On Saturday I attended the Bike Walk Connecticut summit in New Haven. I was there, informally, on behalf of the Norwalk River Valley Trail. It was a beautiful morning, a real pity to be inside rather than biking or walking. Here’s an attempt at summary for those who were wiser.
Crowd – 100 or so, with baby-boomers predominating.
Subject – Bike Walk aims “to change the culture of transportation … to make bicycling and walking safe, feasible and attractive for a healthier, cleaner CT”. The event was more bike than walk. I suppose – aside from mountain bikers hurtling down a narrow trail, or slow-moving walkers hogging the lanes – the interests of the groups are generally in harmony.
Speakers – bike advocates and campaigners, public works engineers, planners and architects, trail enthusiasts. The stand-out speaker was Jeff Olson, author of The Third Mode: Towards a Green Society. Jeff’s company – Alta Planning & Design – did a planning study for the NRVT. Numerous “Finally made it to Yale!” jokes from the speakers.
Two stand-out stats that argue for more, better trails – 60% of Americans would like to make more trips without the car but are concerned about safety, and one third of Americans don’t drive (this includes under 16s).
I learned a lot of new acronyms and vocabulary – CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program), MAP-21 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act), TIGER grants (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery), greenways, cue sheets and Complete Streets. I particularly liked Complete Streets, which are those designed for all users – walkers, bikers, drivers, and riders of public transit.
I began, barely, to understand how taxpayer dollars flow (in small quantities, it must be said) to alternative transportation projects.
I heard about a number of great trail projects, notably – the East Coast Greenway and the Western New England Greenway. They appeared, like the NRVT, to be works-in-progress, a cobbling together of existing routes with possible new construction. They will need the attributes of success identified by one speaker – stakeholder buy-in, shared benefit, credibility and – I suspect most important – persistence.
A final thought. Of all the things we could bequeath to the generations to come perhaps the greatest gift would be a choice about how to make a journey. As Jeff Olson joked, every home should be a trailhead! Impossible of course, but we could bring the trails a lot closer.