As the summer kicks off and the weather turns hot, more and more people are looking to get outside and enjoy nature.
In Cheshire, one of the most popular places for a walk amongst the trees, birds, and even the occasional turtle, happens to be the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. Throughout the year, but particularly when the temps rise and the sun shines for most of the day, walkers, bikers, and others take to the trail to enjoy some exercise.
This year, the Cheshire Public Safety Commission is looking to make sure that all users stay as safe as possible.
Back in March, members of the PSC, including chairman Frank Loehmann, Jr., presented the results of a Public Safety Survey that had been administered over the course of two months in the fall of 2021. More than 220 residents responded to the survey, which included questions on everything from traffic concerns to issues with vehicle break-ins.
One of the areas covered by the survey involved residents’ feelings when it comes to the Linear Trail, and the results showed that the vast majority of users — over 85% — responded that they feel safe while walking or biking on the paved route. However, of those who responded that they do not feel comfortable using the trail, 80% cited concerns regarding bicyclists. “If you’re a walker, you might be uncomfortable with bikes coming by,” explained PSC member Gregg Wolff, during a March meeting with the Town Council.
At the time, the idea of distributing bike bells was raised. Loehmann explained to the Council that such bells were common in European countries, such as Holland, and that they had proven very effective. The hope, Loehmann stated, was to “get them to work here in Cheshire.”
Now, just as the summer is beginning in earnest, the PSC is ready to distribute such bells to interested bicyclist.
On Saturday, July 9, a total of 50 bells will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis. The event will begin at 10 a.m., and will last until all the bells have been distributed. It will take place at the Cornwall Avenue crossing of the Linear Trail.
Loehmann explained that the PSC had initially wanted to purchase 100 bells to be given away, but could only secure 50 for this upcoming giveaway. The group hopes to provide more in the near future.
“The little things make a lot of noise,” he stated, with a laugh.
The idea behind the bells is simple. As a biker approaches walkers who have their backs turned, the bell is rung to let those up ahead know that someone is coming close. That will allow the walkers to easily and safely move to one side or the other to accommodate the passing bicyclist and avoid any possibility of a collision.
The hope is to show the public that the bells work, and to ease the concerns of those few who may be hesitant to use the trail because of perceived safety issues.
“We have to educate the public, no question,” said Loehmann. “That’s always a big focus (of the PSC).”
In addition to giving away the bike bells, the Commission has also come up with a list of bike safety etiquette tips. Flyers with the list will be handed out during the bike bell giveaway and the etiquette tips will be posted in other areas of the trail.
The tips are as follows:
Ride Right, Pass Left
• Act like you are traveling on a road. Right for travel, left for passing. And, of course, obey all traffic signals.
• Slow down — and be prepared to stop — when there are others around.
• Be aware of congestion zones.
• Slow to a walking pace and keep your hands on your brakes.
• Make some noise well before passing.
• A bell is more charming (and less startling) than an “on your left!” but either is preferable to a stealth pass.
• Don’t wait to give your warning until you are right next to the walker or runner and startle them. Do give enough time.
• Look around (and signal) before passing or stopping.
Wheels Yield to Heels
• Users of multiuse, non-motorized trails can include slow walkers, fast runners, fast cyclists, slow bicyclists, tricycles, trailers, strollers. Cyclists yield to walkers and runners.
Please Push The Button
• Obey all posted signage and stop at all crossings. Please utilize crossing signal on West Main St. Do not proceed until signaled to do so. It is designed to keep cyclists and pedestrians safe; it wants to be used.
Have You Outgrown Trails?
• Trails have engineering and design limits. The speed limit for bikes is 10 miles per hour. If your speed or style endangers other users, check for alternative routes better suited to your needs. Selecting the right location is safer and more enjoyable for all concerned.