Building Bike Culture in Fall River

[caption id="attachment_23607" align="alignright" width="300"] Current End of Quequechan River Rail Trail in Fall River.[/caption]

There are a lot of ways that MassBike helps communities in Massachusetts access safer bicycling. We work through Safe Routes to School, the MassDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Awareness and Enforcement Program, Mass in Motion, and our Bikeable Communities Program, just to name a few.

In Fall River, a lot of these programs are coming together to make this city a better place for bicyclists and active, healthy living. As we mentioned recently, Fall River is one of the communities included in the MassDOT Safety Program. Through this program, MassBike is advising the city how to connect cyclists between an existing bike path on the west side of the city with a proposed one on the east side. This should bring in both recreational riders and commuters.

Recently we met with Julianne Kelly of Mass in Motion (MiM) and Jacqueline L. Schmidt, Senior Transportation Planner with the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SPREDD) to discuss how we can help Fall River continue to grow as a city that attracts existing cyclists and encourages new ones. Through MiM, we can complement the work we will do through the MassDOT Safety Program to

  • Connect the many beautiful parks in Fall River by bike paths or lanes

  • Ensure bike equity by serving all income areas and road users, including recreational riders, bike commuters within the city, and bike commuters through the city

  • Focus on bicycling (along with healthy eating and other MiM priorities) as a key component to active, healthy living

  • Take into account Fall River’s hilly topography when planning for bicyclists

  • Develop bike map routes


It's exciting to see how all of these programs can work together to make the city a safer place to bike. To that end, we also discussed bringing in Safe Routes to School and having infrastructure connect to schools to get more kids biking for transportation.

Kelly, an avid bicyclist and active member of Bike Fall River, the local bicycle committee, has worked tirelessly making bicycling safer and more accessible in Fall River. Lately, she says, the focus has been on building a culture of bicycling. Having all of these programs come together to enhance bicycling for all in the city will help make that happen. From planned multi-use pathways to upcoming rail trail ground breakings, there is already a lot underway, but there are still plenty of opportunities for improving bicyclist safety.

The city already has a lot to offer bicyclists, such as the city’s density, which makes it great for commuters, and the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve, with 14,000 acres of protected land and bikeable roads that make for a beautiful ride. Mass in Motion Fall River is also one of the one of the founding members of the South Coast Bikeway Alliance. Kelly says that the comprehensive focus on bicycling that will make Fall River an even better place to bike is about “pushing ahead and having a lot of support, but also learning as you go along.” That’s why the audits and discussions with engineers are so important to bringing Fall River to the next level.

According to Barbara Jacobson, MassBike’s Program Manager, “Working with Fall River has been great because they are so enthusiastic about biking and walking. They want to use as many of our programs as they can and take a holistic approach to promoting bicycling for all of their residents. They are especially enthusiastic about making sure no one is left out regardless of age, income level, or ability.”

Mass in Motion communities can access MassBike programs at no cost to them. To see if your community is a MiM community, visit their website.

Fall River is a city working with every possible angle to enhance a culture of bicycling. Like Fall River, a lot of cities and towns across Massachusetts are making decisions that positively impacts cyclists. What’s happening in your town? If you would like to share stories about cycling advocacy or infrastructure changes, contact bikeinfo@massbike.org to let us know. Your story might be featured on the MassBike website and newsletter!

Your Support Helps Make Bicyclists Safer

We are on the last mile of our Winter Appeal. Here is one more reminder of how your support helps bicyclists in all communities.

 

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Your Support Helps Build Bike Lanes

Our work in Springfield helped build their first ever bike lane! Give to MassBike to help residents across Massachusetts get infrastructure.

 

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MassBike Gets Festive

[caption id="attachment_23590" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo Courtesy of Henry van den Broek[/caption]

MassBike is pleased to announce that we have been chosen as a beneficiary for Ride Studio Cafe's Ride Conservation Fund during the Rapha Festive 500. Ride Studio Cafe (RSC) in Lexington, a cycling shop with a goal to get more people on bikes and to get cyclists out more, has been participating in the Festive 500 for four years.

Rapha's Festive 500 challenges participants to ride 500km or more between December 24 and December 31. Every year RSC offers gifts, prize drawings, and other motivators to get people riding in December - a month where too much pie and even a little snow can slow down your cycling.

This year RSC makes the Festive 500 part charity, part challenge by giving to MassBike, The New England Mountain Bike Association, and the Lexington Nature Trust. Patria Lanfranchi of Ride Studio Cafe told us "We are really excited to be including MassBike as one of the recipients of our RSC Ride Conservation fund because of all of the notable improvements MassBike makes to the riding that we value so much. Because of MassBike's advocacy, programs, education, training, and events, our roads are a better place to be on a bike, and more people than ever are enjoying time riding in our community."

Ride Studio Cafe will donate

1) 5 percent of all RSC sales of Rapha items throughout December

2) $20 per rider per Festive 500 ride

3) A minimum of $1,000 split between the three chosen beneficiaries no matter what, and possibly more depending on participation

The more you ride, the more you earn for these local bicyclist-friendly organizations, including us! Visit RSC's Festive 500 page to learn more about the rides, the prizes, and the causes they are supporting. You can register online and start earning money for MassBike while you log your December miles.

Keep riding and stay festive!

Your Support Helps Make Kids Safer and Healthier

When you support MassBike, you help kids throughout Massachusetts get on their bikes.



 

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Your Support Helps Advocates

Today is Giving Tuesday. As you plan your year-end giving, remember how you help bike advocates when you give to MassBike. This year during the Bike/Walk Summit, advocates held 22 meetings with elected leaders, and that led to funding for infrastructure. We couldn't hold the Bike/Walk Summit without supporters like you! 

 

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Safety Program Helps Cyclists Across Massachusetts

[caption id="attachment_23476" align="alignright" width="225"] Summer St at Essex St in Salem, part of the assessment for bikeability.[/caption]

MassBike is in its first year of working with the MassDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Awareness and Enforcement Program to make cities and towns across Massachusetts safer for cycling. This initiative is part of the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) developed to reduce serious injuries and fatalities. The program requires collecting and using data about safety on public roads. In Massachusetts, 12 communities have been selected for 13 studies (two in Quincy) based on the rate of bicycling and collisions in each city or town.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, WalkBoston, and MassBike are working together to increase bicyclist and pedestrian safety in these communities. The goal is to reduce injuries and fatalities by 20 percent over five years, and the plan to do so involves three basic elements: enforcement, education/awareness, and preparation.

The enforcement component involves educating local police on the laws and challenges specific to bicyclists and pedestrians. To facilitate this, MassBike’s police training video has been shown to police officers in the 12 communities. With a firm understanding of bicycling laws in Massachusetts as well as best practices, police officers can educate residents about the legal, safest ways to get to their destination, no matter the mode. Walk audits highlight safety issues in each community and will help prepare the communities for infrastructure and other safety changes.

Although the basic plan – enforce, educate, prepare – is the same for every community, how it plays out in practice varies from place to place. Each of the communities has its own set of opportunities, as we discover after each visit.

Some communities see improved bicycling facilities and safety as a way to revitalize a downtown area. Cities where a downtown core has been overlooked in favor of suburban development – such as Brockton, Lynn, Haverhill, and Fall River – want to attract cyclists as part of a plan for economic development. Other places with higher rates of cycling – such as Cambridge, Somerville, Newton, and Watertown – are looking to improve safety for their cyclists and attract even more commuters. Salem and Pittsfield are looking for slightly different help. In Salem, a city with an already robust cycling culture, bringing businesses out in support of increased cycling is a way to help make improvements for bicyclist safety. Pittsfield represents a town just starting out to think about cycling infrastructure, and there are a lot of opportunities there to increase safety and attract more cyclists.

With MassBike and our partners out there on the street, we get to both learn about the challenges of bicyclists in specific communities throughout Massachusetts and help those communities learn how to make cyclists safer on the road. Next year will we will continue to work with these communities, build off of what we learned in 2014, and meet the needs of each city or town to ensure that whoever is bicycling through or around them will have a safe, enjoyable experience.

To see a full list of the towns and cities that are participating in the safety program, visit the MassDOT website.

 

 

Your Support Helps Make Bicyclists Count

Giving Tuesday is coming up in one week, and we are kicking off our winter appeal! To show you how important you are to MassBike's mission to promote a bicycle-friendly environment, we've cycled through the ways your support helps bicyclists. Click the image below to read about how you help make bicyclists count or just click here to donate.



 

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Bicycling and Economic Development in Sharon

Sometimes bicycling safety initiatives come from unexpected places. In Sharon, a town south and west of Boston, MassDOT’s South Coast Rail Technical Assistance grant might help build bike lanes.

[caption id="attachment_23469" align="alignleft" width="300"] Massapoag Ave before repaving.
Photo Courtesy of Christine Madore[/caption]

The grant is part of the South Coast Rail project. According to the website, this project will link South Station with the south coast of Massachusetts by restoring rail transportation along this corridor, which is expected to activate up to half a billion dollars in economic development yearly. Christine Madore, associate planner with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, says that most communities awarded this grant focus on expanding businesses downtown, green infrastructure, and housing. In other words, it is not usual for the grant to focus on the safety of cyclists.

But in Sharon a priority mapping study showed that the attraction of the town for outdoor enthusiasts, especially cyclists, represented a viable economic opportunity. Making the already-popular roads safer and more attractive for cyclists is an important part of the plan.

Initially it was hard to narrow down where in Sharon the study would focus. “The heat map showed that almost every road is biked on,” said Madore. After a close look at the town’s resources, safe biking and walking along one of the most popular routes – the loop around Lake Massapoag – was singled out as a priority.

The town was already planning to re-pave Massapoag Ave, which meant that it was, according to Madore, the most "imminent opportunity to implement on-road bike facilities." Public meetings were held to learn what residents and other users needed and wanted on the road. This process and the Lake Massapoag Bicycling Network website allowed the public to comment on the best way make the lake accessible to cyclists and pedestrians and get more people walking and biking around points of interest in Sharon.

Sharon resident Dana Carne has been an active voice in the process of making Massapoag Ave safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Members of her family are “constantly cycling on [Massapoag Ave], and [she is] extremely concerned about safety in general for pedestrians and cyclists here.” Carne frequently crosses the road with her toddler to access the lake and says crossing the road is dangerous due to the fast cars, wide lanes, lack of sidewalks on the lake side, few crossings, and curves. “After many discussions with the neighbors, we were very worried about the plans for the new road,” Carne said. Many residents who lived near the lake wanted the new road to include bike lanes, which would provide an extra level of safety when crossing the street as well as help cyclists. When the town held public meetings, Carne and her neighbors were there to advocate for the road being rebuilt with all users in mind. The changes on Massapoag Ave have begun, and Carne has become concerned because the road has been narrowed – enough, she thinks, to limit the width of a bike lane.

It will be some time before the changes are complete. Town Engineer Peter O’Cain told us that “a final decision on the striping configuration for the bike trail has not been made yet and may not be until the spring given the weather.” As far as traffic calming on the busy road, O'Cain says the town will include “striping, signage, and the installation of LED speed limit signs that provide real-time speed feedback to motorists."

Madore adds "it is important to note that in order for a meaningful product to come out of this process, bike facility improvements should be considered for the entire bike network, not just focused on a small section." Massapoag Ave is currently a focus because the paving project allowed for nearly immediate changes. Madore also believes that "promoting safe biking around the lake should involve a holistic approach to the streets and roads that were chosen for this project."

To further encourage visitors on two wheels to explore the town, Madore is also recommending using wayfinding signs and maps at strategic locations, especially at the train station and town center, and the next phase of the project will help develop an ecotourism guide. Madore envisions cyclists “getting off the train, using the maps to learn they can ride to the town center for a cup of coffee or lunch, and then enjoying a bike ride around the lake or other parts of town.”

Sharon is a small town where bicycling is a big part of a vision for economic development. Like Sharon, a lot of cities and towns across Massachusetts are making bicyclist-friendly decisions. What’s happening in your town? If you would like to share stories about cycling advocacy or infrastructure changes, contact bikeinfo@massbike.org to let us know. Your story might be featured on the MassBike website and newsletter!

 

Action Alert: Protect Bicycle Commuter Benefits

MassBike joins the League of American Bicyclists in asking you to contact your U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators and request that they co-sponsor The Commuter Parity Act and The Commuter Benefits Equity Act. These bills ensure that ALL commuters - including bicyclists - receive benefits. We need this now because transit benefits fell to $130 a month from $245, the bike benefit stayed at $20, but the parking benefits went up to $250 from $245.

Now there is a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would repeal the bike benefits entirely. We would like you to contact your U.S. Senators and Representatives asking them to


  • Prevent the bicycle commuter benefit from being repealed

  • Increase the bicycle commuter benefit from $20 to $35 a month

  • Make bike share memberships eligible for either the bicycle commuter benefit or the transit benefit, which supports combining biking and transit for your commute




Tell your elected federal officials today that you want them to co-sponsor HR 2288: The Commuter Parity Act and S.1116: The Commuter Benefits Equity Act. These bills will address the current benefit disparities.
HR 2288: The Commuter Parity Act will change the pre-tax transit and parking benefits to $220 a month each, make the bike benefit $35 a month, and include members of bike shares (like Hubway) in the bike benefit.



S.1116: The Commuter Benefits Equity Act is the Senate companion bill that will keep bike benefits and balance the transit and parking benefits.

We want these bills passed during the Lame Duck session and ready for 2015, so please take action today.





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