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.
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.