Efforts to encourage bike riding in Cheshire continue

Efforts to encourage bike riding in Cheshire continue

CHESHIRE — Jim Jinks’ aspiration to create a more bike-friendly town appears to be coming closer to fruition.

Bike Cheshire, the nonprofit bike share program Jinks started last year, is on pace to surpass the number of bikes loaned during the first year.

The town budget includes funds for new bicycle route signs. Meanwhile, a dialogue with state transportation officials for similar signs on state roads is ongoing.

Jinks, a town resident, started Bike Cheshire in 2018 with a call for bike donations and a request to local businesses and organizations to store the bikes and loan them during business hours.

The locations were chosen because of their proximity to the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail. A mile-long portion of the trail — from West Main Street to Cornwall Avenue — opened last September, creating a route from New Haven, through
Hamden and Cheshire, to Southington. That trail runs — although not continuous throughout all towns — northward into Massachusetts.

Jinks received 10 shop-quality bikes. He said it was tricky finding businesses to host the bikes that are close to the trail and open on weekends.

Pop’s Pizza, 528 W. Main St., already had a bike rack and was located about 150 feet away from the trail. Jinks approached owner Pete DeBisschop last year about participating.

“It just sounded like a great thing that Jim’s trying to do,” DeBisschop said, adding that it’s a simple project for his business. Staff members collect the forms and issue the bikes and helmets, while Jinks ensures the bikes are maintained.

With the recent completion of the West Main to Cornwall Avenue portion of the trail, DeBisschop said his business has seen an uptick in weekend foot traffic from those biking the trail.

“We’ve been getting a lot more biking customers, who grab a slice of pizza and a soda,” DeBisschop said.

The Cheshire Community YMCA is about a half-mile from the trail. Executive Director Chrissy Cassesse said those who would like to take out a bike from the Y do not need a membership or need to be Cheshire residents.

“They can be anyone from anywhere,” Cassesse said. “They can come down and take out a bike and be on their way. My hope is that people would be out living a healthy life. If we can get people out and active, I think it fits in with our goal of healthy living.”

Would-be riders at either location must make a $10 deposit and fill out a waiver form. Riders get their deposits back when they return the loaned bikes and helmets.

Jinks estimated that in the first year, bikes were shared about 100 times, despite a late start. He thinks last year’s number may be surpassed by Sept. 30, which is the end of the season.

The ride share program is modeled after a similar one in Simsbury.

Jinks brought the program to Cheshire because of his own passion for bike riding and a desire to make the town more “bike-friendly.”

Cheshire Town Manager Sean M. Kimball, who was Simsbury’s finance director when the Simsbury Free Bike program started, expressed support for the Bike Cheshire program.

On Saturday, Aug. 3, from 2 to 6 p.m., Bike Cheshire will hold a mountain bike riding excursion through the woodlands behind Ives Farm,1585 Cheshire St. By paying $10, all of which goes to the Cheshire Land Trust, riders can ride miles of trails behind the farm.

Jinks hopes to do similar rides at other farms before the end of the summer. Jinks also hopes to repeat a bike to school day event held last spring in the upcoming school year.

“We’re trying to encourage and improve biking in Cheshire,” Jinks said.