Yesterday in Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy took the oath of office for a second time. Before the event, the media was already buzzing about what he was going to say about transportation.
As many of you know I was disappointed with the governor’s answer about parking at train stations at a transportation forum a few months ago. But in yesterday's inaugural address (published here by NBC Connecticut) I counted five times when he spoke about the value of cycling:
1) "We all want our streets and neighborhoods to be safe places to work and to live…”
You can tell how unsafe your neighborhood is by conducting a simple test: watch somebody cross a street in the middle of the day. If they glance back and forth several times before running across the street like they’re avoiding sniper fire, it’s not a safe place to live.
Days after a woman was killed at this intersection in Stamford in the summer of 2014, I went out there to watch how cars treated the corner between Summer and Hoyt Streets.
Another test: the number of passionate cycling neighbors you have who won’t ride their bikes unless they’ve attached them to their Yakima racks and driven across several area codes to get away from car traffic.
Neighborhoods aren’t made safer by adding cars or making it easier to chose a car to go somewhere. When state roads and town roads simply reduce the amount of space a car can drive on (say, reducing the width of a travel lane from twelve feet to 11 and adding a bike lane) it’s a low cost way to make a neighborhood safer.
2)"We all want cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable energy for our citizens and for our businesses."
Let me tell you something about my City Bike (the vintage Diamondback road bike I paid $5 for at a New Hampshire tag sale in July. Hundreds of miles logged with it (including in Cleveland!) and the ‘check engine’ light never came on. Not only that but I never had to spend $507 dollars for a mechanic to investigate a mysterious noise.
A run to the Stamford Goodwill in 2014 with the trailer I made the year before. The bike is so much easier to maneuver in the tiny parking lot I try to avoid driving there at all times.
It doesn’t get cheaper, cleaner or more reliable than a bike. And if you do things that make bikes easier to use (add bike lanes, secure bike parking, and so on) it eases off the throttle of gasoline demand a bit - which will make motorists happy.
3) "And we all want roads, highways, buses, trains, ports, and airports that work for every city and town, for every business, and for every person in our state."
If you’re driving by your favorite coffee shop and won’t make it to work on time if you stop (since you’d have to wait for a parking spot to open up) the coffee shop loses a sale.
But if the roads leading up to the coffee shop were built for cyclists and the parking lot was designed for bicycles it might make it a lot easier for everyone to stop.
One thing that drives me nuts when people talk about transportation ‘systems’ is when they leave out just how mind-bogglingly flawed a car-only system is. Think about this: it only takes one or two cars blocking the box at an intersection to tie up traffic for dozens of motor vehicles.
A way around this is to build boxes that open up briefly when all lights go red so as to remove the box blocking miscreants.
But it’s probably cheaper and more humane to build bike infrastructure. Probably.
Also remember this: a one-car accident on I-95 delays hundreds and hundreds of cars for hours. That’s the ‘transportation system’ I’m talking about: one car represents a point of failure in a complicated system. And bikes, trains and cars are all connected and can’t be thought about in silos, either.
4)"..no one party or one policy maker holds a monopoly on good ideas. We might not always agree on the details, but we can agree that we want our children to inherit a better Connecticut than we were given."
Taking bike rides with the mayoral candidates in Stamford back in 2013 (two Democrats and Republican Michael Fedele) reminded me of what Malloy said yesterday. Nobody owns the voting cycling bloc but everybody needs to get from one place to another. I hope Republican cyclists heading to Cleveland in 2016 encourage their friends to go riding with them.
5)"We can build a transportation system that better connects us to one another and to the rest of the world."
Let’s start with the first part of that sentence where he says connects us to one another. How many times in a car have you driven by somebody you know and honked the horn and waved while still going by?
Our fellow humans deserve more than that.
While on a bike, I recognized and stopped to chat with Congressman Jim Himes on Bedford Street. My yoga instructor from Exhale in Cove. A fellow cycling fanatic walking on a sidewalk by the Stamford Town Center. Another friend I had meant to email but instead stopped to have a real conversation with.
It’s easier to talk to a fellow traveler on the road (and easier to listen to a fellow traveler) when on a bike. As for the rest of the world comment…
My house is about a mile and 3/4 from the Stamford Metro North station. It’s also, of course, an Amtrak stop. I’ve biked to the station to get on a train to get on a plane to fly somewhere. In doing so, I gave a parking space at the transportation center to someone who really needed it, didn’t add traffic to I-95, and didn’t wear out my car. A bike can do more than take you as far as your legs will take you. When done right, a transportation network can allow you to use your bike to go anywhere in the world.
So please join me in congratulating Dan Malloy on his victory and make sure he works toward what he suggested in his inaugural address. In 2014 the Connecticut Department of Transportation adopted a Complete Streets policy, so 2015 is the year for implementation. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.