The Town of West Hartford, in partnership with co-sponsor State Rep. Kate Farrar and Bike West Hartford, hosted a walk audit on Friday to discuss the improvement of bike-walk-transit.
By Bridget Bronsdon
Town locals and leaders met in the parking lot of the Faxon Branch Library on New Britain Avenue Friday morning to gain a first-hand understanding of local streets in the Elmwood area and ways in which the town can improve bike-walk transit.
As improved transportation safety remains at the forefront of West Hartford as well as Connecticut Department of Transportation leaders, it is critical to examine how major roads in the region can be safely improved for bus passengers, walkers, and bikers. New Britain Avenue, being one of the major roads in the area that cuts right through West Hartford and Hartford alike, is a focal point.
With this walk audit being the first of many, participants said the overarching goal was to improve bike-walk-transit for all. The walk audit hosted this past Friday was the first of many and focused on the section of New Britain Avenue that runs from Mayflower Street to the train/bus bridge near New Park Avenue.
To provide critical research and data for the walk audit, five years of crash data research on New Britain Avenue was analyzed by participants. The major road stood out due to two main reasons: Not including I-84, New Britain Avenue was found to have the second-highest number of all crashes (11% of West Hartford total), and the highest number of crashes with any injuries (13% of West Hartford total).
In addition to this data, research also revealed that after dividing the three-mile roadway into equivalent one-mile sections, the highest number of crashes were recorded in the east and middle sections. The middle section runs between Wolcott Park to Quaker Lane and the east sector spans from Quaker Lane to the Hartford border.
Jack Dougherty, secretary of the Bike West Hartford nonprofit group, stated the reasoning for choosing New Britain Avenue as the focal point for the walk audit. “New Britain Avenue is a street that many people drive on but fewer people have walked on or ridden their bike on, or taken a bus on – unless they live right in that neighborhood and we’re trying to make sure more people in West Hartford and the state of Connecticut get a sense of ways we can improve safety for everyone.”
Dougherty explained that while one audit will not solve the entirety of the problem, it’s a step in the right direction. “It’s a great way to get outside of meeting rooms, get first-hand experience walking on local streets, and discuss ways of improving safety for all, especially walkers, bike riders, bus passengers.”
The walk audit proved to be a stepping stone toward success due to the event’s turnout. State Rep. Kate Farrar (D-20th District) in addition to several town officials, Town Manager Rick Ledwith, Department of Public Works Director John Phillips, Community Development Director Duane Martin, and several Town Council members all helped make the walk audit possible.
Dougherty expressed his gratitude to Farrar for making bike-transit safety a priority. “New Britain Avenue is a state road that cuts through local neighborhoods in West Hartford and Hartford so it’s going to require more coordination from the state and local leaders to make it safer for all,” Dougherty explained.
“More needs to be done but we know that walk audits do more in the real community than just another meeting in a boardroom,” Dougherty added.
Farrar also provided insight as to how the Walk Audit can benefit the region. “The New Britain Avenue Walk Audit was a great opportunity to imagine how we can create a more livable and greener community,” Farrar stated. “As a member of the legislature’s Transportation Committee, I look forward to continuing to work with our state, our town officials and staff, advocates, and residents to improve safety and accessibility for all bikes, pedestrians, buses, and cars along this roadway.”
In the wake of the audit, town officials and constituents can remain hopeful that efforts will be mobilized to take steps toward bettering local bike-walk-transit.
The efforts of Bike West Hartford leaders Dougherty, Mary Donegan, and Tom Martin were noted as instrumental to making the audit possible.
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