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Stonington first selectman candidates favor bicycle-friendly plans

STONINGTON — Both candidates for first selectman are willing to encourage bicyclists and pedestrians, according to a survey put out by Bike Stonington, a nonpartisan advocacy group that promotes active modes of transportation.

Incumbent Edward Haberek Jr., a Democrat, and challenger Glee McAnanly, a Republican, both said they walk several miles in an average week, and Haberek said he rides a road bike as well. Both have children that ride bikes, and their families take bicycles or other non-vehicular transportation with them on vacations.

Both have also visited communities that have been labeled bicycle-friendly. Haberek said he’s been to Burlington, Vt., and would like to see its “collaboration with businesses and the promotion of more bike rack locations that they have there” brought to Stonington, he said. McAnanly said she saw a bicycle-friendly community just outside of Des Moines, Iowa, but didn’t know if that environment could be brought to Stonington.

“The challenge with bringing here what they had there was the whole area was built from scratch and designed with walking and bike paths as well as recreational areas in the plan,” she wrote. “We live in such an established community we don’t have the opportunity to have a clean canvas so we need to be more specific and intentional in understanding how to incorporate bikes into the community.”

She also noted that the residents working on the 2014 update to the Plan of Conservation and Development have been asked to take a look at providing opportunities for bikers and walkers.

Both candidates noted trouble spots in town for walkers and bikers, but said the first selectman was not directly responsible for fixing the problems. McAnanly thought downtown Pawcatuck near the railroad underpass was a difficult area, but said it’s up to the police to do something about it.

“Since the roads fall under the responsibility of the Police Department the first step would be to bring it to them to see what their solutions or ideas may be for this,” she wrote.

Haberek said the state roads are a problem for walkers and bikers, and he has been working with the state to add bike lanes and sidewalks on Route 1.

“I have added more sidewalks on Route 1 these last two years,” he noted.

Haberek also wrote that “PZC (the Planning and Zoning Commission) should encourage this in their approvals.”

Town Hall employees who want to bike to work are allowed to use the showers at the adjacent highway garage, Haberek also noted.

When asked what the role of the first selectman is in improving bicycle and pedestrian access in Stonington, McAnanly said the first selectman should share those concerns with the police, and agrees the town needs a comprehensive plan addressing alternate means of transportation. Haberek noted that the Board of Selectmen passed a “Complete the Streets” resolution in 2009, which asks that all new roads in town are built to accommodate bikers and pedestrians.

On the subject of asking the police to establish bicycle patrols in downtown areas, Haberek said he would recommend the idea to the police. McAnanly noted that, per the town charter, the police department does not report to the first selectman’s office.

On the subject of bicycling along Route 27, McAnanly reiterated that the police are responsible for road safety, but the subject of bicycle safety on that road does need to be discussed. “I truly believe in order to make changes we have to get the right people involved in the conversation,” she said. “I don’t believe there is a quick fix but that the conversation should continue.”

Haberek repeated that as a state road, the state was responsible for making it safe.

“I recommend advocating to the state legislature to widen and allow travel,” he wrote. “I would be happy to assist in advocating this.”

Bike Stonington used the surveys to inform its members and other voters where the candidates stand on these issues. “Making the choice easy and safe for people to use a bicycle or to walk for basic transportation is often up to our elected officials, and their commitment to dedicate the funding and resources needed to make our streets safe for everyone,” the survey read. Questions were created by board members of Bike Stonington.

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