The City of Lowell is considering removing bike lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard less than a year after their installation.
Last August, the city installed the bike lanes between Pawtucket Street and Arcand Drive, following recommendations made in the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan. This was an important step towards making Lowell a more accommodating place for residents to ride bikes for transportation and recreation. Lowell blogs Art is the Handmaid of Human Good and Learning Lowell have both written extensively about the project.
Now, Mayor Rodney Elliott and City Councilor Rita Mercier have filed a motion to remove the bike lanes and revert Father Morissette Boulevard to its previous configuration, four lanes for car traffic. This motion will be debated at a City Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday April 29, at 6:30 PM. The meeting will take place at Lowell City Hall at 375 Merrimack Street.
Although we recognize there are concerns with the design of this specific bike lane, this is not a reason to remove it in haste. We believe this a great opportunity to open a dialogue on what the City of Lowell can do to continue improving its roadways, including Father Morissette Boulevard, for all road users.
We strongly encourage Lowell residents to attend tomorrow night's City Council meeting and speak up in favor of bicycle infrastructure. In order to get on the speaking order, you must register to speak on the motion with the City Clerk ahead in advance of the meeting: call 978-674-4161.
Can't make it to the meeting? Before tomorrow afternoon, call the office of Mayor Elliott (978-674-4040) and Councilor Mercier (978-453-2467) and share your thoughts. If you have a relationship with any of your councilors, we recommend contacting them directly as well. Alternatively, use this online contact form to send an electronic message to an individual member, or the entire City Council.
Here are specific points we think will be important to mention either at the meeting, on the phone, or via email:
- Conduct a full review of Father Morissette Boulevard: With less than a year on the ground, it is too soon to deem the bike lanes a failure. Before making any changes to the roadway, study how the bike lanes could be improved and connected to a broader network that will encourage more bicycle use across the city.
- More bike lanes, not less: City Manager Bernie Lynch noted that "More than 2/3 of residents surveyed identified bicycle infrastructure as a key opportunity for improving the City's transportation network." Bike lanes improve roadway safety for all users and encourage new people to try riding a bike. Getting more people to choose active transportation is an important part of reducing obesity and improving public health. Bicycle infrastructure has proven economic benefits, too.
- Form a Lowell Bicycle Committee: build local support and capacity for implementing the bike network recommendations made in the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan.
By taking action now, you can let the Mayor and City Council know that Lowell residents support better infrastructure for biking, and at the same time lay the groundwork for ongoing bicycling improvements in Lowell. If you plan to attend, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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