Bi­cy­clists get free road­side as­sis­tance in Con­necti­cut city

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - NEWS - By Pat Ea­ton-Robb

HARTFORD, CONN. » Mau­reen Hart was rid­ing home on the Founders Bridge into Hartford when the tire on her bi­cy­cle went flat.

Stranded on her way home from a friend’s house, Hart took ad­van­tage of a pro­gram she’d learned about just days be­fore. While at a jazz con­cert in Bush­nell Park, she and other friends who rode there were ap­proached by a city bi­cy­cle “safety am­bas­sador,” who gave them a phone num­ber to call if they ever needed road­side as­sis­tance.

Hart called that num­ber and soon a bi­cy­cle me­chanic was on hand, putting a new tube in her tire.

“This is such a cool ser­vice,” she said. “I know peo­ple who live in Port­land (Ore­gon) and that’s a re­ally bi­cy­cle-friendly city. They don’t have any­thing like this. This is amaz­ing.”

The free road­side as­sis­tance ini­tia­tive is run by the Hartford Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­trict. It is part of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s Clean and Safe pro­gram, which puts those “safety am­bas­sadors” on down­town streets, giv­ing free as­sis­tance to stranded mo­torists, pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity es­corts and act­ing as an­other set of eyes and ears for po­lice, said Jor­dan Polon, the busi­ness dis­trict’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

The group added bi­cy­cle as­sis­tance in May to en­cour­age bi­cy­cle com­mut­ing in the city and ease some the fears as­so­ci­ated with it, she said.

Since then, Polon said the team has per­formed 42 road­side as­sis­tance calls for bi­cy­cles.

“Our re­search has in­di­cated that Hartford is the first city in the United States of Amer­ica to of­fer a free road­side as­sis­tance pro­gram for bi­cy­cles,” she said.

Ed­die Zayas is one of the dis­trict’s “safety am­bas­sadors.” Like the vast ma­jor­ity of the oth­ers, he’s a city res­i­dent. He wears a flu­o­res­cent yel­low uni­form and an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion badge and pa­trols on his bi­cy­cle down­town. He car­ries with him a two-way ra­dio, a tool kit and three dif­fer­ent sizes of bi­cy­cle tubes.

He looks for bi­cy­clists who need help and takes ser­vice calls.

If a re­pair is too com­pli­cated, he ar­ranges to have the bike taken to Bici Co., the same down­town bi­cy­cle work­shop where the am­bas­sadors re­ceived their train­ing.

“But 95 per­cent of the time it’s a flat tire,” he said. “I can re­pair those in a cou­ple min­utes. Peo­ple love it. They are al­ways try­ing to pay me. I tell them, ‘No, it’s a free ser­vice.’”

The ser­vice comes as the city is work­ing to im­prove com­mut­ing op­tions, said Sandy Fry, bi­cy­cle and pedes­trian co­or­di­na­tor for Hartford’s Depart­ment of De­vel­op­ment Ser­vices.

The city re­cently adopted a “com­plete streets” ini­tia­tive, which means that any fu­ture road pro­ject must in­clude bi­cy­cle lanes and op­tions for pedes­trian traf­fic, such as side­walks. She said in many cases, it will sim­ply in­volve re­strip­ing road­ways. In oth­ers, it will in­volve widen­ing ex­ist­ing roads.

“We’ve got the line in the sand now,” she said. “Every­thing go­ing for­ward is go­ing to ac­com­mo­date all road users, not just ve­hi­cles.”

PAT EA­TON-ROBB - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ed­die Zayas, a safety am­bas­sador for the Hartford Busi­ness Im­prove­ment Dis­trict, shows off some of his bi­cy­cle re­pair tools dur­ing pa­trol of down­town streets on Sept. 2. Zayas is part of a pro­gram that pro­vides free road­side as­sis­tance to bi­cy­clists who break down in Con­necti­cut’s cap­i­tal city

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