Capstone Essay

Two Small Wheels, One Big Opportunity:

Why A Bike Path In Greenwich CT Will Benefit You.

By: Thomas Stowe


The Thrill of Biking:

Looking back at many of my favorite moments from over the summer, many of them involve biking. The light breeze blowing through my hair as I push through it. The exhilaration and burn of a long ride. The adrenaline pumping through me as I embrace nature. All of these feelings come to me when I think of biking.

I recall my family's 4th of July trip to Burlington, VT. My favorite part of this trip was the bike path that stretched out into Lake Champlain. My family and I took the entire day to go and venture across the trail. One of the things I remember from this trail, besides the incredible view, was how the businesses benefited from it. The place we rented our bikes from was set up right alongside the start of the trail. The ferry company was stationed on the trail giving bikers a boat ride from one place to another. Also, once we made it to the island, many businesses catered towards the bicyclists. This demonstrated how this bike path didn’t only benefit me, but it also benefited the entire community.

I remember visiting my grandparents. I also remember biking on the bike path that stretches through the county they live in. Although, thinking of this trip, I also remember the many times where we struggled to load all of our bikes into the car in order to go for a short family bike ride.

See, the reason we have to haul our bikes to neighboring towns just for a quick morning bike ride is due to the absence of a bike path in Greenwich. If I wanted to go biking here in Greenwich I would have to ride on the street. While this might not sound that bad, the windy narrow roads of Greenwich make it unsafe for a family bike trip.

As for safety, I can’t even bike to town or school due to the hazardous roads. For example, in order to get to school I would have to go on Stanwich Road, and if you have biked in Greenwich you would know Stanwich Road is perilous. Just like many other roads in Greenwich, Stanwich is narrow and does not have a shoulder wide enough to use.

We need a bike path for Greenwich. I know there will be challenges to building a bike path, but the health, economic, and social benefits to the community are worth the effort.

The Beginning

You’ve probably heard of the fear of flying, but have you ever heard of someone who has the fear of biking? While it may seem ridiculous to be afraid of a bike crash, according to reporter Cathleen F. Crowley, the chance of dying in a bike crash is nearly double the chance of dying in a plane crash (Times Union). In Greenwich, we do not have a bike path. This absence is unsafe and inconvenient. Building a bike path will not only increase the safety for bikers, but will also be a good source of transportation and a great source of exercise. Especially now with COVID-19 and the subsequent shutdown, many more people are starting to bike again and as a result bike related accidents are increasing. This bike path will help to keep these bikers safe, and it will do much more. It will help the environment by providing an alternative to cars. Biking is a great way for kids to get around since they can’t drive yet. Additionally, biking is a great form of exercise and is very healthy; and when one starts riding as a child that idea of a healthy lifestyle remains with them into adulthood. A bike path will help benefit and promote the business around it. But most importantly, it's fun. Thus, a bike path would greatly benefit Greenwich. Even though a bike path will be difficult to construct, it would safely bring people outside without endangering the environment, ultimately bettering our community.

A Two Wheeled History

Did you know that the history of bikes goes back about six hundred years (Evelo)? With that amount of time, you would think that Greenwich would have developed an area to actually use those bikes. To put it in perspective, the first automobile was invented in 1885/1886 (Loc). Now, the globe is covered in roads for these vehicles that have only existed for about 150 years. Yet, we don’t have a bike path in Greenwich even though bikes have been around since before the U.S. was even discovered (Voah News).

More recently, especially with COVID, more and more people have been biking. Bike sales are up by 121%, but as a result so are bike related accidents (Greenwich Free Press). Currently, even with 61 million commuters off the road nationally, bike related accidents have increased 11% (Valuepenguin, Greenwich Free Press). This increase is happening with nearly a third of America's commuters not driving. What do you think will happen to these bikers once these commuters return?

Furthermore, Connecticut's other sources of public transportation are insubstantial (e.g., buses, trains) (CT post). Many of the schedules for public transportation are inconsistent (CT post). The commutes are slow and unreliable (CT post). They also lack good connections to the suburbs (CT post). And yet, CT’s special transportation fund spent 1.6 billion dollars last year (CT post)! Meanwhile, bikes are significantly cheaper, and an excellent source of transportation. A bike path in Greenwich is far overdue.

The Smaller Car

While a bike path will be expensive, the benefits outweigh the expenditures. In a study that the state did many years ago, they thought it would cost 6.6 million dollars per mile of bike path (merritparkway). While this may seem expensive, this study is very outdated and there could be better ways to construct a bike path. Additionally, biking creates money for the town, people, and businesses. For example, bikes are a lot less expensive than cars. The average new car cost in 2019 was $36,718 (CNBC). While the average bike cost is about $400 (Bicycle Universe). Now, imagine this giant price gap among tens of thousands of people. If, for example, every adult in Greenwich bought a bike rather than a second car, there would be an additional savings of nearly $2 billion dollars.

A bike path will also benefit the businesses around it (Fairfield Citizen). Just a few days ago, I visited the New Haven bike trail. There were many shops near and along the bike path. In particular, there was one restaurant with an outdoor patio directly on the bike trail. This restaurant was packed, and many of the customers were from the bike trail. There were also many other stores within close proximity of the bike path and easily accessible. Another example of this is the ice cream shop we went to after our bike ride. This shop was just off of the bike path but still easily accessible to bikers. A bike path will also save lots of money on health insurance (MANA). Currently, bike related accidents have dramatically increased (Greenwich Free Press). With a bike path, these accidents will drastically decrease saving everyone money on hospital bills.

As for paying for the bike path, there are many financing options. In town, there is a lot of support behind this bike path and private groups have already raised $50,000 to conduct a new study on the feasibility of a bike path (Greenwich Free Press). That $50,000 is half of the money needed to get the wheels spinning on a bike path. Another way to help pay for the bike path is a grant. Many neighboring towns have had part of their bike path subsidized by the state (Greenwich Free Press). Connecticut offers many grants for building a bike path due to its good nature towards the environment. When it comes to you personally, a bike path can raise your home value. One study showed that homes within ½ a mile of a bike path sell for 11 percent more than those not near a bike path (West Line Village). This bike path will be a great investment in your community and yourself. A bike path will financially benefit the town and residents of Greenwich.

The New Bus

Biking is a great way to get to school, and a great source of transportation for kids who aren’t able to drive yet. Biking to school is also helpful for parents, since, then they don’t have to drive their kids to school. But, if there isn’t a safe place for kids to bike, I don't think their parents will allow them to go (walkbiketoschool).

Biking to school will also make it easier for kids whose parents can’t afford a car. This way, the students can still receive the education they need despite their parents’ struggles. Biking to school also teaches children healthier habits. As a result, they are more likely to continue these habits when they are older (walkbiketoschool). Additionally, if you live within a few miles of your school, buses aren’t provided so biking may be a better alternative. Biking to school will also mentally prepare you for the day. Biking helps your mental health, and will give you a fresh start to the morning (MANA). As a result, you will be more successful and productive throughout the day.

As for the public, there are many people who support the idea of a bike path (Greenwich Free Press). Additionally, multiple editorial pieces have been posted in local newspapers pushing for the town to include a feasibility study for the bike path in their budget.

This feasibility study will be the first step in putting in a bike path. The current study is about 20 years out of date. This study may not work, because the environment and ground could have changed. There could also be better locations for a potential bike path that would alter the prior study. As a result, a new study will help the community better understand how a bike path can benefit them and where the bike path could go.

Biking For All

Biking is proven to have many positive impacts on your physical, mental and emotional health. For physical health, biking is a great source of exercise. Not only does it keep you in shape, but it also can prevent many diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, type two diabetes, and obesity (MANA). These diseases can be fatal and as a result you could even say that biking can help you live a longer and healthier life. A Harvard study concluded that 15 minutes of exercise a day can increase your lifespan by 3 years (Harvard Health). Biking also keeps you active, which releases dopamine (helpguide). This dopamine will encourage your body to bike again creating healthy habits. Habits like these will stick with you for your whole life keeping up your healthy lifestyle. That leads us into the mental benefits of biking. Biking is a great way to clear your head, and also is proven to help prevent anxiety and depression (MANA). Biking helps give you a free feeling, and the dopamine released when you are biking gives you a good feeling. Biking boosts your mood since it pumps blood around your body at a faster rate quickly spreading endorphins and other good substances throughout your body (MensLine). Exercising helps to better your memory, raise your self-esteem, improve your sleep, increase your energy, and make you more resilient (helpguide). These mental benefits can help you have a better and more effective day. A bike path will help your emotional health. This trail will give you a great way to go and see your friends. A bike path will be a great place to play outside with a group of friends. Additionally, it will give kids more freedom and the opportunity to go and hangout, without the burden of finding transportation. As a result, a bike path will make it easier for kids to socialize since they can go for bike rides together or use the bike path as a way to meet somewhere (All Kids Bike). This bike path will increase your physical health and prevent diseases, improve your mindset and mental health, along with increasing childrens' emotional wellness.

One Pedal At A Time

There are many scenarios where a bike path has benefited a town. I personally chose to focus on the New Haven Farmington River Trail since it is in Connecticut with many similarities to Greenwich, and I was able to recently go and analyze it. This trail has been extremely successful over the years and is a great model for our bike path in town. The part of the trail that I biked on started in Hamden, CT and ended in New Haven, CT right outside of Yale. On this trail, one of the first things I noticed was the surprising amount of traffic. Most other trails I have used in the past were almost nearly empty. But, this trail was bustling with people. There were lots of families out for a morning stroll, people exercising, and even commuters. Another thing that surprised me was the infrastructure and development of the trail. Along the trail, there were multiple parking lots for travelers. Every block also has a phone in case of emergencies and they had a bike repair station every few miles. I was impressed by how it appeared as if the rest of the world was built around the bike path, despite its novelty compared to surrounding places. For example, the bike path went through bridges, next to highways, along canals, and by many restaurants and shops. One restaurant in particular catered towards bikers. In the back patio along the bike path, there was a gate where bikers could go right into the restaurant. Many of the people at the restaurant came from the bike trail and some people even used the trail as a way to meet their friends for lunch at the restaurant. This is a great way to socialize especially for people who are isolated and afraid due to the pandemic since a bike path is outside.

We have the possibility to develop something like this or even better in Greenwich. In order to do this though, we would have to find a space big enough to build this bike trail. In Greenwich there may not be enough open space to build a bike trail completely separate from the road. However, we could potentially incorporate a bike lane into one of the roads instead. One obvious potential location for a bike path is the Merritt Parkway. The Merritt is very wide and travels through town. The challenge though with the Merritt is that there are many bridges that would limit the creation of an additional lane. Furthermore, the Merritt moves across town, but a bike path that goes north and south instead of east-west might be preferred. I can personally tell you that the Merritt is heavily traveled and because of the trees that line it, trying to make another line would be really expensive and dangerous. People drive 80 miles an hour plus on that highway and the traffic at rush hour is packed. Taking this into consideration, Stanwich or North Street might be a better road for a bike path. The difficulty with this approach is these streets have narrow shoulders along the side of the road, as well as residential and business buildings along the side of these streets.

As a result, the first step in my action plan will be to interview Greenwich residents. In conducting these interviews I will hope to get an opinion from Greenwich residents (specifically people who live along North Street or Stanwich) and see how they would feel about having a bike lane in front of their house. If the people on one of these streets react positively to this idea, I will propose that street for the feasibility study. Then, I can help to raise money for the feasibility study (half of which has already been raised by current town advocates). This study will show us if there is a possibility of putting a bike lane on that road and how difficult it will be. I do plan to look at and learn from the prior study conducted in Greenwich and see if I can discuss the results with the individuals involved in the prior feasibility study. Finally, depending on the results of my analysis, we could present it to the town and start the wheels turning to building a bike path.

In The End

While the building of a bike path may have some challenges, it will ultimately benefit the community from an economic, education and health perspective, safely improving Greenwich. This bike path has large economic benefits for the community. Specifically, raising home value, reducing medical costs, and bringing business to stores within close proximity of the bike path. A bike path can be beneficial for kids, as they can use it to get to school, or to visit their friends. Lastly, biking is healthy. It will encourage people to get outside and exercise, while preventing bike related accidents. By incorporating a bike lane or path into Greenwich, the town will benefit economically, physically and mentally.

Throughout the course of my research, I learned that a bike path not only gives you that accelerating feeling when you push down on the pedals, but it also has many benefits for our community. Biking goes deeper than just two wheels flying down the road. Biking is an experience that we should all be able to share. Biking should not be taken for granted, but it is something that should be appreciated and encouraged. It is not a new invention, but something we should use wisely. A bike path will provide economic, health and educational benefits to Greenwich

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