By LINDSAY CAREY
Plainville residents pull out your two wheelers, and get pedaling.
Plainville ranked number nine out of 126 towns in Connecticut for most bike-friendly and walk-friendly communities.
Bike Walk Connecticut made the list of the Connecticut 2014 Bike-friendly, walk-friendly towns by offering public opinion surveys on bikeability and walkability in addition to municipal and engagement scores. More than 2,000 people from all over Connecticut responded with their surveys and municipal leaders answered questions about their town’s efforts towards accommodating bikers and pedestrians.
Jim Cassidy, who began the Bicycle Friendly Committee in Plainville, was surprised to find out that Plainville ranked so highly.
Cassidy said that bicycle friendly communities are measured by how many people are on bikes.
“If you have a lot of people on bikes in town, there’s a reason why that’s happening,” said the cyclist. “If people are on bikes it’s because they feel comfortable, the cars don’t harass them and there are places to park your bike.”
The Bicycle Friendly Committee in Plainville was appointed by the town council to get the town of Plainville recognized nationally by the League of American Bicyclists as a bicycle friendly community.
However, when the committee applied, they fell short of the regulations the league has such as passing certain laws to protect cyclists. Cassidy said the committee was denied, because they didn’t have a strong plan to become a more bicycle friendly town.
The committee has been inactive for the last couple of months, because they feel they need more support in order to make a difference.
Simsbury, which was the first community in the state to be accepted by the League of American Bicyclists, ranked number one.
According to Cassidy, South Windsor, West Hartford and Farmington have also been accepted but for some reason ranked lower than Plainville.
“We haven’t put in as much effort, so this came as a surprise,” said Cassidy about the town ranking nine in the state. “We’re a long way from even applying again.”
Cassidy said the committee has decided that more importantly than being recognized nationally is that people are actually on bikes and feel safe on the road.
“There’s safety in numbers,” said Cassidy. “If there’s more cyclists on the road it’s safer, because it causes drivers to think ‘There’s a lot of bikes on the road’ I’d better slow down.”
The committee has been successful in getting the town to make a couple of “sharrows” in the center of town. A sharrow is a bicycle symbol, which indicates to drivers that there are cyclists on the road. It reminds drivers that they need to share the road, especially in Plainville where bicyclists primarily ride roadside.
Besides the Plainville Bikeway, near Northwest Drive, there aren’t any trails in Plainville for bicyclists to safely ride on.
Cassidy described the Plainville Bikeway as the only designated route in Plainville for bikers, however, it is a troublesome trail because of driveways. The driveways cause a conflict point for bikers, because they have to be aware of people backing out.
The bicycle enthusiast said that he personally saves himself the trouble and rides alongside drivers on the road.
“It’s an easy place to bicycle, because for the most part it’s flat,” said Cassidy of Plainville. “You don’t have to be a hill climber.”
Cassidy said that he hopes this new recognition by Connecticut will interest people in town and get them to contact the town manager to show their support in making the town even safer for bikers.
By LINDSAY CAREY