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Letter: Town Center Infrastructure Master Plan

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To the Editor of We-Ha.com,

We are deeply disappointed to see that the current proposed plan for reconstructing Farmington Avenue and LaSalle Road does not provide for protected bike lanes on Farmington Avenue and wider sidewalks and narrower travel lanes on LaSalle Road. The original proposal, subsequently labeled Option A, showed an understanding of the generational opportunity presented by this project. But the current plan indicates that the Town will let this opportunity slip away to accommodate a few more angled parking spaces for automobiles.


We are most concerned about the removal of the protected bike lanes on Farmington Avenue. We shop at stores in the Center regularly. Sometimes we drive, but most often we walk or bike. As experienced cyclists we are comfortable biking on these roads, but most cyclists are not as comfortable riding in traffic as we are. As recent town surveys note, many residents would bike in West Hartford if they felt safer doing so. Further, parents would bike with their children to the Center if they were provided with facilities that protect them from traffic. And it doesn’t make sense to say that bicyclists can use side roads to get to the Center when stores in the Center are their destination. The current proposed plan effectively discourages anyone from riding their bicycle to the Center and ignores the desires of hundreds of town residents to be able to do so as evidenced by survey results.


Business owners in the Center seem overly concerned about giving up a few parking spaces for protected bike lanes. Protected bike lanes on Farmington Avenue work with parallel parking, but not with angled parking. There are numerous studies and real-life data that demonstrate bike lanes can provide positive economic impact in cities. These studies were produced by the League of American Bicyclists, Portland State University, Cambridge Bicycle Safety, Science Daily, Advocacy Advance, Bike Ped Info, and the Urban Institute and conclude that bicyclists, when given appropriate infrastructure, make more trips and spend more per trip than automobile users.

Also, the summertime extension of dining into the streets did not create a parking shortage that led to the loss of retail business in the Center. The Town has tested parking removal and things worked fine.

As previously stated, we are also concerned about the new plan’s failure to widen sidewalks on LaSalle Road while at the same time eliminating existing bike lanes. The original plan converted all parking to parallel. This, in combination with narrowed travel lanes, would create a calmed street where it is easy for bicyclists to mix with traffic. With the new plan, which has angled parking and no bike lanes, LaSalle will be far less safe for cyclists than today.

The town should seize this opportunity to make the Center a vibrant and safe place to visit using all available means of transportation. Town residents have said through surveys that they want safe cycling infrastructure so that they can access the retail and entertainment venues in the Center. And, as stated previously, businesses in the Center will benefit economically from increased foot and bike traffic. The town’s leaders should be bold and courageous. Future and current generations will thank them for their foresight.


Sandy Fry
Rick Thibodeau
West Hartford

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