Our Letter & Petition to Support Bike Lanes on Boulevard

On June 19th 2023, Bike West Hartford sent our letter in support of bike lanes on Boulevard, with over 142 contributors to our petition, to the Town of West Hartford, Community Planning and Economic Development Committee (CPED) for its virtual meeting on June 21st 2023 at 8am. See the text of our letter below and also in PDF format (with petition attached).

June 19,  2023

To: West Hartford Community Planning & Economic Development Committee (CPED) & West Hartford Town Manager

From: Bike West Hartford, Inc. Board Members (Mary Donegan, Jack Dougherty, Jen Fleet, Ethan Frankel, Tracy Frankel, Jim Head, Tom Martin)

Cc: WH Pedestrian & Bicycle Commission Chair, Ed Pawlak

Re: Support for PBC Plan to Create Bicycle Lanes on Boulevard

We write to CPED Committee members prior to your June 21, 2023 8am virtual meeting in support of the West Hartford Pedestrian & Bicycle Commission plan to create bicycle lanes on both sides of Boulevard (between Mountain Road and South Main Street), and to remove one underutilized parking lane on the south side. Streets are public goods that belong to all of us, and the goal of the Town’s Complete Streets policy is to accommodate all users. 

We agree with the main points voiced by PBC members at their Monday June 12, 2023 meeting, and documented in their June 16, 2023 letter, summarized below:

  1. Boulevard is a public street that belongs to everyone.
  2. While Boulevard previously was 100% devoted to motor vehicles, the proposal would allocate roughly 70% to cars and 30% to bicycles.
  3. Excluding bicycle lanes from Boulevard would violate the spirit and terms of the Town’s Complete Streets policy, which the Council approved to “accommodate all users.” 
  4. Creating bike lanes on Boulevard requires eliminating one parking lane due to width.
  5. Precedent for eliminating one parking lane exists on Boulevard east of Trout Brook. 
  6. Connectivity to existing Boulevard bike lanes matters as an essential east-west road.
  7. Most Boulevard residences have long driveways to accommodate private parking needs.
  8. To ensure safety, bicycle lane connectivity is required along the full stretch of Boulevard leading up to and through S. Main Street.
  9. Compromises are essential if West Hartford aspires to be a “bicycle friendly community.”

We have listened to some opponents of the PBC recommendation, and despite their positions we believe that we share some common ground about safety. For example, some opponents have raised concerns that cars travel too fast on Boulevard, and that it’s difficult for pedestrians to safely cross the road. We agree with these concerns, and have requested the installation of traffic-calming measures (such as raised crosswalks and plastic vertical delineators). The Town has responded that additional safety measures must wait until the Vision Zero consultants have finished their work. 

But we strongly disagree with opponents who claim “ownership” of Boulevard and view current parking spaces as extensions of their private property. To be clear, West Hartford streets are public goods that belong to all of us, and the role of government is to ensure safety and accessibility “by users of all ages and abilities, including, but not limited to pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, motorists…,” as stated in the Town’s Complete Streets policy.

On June 14, 2023 Bike West Hartford circulated the attached petition. In only 6 days we received a total of 142 signatures; 17 physical signatures and 125 signatures online through the website Change.org. All signatories indicated support for bike lanes for the entirety of Boulevard, and the removal of parking on the South side of the street to accommodate.

Attachment: Petition for Bike Lanes on Boulevard