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Norwalk Drivers Must Share Beach Road

NORWALK, Conn. – A significant change may be in store for Norwalk's road to the beach, but not in the way the city's bicycle path enthusiasts have wanted.

Hal Alvord, director of the Department of Public Works, said the next meeting of Norwalk's Traffic Authority will probably feature a discussion of sharrows , a traffic lane marked to indicate that motor vehicles are expected to share it with bicyclists. Sharrows have been proposed for Calf Pasture Beach Road.

"I don't know where he got the idea, and as far as I know, it doesn't have any neighborhood support," said David Marcus, an activist who is behind the blog Livable Norwalk . "I think this is because it doesn't do anything for speeding, for kids walking to school, joggers, pedestrians, etc. It doesn't do much for cyclists, either."

Marcus and others are campaigning to close one lane in each direction of Calf Pasture Beach Road and dedicate it to bicyclists and pedestrians. The lane would still be available for cars during major events, such as the July 4 fireworks, because it would be marked only by paint with no actual structures.

The idea comes from a $500,000 study commissioned by the city and paid for with $400,000 in federal funds and $100,000 in Norwalk money, according to Mike Mushak, a member of the zoning commission.

Asked by email whether he knew of a study, Mayor Richard Moccia said. "Please check with Hal on the traffic study."

"I haven't seen it, but I'm told that Mike Mushak did a plan," Alvord said. "The city has not done a plan to turn one lane of road into a bike lane."

"Redesigning Beach road is a major project. It requires traffic engineering, cost analysis and public hearings not just for the cyclists but from the other residents who drive to the beach as well as the businesses on Beach Road, the marina, the miniature golf and the pool club," Moccia continued. "We will be doing some shared lane signage and extra patrols for speeders to make it safer for the cyclists."

The Norwalk Pedestrian and Bikeway Transportation improvement plan was submitted to the city in January by Fitzgerald and Halliday Inc., a Hartford firm. The relevant passage about the "Road Diet" is on Page 32 in the document assessable by this link . It says, "The resulting roadway profile would include a 6 feet wide bicycle lane on both sides of the roadway, with a 14 feet travel lane and a 4 feet inside shoulder. These changes would not require reconstruction of the roadway, rather restriping and signage improvements. This solution has been proven highly effective on a number of projects throughout the country, having been used on roadways with average daily traffic volumes exceeding 20,000 vehicles per day."

Marcus says Calf Pasture Beach Road is dangerous by design , a concept Alvord scoffs at. "That's the current thinking — it's designed wrong," he said. "Of course, we can put concrete barriers down there so nobody can speed. Is that a well-designed road? Of course not. The problem is you've got people who refuse to obey the speed limit. It's an enforcement issue."

Marcus has a petition signed by 235 people and says most of the residents of the area around Calf Pasture Beach Road support the idea of the bike lanes.

A resident of a neighborhood off Calf Pasture Beach Road, who declined to be identified, agreed that drivers are speeding and even drag racing in the summer. But she opposes the plan outlined by Marcus.

Many Marvin Elementary School parents support the plan, according to Myrna Tortorello, the school's principal.

Alvord said those parents are part of the reason a dedicated bicycle lane would not work. Parents park in the right lane when they are waiting to pick up their children from school and would block a bike lane. Delivery truck drivers also want to park in the road. You can't have it both ways, he said.

The plan for sharrows isn't finalized, and action will not be swift if it is submitted and approved during the May 21 Traffic Authority meeting, as Alvord expects. A contractor would do the work and stencils would have to be obtained.

"We agree that we want to incorporate into the city streets, where it's feasible and appropriate and safe, opportunities for bicyclists and for better pedestrian travel," Alvord said. "But budget-wise and resource-wise, it's not all going to happen overnight. And if I have anything to say about it, it's not going to happen haphazardly or disorganized. We have had too much traffic management done on an isolated, haphazard, inconsistent basis. So we agree we want to incorporate more. It's not for the faint of heart. Just look at Seaview."

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