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CT Bikeways: If You Build Them, Will They Come?

Town and city planners will hear from a transportation expert this week about how Portland, Ore.'s investment in hundreds of miles of bike lanes has quadrupled bike use in that city. Credit: Wikimedia commons - Steve Morgan
Town and city planners will hear from a transportation expert this week about how Portland, Ore.'s investment in hundreds of miles of bike lanes has quadrupled bike use in that city. Credit: Wikimedia commons - Steve Morgan
April 20, 2015

WETHERSFIELD, Conn. - It will be a wonky summit for sure, but at stake this week is the future of bikeways and non-motorized transportation for towns and cities all across the state. Senior project engineer David Head with VHB Inc. is on the board with BikeWalk Connecticut. He says this week's summit will try to help community leaders be a little bit visionary.

"It's always the chicken or egg, what do you do first," said Head. "Do you build the infrastructure for biking and walking, or do you wait for the people to come that want to bike and walk? I personally believe you need to build the infrastructure. You know, if you build it, they will come."

The workshops and summit begin Thursday at the Keeny Memorial Center in Wethersfield. Registration is available at the BikeWalk Connecticut website bikewalkct.org.

Head says local officials will hear from Richard Geller a transportation planner from Portland. That city poured $60 million into bikeways over the last decade. Head says they got hundreds of miles of bikeway compared to one mile of interstate highway which costs about $50 million.

"They've spent about six years building bicycle infrastructure before they really noticed a boom and they've quadrupled their bike numbers out there," says Head. "If you've ever been there, it's just a wonderful place to go. It's so easy to get around."

Head says Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker will kick off their Friday summit talking about "Transform CT" which emphasizes non-motorized forms of transit.

"He's just really taken DOT and kind of turned that ship to get more focused on some of those alternate modes of transportation, which is great," Head says.

The summit also will focus on Senate Bill 502, which is now before state lawmakers and is intended to improve both bike safety and transportation options in Connecticut.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - CT