A few months ago, I took a one mile bike ride in downtown Stamford, in rush hour, with the just-sworn-in mayor, Democrat David Martin. I also took a similar ride with Republican Michael Fedele and with Democrat William Tong.
Within weeks of each other. Not all at the same time.
My goal was this: I wanted to make sure that whoever won the election would be someone who has seen the city from the point of view of a bicycle commuter. I wanted to show them that Stamford, with all of its flaws, is a great city to ride in since the downtown area is mostly flat and there are great restaurants, businesses and other places to go - and the way to encourage more people to get there by bike (and to encourage more young people to live in Stamford) is to make the city safer with bike infrastructure.
I also stressed to the candidates how bike lanes and the like aren't just for the cyclists. They're for the motorists, too. After all, if ten people drive downtown today and just one of them takes a bike tomorrow, traffic will move easier for the other nine. One less car on the road means one less car-length that causes that ugly Kia to 'block the box' on the Cold Spring/Long Ridge intersection. One less car also means one more parking space at the Stamford Transportation Center for a person who really needs it.
The one mile rides were a form of communication between myself and the candidates, but they were also a form of communication between the candidates and the city. Specifically: wanting, planning, and building bicycle infrastructure isn't something owned by one political party and abhorred by another.
It's a rare issue we can all get together on.
Michael Fedele - who didn't know me from Adam - was the first to sign up and take a ride with me, and when we met at the Bedford Street Diner he spoke fondly of cycling and the need to put bike lanes in Stamford where it made sense. Over a month later, during one of his 'Mondays With Mike' videos, he spoke of bike lanes twice in his presentation.
David Martin also spoke very favorably of bicycling and isn't a stranger to the potential bicycle infrastructure can offer a city. He is part of People Friendly Stamford and indicated that if he were elected mayor he'd ride a bike from the Government Center to different nearby appointments.
The whole run-up to the election I thought: no matter who wins, Stamford may finally be electing someone who understands why cycling matters and will show that no matter how you vote, there is something for you to like about building more bike infrastructure in a city.
So David Martin, if you are reading this: I offer congratulations and I thank you again for taking a ride with me. You, as a Democrat, do not own the issue of bicycle infrastructure, but the voters of this city have given you a chance to lead on it - and I hope you do. As I promised, I am not holding you to single foot of a yet-to-exist bike lane in Stamford. However, come re-election, I plan to do my 'Cycling with Candidates' project again. Only this time I am changing the route, so it might be a good idea to lead the charge and put as many bike lanes as possible here in Stamford.
Mike Norris is the founder of DIYBIKING.COM, a site dedicated to casual cycling, random builds, and bike travel. He is a member of the Connecticut Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Board and owns one 3,300 lb. SUV and 10 1/8 bicycles. He lives and works in Stamford and can be reached at email@example.com