Town Officials Weigh Proposed Bicycle Signs


Town officials are weighing whether to install roadside signs developed by a Fairfield County cycling group that illustrate a state law instructing motorists to give bicycle riders three feet of separation when passing.

Town officials are deciding whether this sign would be appropriate for New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

Town officials are deciding whether this sign would be appropriate for New Canaan. Credit: Michael Dinan

The Sound Cyclists Bicycle Club (which has a mailing address in Darien) has proposed introducing the bright yellow signs in New Canaan, according to Tiger Mann, assistant director of the Department of Public Works. Mann (who added that he doesn’t like the idea of installing signs without a very good reason) said he’s bringing the proposal to the town planner and Planning and Zoning to see what they think.

“It’s a question of the signs themselves, where to put them and then jurisdiction, too—whether it’s a street sign or not,” Mann said.

Cycling is a popular form of exercise and transportation for New Canaanites, and locals this spring saw their own official cycling group form—a joint effort of New Canaan Bicycles (in the Bob’s Sports lot off of Cherry) and Walter Stewart’s.

Meanwhile, the recently adopted Plan of Conservation and Development includes a directive for New Canaan—as it did in 2003—to “enhance bicycle circulation.”

Specifically, the POCD calls for New Canaan to identify bicycle routes (see a Bicycle Plan map on page 75) and consider applying for recognition as a “bicycle friendly community” with a national organization.

Starting the process of carving out bike lanes—say, along roads that would connect New Canaan’s major parks and downtown—would require a large town-wide effort, Mann said. It’s also a heavily regulated process with specific standards for lane widths, turning lanes, advisory signage and paint.

Most roads in New Canaan—parts of some state roads are exceptions—are too narrow to called suitable for bike lanes, Mann said.

“You could get lanes out of 124, 123 and 106 because they’re wide enough, have a wide shoulder and also those are your arterials, so you would want to start there and branch out,” he said. “We could theoretically petition the state for those and some of other roads we have.”

What hasn’t yet emerged in town is a single group to lead a bike lane-creation effort.

The Conservation Commission this spring talked about some of the health benefits of promoting cycling in town: reducing congestion, improving parking and making New Canaan an even more attractive place for visitors.

Asked about bike lanes generally, New Canaan Bicycles Owner Lou Kozar, a town resident, said he thinks they’re a necessity.

“A lot of kids are on the roads in town, he said. “Being in town is very desirable. People cherish being in town. But what does it mean? You still have to get around, and what better way to get around than being on your bike? There absolutely should be more just designated areas.”

The flip side to bike lanes is that motorists sometimes are confused in areas that them, when they see cyclists riding on rides that don’t, Kozar said.

“So let’s say there are bike lanes on South Avenue or on Weed Street or Park Street, he said. “But then you are outside of that range: Will drivers give you less respect? ‘You’re supposed to be riding over there.’ It’s the one kind of tricky part with bike lanes.”

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