Government Letters to the Editor Reader Contributed

Letter: Boulevard Residents Hoping for Modification to Planned Bike Lanes

Boulevard, looking east toward South Main Street, where the parking area currently ends as it nears the intersection. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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Boulevard, looking west from South Main Street. The letter writer’s driveway is at left. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Dear Editor,

We, the undersigned residents who reside between Woodrow and South Main Street, are writing to express our strong opposition to the recent decision made by our town to eliminate street parking on the south side of Boulevard to make room for bike lanes.

Although the Town Engineer referred to this decision as “a reasonable compromise” consistent with the 2015 Complete Streets Policy in the official letters sent to all residents, these tax-paying residents were, in fact, not included in the discussion regarding such dramatic changes to the parking and traffic patterns in front of the very homes they purchased. The letter only cites a meeting with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Commission influenced by the advocacy of Bike West Hartford and their March 2023 open letter which called the parking on Boulevard “underutilized” and ideal for being turned into a bike lane.

It’s alarming how the “reasonable compromise” heavily favors a a small but vocal group of road users, yet completely ignores Complete Streets’ most democratic and explicit tenet: the importance of neighborhood feedback.

It goes without saying that very few homeowners would be happy with the removal of convenient on-street parking in front of their home. Certain sections of roadway, like ours, need extra consideration to balance the safety of not only the residents and their visitors, but all users of this public space. For example, our portion of Boulevard is unique in that it is not flanked by two quiet side streets. If on-street parking is removed, those residing closer to South Main Street would have to walk even farther from their homes if additional parking is needed.

Those who are elderly, have health and/or mobility issues, or young children will have to deal with the hazards of parking farther away and crossing the Boulevard potentially during times of heavy traffic or inclement weather. Such obstacles can discourage visitors and strain relationships among neighbors as nearby parking spaces become a sought after commodity.

Moreover, the roadway between Woodrow and South Main is very busy and well-utilized by pedestrians including children walking to the bus stop, Sedgwick Middle School, and the nearby preschools. This section also provides excess parking for town-wide events and businesses located at both 81 and 91 South Main Street. We live closest to the heavily traversed and dangerous intersection of South Main and Boulevard where accidents frequently occur. It is difficult enough to pull out of our driveways with the high speeds cars travel to make the lights on South Main, but once our street parking is replaced with the more narrow bike path, traffic will be closer to our homes, making it even more hazardous to safely inch out to the road. The current solid white line which provides a buffer and peace of mind for us and our teen drivers will be gone, and the likelihood of accidents will increase.

Additionally, eastbound traffic which already backs up almost to Woodrow during peak traffic hours will now be backed up even farther when trucks and service providers need to make a delivery or do work on homes. Where will the school buses, landscapers, and utility vans park? With the parking lanes gone, they will have no other option, but to flip on their hazards and block traffic to conduct business. It’s easy to see how this scenario can lend itself to accidents as frustrated drivers and bikers will try to go around the trucks and into oncoming traffic in an already congested area near a very busy intersection. One doesn’t have to think too hard to imagine how all this congestion would negatively impact the residents and visitors just trying to get in and out of the residences.

Furthermore, while bike lanes can be a noble initiative, encouraging sustainable and healthier modes of transport, not all research indicates that they make it safer for the bicyclists. According to an August 2019 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), “Studies of conventional bike lanes – those separated from traffic by painted lane markings but without physical barriers – have had inconsistent results.” The IIHS study also states that intersections, driveways and junctions (all which our section of Boulevard has) often render bike lanes no safer than riding on regular roads (PR Newswire).

We have suggested to the Town Engineer that the bike lanes taper off west of Woodrow, well before the congestion of the intersection of South Main begins, retaining the much needed and utilized street parking, such as what was done on Farmington Avenue. We trust that our concerns and feedback will be given due consideration, and that the implementation of such projects does not come at the expense of the rights and safety of the tax-paying residents. We thank you for providing us with the opportunity to voice our objections in this letter.

Kim and Bryant Piccioli and Concerned Boulevard Residents

Editor’s Note: Town Manager Rick Ledwith advised We-Ha.com that the Town Council’s Community Planning and Economic Development Committee will discuss the striping of bike lanes on Boulevard at its June 21 meeting. 

Current view of Boulevard, looking east toward South Main Street from the area of Woodrow Street. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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