More than development. Norwalk redevelopment.

More Paradigm-bending Bike News

Lest I be accused of being insensitive to the realities of the context I am working in, let me say at the outset that, indeed, Norwalk is neither Portland, nor Copenhagen, nor anything other than Norwalk.  And that is fine, and as it should be.  But neither is Norwalk immune to the laws of gravity, or of inevitable change.  The law of planning is that change is inevitable; so you can either embrace it deliberately and manage it, or you can be dragged into it kicking and screaming (and, as a result, probably trip and stumble a lot along the way).  When operating under the preferred, former mode, it is good to look around and see what others are doing, even if you don’t intend to emulate it in the same exact manner, or to the same extent.

With that preamble, let me bring to your attention two bits of news from the aforementioned bicycle meccas, merely as an FYI.  First, domestic, i.e., Portland.

You may have heard that, in some cities around the country, on-street parking spaces are being taken to provide parking for bicycles. Such news is almost universally accompanied by stories of angry storekeepers decrying this naive, business-killing enterprise, claiming that it will drive away their customers, or that it already has.  Then the story usually goes on to discuss the public agency in charge of the initiative, and an employee is quoted explaining the good intentions behind it and the procedural steps they dutifully took (to no effect) to notify the affected parties before pulling the trigger.  The story usually reads like a tale of acrimony that anyone would want to steer away from.  But get this: in Portland, the storekeepers are *asking* for bicycle parking facilities in the on-street (car) parking spaces in front of their stores.  That’s right: the businesses themselves are asking for it.  And not just a couple starry-eyed fringe businesses catering to the highly tattooed and caffeinated class either.  According to an article on Streetsblog, the coordinator at the Portland Bureau of Transportation who does intake for such requests has a stack of applications from 75 Portland businesses that want “bike corrals.”  At the current rate of installation (30 in 2009 and 21 in 2010), that’s a two year wait list.  Again, do I see Norwalk eliminating 75 on-street parking spaces for bicycles in the near future?  No, but it’s interesting to note that issues like this one are seen differently in different places…

Next, to Copenhagen.  Which shares some similarities with Norwalk (believe it or not).  Median family income in Norwalk (1999): $68,000.   Median income in Copenhagen: $67,000 (  The area of both Norwalk and Copenhagen is approximately 35 square miles.  One area where they are very, very different: Copenhagen is aiming to have fully 50% of its population bicycle to work by 2025.  According to Wikipedia, they’re already at 36%.  Norwalk’s percentage?  One tenth of one percent.

So, yeah.  Not shooting for Copenhagen here, but Norwalk is somewhat unusual among its peers inside Connecticut in that fully half of its workforce is local, i.e., lives and works in Norwalk.  That’s roughly 20,000 people.   Gets one to thinking…


ADDENDUM 8/18/11

New York City is reportedly developing its first “bike corral” on Smith Street.  More on Streetsblog.