After many years of planning, the Edgewood Cycletrack is nearing completion and construction of the new Chapel Street Cycle Path is complete, with a draft safe road plan for everyone to be released by the end of this month.
Sarah Cook & Sophie Sonnenfeld
Yale Daily News
This summer, two infrastructure projects set the course for the future of cycling in New Haven.
In downtown downtown, a bike path in a westerly direction was set up on the north side of Chapel Street in June, following approval from the city traffic authority. Soon after, construction began on a long-planned protected bike path in the Westville neighborhood.
“I think any opportunity to expand our cycling network with the bike path or the Chapel Street bike path is an opportunity to open up cycling as a means of transport to more people,” said Ward 1 Alder Eli Sabin ’22. “It’s good for the environment. It’s good for you. It’s cheaper. “
The Westville Project, known as the Edgewood Avenue Cycletrack, was first proposed five years ago. A 2.1 mile road-side path is planned that will stretch from Forest Road in Westville to Park Street in the Dwight neighborhood. The $ 1.2 million project spans 11 intersections, many of which will get new traffic lights for bicycles only. This also includes funds for the construction of new sidewalks.
City engineer Giovanni Zinn told the news that the first phase of construction should be completed in a month. The signal cabling should be completed in spring. City officials and cycling activists alike praised the projects as a step forward in community efforts to improve conditions for cyclists in a city where high collision rates between pedestrians and vehicles have long been a concern.
Last year, Sabin said he met with Doug Hausladen ’04, then the city’s director of traffic, traffic and parking, to see where new lanes could be added in District 1. In May, Sabin filed an application for a bike lane on Chapel Street with the Transportation Department, which approved the application. The New Haven Transportation, Traffic and Parking Department set up the bike path in early June.
Kai Addae, an activist with the Safe Streets Coalition, an organization committed to making transportation infrastructure safer and more accessible in Elm City, sees these projects as the most forward-looking plan in New Haven in a while. However, she believes there is still a long way to go before cyclists and cars are equally accessible in the city. Addae said she was originally drawn to advocacy after a string of pedestrian and cyclist deaths in 2019.
Addae, an avid cyclist who works for the Bradley Street Bicycle Co-op, told the news she had seen several “engagements” where she was nearly hit by a moving vehicle. Many of her friends, she said, were hit by cars. According to the UConn CT Crash Depository, over 200 cyclists and pedestrians were hit or killed in car accidents in New Haven from 2015 to 2020.
Bradley Street Bicycle Co-Op owner John Martin said he hoped the Edgewood Cycletrack will connect people across town, especially those commuting to work.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of Westville people drive to town hall to work, to Yale to work, or to the big buildings,” Martin said. “Turn [those who traditionally drive] in Biker, that would be unbelievable. “
The Edgewood Cycletrack has faced numerous delays due to the lack of contractors. As first reported by The New Haven Independent, no contractors responded to the city’s first contract notice when it was published in June 2019. Zinn told the news that the complexities of the signaling infrastructure may have deterred potential contractors. The original order also included civil engineering and signaling infrastructure in one contract. It is difficult to find a contractor who would do both parts of the job, Zinn said. The city gained more interest in the project after it was split into two different contracts.
Further investments in security could come soon
The added bike path and Edgewood Cycletrack are part of a larger New Haven effort to increase the safety of pedestrians and bicycles.
A draft study of New Haven’s current infrastructure, entitled “Safe Routes for All,” will be made available to the public later this month. New Jersey consultants have examined the current New Haven infrastructure to identify pain points where sidewalks or bike paths need to be updated.
Rob Rocke, who serves on the board of directors of the New Haven bike advocacy group Elm City Cycling, is a member of the Safe Streets Coalition. He said it is important that cycling advocates and city officials follow up on any issues or recommendations that come up in the report.
“You don’t want to have this thing done, put this nice report in a folder, put it on a shelf so that you never take it out again. It needs solid funding from the city, ”he said.
Addae told the News that she hopes more residents will join proponents in putting pressure on the city to act on the bicycle infrastructure issue.
“It is up to all of us as residents, our alders and the mayor to tell what is important to us. Because that’s what they react to, ”said Addae. “If safe travel is important to us, if sustainable transport is important to us, then we have to raise our voices and I think it will happen.”
The draft Safe Routes for All plan will be released during two virtual community meetings on September 28th and September 30th, and a face-to-face meeting on September 29th at 6:00 pm in Scantlebury Park.