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Fairfield's First Bike Route Coming Soon to Mill Plain Road

Two years of surveying and planning lead to this point, thanks to the town's Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee.

Fairfield is on its way to becoming more bicyclist and pedestrian-friendly. Come springtime 2013, the first designated bike route in town will be added to a portion of Mill Plain Road – a big step for the grassroots effort to create a bike and pedestrian master plan for Fairfield.

The Representative Town Meeting approved last month a $15,070 grant, which will fund the striping and bike path signs on the designated route -- the portion of Mill Plain Road between Brookside Drive and Unquowa Road.

"This is a really remarkable first step for Fairfield," Andrew Graceffa, president of the nonprofit Fairfield Bike Walk Coalition and Chair of the town's Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee, told Patch in a recent interview.

"We couldn't be any more excited for a chance to put paint on the road."

This "first step" has been a few years in the making. The Bike Walk Coalition was founded in January 2010 to advocate for the needs and safety of bicyclists and pedestrians in town.

Shortly after the Fairfield Bike Walk Coalition was formed, Graceffa heard about the town's plans to form the Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee to work with the Greater Bridgeport Regional Council and all applicable town departments to survey residents and create the aforementioned master plan.

He and eight others appointed to the committee by the Board of Selectman worked to survey residents. Based on the 750 responses they received, the committee chose Mill Plain Road as the first road to incorporate a bike route.

According to the committee's plan presented to the RTM, the reasons behind choosing Mill Plain Road include:

  • General ease and cost of implementation: the work -- which will be completed by the Department of Public Works -- will be done in conjunction with the Mill Plain Road resurfacing and will not require road widening or substantial modification;
  • Enhancing the safety of the neighborhood by raising driver awareness and slightly slowing traffic through signage, striping, and sharrows (shared lane markings);
  • The close proximity to several schools, parks, and Fairfield Center.

Other advantages to adding a designated bike route in Fairfield include encouraging more outdoor activity and exercise -- which meant that this project qualified for the state's cardiovascular disease prevention program grant providing its funding -- and cutting down on the need for driving.

Eventually, according to the plan presented to the RTM, the master plan created by the advisory committee will lead to significantly upgraded walkability in town and a town-wide network of bike routes. Mill Plain Road is just the beginning.

Fairfield Police will be readying the road for the bike route, too -- from Nov. 26 to Nov. 30, the Traffic Safety Unit will conduct a "Living Streets" campaign on Mill Plain Road. Living Streets educates the public that pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles must share the road and traffic enforcement officers will be handing out colored flyers to motorists warning them of the posted speed limit.

To learn more about the Fairfield Bike Walk Coalition, visit the group's website and Facebook page.

As for the town's master plan, see the Vision Statement created by the members of the Fairfield Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Advisory Committee:

The Town of Fairfield recognizes the need to encourage walking and bicycle travel for transportation, recreation, exercise, and quality of life.  Walking and bicycle use conserves energy, improves air quality, reduces traffic and the need for parking, improves health and fitness, and improves the local economy through a better quality of life, increased access to local businesses, and greater potential for tourism in the area. These goals will be achieved through education, encouragement, enforcement, and infrastructure.

 

Will you be encouraged to walk and bike around Fairfield as more of the master plan's steps are integrated? Where else would you like to see designated bike routes in town? Tell us in the comments.

Resident of Fairfield November 20, 2012 at 01:26 PM
I am sorry, but in the midst of a recession, this is a waste of resources and will slow traffic along a major thruway.
Andrew Graceffa November 20, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Thanks for the great write up! We can't wait for the springtime when the route is installed!
Mark Lee November 20, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Dear Fairfield Resident, why don't you choose to identify yourself? You call Mill Plain a "major thruway". That's interesting -- I call it my neighborhood. You see, I live on this "major thruway". The bike lane will pass directly in front of my driveway. My family's right to safety far outweighs your right to treat Mill Plain as an adjunct of I-95. Ms/Mr Fairfield Resident, our Fairfield children walk and bike to/from ALL 3 schools along this self-proclaimed stretch of "major thruway". There is NO BUS. Please obey all traffic laws in my neighborhood. Wherever you are going, it will be there when you arrive, safely, I pray, for your sake and ours. This is my town. We really live here. You're obviously just "passing through". Happy Thanksgiving, Mark Lee 1135 Mill Plain Rd.
Resident of Fairfield November 20, 2012 at 02:37 PM
It is a major waste of public resources.
Andrew Graceffa November 20, 2012 at 02:43 PM
With all due respect RoF, its a $15,000 grant from the state to pilot a route that many Fairfield residents have requested. We may disagree on the funding decision by a program to promote cardiovascular health by the state but to refer to it as "major" is a troll-ish stretch.
Leigh November 20, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Awesome! Please consider a similar project for Black Rock Turnpike between the Merritt Parkway and Fairfield Woods Road. There are many homes in this area within a 1 mile walking distance of the shopping and grocery stores on Black Rock Turnpike. However, there is no consistent, cleared and safe footpath/bike lane for this stretch.
Resident of Fairfield November 20, 2012 at 02:49 PM
The State of CT is the worst ranked state in terms of available and future State Finances. In the entire nation. A bike path is nice to have. Fiscal responsibility is more important.
Li Smith November 20, 2012 at 02:52 PM
The monies are from an already established grant. Either Fairfield uses the money or someone else will. The fact that people don't follow speed limits doesn't mean they shouldn't.
Andrew Graceffa November 20, 2012 at 02:56 PM
It's on the radar Leigh. Fairfield Woods Road and that upper section of Black Rock Turnpike & Lake Mohegan area are part of the future master plan. Look for more news to come about the plan in the spring time.
David November 20, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Congratulations to my fellow townspeople for getting this approved. Increasing walking and biking access can help to increase property values (many studies), improve public safety, improve the health of those that walk or bike, and decrease air pollution. Thank you also for taking advantage of a state program for which money has already been approved and budgeted.
Amy V November 20, 2012 at 03:21 PM
I think this is a fantastic idea. . leads to the health and wellness (physical and mental) of countless Fairfield residents that is invaluable. $15K seems like a low investment for a significant "healthy" return.
Jim November 20, 2012 at 03:24 PM
What a waste.....Lets think like Obama and tax non-bikers to pay for it. Also if you're a biker please have the courtesy to ride single-file on public roads so we dont run you over.
Andrew Graceffa November 20, 2012 at 03:41 PM
You're always welcome to join us Jim!
OneFairfield November 20, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Resident of Fairfield how ever you are. Not happy MOVE! This is a great idea and the fact that it does not cost us anything is wonderful. So RoF start walking. Maybe you will feel better and loose your anger.
Resident of Fairfield November 20, 2012 at 04:19 PM
I actually love Fairfield and only want to protect its interests. I am not in favor of any unnecessary building or changes to the town. We have a poor history of overbuilding. Trains station anyone? Bike paths are a nice to have, but I do not think they are a requirement. For all of the good they will do bikers, they will create other negative knock on effects for the remainder of the non-bikers and residents. And to be honest, I do bike.
OneFairfield November 20, 2012 at 04:27 PM
This is a simple bike lane on an established road. The town is painting lines not building anything. If you really bike you would be in favor of this. It makes the town better.
Jim November 20, 2012 at 04:48 PM
I probably should join you Andrew.....thanks for the invite.
Jim November 20, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Also why dont we turn one of our parks into an off-road bike trail....that woudl be awesome and could be done with volunteers....this town has enough places to walk dogs so there should not be an issue. My only issue is if tax dollars are spent if not great idea.
Andrew Graceffa November 20, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Great suggestion Jim. Actually, the Bike Ped Plan Advisory Committee has looked into it. Unfortunately there isn't a perfect route to connect all of the spaces but it may be doable with a combination of on and off road routes.
Chuck E. Arla November 20, 2012 at 05:53 PM
"Fairfield is on its way to becoming more bicyclist and pedestrian-friendly" Pedestrian friendly? Seriously? This is an awful town for pedestrians. Look at all the money spent redoing the No. Benson Road railroad bridge...and they didn't bother to put in a protected sidewalk as at the Round Hill Road bridge. In fact no sidewalk at all. That place is a meatgrinder. Pedestrians, children on bikes, moms with strollers, Fairfield U X-C team all dart through there taking their lives in hand. The Walk/Don't Walk signs at the intersection with Post Rd are all positioned cock-eyed so that you cannot tell what the signal is prior to crossing. For the entire length of Post Rd through this town crossing the street . . . both along or across Post Rd . . . is A GAMBLE. It's nice that the bike afficionados are getting a stripe pinted on the road. That's not going to help us pedestrians.
DM November 20, 2012 at 07:22 PM
15k is not a lot of money. This is a great quality of life type investment. That said the thinking of this is "free money" is a large part of why we are approaching a fiscal cliff. Hope this works out well for everyone.
Linda Anne De Leon November 20, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Bicycling can improve traffic flow, reduce air pollution which can enhance our health. You have to start somewhere...and frankly, most of the cars are driving too fast and need to slow down. Improving the traffic signals would be a bigger help for traffic flow: sometimes I have to wait for three changes of the lights at Mill Plain Rd and the Post Road. Painting stripes is not a waste of resources, air pollution and idling cars is.
Nathan Hall November 21, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Well said Mark Lee. Mill Plain is your neighborhood; you should have the loudest voice. The opinions and concerns of anonymous commuters who tear through your neighborhood offended by a 30 second delay in their commute should be relegated to the bottom of the stack. If their true concern is the allocation of state and federal funds in the midst of a recession, I encourage them to post their own street to this string so that we may all vote in unison to deny any future street repairs, improvements, etc, all of which are surely more costly at hundreds of thousands per mile for an average 2 lane road. We could all see some real savings!
Andrew Graceffa November 21, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Remember everyone, if you'd like to stay up to date, please 'like' the FBWC Facebook page linked in the article. The more the merrier!
Mark Lee November 21, 2012 at 02:44 PM
You obfuscate the issue here, sir (you must be a guy). This has nothing to do with State finances, or a train station. You say State money shouldn't be used, and I agree that can be debated in the context of State finances. But the fact that you say a bike lane is "unnecessary", regardless of funding, reveals your true position. You'll be very happy to learn that for 17 years, you have paid nothing for my children's transportation to/from school. We live just under 1/2 mile from both Riverfield Elem. and the Ludlowe campus. Kids around here walk to school, and just like you and your neighbors, we have a right to safe passage. This means good sidewalks, crossing guards, and yes if our leaders and experts deem necessary for safety, a $15k bike lane. (continued)
Mark Lee November 21, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Sidewalks on the Round Hill - Mill Plain - Ludlowe loop were just added and improved last year. Were you opposed to this expense? I call this investment in valuable infrastructure, not a waste of money. Tell me sir, what exactly are "knock-on effects for the remainder of non-bikers and residents"? If you don't live near me, how does a bike lane on my road affect you? Lacking an explanation, I conclude that you don't want to drive safely on Mill Plain. You don't care if my children and my neighbors are safe. "Nice to have" vs appropriate is where we disagree. Is public infrastructure to assure safety OK for your neighborhood, but when it's mine, then we can't afford it? If I'm right, then you actually don't love Fairfield.
Lynn November 21, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I am delighted! I just bought a house on South Pine Creek Rd after living (and renting) in Fairfield for almost 3 yrs. I came from RI, where we have an awesome bike path (The East Bay Bike Path) and I have missed it. $15k is a small amount for the addtional quality of life - and health - this represents for the community. Thank you to Andrew and the rest of the volunteers who worked on this...I am off to "like" you on Facebook right now! :-)
Andrew Graceffa November 21, 2012 at 04:10 PM
As noted above, a HUGE thank you goes to all those who've helped out thus far and especially Sarah Levy (Dept of Health) and Bill Hurley (Engineering) for pursuing this grant and ushering it through the various town committees. Thanks also goes out to Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey, First Selectman Tetreau, the Police Commission, and the Board of Finance for their guidance and enthusiasm for making this project, and overall effort, a reality. We should all be very proud to finally get a chance to put some paint on the ground. We've got a ways to go but this is a great first step.
Sarah Levy November 21, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Thank you Andrew. The collaboration of dedicated and skilled Fairfield residents and Town departments allows a two year grant with total funding of $15,000 to go a long way. Physical inactivity is a leading independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and many other health conditions. The goal of making environmental changes, such as a bicycle route with signage and road striping, is to make it safer and more appealing for children and adults to ride bicycles for transportation as well as for recreation. This is federal money that comes through the state and then to the local level. I agree, it is not " free money'. These grants are funded with our tax dollars. We take these grants very seriously and make choices carefully. Grant projects require extensive planning, monitoring, evaluation and reporting. Please "like" the Fairfield Health Department Facebook page as well for additional information about the benefits of physical activity and many other health topics.
Resident of Fairfield November 21, 2012 at 10:12 PM
While we are all excited for the new bike path, how many of us are aware of how bad the state's fiscal situation is? Before I get a whole bunch of angry emails that this is not related to the topic above (which it is only tangentially) people should be aware of how bad the fiscal situation is in CT. Spending has got to stop. Please read the below articles. http://online.barrons.com/article/SB50001424053111904881404577603301566976464.html#articleTabs_article%3D1 http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/333519/connecticut-s-fiscal-mess-jillian-kay-melchior#

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