Greenwich’s Community Bike Fest: Making Roads Safer for Bicyclists

Saturday was a beautiful day to for Pedal Greenwich’s community bike fest in Old Greenwich.

Held at Living Hope Community Church, a crowd of bike enthusiasts and local officials gathered for camaraderie and to express their hopes that Greenwich will find a way to make the roadways safer for bicyclists, and create some designated lanes.

Greenwich Hospital’s Community Health Experts held a free bike safety clinic with free, hourly raffles and essential safety gear. Greenwich Police attended with their new e-bike unit. Greenwich High School’s Environmental Action Club discussed their work to reduce our environmental impact in our community and beyond. Staff from local bicycle shops let participants brows bikes, e-bikes and biking equipment

Ben McFadden, GHS class of 2024, pops a wheelie at the Pedal Greenwich event. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
Emanuel Soler had a chance to sit on GPD bike officer Rob Smurlo’s e-bike. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
Event emcee Anthony Moor at the Pedal Greenwich’s community bike fest in Old Greenwich. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

US Congressman (D-4) Jim Himes, a bicycling enthusiast, said he had done a bike ride three weeks earlier from Long Island Sound at Compo Beach in Westport all the way to Massachusetts.

“I realized we have some of the most beautiful biking anywhere, including beautiful rolling hills, but we don’t make it as accessible as we should,” he said.

Himes said ideally there should be designated bike lanes for a safe biking experience.

A Cos Cob resident, Himes said that in his three-mile ride to the event, there were trucks whizzing by.

“It just feels dangerous and that can easily be fixed,” he continued. “And then people are healthier. They’re out of cars. They feel better. It’s something really exciting to me.”

Greenwich Fred Camillo said he had participated in a test run to look for a starting point for safe biking.

“We tried to look for a couple streets in Byram – even if we could string together just a couple, that would show that we could get around safely. The key word is doing it safely,” he said. “We wanted to point to one area first and move that all around town.”

Event emcee Anthony Moor said the group was looking for enthusiastic bike enthusiasts to look at their open letter for election season on the website.

“If there’s anything that doesn’t feel like mom and apple pie on the website, it’s probably not about bicycling,” Moor said. “No one ever regretted a bicycle trail or a bicycle path when they saw it. No one ever said,’ That was a bad idea.”

“The hard part is to figure out how do we figure out something that goes with our need in Greenwich to be cost effective, to deal with the unique qualities of our roads, and allow our drivers to be less confused at intersections when bicycles are all over them, and also show the right path for riders and pedestrians.”

Greenwich Selectperson Jill Oberlander, BET member Laura Erickson, Congressman Jim Himes (Connecticut’s 4th District), Greenwich Board of Education member Joe Kelly and State Rep Steve Meskers (D-150) at the Pedal Greenwich Event at the Living Hope Community Church in Old Greenwich. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

Officer Rob Smurlo, from the Greenwich Police e-bike unit, said when the bike police pull a car over, drivers are sometimes startled when the officer knocks on their window.

“For the most part people are grateful we’re out there keeping pedestrians and the town safe,” he said. “Also we keep traffic moving, including the double parked cars on Greenwich Avenue.”

“We get places much faster. Since we started the unit back in February, crime has been significantly down on Greenwich Ave, shoplifting is down, check fraud because they see us riding around and not just standing in a corner directing traffic at an intersection. They know that when the officer is directing traffic he’s not going to answer a call. With these bikes we get there much faster.”

He said recently the bike units responded to a CPR save on Steamboat Rd of a 74 year old man with no heartbeat or pulse.

When it snows or rains they pivot to a patrol car, but on any given day they’re on their e-bikes. “We’re die-hards. We’re always on the bikes. I sent a post out on Instagram last year when it was 10°.”

what’s great about the electric bikes is that when you get to a call, you’re not winded, you’re not tired. If you’re using the electric, you’re not using your pedals. You’re not using your energy. So you’re ready to go.”

He said the bike unit had many arrests of the big shoplifting groups from Newark and the Bronx.

“Now, basically, they say don’t go to Greenwich,” Smurlo said.

NMS first grader Emanuel Soler role plays accident victim in a simulated crash incident. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
GEMS and GPD bike police officer Rob Smurlo tend to NMS first grader Emanuel Soler in a simulated accident. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
Jackson Bogardus, EMS 6th grade, tries out a mini motor bike. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
Greenwich First Selectman with a bike at the Pedal Greenwich event. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
Greenwich Selectwoman Lauren Rabin and Greenwich First Selectman Fred Camillo chat with Greg Piccininno of “We’re trying to make Greenwich a better place to live. We’re focused on all aspects of health and well-being,” Piccinini said. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager
Molly, Bill and Jackson Bogardus arrive at the Pedal Greenwich event. Sept 25, 2021 Photo: Leslie Yager

The Pedal Greenwich mission is to bring together drivers, bikers and pedestrians in Greenwich to advocate for pedestrian and bike safety improvements because Greenwich deserves better signage, street infrastructure and educational programs so everyone can share the road.

Visit the Pedal Greenwich website and scroll down to sign up to receive news about future events.