Dear Management of the Shoppes at Farmington Valley,
“You are a total idiot!”
That’s what I was told by an angry member of your security staff on Thursday, Aug. 9, a little after 5 p.m. I’m not sure how she reached that conclusion. I’d only said eight words to her: “I already sent a letter to your manager.” And that was her response. Followed by, “get off your bike or I will call 9-1-1.” Then she drove away. I had just left Barnes & Noble. We’d passed each other in the parking lot as she honked and yelled at me from her Securitas vehicle. I’d waved at her and continued riding. That’s apparently what had set her off.
She probably hadn’t read the letter I was referring to. I sent it by mail to your offices on July 18. In it, I explained that your handling of bicycles is inconsistent and your expectations are unrealistic. I also asked to stop being harassed by your security staff for the lawful and responsible use of a bicycle. I even offered to discuss these issues with you so that you could take steps to make your plaza friendlier to the many customers (and employees) I’ve seen arriving by bike. I haven’t heard back from you.
I usually ride my bike to get anywhere in Canton, and I visit your plaza often. Aug. 9 wasn’t the first time I refused to get off my bike. Over the years, I’ve upheld a shaky compromise with your security staff. I lock my bike only at designated bike racks and I don’t ride on the sidewalk (except to get to the bike racks — an issue we disagree on). This is a verbal understanding I’ve reached with a man identifying himself as the manager, who I’ve encountered twice. I follow the same etiquette as people driving in the plaza and I’m especially courteous to people on foot.
And yet your official policy — as posted on signs — is that cyclists “please refrain.” If you’re going to enforce this policy vehemently, I’ll regretfully go other places. Businesses in Collinsville and Simsbury Center thrive on their two-wheeled visitors. There are also many businesses in Avon and Farmington who don’t seem to mind if I get there by bike. Nowhere else in the Farmington Valley have I ever been told I wasn’t allowed.
Even if I do stay away from your property, however, many more people will continue to arrive by bike. They may not be your preferred customers, but bikes are becoming more popular each year. The town of Canton — along with neighboring Avon and Simsbury — is taking steps to embrace this change. The bike trails leading to your plaza will soon be improved, bringing more potential customers to your doorstep. You may continue to give them a hard time, or you can welcome them and learn ways to handle them safely and respectfully.
My offer still stands to discuss this with you in person. There are many easy-to-fix issues that would make the experience for cyclists better and keep the plaza safe and pleasant for everybody. This must begin with your decision to welcome those cyclists. If you don’t, I hope your tenants and the local bicycle community will be vocal in their opposition.
I’ll be happy to hear from you.