Fairfield gets new bike paths, repair stations
FAIRFIELD — The creation of another path and additional repair and pump stations for bicyclists came at a great time, according to a local bike shop owner.
Jeremy Brittain, the owner of a Velofix, a mobile bicycle repair business operating out of Fairfield, said while they cover most of southern Connecticut and part of New York, Fairfield is their busiest ZIP code — and that the coronavirus pandemic has made a massive difference in the bike industry.
“It seems like everybody being confined to their home all of a sudden just needed some way to get out,” Brittain said. “The change that we saw was not only just (the normal spring season rush), it changed every bike shop around the country.”
Brittain said the creation of the bike paths and repair stations in Fairfield came at a time when people were coming back to the hobby.
“The amount of the people riding bikes again because of COVID is tremendous,” Brittain said. “I think it’s wonderful that the town is moving forward with approval for things like that. We would fully support any continued growth, whether it be actual paths or bike lanes throughout the streets.”
First Selectwoman Brenda Kupchick announced the creation of a new bike path, from Lake Mohegan to Penfield Pavillion, as well as construction of more repair stations, on July 9. Earlier created routes run from Southport beach to Ash Creek and from the Fairfield Woods Library to the main library on the corner of Post Road and Old Post Road.
The more than $9,000 project is being paid for by state grants.
The eight repair stations and pumps are located at Southport, Penfield and Jennings Beaches, the Main and Fairfield Woods Library, Riverside Park and the parking lot behind Saint Timothy’s Church off Congress Street.
According to Keith F. Gallinelli, the chairman of the Fairfield Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, the committee has been working to raise awareness about biking as well as improve infrastructure for it.
“Whether it be trying to put in bike routes, or some of those pump stations, that’s something we’ve been working with the health department on,” Gallinelli said. “Most of that has come through (state) grants that they’ve been able to receive.”
Santina Jaronko, a health educator for the department, said $9,328 from the Preventative Health Block Grant was spent on the creation of the new path and stations. She said the health department wants to promote physical activity and make it easy for people to be physically active.
“That’s why we committed these grant funds to improving the built environment,” Jaronko said, “so that people had opportunities to be physically active in a safe manner.”
Jaronko said $15,070 was spent on the Bookside Bike Route as well as bike racks between 2012 and 2014. From 2015 to 2018, the town received an additional $54,191 for the Shoreline Bike Route, the Library to Library Bike Route, bike racks, the bike repair and pump stations and bicycle friendly grates.
“In total, $78,589 was spent on improving the bicycle infrastructure in Fairfield,” she said. “These funds were awarded to create policy and environmental changes in our community.”
While most roads in Fairfield are too narrow to have proper bike lanes, Gallinelli said making bike routes official and posting signage on them makes biking safer. He said the committee worked to identify where people ride bikes most frequently.
“Mill Plain Road was the first one identified,” he said. “We did the shoreline route. We did the library to library. All the routes had to be approved by the police commission. We had support from various people in the neighborhoods.”
Gallinelli said the committee also wanted to create routes that connected the north and south sides of town. Moving forward, he said it would try to continue adding routes in town.
“Again, what we usually try to do is look at where people are already cycling or already walking and running,” Gallinelli said, adding that they would install signage along and painted onto the streets. “The more of that stuff that you have, the more that you can expect that there might be a cyclist or a runner.”
According to Gallinelli, he has seen more and more people use the routes, stations and bike racks as the town has added them.
“The other day, I was riding kind of by the Seagrape (Cafe), and there was two women biking,” he said. “They were stopped and one woman said, ‘My tire is soft. My tire is soft.’ I said, ‘Well, if you just make it right down the beach, we just installed a new pump down there.”’