Alex Perez ’17 Connects with Hartford on Two Wheels

Chicago Native Conducts Research, Organizes for a Stronger and Safer Cycling Infrastructure

Hartford, CT, April 13, 2015 – When Alex Perez ’17 arrived at Trinity in the fall of 2013, he brought his bicycle to campus. He knew that Hartford was relatively small and was determined to explore Connecticut’s capital city by bike. During a pre-orientation program that takes students around Hartford by bike, he started his Trinity experience by doing just that. He soon discovered that, while Hartford has a dedicated and tight-knit cycling community, its infrastructure was sorely lacking. So Perez decided to do something about it.

As a first-year student, Perez connected with Cameron Douglass, Thomas McKenna Meredith '48 Postdoctoral Fellow in Environmental Science, to develop a map of Hartford’s cycling infrastructure. What they discovered was a sparse distribution of bike lanes, connected to each other only by unprotected and unsafe stretches of road. Using GIS data from the City of Hartford, Perez and Douglass identified the existing dedicated bike lanes and the safest routes to connect them, patching together the safest possible infrastructure that cyclists can use in Hartford today.

It would have been easy for Perez to publish the map online and hope Hartford cyclists found it helpful, but he didn’t stop there. In the months since they finished their work, Perez has been working to make the map accessible to more people, to develop Hartford’s cycling community, and to lobby policymakers for a safer and more robust cycling infrastructure in the city. He also helped out with a first-year seminar called “Cycling, Sustainability, and the City of Hartford,” leading trips around the city with first-year students.

Alex Perez '17 on Hartford's Founders Bridge.
 Perez has engaged with cyclists throughout Hartford and, most recently, organized a panel discussion at City Hall about Hartford’s cycling infrastructure. During the event, sponsored by Trinity’s human rights and environmental science programs, along with Council President Shawn T. Wooden ’90, Perez discussed the results of the research he has conducted on attitudes about cycling in Hartford: most cyclists don’t feel safe on Hartford’s streets and even more choose not to bike at all. Perez plans to continue working to change that.

With Hartford rapidly evolving – the state’s first rapid transit recently began running and a new minor league baseball stadium is slated to open in April 2016 – Perez sees the opportunity for cycling to play a major role in reinvigorating the city. To that end, he’s working to help cyclists have their voices heard and pushing for protected and high-visibility bike lanes throughout the city.

While the cycling infrastructure leaves room to grow, Perez sees no reason to feel unsafe exploring the city. The only thing it takes for people to feel safe in Hartford, he says, is to get out and see the city. To his classmates or those who haven’t considered exploring Hartford, Perez’s advice is simple: “Just step out.”