Editorial: ‘Sustainability’ means encouraging walkers and bike riders
Sustainability is a major focus of the new Plan of Conservation and Development that Ridgefield has been working on for two years — led by the Planning and Zoning Commission, backed by the selectmen.
The plan suggests that “the traditional environmental stewardship concept of sustainability” has grown to include concepts like “resource management, social and cultural sustainability, and a variety of related concepts.”
It cites a list of recommendations from the SustainableCT organization that begins with “reduce dependence on fossil fuels” and also includes “reduce activities that negatively impact nature; meet human needs fairly and efficiently … promote activities that have multiple benefits to the community.”
It all sounds nice, but what could the town actually do?
One idea would be to expand the sidewalk system that serves the downtown and village areas. This would make major roadways more welcoming — and less dangerous — to the walkers, joggers, runners and bicycle riders who already use the roads at considerable risk.
A town full of winding wooded roads does not easily lend itself to this goal. But it’s worth exploring how and where this could reasonably be done — without an intrusive road-widening assault on the town’s neighborhoods.
A practical approach would begin with expanding the sidewalk system from the village outward, following major roadways. The obvious candidate to start with is Danbury Road, which already has something close to a coherent connected sidewalk system extending as far out from the village as the Recreation Center. That could be pushed farther out, through less dense areas to reach the more developed cluster around the intersection of Route 35 and Route 7.
Other potential routes that suggest themselves for sidewalk expansion are Route 35 out toward the New York line, Wilton Road farther south, and Barry Avenue out toward West Mountain Road. Branchville Road is another possibility, although the existence of the rail trail — open to pedestrians, though not bicycles — does serve some of the purposes that sidewalks would.
If it’s going to be done — and it should be — designers ought to embrace the idea of a project that would make the route more bicycle-friendly while adding sidewalks for pedestrians.
Ridgefield’s roads already get quite a bit of use from walkers, runners and bicyclists. They’d get more if sidewalks and bike lanes were extended to make non-automotive uses safer and more relaxing.