent years as both a recreational activity and a way to get to work.

The League of American Bicyclists, whose mission is “to promote bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation and to work through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America,” is achieving that goal, in part, by recognizing communities that actively support bicycling.

Two towns in the state, Simsbury and South Windsor, have been recognized and received the designation of “Bicycle Friendly Community,” and now Farmington is hoping to join their ranks.

“The application was submitted and we are waiting to hear about any acceptance into the program,” Assistant Town Manager Erica Robertson said.

Direction for pursuing the application came from the town council.

“We started talking about applying for the designation over the summer in the context of the expansion of the UConn Health Center,” Council Chair Jeff Hogan said. “We’re making a huge capital investment there, yet we don’t see any plans for bicycle and pedestrian assets.”

The east end of town, where UConn is located, is not connected to the rest of Farmington where bicycle trails exist, he said, and town officials would like to change that.

“As a town, we’re committed to being bicycle friendly, whether we get the designation or not,” said Hogan, adding that he and his whole family are bicyclists. “We’ve invested in a lot of green initiatives like the rail trail, and helped Burlington complete their leg of the trail.”

The Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) designation would be great for the town to receive, however, because it brings with it many benefits, including a boost in tourism, business growth and increased property values.

“I’ve seen what it’s done for Simsbury,” Director of Public Works Tom Roy said. “I see more cyclists in town and it’s been an economic incentive. Cyclists stop off for coffee or ice cream, helping local businesses.”

Roy said he bicycles around Farmington quite a bit – he’s a resident – and was happy to hear that the application has been submitted.

“I think all towns should be bicycle friendly,” Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman said. “I’m thrilled that our neighboring community is applying to become the third town in the state for the designation,”

The application process is rigorous, she said, but the designation yields “tremendous benefits and reflects well on the community.”

It took a lot of effort and collaboration by volunteers for Simsbury to achieve its goal, Glassman said, and the campaign was spearheaded by resident Steven Mitchell, vice president of Mitchell Auto Group and an avid cyclist.

“The application is an audit of a community’s efforts to create a bicycling culture,” Farmington Town Manager Kathleen Eagen stated in a report to the town council. “The audit reviews engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement, and evaluation and planning efforts for bicycling.”

Each application is reviewed by national experts and local cyclists to determine whether the community should get a BFC designation, she said.

“The League’s standards for bicycle friendliness are set very high, as is evident by the fact that there are only two BFC’s in Connecticut,” Eagen said.

“I don’t know if we’ll get the designation on the first try,” Hogan said. “Farmington is so congested and roads are narrow. There are things we may have to do to meet the standards.”

Eagen made note of one particular challenge — that the town has limited control over the 36.5 miles of state roads that run through Farmington.

“If the designation is not awarded, the League of American Bicyclists will provide in-depth feedback that can be used as a task list to improve the state of cycling in Farmington and improve our chances should we choose to apply again,” she said.

When a community is recognized with the designation, there are four award levels – bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Simsbury currently holds the bronze and has applied for the silver award.

“We expect to hear back by October,” Glassman said.

When a community is recognized, a representative from the League of American Bicyclists comes to the town to present an award and road signs at a local ceremony.

Other benefits for communities that receive the BFC status include technical assistance and training, grants and funding notification, recognition, and promotion.

The league also recognizes states, businesses and universities that actively support bicycling.

John LaForest-Roys August 31, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Nice idea, but our town planners will have their work cut out for them. Farmington has a few large issues with becoming bike friendly. Have you ever tried to bike from FHS to West Woods? Meadow road bike friendly - not. How about FHS to IAR? Good luck there! If you can't connect the schools and sports areas, you are not bike friendly. Our state and town made a couple of car friendly, not pedi/bike friendly crosswalks on Route 4. Don't let your little baseball star cross from Knollwood to Wanomassa or you cross from Monteith to the public transportation bus stop. Both of these crosswalks are passive, meaning green for you AND the turning cars. By the way, we aren't a public transportation supportive town either.
JCook August 31, 2012 at 01:05 PM
I would love to see Farmington more Bike friendly! Especially school to school and schools to athletic fields . I would save so much gas! An improvement we need is Helmet enforcement. I am seeing a lot of kids riding around town without bike helmets. This is not only unsafe but for those 15 and under illegal. Adults show a good example and wear a helmet. Kids, I hear it's "not cool" to wear a helmet......Personally I think it's plain stupid not to wear a helmet.
Matt Pogson August 31, 2012 at 02:02 PM
If a bike friendly community means that it will get the bikes out of the way of motorists and vice-versa then I'm all for it. I live over on Brickyard Rd. and I cant tell you how many poor decisions are made at the bike path crossing. No one knows what to do when a bike approaches and sometimes people slam on their brakes and other times people fly through when the cyclist thinks they have the right of way.... That is not a bike or motorist friendly intersection and its just plain dangerous. It needs a tunnel or another solution before someone is killed and before we can consider ourselves a bike friendly community. Now not to stir up too much debate but it is my understanding that unless you are a pedestrian you must stop at the stop signs on the bike path, that's why there are stop signs on the bike path and not on the road.....Is that correct? Does anyone know the law on that? If you are riding a bike and do not dismount many people including myself will not stop for you. Eventually someone is going to get killed, and some poor motorist will have to live with that for the rest of their lives. Hopefully this intersection will be a priority in this initiative and hopefully we can fix this before something like this happens....
Mark Blore August 31, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Love Farmingtons bike paths - but will be a tough effort given we have much more traffic and main roads. Some of the crossings are pretty dangerous on Brickyard and others. But, it can be done if the right amount of safety precautions are put in place near the main routes. Meadow Road is tough bc of the openess with traffic - when i take the kids i am always fearful of the speed of traffic. We avoid that area most times. Maybe a wooden rail along that area would make it seem safer to ride. All going to come down to how much money people want to spend in the end.
Frank M. Carlozzi August 31, 2012 at 03:36 PM
I have resided in Farmington/Unionville since 1981. I strongly believe Farmington could have a more friendly environment for bicyclists. The automobile drivers need to be EDUCATED to share the roads, especially at intersections where Bicyclists must cross the road to get across to the next path. I personally have witnessed automobile drivers at Brickyard Rd intersection driving and not paying attention to anyone in the crosswalk. All it takes is one bad automobile driver and the friendly reputation will be killed. (killed, that is what happen when a car hits a bicyclist). The bad automobile driver could be a resident of another town or another state. There should be more road signs stating you are approaching a cross walk APPROACH with CAUTION!
Ron Goralski August 31, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Lots of info here regarding rules of the road. Bike paths aside, Farmington has a long way to go for all of the reasons mentioned above. I hope we can get there. And I'll continue to argue that motorists need to be less aggressive out there. Relax - be patient - learn to share the roads. Learn the rights of cyclists. I ride in Simsbury often, they GET it. It can be done. We can learn to coexist out there - we have to - because it's a matter of life and death. http://farmington.patch.com/articles/cyclists-and-helmets-and-cars-oh-my
Jack R. September 01, 2012 at 01:02 AM
We do have a long way to go before we can be considered biker friendly. The paths are superbly maintained in town and are a true joy to ride. But, some of the roads between schools and Tunxis Meade, like Morea/Meadow are dangerous. Even the narrow white strip is missing on Morea/Meadow going toward Bristol. Speaking of Bristol, they seem to do a better job giving space to bikers. Maybe this application will push us to set aside more space for bicycles.
Louise Campbell September 01, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Please create a safe bike path along Route 4. I would commute by bike, making for one less car.
jan Carpenter September 01, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I lIve on meadow rd and can not allow my kids to ride to Wwues or the bike path as it is to dangerous . A continuation of the bike path down new Britain and then a safe bike lane on meadow would be ideal . We could then leave the car at home which would mean more exercise , less gas consumption and less emissions as well as a more bike friendly community. Motorists would have an easier time too as currently they have to go well into other lane to pass a cyclist .
Georgette Sappington September 01, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I agree Jan! If we start with some sidewalks on New Britain Avenue and other major roads, then we could connect many neighborhoods with the bike path. Currently, we have to get in the car and drive to the bike path and we are only a mile away. It is simply too dangerous to bike to the bike path!! Connect the neighborhoods - it is the missing link.
Marlene Scerrato September 03, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I agree with Jan and John. I suspect officials applied for the designation for the sole purpose of the association doing the work for them. That way, they get a punch list of what to fix/improve in order to get the designation the second time around... Right now, we aren't even close.
B Adams September 03, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Farmington has an opportunity to be a very uniqe niche in the bike world (along with it's neighbors of Simsbury, Avon, Plainville and W.Hartford). There could really be a wonderful system of paths in the state! If Farmington begins the commuter trails, I would hope they would consider a double-path system (Cyclists and Walk/Running). For our area, it would be a great asset for all.
Tony R. September 04, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Have you tried to cross Plainville Ave in Unionville on the bike trail? Not too easy! Consider the traffic, NO crosswalk, and the uneven transition from pavement to sidewalk (west side of Plainville Avenue.) is dangerous and causes accidents.
DAVID VINCENT October 03, 2012 at 04:57 PM
The first step is getting every and all cyclists to review the Ct Motor Vehicle code as to cyclist's travel position within the roadways,as well as all the other responsibilities cyclists seemed to have forgotten about in their quest to take over the roads and trails.It can all be worked out if we all act responsibly and follow the rules that are already in place for pedestrians,cars, and bikes.It's not rocket science and the rules have been around for decades.
Matt Smith October 03, 2012 at 05:26 PM
@ Tony, you are not supposed to cross Plainville Ave. between the bike trail openings, you are supposed to cross at the cross walk at New Britain Ave by Parson's Hardware. It’s the bicyclists that are breaking the law by not crossing safely at the cross walk.
Sierra Blue October 03, 2012 at 07:44 PM
I'm with David Vincent. Familiarize yourself with the rules, obey them when you are using the trails, roads etc. No need to pass more laws.........current laws are enough!

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