Pedal Greenwich Year One: Securing a bike seat at the table

News from Pedal Greenwich

Some of the founding organizers of Pedal Greenwich at the September Community Bike Fest.

If you’ve been bicycling around Greenwich for any time, you know that we’re an outlier compared to our neighbors. From Mamaroneck to Westport, just about every other town has more bike and pedestrian friendly streets, signs and infrastructure.

Part of that is because there hasn’t been a voice for people who choose to get around in something other than a car in over a decade. This past year a group of us decided that this needs to change.

Pedal Greenwich started as a daylong event in 2020, asking everyone to escape the lockdown for a moment and enjoy being out, about and autonomous.

We want to help everyone, including drivers, get around easier

In 2021 we decided to jumpstart a new movement to make Greenwich safe, friendly and connected. At a high level, we want to make it easier for everyone to get around whether they have a car or not. After all, our streets are a shared resource, and drivers one morning may be bicyclists or pedestrians the next.

But is the desire to bike here really a new one? It’s a good bet just about everyone in Greenwich has a bicycle in their garage. The problem is once you dust it off and pump up the tires, it’s hard to get anywhere beyond a few blocks. Our neighborhoods are surrounded by imposing through roads; our schools, parks, shoreline and downtowns cut off from all but the closest houses.

Chances are you have to toss your family’s bikes in the SUV just so you can get somewhere to not be in the SUV.

“In Greenwich you have to toss your family’s bikes in the SUV just so you can get somewhere to not be in the SUV.”

We don’t have bike lanes. We don’t have bike signs. We don’t have bike racks. We don’t have bike paths, really. We don’t even have a plan to change that in the foreseeable future. Our town’s officials mostly were silent about biking during local elections last November, and the ideas floated by those who swept key leadership positions were anemic: “safety training, distracted driving enforcement and road maintenance.”

So we’re really in first gear and pedaling uphill. But thanks to your active engagement, this year we have secured a bike seat at the table. (Excuse the mixed metaphors.)

In 2021, a bike study failed. But it got town officials’ attention

In March, Pedal Greenwich appealed to friends and neighbors to petition the Board of Estimate and Taxation, which finalizes our town budget, to include $50,000 for a study of a safe, east-west, bicycle route across Greenwich. You submitted over 300 messages on the issue, second only to feedback about Julian Curtiss School.

It failed on a party-line split by one, tie-breaking vote. Still, the word was out that people wanted change. First Selectman Fred Camillo, who did not support the measure, created a Bicycle Task Force in June, and appointed two Pedal Greenwich members, along with two other community representatives, and five town officials.

“You can help enormously by contacting the First Selectman now to ask for a bike infrastructure line item in the budget.”

Since then, the task force has not seen Camillo at any of its public meetings, and members are pushing once again to get a dollar commitment to bicycle infrastructure in next year’s budget. (You can help enormously by writing the First Selectman here.)

But, that bike seat is at the table. A town commission is seeking different funding to fund the bike study now, and we cited your letters and emails about it in a letter of support as evidence that this is something Greenwich wants.

In September we organized a community bike fest in Old Greenwich. Our local bicycle stores participated and other exhibitors included Greenwich Hospital, Greenwich EMS, Greenwich Police, and Greenwich High School students. A number of our town, state and federal elected officials spoke, including our First Selectman.

We launched a new website, spun up social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and gathered together a newsletter list of about 900.

Pedal Greenwich organizers held a half-day strategic review in November. In 2022 we need to build our network of supporters to matter to town officials.

This fall our leadership circle began reaching out to relevant officials to advocate for including bike access in public projects just underway. This includes the new Eastern Civic Center project and a new Greenwich High School main entrance. Not surprisingly, we are hearing that planners hadn’t adequately considered bike and other non-automobile access.

Two of our members who also are on the Representative Town Meeting have secured seats on the RTM’s Transportation Committee, which should take the lead on appropriations for all pedestrian, transit and bicycle initiatives.

Recently, we kicked off a strategic and organizational review to define goals for 2022. We’ll talk about this in more detail in January. Already we know that this has to be the year that we gather together and visibly demonstrate the active, engaged support of each of you to make Greenwich safe, friendly and connected.

Please make a point of telling your neighbors about Pedal Greenwich. Ask them to join us and our mailing list. It’s free, of course, because we’re just a group of neighbors, and each new name is one more reason for our town to take us seriously.

Consider volunteering too, that increases our capacity to make a difference. We’ve got a bike seat for you now, please volunteer and help pedal forward.