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Norwalk Drivers Must Share Beach Road, As Planned

NORWALK, Conn. – The lane structure on Calf Pasture Beach Road will change soon to accommodate Norwalk's bicyclists, but parents concerned about the safety of their children on the road's sidewalks will have to wait for answers and action.

Shared lanes, or sharrows, were authorized for the road Monday by the Traffic Commission, as expected by the wording of its agenda . The inside lane will be narrowed to 10 feet, and the outside lane will be widened to 14 feet, with painted stencils on the road to indicate bicycle space, Department of Public Works Director Hal Alvord said.

Activists had campaigned for a "road diet," making the road one lane in each direction and using the resulting space for a lane dedicated to cyclists. One of the city's traffic consultants, VHB Engineering , has done a couple of miles of shared roadway in New Haven, Alvord said. "They're working very well, they're just as safe as bike lanes," he said.

Commissioner Pete Torrano detailed research he had done about accidents on the road and attacked comments about the lack of safety as  "inflammatory, inaccurate and a disgrace."

Torrano had searched the computerized police records, which date to 1999, for accidents on Beach Road. He found 28; only four involved injuries, and those were minor. None involved excessive speed. (His information, which includes accidents before 1999, is presented in an attachment below.)

Two of four public speakers presented petitions; one contained 500 signatures in favor of a road diet, another contained 700 signatures against it. Mayor Richard Moccia, one of two traffic commissioners at the meeting, said he has gotten many comments from residents on the topic, almost universally against a road diet.

Both petitions agreed on the need for safety on the sidewalks. That issue will begin to be addressed at the Aug. 7 meeting of the Public Works Committee, said Chairman David McCarthy, R-District E.

Alvord gave a hint of the challenges involved. The poles that are in the space of a proposed sidewalk in front of Marvin Elementary School belong both to AT&T and the Third Taxing District. Underground conduits carry utilities from the poles to the school and across the road to the Charles Cove condos.

"It's not as simple as just pulling a pole out of the ground and replanting it someplace," he said. "You've got all the underground utilities that's connected to those poles that would have to be dealt with as well."

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