MassDOT Issues Groundbreaking Directive

MassDOT took another huge step forward in promoting Complete Streets throughout the Commonwealth. A nagging criticism of MassDOT's nationally recognized Project Development and Design Guide, which requires bicycle, pedestrian and transit accommodations in all MassDOT projects, was that it was taking too long to implement. Part of the reason is the multi-year design process for MassDOT projects. Numerous projects that were built in recent years were designed well before the guide was developed and, as a result, retained auto-centric attributes. MassDOT's new Healthy Transportation Policy Directive is a big move to put an end to that pattern.

This problem is something that MassBike has been talking about for a long time. Executive Director David Watson brought this issue up during a meeting with Secretary Davey shortly after the GreenDOT mode shift goals were announced (see below). And I spoke to this issue during the MassDOT Conversations that took place last fall (you can read the comments here), when I said, "What I would like to see is a fresh look taken at projects in the pipeline to see if they still line up with our mode shift goals, land use plans, the Healthy Transportation Compact, and GreenDOT."

The new directive requires that all projects currently in the design phase must be reviewed to make sure that they support the 2030 mode shift goals outlined in the GreenDOT Implementation Plan (tripling the amount of biking, walking and transit use). This means that even those bridge projects designed back in the '80s will have to be dusted off, and a fresh look taken. Furthermore, any project which fails to accommodate bicyclists, pedestrians and transit users must be approved by the Secretary and CEO of Transportation. This is a sharp change from the past, when waivers to not include such facilities were relatively easy get. Now it's our job to make sure that this new directive, like the rest of GreenDOT, actually results in better projects.

Supporting Healthy Communities: Focusing on the Built Environment

Last Thursday, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission hosted a conference and presented "Massachusetts Healthy Community Design Toolkit." Attendees included Mass in Motion coordinators and partners concerned with the built environment (that's us!), public health advocates, regional planning councils and agencies, and city and town planners. PVPC presented their new document, the Healthy Community Design Toolkit. You can read the full toolkit here (PDF), which is a great resource for public health advocates that are interested in improving the built environment

It is well understood that a community benefits from having clean air and water and an active population.  But what about the connection between a community's built environment and health output? There is a growing body of research that links the two. There is much evidence that walkable, bikeable communities have a lower incidence of obesity and obesity-related ailments than their auto-oriented counterparts. Understanding how to make a community "walkable and bikeable" is one of the central tasks of this toolkit.

MassBike was glad to contribute to the development of this toolkit. Executive Director David Watson sits of the Built Environment Community of Practice of the Massachusetts Partnership for Health Promotion and Chronic Disease, the group who commissioned the creation of the toolkit and provided oversight to the project. This toolkit has already proven useful in how we tackle problems in the communities we work in through our Bikeable Communities Program. If you have time, take a look for yourself and see what lessons can be applied in your city or town.

Finally, be sure to check out our Advocacy Toolkit "Shifting Gears" (PDF). Our toolkit complements PVPC's as it details a number of best practices for local advocates and includes an overview of the political process and how to make the case for bicycling.




As part of our Bikeable Communities Program, we offer a number of services, such as Bicycle Planning Assistance to facilitate a strategy for implementing bicycle-related projects, Bikeability Assessments to evaluate a community’s current state of bike-friendliness, and Bicycle Communities Trainings to help local advocates engage with key stakeholders and understand how to improve local infrastructure conditions.

Safe Routes to School: Get Biking! Get Walking!

The school year has just begun and we're getting ready to teach thousands of elementary and middle school children how to ride their bikes more safely. Since 2009, MassBike has been teaching through the Safe Routes to School Program, a federally-funded initiative which promotes healthy transportation alternatives for trips to and from school.

On October 9, 2013 join Massachusetts Safe Routes to School, and schools worldwide in celebration of International Walk/Bike to School Day!

This marks the first big kick-off for the 2013-2014 school year. Check out the infographic to see the program's incredible impact promoting healthy travel initiatives. Help keep our momentum going!


Since beginning our youth education outreach, we've brought our school-age workshops to schools in Worcester, Cambridge, Cohasset, Franklin, Pittsfield, Framingham and dozens of communities around the state.

With your help, our expert instructors could reach even more children (including yours!) on the importance of bicycle maintenance, helmet use and road safety. Our instructors tailor the message to age-level to ensure that these critical safety lessons are most appropriate, effective and empowering.

The classes are funded through the state's Safe Routes to School Program, and free to the participating schools. To schedule a class, send an email to Education@MassBike.org and we can get the ball rolling.

New, More Flexible Design Guidelines for Pedestrians and Bicyclists

Providing infrastructure for bicycles is a necessary step when it comes to improving a bicyclists' comfort level and overall feeling of safety on the road. For many, traveling along a separated bike path provides a more pleasant experience than bicycling on a road with fast-moving cars and a narrow shoulder.

Earlier this month, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced support for two guidelines, which can help communities, especially more urban ones, plan and design safe and convenient facilities for those who walk and/or bike.

In the recent memorandum, the FHWA encourages its division throughout the nation to consider relying upon The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Bikeway Design Guide and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Designing Urban Walkable Thoroughfares.

These guides build upon The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) "green book", which is the primary national resources for planning, designing, and operating bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

NACTO, which is an association of 15 major US cities (including Boston) formed to exchange transportation ideas, insights, and practices and cooperatively approach national transportation issues,  has published two editions of its bikeway design guide with with another edition set to be released on September 23, 2013. Unlike AASHTO's more traditional guide, NACTO's include protected bicycle lanes and other innovative best practices.

The FHWA's support for the NACTO guidelines gives cities and states an additional toolkit to help them provide safe and effective infrastructure that better serve pedestrians and bicyclists. This is an exciting step forward for Massachusetts' quickly expanding bicycling community!

As part of MassBike's Bikeable Communities Program, our Bikeable Communities Training covers these design guidelines, including the innovative NACTO design guide, and how to advocate for bicycle-specific infrastructure projects in a local community. Email services@massbike.org for any questions you may have or to request a training in your community.

Springfield Considers City's First Bike Lanes

Big news from Springfield, Massachusetts' third largest city, and the fourth largest in New England: it's looking at striping its first continuous bike lanes. The project is located on Plumtree Road, in the city's East Forest Park neighborhood.

Currently, Plumtree Road is a route for bicyclists (and drivers, and walkers) traveling from Springfield College to 16 Acres Square, a commercial district with restaurants and shopping.

The City of Springfield and MassBike are holding a public meeting to discuss this project on Tuesday, September 24th at 7 PM (more on that below). If you live in Springfield, please come out to express your support for this exciting improvement.

This bike lane is a great opportunity not only for bicyclists, but also for the residents along Plumtree Road. Right now, there are no sidewalks on much of the roadway and wider-than-necessary travel lanes. This forces pedestrians into the street, and the lane widths encourage speeding—making for a dangerous mix. Bike lanes will not only help bicyclists by providing dedicated lane space, but also have the documented effect of slowing down traffic. This is an all-around win—safer conditions for all users of the road—just by changing the striping pattern of the street.

The public meeting is a chance for Plumtree Road residents, along with any other community members, to ask any questions about the project. Here are the details:

Where: Concepcion Community Center, 1188 Parker Street, Springfield
Date: Tuesday, 9/24
Time: 7:00 PM

If you have any questions ahead of time, feel free to contact Jimmy@MassBike.org.

This work has been made possible through MassBike's involvement in Live Well Springfield, a coalition of community organizations, including Partners for a Healthier Community, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and the City of Springfield. This project is a direct result of that work.

Register Today For Upcoming Bikeable Communities Training In Somerville

Do you ride in Somerville and want to make our roads safer for biking, but don't know where to start? Or are you already involved in local projects, but want to become more effective? Sign up today for the two-part Bikeable Communities Training, sponsored by Shape Up Somerville and Mass in Motion.

This is a great opportunity for the concerned, engaged citizen who wants to create changes to better bicycling infrastructure and safety in Somerville. (Don't worry, you don't have to participate in Part I to participate in Part II.)


Part I: Plugging Into The Process


Saturday, October 26th from 2:00 - 4:30 PM Somerville Police Dept. 220 Washington Street, Somerville, MA 02143

This training will focus on the decision making process in how streets are built and maintained, and explains how to most effectively engage in that process as a local resident. Participants will walk away with a list of "do's" and "don'ts" when getting involved in local projects.


 

Part II: Policies, Programs, and Project Solutions


Wednesday, October 30th from 6:30 - 8:30 PM Brooklyn Boulders Somerville 12A Tyler Street, Somerville, MA 02143

The Part II training will focus on specific policies, programs and infrastructure projects that support safer, more comfortable bicycling. You are not required to attend the “Part I” training to participate. Participants will walk away with a checklist of infrastructure, programs and policies that support safer bicycling.


RSVP for Part I and Part II at Services@MassBike.org. For more information or if you have any questions, feel free to contact the same email address.




Bicycling Communities Training is just one service of our Bikeable Communities Program. We also provide Bicycle Planning Assistance to facilitate a strategy for implementing bicycle-related projects, and Bikeability Assessments to evaluate a community’s current state of bike-friendliness.

Making The Bicycling Case In Holyoke

MassBike has been working in Holyoke for the past several months to assemble a Bicycling Needs Assessment that addresses key issues in the city. In partnership with Mass in Motion, key city staff, and the Holyoke Urban Bike Shop, we sent out a survey and held an open house to gain input on what the key barriers and priorities are as seen by city residents. After all, it's the city residents who ultimately have to travel on these roads to work, school, stores and parks - their opinions are the most important.

Holyoke is a mid-sized city on the Connecticut River in the Pioneer Valley. It was hit hard, as were many of our mid-sized cities, by the loss of manufacturing since the 1970s. After these decades of struggling, Holyoke has aggressively positioned itself for new growth in the knowledge economy. Thanks to a hydro-electric dam providing cheap, clean power, they recently opened the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, which is a $95 million data center for five of the most research-intensive universities in the state. However, in order to sustain success in the knowledge economy, our report argues that quality of life, and quality of place, matter. Any measure of livability necessarily includes a variety of transportation options, and bicycling must be included.

You can read the full report here. In general, the recommendations to the city were:

  • Foster the development of a more robust bicycle constituency in Holyoke through the promotion of bicycle-related events and programs, with the ultimate goal of establishing a Bicycle Advisory Committee.

  • Develop a plan to optimize underutilized road space (e.g. long stretches of empty on-street parking). The long-term goal should be a bicycle network plan or bicycle master plan.

  • In partnership with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, study the feasibility of connecting Holyoke to other regional recreational trails. There was an especially strong desire for an off-road connection to the Manhan Rail Trail.


We all hope that this report can provide a foundation for discussions on how to improve bicycling in Holyoke. In particular, we hope that local advocates and staff can engage elected officials to carry out the recommendations. We also plan to continue working with the city and residents as much as possible to see better biking in Holyoke.




Bicycling Needs Assessments are just one service of our Bikeable Communities Program. We also provide Bicycle Planning Assistance to facilitate a strategy for implementing bicycle-related projects, Bicycle Communities Trainings to help local advocates engage with key stakeholders and understand how to improve local infrastructure conditions, and Bikeability Assessments to evaluate a community's current state of bike-friendliness.

Revisiting the Question, How Bikeable is Boston?

What makes for a bikeable street, neighborhood, and community? There are many factors, and we've been busy collecting data and observations for a number of Boston neighborhoods to revisit the findings from our very first Bikeability Assessment.

In 2009, MassBike completed a Bikeability Assessment of key street segments in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, East Boston, Mattapan, and Roxbury. Thanks to the generous support of the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, and in partnership with East Boston's NOAH (Neighborhood of Affordable Housing, Inc.), this report determined what was working and not working for current and "would be" bicyclists. Four years later, we have the opportunity to take a look at the same areas to assess how much progress has been made.

In 2009, we gave a number of overall recommendations, which stressed the importance of bike network connectivity, access to multi-modal transportation, and infrastructure that will accommodate bicyclists through tricky intersections. Bicycling from neighborhood to neighborhood can be a challenge, especially when there is a highway or railroad track separating one from another. Providing a way to overcome these types of barriers to bicycling is critical. This updated assessment is our opportunity to take a look at how far we've come, and how far we have to go.




Bikeability Assessments are just one service of our Bikeable Communities Program. We also provide Bicycle Planning Assistance to facilitate a strategy for implementing bicycle-related projects and bicycle communities trainings to help local advocates engage with key stakeholders and understand how to improve local infrastructure conditions.

The 2013 Connecticut Valley Century COVAC Benefit Bike Ride

The COVAC 2013 is a fun but challenging bicycle ride through Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont offering four routes: 100, 75, 50 or 25 miles.

Enjoy the scenic beauty of the Connecticut River Valley and help us help others in need!

The rides are relatively flat and follow rolling terrain on the West bank of the Connecticut River to Brattleboro, Vermont, crossing into New Hampshire and returning following the East bank of the Connecticut River through picturesque farmland and passing a waterfall before heading back to Hatfield, Mass. [detail...]

The Connecticut Valley Century was founded in 1985 by the Franklin-Hampshire-Freewheelers Cycling Club. Since 2007, the COVAC ride has been hosted by the Rotary Club of Amherst to promote cycling in the Connecticut Valley and to raise funds for the Good Works Fund.

This is an all volunteer event. Net proceeds of the event will, through the Amherst Rotary Good Works Fund, support a broad range of humanitarian, intercultural, and educational programs and activities, including local high school scholarships and charitable organizations throughout Hampshire County.

A portion of this year’s proceeds will also benefit MassBike.

 

Recapping The Summer Century & Family Fun Fest: We Had A Blast!



A huge thank you goes out to all the supporters, volunteers and riders of our Summer Century & Family Fun Fest that was held on Saturday, July 27th! This brand-new edition of our classic summer cycling celebration brought together riders to experience some of the Commonwealth's unique and challenging roads.

With great weather, a beautiful venue in Acton (NARA Park), incredible food from Redbones, and refreshing beer from Sam Adams, it was an overall wonderful day for cycling. We even received some great feedback from our riders!

The metric century route was amazing -- good hills, fun down hills, beautiful roads. NARA park was a great venue -- we enjoyed a post-ride swim. Overall, a really fantastic event.



I enjoyed everything about this event - the ride was beautiful and somewhat challenging; the event as a whole was very well planned and organized and administered; support provided was tremendous, and there was also much support among our group of riders. Thank you so much for a terrific day!

I like that we were taken on back roads so that there weren't a lot of cars to be worried about and that it was mostly in the shade. The volunteers were amazing - very helpful and supportive and clearly available if anything was needed. It was an amazingly well organized event all in all.



I absolutely loved the route - it was a beautiful, fun and challenging ride. The rest-stop folks (I am assuming volunteers) were kind, helpful and supportive.

Nice people, great ride, beautiful scenery, super weather - the ingredients for a great day.

Thank you to all who attended and volunteered! All the proceeds from the event support MassBike's programs that include bicycle safety education and trainings to build local capacity like Safe Routes to School and Bikeable Communities Programs. We are already looking forward to next year's edition to provide an even better event. If you just can't wait until next year's Summer Century, check out our Berkshires to Boston Bicycle Tour coming up at the end of September!



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