Bicycle riders are commuters, too

I get a steady drumbeat of requests for articles about commuting by bicycle from Dave, who rides his bike around Danbury full time.

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Published January 8, 2007 by The New Times 
By Mark Langois, Commuter Commando 

CT — I get a steady drumbeat of requests for articles about commuting by bicycle from Dave, who rides his bike around Danbury full time.

He tells me I waste too much ink on I-84, cars, and more traditional modes of transportation. He wants more rails and bikes.

As annoying as he is, I like him when we meet. Knowing him is like having a conscience.

I do have a tendency to focus on cars and trains, a traditional approach to commuting. He asked for something about bicycles, and here it is.

The world is probably heading more to bicycles than car advocates might choose to think.

For instance, the statewide Transportion Strategy Board, which studied the state's transportation needs for the last three years and is about to publish a priority list of needed projects, wrote:

"The 2006 transportation strategy includes a significantly increased emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian travel. Effective bicycle and pedestrian networks result in a reduction in vehicle trips."

The study recommends:

Bike space be created on all trains.
Bike racks be installed on all buses.
Bike routes to transportation centers be identified.
Bike storage and parking areas be created or fixed.

In Danbury, the Housatonic Area Regional Transit system, HART, has 12 buses with racks to carry bikes.

The system, which serves eight towns including Danbury, New Milford, Ridgefield, Bethel and Norwalk, will expand into other towns. It plans to have bike racks on all of its large buses by the end of October.

"In a few years' time, the vast majority of buses in the state will have bike racks," said Richard Schreiner, director of service development with HART.

"It used to be bike racks were found in warmer areas and in resorts, but they're very inexpensive. Pretty soon they'll be on all buses."

A bike rack might cost $700 on a bus that costs $330,000. That's about 2 percent of the total cost.

"We see it as an inexpensive way to attract more people to the bus," Schreiner said.

Schreiner said bus racks for trains are more complicated and costly.

The statewide Transportation Strategy Board said in its draft report that all trains should dedicate space for bike riders. The final report is expected within a week or so.

It also suggests improving bike storage options in cities and at any transportation center.

The draft report asks the state Department of Transportation and local towns to consider making bike and pedestrian paths a part of all road projects.

"Bicycle use in Connecticut as a mode for commuting remained fairly constant between 1990 and 2000, at approximately 0.2 percent of all commuters," the board wrote in its draft.

"Walking to work declined as an option in the state between those same years, from 3.6 percent to 2.7 percent. Compared to national averages, Connecticut has a lower percentage of bike commuters (0.2 percent vs. 0.4 percent nationally), and roughly the same percentage of pedestrian commuters (2.7 percent vs. 3 percent nationally).