New bike lane in Milford is first of its kind in the state

The East Coast Greenway Alliance teamed up with Milford to create the state's first contraflow bike lane, which was officially opened Saturday at Wilcox Park.
Contraflow bicycle lanes are designed to allow bicyclists to ride in the opposite direction of motor vehicle traffic. They convert a one-way traffic street into a two-way street: one direction for motor vehicles and bikes, and the other for bikes only, according to the East Coast Greenway website.
“The concept [for the Milford project] was born when our Trail Coordinator Eric Weis met with Connecticut DOT's Kate Rattan and Milford Planner David Sulkis,” the East Coast website states. “The meeting's focal point was on Shipyard Lane, a lightly used, one-way street only accessible to East Coast Greenway northbound users. Milford Mayor Ben Blake gave the project a green light this spring.”
The East Coast Greenway Alliance coordinated with the Milford Public Works Department, Connecticut DOT, and the Milford Planning Department to design the short stretch of roadway as a contraflow bike lane. The lane connects north and southbound travelers through the quarter mile stretch bounded by Harborside Drive and the pedestrian bridge spanning the harbor.
“This is the very first contraflow bike lane in the state of Connecticut,” said Molly Henry, New England coordinator for East Coast Greenway, during Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony. “So you guys are setting the bar and hopefully this will become a model that folks can use throughout Connecticut.”
A Milford resident who wants to remain anonymous provided funds to improve bicycling in the city after he was hit by a car while biking on the road in Milford.
“He was not badly hurt, thank goodness,” according to the Greenway website.
He gave the East Coast Greenway $4,000, which was used to purchase bicycle lane and shared-lane marking stencils, traffic signs, paint and to cover staff time to oversee the construction of the new bike lane.
The East Coast Greenway trail will be one of the nation’s longest biking trails when it is complete, stretching 2,900 miles from Calais, Maine to Key West, Florida. Today, 30% of the East Coast Greenway is complete.
Of the 2,900 miles of trail, approximately 11 miles run through Milford’s coastline and city center.
The project that was unveiled this past weekend enhances 0.2 miles of that 11-mile route.
A number of people who worked on the project attended Saturday’s ribbon cutting ceremony, from Milford’s Economic Development Director Julie Nash, who took a lead role in the effort, to Public Works Director Chris Saley, whose department widened the road and installed a sidewalk along the trail.
Members of the Milford Earth Day Committee were on hand too. The group rallied people and resources to landscape the area around the new trail, using about $3,600 in donations from the Devon Rotary, Iroquois Pipeline, Dr. Walter Russo, nearby residents, Gary Montano and Grillo Services.
The Milford Garden Club and Milford Trees contributed to the landscaping, as did the Milford Environmental Protection Initiative, and local Girl and Boy Scouts helped with the plantings and sprucing up on a recent weekend, according to Ed Abbazia and Vincent Piselli of Milford Earth Day.
Wilcox Park is a largely wooded area located behind the Milford Public Library. Open Space Manager Steve Johnson said the 12-acre parcel was donated to the city in 1909 by Clark Wilcox.
Bruce Donald, chairman of the Connecticut Greenways Council, was one of the speakers Saturday. He congratulated Milford for being the first city in Connecticut to create a contraflow bike lane.
“Milford has just become one of the most progressive communities in the state,” Donald said.
He explained that old laws that hindered bike safety changes are slowly being eliminated, and a new bike safety bill — Senate Bill 502 — is expected to get rid of some of the last constraints.
Board of Alderman Chairman Philip Vetro also spoke and noted recent efforts to encourage biking in Milford.
“We work very hard to make walking and bike riding in Milford a natural thing to do,” Vetro said. “Mayor Ben Blake put up 12 bike racks around the city, so he’s encouraging people to use their bikes.”
Watch video from the event below: