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Letter: East Norwalk Bike Path Compromise Is Fair

NORWALK, Conn. – There has been recent discussion about changing the configuration of the streets in East Norwalk in the Seaview Avenue area and farther on to the beach. This effort affected local businesses, social clubs, residents, as well as commuters of all kinds. The Traffic Commission, the body responsible for considering all of the factors influencing our streets, met and after some discussion, input from affected parties, and reviewing alternative plans, decided on a course of action.

This course of action, which includes striping some curbs, moving a no parking sign, allowing for traffic calming measures and adding some parking spots, in most likelihood does not please everyone completely. In my mind, that is the sign of a good compromise. A body with the necessary skills and experience meets, considers all of the needs of citizens and makes an actionable recommendation. If everyone walks away a little disappointed, most likely the decision was just.

Part of the discussion for this neighborhood was to add bike lanes in that busy strip and through the neighborhood beyond to eventually connect to the beach. Unfortunately, that solution as presented is not tenable in a neighborhood filled with businesses that need on-street parking and many households without garages or driveways.

A longer review of the area with more input and agreement from neighbors and local business owners might result in some accommodations, but as presented, the planned lanes would disrupt traffic flow, and inconvenience the neighborhood and business patrons for a relatively few bicyclists, who don't seem to have a big issue getting by today. I am certainly not against the concept, but the plan as presented goes too far in one direction.

The problem with the plan for bicycle lanes becomes evident when you look closely. Initially, there were misleading statements made that certain civic leaders and local business owners (and even the mayor) were in support of the specific plan being advanced. The compromise was struck after all stakeholders communicated and expert opinion as well as neighborhood input was received. Unfortunately, rather than following the process and retooling their proposal, adherents of this plan started a petition and appealed to emotion rather than doing the necessary work.

I notice that one signatory to the petition is newly elected Board of Education member, Michael Barbis, who is also a commissioner in Rowayton. If he thinks going against the wishes of the residents, the Traffic Commission and the local elected representatives is the "right thing to do," I wonder what he would think if proposals were made to open Bayley Beach to the entire population of Norwalk or to put bike lanes in and eliminate parking in front of the Rowayton Market? Irresponsibility is not a trait admired in many elected representatives.

The addition of bike lanes and other pedestrian amenities around our city is an appropriate thing to consider as we focus on redevelopment and the eventual changes we should try to make our city better. To accomplish this, the process is clear. We must use the appropriate technical experts and weigh the needs of all neighborhood constituencies. We should follow the path through the right boards and commissions and not make mad rushes around them or try to foist extremist agendas on anyone.

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