Bike Friendly Manchester

The Town of Manchester is home to dozens of robust public parks, greenspaces, and multi-use trails. As use of these greenspaces increases and connections between parks becomes ever more important, many Town offices and community organizations have shifted planning to better foster a more bike-friendly Manchester.

This initiative can be seen throughout the Manchester community, whether it be through the Recreation Division, non-profit programming, or even through the Town’s Board of Directors, who endorsed the application for Manchester to become a National Bike Friendly Community earlier this spring.

“The Town of Manchester Board of Directors has taken a significant step towards enhancing its commitment to sustainable transportation and community well-being by passing a resolution to endorse the application for Manchester to become a National Bike Friendly Community through the League of American Bicyclists,” the Town’s Bike Friendly Manchester page reads. “The ongoing efforts to expand and enhance Manchester’s cycling infrastructure, including the completion of the Charter Oak Greenway and the Hop River Trail extension, demonstrate the town’s dedication to creating safe and accessible pathways for cyclists of all ages and abilities.”

This application is not the culmination of the Town’s work in biking infrastructure; it is simply another step in a decades-long process. This application, “along with the installation of bicycle lockers, tool racks, and informational kiosks throughout the town, contributes to making Manchester a welcoming and bike-friendly community.”

The National Bike Friendly Community application is just one step in creating a more bike-friendly Manchester; programs and community initiatives already exist to foster an ever-growing local biking community. For example, Charter Oak Park,  in addition to housing the OurParks Ambassador program, which aims to increase awareness, knowledge and interests of Manchester’s parks and greenspaces, is also home to the Charter Oak Park Gear & Bike Shop. The Gear & Bike Shop will open starting June 24th and will be open Mondays-Fridays from 5:30 PM – 8:30 PM. When open, residents will be able to rent from a selection of “Yellow Bikes” and scooter options.

To challenge barriers that may otherwise prevent residents from enjoying Manchester’s public greenspaces, programs such as Cycling Without Age have formed to provide equitable access to biking and the outdoors. Cycling Without Age, coordinated by local non-profit UR Community Cares and housed at the Charter Oak Park Gear & Bike Shop, offers e-bike outings to older and disabled adults around Charter Oak Park and the East Coast Greenway.

“This is a program that is part of a global movement striving to improve mental health and change the system of social isolation and loneliness so prevalent in our older and less mobile population,” Michelle Puzzo, Executive Director and co-founder of UR Community Cares, wrote for Better Manchester. “The goals include creating social interaction and intergenerational connections by providing active outdoor experiences for people of all ages and abilities on bikes.”

For more information on Cycling Without Age or to volunteer as a pilot, please contact UR Community Cares at (860)430-4557.

For many, Manchester’s modern-day emphasis on biking is a positive continuation of work from year’s past. Take, for example, Bill O’Neill. O’Neill, a retired engineer and longtime advocate for the East Coast Greenway, said that current initiatives are reflective of decades of past work by the Town of Manchester, work that is crucial for furthering accessibility to trails and greenspaces and improving the health (both physical and mental) of Connecticut residents.

“I am very happy that beginning around 1975, Manchester committed to a bike-friendly community by publishing a schematic multi-use trail layout, negotiated with Connecticut Department of Transportation to modify the I-384 design to accommodate a multi-use trail through Charter Oak Park (East Coast Greenway) and was recognized by the Federal Highway Research Board for this design,” O’Neill said. “Through actions like these…Manchester was chosen as #4 of the top 10 trail towns in the U.S.”

This foundation laid by previous work is crucially important, O’Neill said, especially in a post-pandemic world that has forced countless people to reevaluate their relationship with their outdoors. By prioritizing multi-use trails, those of all interests, ages, and abilities can enjoy the abundant greenspaces in not only Manchester, but in the surrounding communities as well.

“Manchester has continued to grow its bicycle accessibility with the building of the Cheney Rail Trail, adding informational kiosks along its multi-use trails, closing gaps within its tri-town 17-mile trail loop, and providing physical and online maps of its trails,” O’Neill said. “All of these efforts have been appreciated by residents and cyclists traveling through Manchester. Unexpectedly, but not surprisingly, Manchester’s network of multi-use trails provided a very welcome place for people to get outside at a safe distance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and thousands of people took advantage of it.”

In addition to hosting the National Bike Friendly application, the League of American Bicyclists also hosts a variety of bike-related offerings throughout May. With National Ride A Bike Day (Sunday, May 5), Bike to Work Week (May 13-19) and more, the League offers a variety of celebrations to promote cycling and foster a growing sense of community.

“Bike Friendly Week is a celebration and initiative dedicated to promoting cycling as a sustainable and healthy mode of transportation. During this week, communities organize events and activities to encourage biking, raise awareness about cycling safety, and advocate for bike-friendly infrastructure,” the League of American Bicyclists wrote. “Bike Friendly Weeks aims to inspire more people to choose cycling as an available option for commuting, recreation, and everyday transportation.”

This summer, why not skip the drive and hop back onto your bike? Whether through one of the Town’s bike programs, catching a ride through Cycling Without Age or taking a weekend trip down the East Coast Greenway, come enjoy all that Manchester has to offer – all from the seat of a bike.

To view the Manchester Trails Guide, please click here. For further information on Bike Friendly Manchester, please visit the initiative’s Your Voice Matters website.

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