National Bike Summit and the Vision Zero Cities Conference Recaps

By Barbara Jacobson and Lauren LeClaire

It has been a busy time winding up towards the spring! Right after moving into a new office space, the MassBike staff left for the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC for a series of speakers and panels on a variety of topics followed by a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill. After three days at the National Bike Summit, Programs Director Barbara Jacobson continued on to New York to represent MassBike at the Vision Zero Conference.

[caption id="attachment_24506" align="alignleft" width="300"] International Women's Day was celebrated by the delegation being made up mostly of women![/caption]

This year the delegation from Massachusetts included representation from MassBike, Boston Cyclists Union, Mattapan Food and Fitness, and Zagster. The group represented the diversity of the state of Massachusetts with local advocates, community-based groups, retail, and corporate representation, all focused on a common goal to improve bicycling in the state using their own unique strategies. The summit overlaps International Women’s Day, which bolstered excitement as the majority of the delegation members are women! As bicycling for transportation continues to become more ingrained in culture, the users will become more diverse. Massachusetts is proud to showcase the diversity of voices at the summit.

Programs Director, Barbara Jacobson & Becca Wolfson, Interim Executive Director of the Boston Cyclists Union participated on a panel about Vision Zero initiatives in cities throughout the United States. Vision Zero is a policy that originally started in Sweden and is focused on eliminating traffic crashes and fatalities to zero because zero is the only acceptable number for such incidences. Many cities throughout the United States have adopted Vision Zero policies such as New York, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and Boston.

[caption id="attachment_24507" align="alignleft" width="300"] Becca and Barbara on the Vision Zero panel.[/caption]

The panel included Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Nick Jackson from Toole Design Group, Sam Zimbabwe, District Department of Transportation based in Washington, DC and was moderated by Leah Shahum Director, Vision Zero Network.

Barbara and Becca presented on the formation of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition, a collective effort among advocacy groups and individuals to educate, inform and support the adoption and follow-through of Vision Zero policies and road designs throughout the Commonwealth. The panel served as a catalyst for engaging bike advocates within a broader context of improving the roadways for all users. In turn the Vision Zero strategy can help to strengthen the messaging bike advocates have been saying for years. By coupling Vision Zero with redesigning roadways for people it helps to create consensus that bike infrastructure is beneficial to all users.

[caption id="attachment_24504" align="alignright" width="300"] MA delegation meeting with Senator Markey.[/caption]

Following two days of inspirational speakers and panels, the delegation took to the hill! The delegation was sent to meet with Massachusetts legislators to discuss key bills that the League of American Bicyclists had asked us to champion. Our first ask was to remind them that there is specific funding available (402/405 funding) for educational purposes and to ensure this funding is utilized. Second was the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) which would make it easier for all Americans to be physically active. It would allow individuals and families to use pre-tax dollars for physical fitness activities through flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). This means bicycles, cycling education classes, gym memberships, or school athletic fees could be paid for with pre-tax dollars. The MA legislators and their staff that the delegation met with were all extremely receptive! MassBike will follow up with each office over the coming weeks to ensure that these asks are followed through on.

[caption id="attachment_24503" align="alignright" width="300"] Meeting with Senator Warren.[/caption]

A fun highlight from the summit, we were lucky to be joined by the winner of the Saris poster contest, as the winner was Caleb from Somerville! Caleb came to the lobby day meetings and was honored at Representative Capuano's office. Caleb's winning design now resides on Capitol Hill! The delegation was thrilled to have him as part of the process. Thanks Caleb and your family for coming along!

[caption id="attachment_24511" align="alignleft" width="300"] Caleb and his winning poster for the Saris contest.[/caption]

The day after lobby day at the National Bike Summit, it was off to the Vision Zero Cities Conference in New York City. Highlights included best practices and projects from former New York City’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, and the release of her book, Street Fight. There were compelling testimonies of strength and motivation to improve road conditions from Families for Safe Streets co-founders Amy and Hsi-Pei Liao who channeled their grief from losing their three year old daughter, Allison when she was hit and killed while crossing the street. There was representation form the masked Peatónito, the ‘Superhero of the Streets’, from Mexico City. He uses humor to bring awareness to the importance of crosswalks and preventing crashes and fatalities from happening. Here is a video from his time in New York City.

Additionally, Ydanis Rodriguez, Councilman and the chair of the NYC Committee on Transportation announced Car Free NYC. The event will take place on Earth Day, April 22nd. This event will create the opportunity for people to use the streets instead of cars.

Your Town Tuesdays: Sudbury

Sudbury at a Crossroads

By RICHARD FRIES, Executive Director

SUDBURY, Mass. (March 8, 2016) - The statewide online trail map developed by David Loutzenheiser of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council is perhaps the greatest resource available to any Massachusetts bike advocate. Pore over those lines and one quickly beholds  the enormous opportunities of the next decade in Massachusetts.

Green dotted lines show promise where trails are proposed. But of all the locations on that map, one particular nexus stands out: Sudbury.  And the next month will see critical meetings and hearings regarding the future of bike paths in Boston’s MetroWest region.

In Sudbury there are not one but two dotted green lines on that MAPC map. Currently lacking any off-road trails as of this writing, Sudbury could host the nexus of both the Bruce Freeman Trail, running through 10 communities from Lowell to Milford, and the MassCentral Rail Trail, an ambitious 104-mile path connecting Boston to Northampton.

“The Bruce Freeman has been in the process for 20 years,” explained Loutzenheiser. “That trail is moving south in the next couple of years.”

The first phase of the Bruce Freeman is complete. Nearly seven miles of trail is open from Lowell to Westford. Construction is under way in Acton, Westford and Carlisle. There is solid progress on the design of a bridge over the Concord River, the largest geological impediment to the project.  

Riders who enjoy Sudbury’s country roads and farm stands may not recognize the demand for such a facility. But the impacts of those routes, with an intersection of two paths, could re-imagine transportation and recreation in Sudbury. This sleepy suburb could enjoy enormous economic benefits without the traffic, noise and confusion typically associated with development. Both of those paths offer connection points with commuter rail lines running from Boston to Worcester and Fitchburg. Loutzenheiser notes that the Bruce Freeman, running north and south, will have more recreational character while the Central Mass, running east and west, would have more of a transportation focus, connect users to several commuter rail stations and ultimately a route into Boston.

In some ways, the Bruce Freeman trail has been the hare with the ambitious Central Mass Rail Trail playing the part of the tortoise. “I would not say it is the tortoise,” said Loutzenheiser. “They have the links but not the resources. They are trying to push the ball forward to build the trail. (Department of Conservation and Recreation) has the 99 year lease for the 26 miles from Waltham to Berlin.”

But Sudbury has presented some of the more difficult political impediments.  “It’s part of the greening of things that rail trails were seen as a newfangled thing in New England 15 years ago,” explained Craig Della Penna, the former Rails to Trails Conservancy rep in New England. A Realtor, Della Penna is the first real estate agent in the U.S. that focuses on properties along rail trails. “There were about a dozen rail-trail wars where projects were voted down. In Sudbury there was a pretty sophisticated opposition. They played hardball and that caused some of the more well known environmental organizations that had been supportive to fade away into the background.”

The significance of the Mass Central cannot be overstated. At its eastern tip it would connect with the Minuteman and Somerville networks at the Alewife MBTA station. To the west it would intersect with not only the Bruce Freeman, but also the Assabet River trail in Hudson, the Ware River Trail in Barre, and then at its Western tip connect to the Norwottuck system that links Amherst to Northampton. Other trails to the south could ultimately link to the Farmington system in Connecticut. Visionaries see a bike rider rolling from Boston to New Haven without once being on a roadway.

Recent developments along the Central Mass project may see that tortoise - at least in Sudbury - overtake the hare. Della Penna credits Dan Driscoll, the DCR’s director of recreation facilities planning, for working for five years to secure a 99-year lease from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to use the corridor for the Central Mass Rail Trail. That represents the key 26-mile section between Waltham and Berlin.  

But like most bike facilities, the cost of the work - grading, drainage, bridgework - has proven prohibitive in a society that gives little priority to such projects. That may change.

Enter Eversource  

Every New Englander can recall the ferocious ice storms of December, 2008, that left more than a million residents - many in this region - without power for weeks. Utility companies were unable to service those powerlines crippled by falling trees.

Eversource, which provides electricity for most of the region, is overhauling the entire grid to improve access to all of its power lines. Their contractor’s recent report shone a light on one key corridor: the Central Mass  Rail Trail.

“Independent Systems Operators of New England is tasked with increasing the reliability of electric power throughout New England,” explained Dick Williamson, the Sudbury representative on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Committee. Eversource’s contractor “ISO has identified a problem with electrical power to Hudson.  ISO has identified the need for a line from Eversource's Sudbury substation west to Hudson.  Several routes have been studied, but one route stands out, namely a transmission line along the Mass Central right of way.  The substation sits alongside the right of way.”

“It provides an opportunity to build sections of the trail - at least the subsurface - but also may pose a significant impact to the rail-bed in terms of tree clearance and wildlife habitat,” said Loutzenheiser. “Each town will need to evaluate their best course of action.”



There are issues. The contractor is recommending a clear-cut 82-foot wide corridor, which has fueled opposition from abutters. Many wish to see the lines buried, which would only require a 35-foot wide corridor.  But that increases the cost from $50 million to $100 million. And this all gets tacked on to people’s electric bills, spurring some arguments to do nothing at all.

Curiously, this has not sparked any reaction against the bike path specifically to date.

“There is a lot of support in general in the towns,” explained Loutzenheiser, noting communities that questioned such trails 15 years ago have come to appreciate them as an asset.  Through repeated use of the corridors simply as footpaths in towns along the Mass Central route the corridor has been set aside to serve as a greenway.

Della Penna is equally optimistic. A soft-spoken bear of a man, Della Penna has regularly hosted dinner parties with the most strident and hysterical opponents of rail trails, carefully noting all of their issues. He also keeps attuned to any abutting properties that come on the market and finds pro-path buyers.

He spoke publicly last week on the project in his hometown of Florence, a neighborhood of Northampton where an open section of Mass Central Rail Trail passes less than 10 feet from his house. “Right now we have 85 miles of the 104 in the corridor in a protected status,” said Della Penna, noting the state will be formally developing an analysis of the few gaps left.  In fact there are more than 200 projects within 100 miles of Northampton. What is being developed here is the densest network of paths in the nation right where people live, work, play, and go to school.

But this massive piece between Waltham and Berlin could be fast tracked with Eversource providing key sub-surface work on the corridor.

“The final decision on the project will be made by the state level Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB),” explained Williamson. “There will be a lot of lobbying between now and the EFSB submission, tentatively scheduled for late spring.”

Want to Know More?

There have been several meetings and hearings. To look at the Eversource presentation made to the Sudbury Board of Selectmen last month, click here: Eversource Sudbury Selectmen Presentation

Additionally there will be an update on the status of the Central Mass Rail Trail on Thursday, April 7, at 9:30 a.m. at the Sudbury Town Hall.

 

Update: This Weekend in Carlisle

Yesterday we posted a copy of an email sent to the Carlisle Chief of Police, in response to complaints we received from numerous riders who were pulled over this past weekend. Please see the initial post here.

Riders OK to Ride Two Abreast in Carlisle

Police Chief Dismisses Existence of Single-File Ordinance

By RICHARD FRIES, Executive Director

CARLISLE, Mass. (Feb. 24, 2016) - During a one-day crusade by an apparent rogue police officer last Sunday, dozens of riders were pulled over and informed that the Town of Carlisle had banned cycling two abreast. Even when riders outlined state law, the officer politely informed all that a new town ordinance had superseded state law.  

When asked about the situation over the weekend Carlisle Police Chief John C. Fisher stated clearly that the town did not have any ordinance that varied from state law regarding bicycles riding two abreast. He did not explain why the officer took such actions but he did clarify that his department has no policy instructing officers to restrict the actions of bicyclists riding lawfully. He promise to investigate the actions taken over the weekend.

"We don't want anybody thinking badly about Carlisle," said Chief Fisher.

The officer in question was not identified. No statement was made regarding any disciplinary action or his current standing with the Carlisle Police Department.   

Located about 17 miles northwest of Boston, Carlisle is a rural, bedroom community. With the Minuteman Bikeway corridor ending in neighboring Bedford, Carlisle hosts a network of country roads popular with touring clubs, racing teams and charity groups. Although large groups of cyclists do gather along such routes as 225 and occasionally delay traffic, there are almost no traffic lights and the main roads are relatively wide. Cars are occasionally delayed briefly on the narrow winding roadways.  

MassBike has offered to host a forum with Carlisle residents, police, and officials to discuss ways of improving understand between all parties. There has been no response to that offer.

We advise all cyclists, motorists, and law enforcement to be well educated on the rules of the road. You can learn about some of the basics that you need to know through our safety video here.

 

 

Your Town Tuesday: Everett

By RICHARD FRIES

Executive Director

EVERETT, Mass. (Feb. 22, 2016) - Wearing hard hats and reflective vests, the group of engineers, firefighters, transportation experts and a few bike advocates stood along the sidewalk of Everett’s Broadway in plain view of Boston’s skyline. Indeed the group stood right on the Boston city line.  

Voices were raised to overcome the din of diesel engines growling south on Route 99.  Amid the slush of February, this group looked more like a stranding than the vanguard of 21st Century design. And yet they seemed hopeful.

Why?

Because Everett is on the cusp of a multi-modal transportation overhaul.

“The corridor has received unprecedented levels of analysis and scrutiny by planners, traffic engineers and developers in the past three years,” said Jay Monty, the first transportation planner ever hired by this city founded in 1630. He has been on the job just one year.  “I can’t count the number of times I’ve brought ideas to the table that would get laughed out of the room in other communities, but here, folks are willing to give them a try. Already we’re talking about true cycle tracks that would connect downtown Everett to Medford - and the T-Station at Wellington - that could be a reality within the next two years.”

A review of a map, as always, is revelatory. Everett is wedged against the Mystic River which fans northward into a floodplain with wetlands, estuaries, streams and things folks used to call “swamps.”

Consider the next juxtaposition. To the south, Logan Airport is - like Everett - sits on the eastern side of the Mystic River. And all of the fresh produce, fish, meat, and time-sensitive products for the entire New England market arrive there. To add to that impact countless liquid natural gas, heating oil, crude oil and petroleum products crucial to the heating of New England homes arrive via ships and head up the Mystic River to either East Boston or Everett.  

Given hazardous material restrictions and tolls on the tunnels and bridges, most of those trucks go through Everett, with its bridge over the Mystic River.  

“As the only north-south access between Boston and Everett, the competition for space on the road between trucks, cars, transit, cyclists and pedestrians is intense at nearly all hours of the day,” explained Monty. “It is an incredibly busy transit corridor as well. MBTA buses that utilize the corridor can, at peak times, be carrying upwards of 30 percent of all the people moving through the corridor, making it one of the busiest transit corridors in the region. Then of course, is the crucial role it plays for the growing numbers of cyclists as it is the only means of reaching a number of north shore communities from Boston and the only way of reaching East Boston from downtown.

Enter Steve Winslow

“We have already seen an uptick in bicycle commuting in our area and would expect a surge if bicyclists had an off-road alternative to Route 99,” said Stephen Winslow of Malden. “An off-road bicycle route can help break that bottleneck and ensure residents of the Northern Strand communities have access to the new economy jobs being created nearby.”

Winslow and his stalwart group “Bike to the Sea” worked more than two decades to build his vision. Inspired by the success of the nearby Minuteman Bikeway, Winslow’s group augured through social and political granite to build the Northern Strand Rail Trail along an abandoned rail bed running from Malden and Everett through the North Shore wetlands of Revere, and Saugus. The goal has been to afford these working class citizens a healthy and active route to the beaches of Lynn, Swampscott and Nahant and the economic offerings of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.

Only two issues remain: one bike-hating mayor in Lynn that has blocked the completion of the path to the sea, and the connection between the Everett terminus and a safe corridor into Boston along the Mystic River.

The southernmost bridge and most direct route is along Route 99, which requires a cyclist to travel through Sweetser Circle, a massive rotary interchange with Route 16.

“Getting through the circle can only be described as a circular game of Frogger!  There are cars coming into the circle from seemingly every angle that are not really interested in me and more interested in getting as quickly as possible to the point where they can sit in traffic exiting the circle,” said Kurt Maw, who routinely commutes from his home in Salem to his job in Boston, where he serves as principal engineer of Essential Inc.

After surviving Sweetser Circle cyclists then tackle the metal-grate Malden Bridge, the approach to which is inside the Boston city boundaries, created by a curious tongue of land.  This is the same four-lane bridge used by motorists, buses, and all those trucks unable to go through the tunnels. This raucous roaring corridor includes a bike lane that services a number of stalwart riders each day. But the comfort level along this corridor is barely tolerable by the most experienced of cyclists.

“Once you manage to get through the circle and onto 99 heading south toward Sullivan Square, there is a striped bike lane,” said Maw. “It doesn't really do a whole lot to offer a feeling of comfort due to the the number of driveways, and parking lots along the way….It's a two-mile stretch of chaos. While the bike lane that's there helps, if there was a way to move bikes off of this section of road it would be amazing!”

Before we even discuss bicycles, let’s go back to those things folks once called “swamps.”  

In the mid-1800s the folks who ran Boston’s Union Oyster House harvested shellfish in those swamps. But by the turn of the 20th Century industry had set up shop. In 1929 Monsanto established operations there. They employed thousands of Everett residents and received regular praise from local officials and the newspaper.  

But there were also routine chemical mishaps and employee dangers. During the 1950s there were more than five considerable chemical leaks. While Monsanto served as the flagship, Everett and other area communities along the Mystic River watershed hosted dozens of chemical plants.

During the 1980s the firms closed up and left behind this terrible legacy. Little substantial  development or improvements could take place due to the incredible environmental burden of doing so.

Enter Steve Wynn  

“The Wynn Casino is the proverbial elephant in the room, but many other property owners in the corridor are already looking to sell or upzone their properties,” said Monty, noting the Assembly Row development on the Somerville side of the river and growing developments in Charlestown and Chelsea.

With the imminent construction of a casino by Steve Wynn, bicycle advocates, environmentalists,  and transportation planners find themselves with a curious ally with a big checkbook. To construct this casino, Wynn has already agreed to a massive environmental cleanup of the marshlands along the Mystic River, where the Department of Conservation and Recreation has been developing the Mystic River Reservation with assorted boardwalks and pathways. Wynn’s funds are going into coffers controlled by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Everett has applied, with MassBike support, for a grant to fund a study to close that one kilometer gap of Broadway to the river, which could include $250,000 to study the potential for constructing a bike-ped bridge over the river.

“The impact of this would be huge, particularly for those cyclists and pedestrians coming from Malden and points north as they would be able to bypass the dangerous intersection at Sweetser Circle (Route 16 and Broadway) and all of lower Broadway. If we’re ultimately successful in constructing a bridge across the Mystic River to Assembly Row and the Orange Line, the north shore will have the equivalent of what Cambridge and Arlington have at Alewife: Direct off-road bicycle and pedestrian access to the MBTA,” said Monty. “In some respects, Everett has been off the radar for many years, and is now awakening to its immense potential as a vibrant and connected urban community.”

This could also literally and politically pave the way to create a car-free bridge that connects Somerville to a North Shore route. Such a connection would create a bicycle bridge between Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge to the more than a dozen communities on the North Shore. A day ride from Boston to the beaches of Beverly would become a reasonable 17-mile ride. Millennials and students could gain access to housing in Saugus, Revere and Lynn and pedal comfortably less than 10 miles into Boston. And residents of Everett, Malden and Chelsea could gain quick, affordable access to the jobs in the creative corridor that houses Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Biogen and dozens of other high-paying jobs that are now all but impossible to reach via transit or bicycle.

“What excites me every day working in Everett is the extent to which other communities, state agencies, advocacy groups, etc. are interested in doing work here and realizing the potential that exists.”

This Weekend in Carlisle

This past weekend reports were brought to our attention regarding a series of warning stops in Carlisle by the Carlisle Police Department regarding two-by-two versus single-file riding. We understand and support the concerns of the cycling community on this matter and have reached out to the Carlisle Chief of Police with the following e-mail:
Chief Fisher,
I hope this finds you well. As the executive director of MassBike, I would like to request a meeting with you in the near future to discuss the numerous reports I received over the weekend about cyclists being stopped by your offices while riding through Carlisle.


From all reports I received your officers were professional and courteous during these stops. They reported the town would heretofore require bicyclists to ride single file. We would like to work with the town to understand the concerns of the townspeople of Carlisle. As a resident of Lexington, I routinely ride through your beautiful town, often times leading groups of beginners and novices who are preparing for such charity rides as the Best Buddies Challenge and the Pan Mass Challenge.  I diligently preach the importance of courtesy for all on the roadways.


But a strict single-file policy is problematic for several reasons.


We believe the conflicts in Carlisle could be best handled through some minor adjustments to engineering, education for all users, and enforcement of existing state laws for both motorists and cyclists. We would like to serve as a resource for all in this matter.


Could we find time to talk? We are happy to meet with you in the coming weeks.


Please advise.


Regards,


Richard Fries



Executive Director

MassBike

We will continue to keep you posted on this matter as it develops.


Report from the Field: Winter Cycling Congress

Barbara Jacobson, Programs Director

Winter Biking


[caption id="attachment_24473" align="alignleft" width="225"] Midtown Greenway, Minneapolis, MN[/caption]

Typically ridership decreases as the weather turns colder and there is an increase in snow and ice on the ground. However, there is a subset of the population that bikes year-round. I am happy to say that I’ve been commuting year-round since I started biking in Boston six years ago.

Interestingly, I discovered an entire conference dedicated to winter biking, the Winter Cycling Congress (WCC). I had the distinct pleasure of speaking at the Fourth annual WCC held last week in Minneapolis, the first time the conference has been held in the United States. Minneapolis proved to be a fantastic place for [winter] biking (I’m sure biking there in the summer is great as well). Both the on-road and trail networks were well maintained and usable. Strong mayoral support and communication between the Department of Public Works and maintenance staff has created an impressive program for snow removal. When Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was elected mayor in 2014, her first proclamation in office was naming January 3rd “Winter Biking Day.” Having that kind of support from the mayor highlighted the prioritization of bicycling as a legitimate mode of transportation for all users during all seasons.

Best Practices for Promoting Winter Biking


Conference Takeaways:

  • Political will, notably mayoral support, is essential for four-season infrastructure to be designed, implemented & maintained.

  • Engaging with DPWs and maintenance teams at the onset of design and implementation of separated bike lane projects is important. By including DPWs and maintenance at the onset of the project, it creates cohesion amongst departments.

  • Bicyclist and pedestrian counters work even when covered with layers of snow and ice, so there are opportunities to figure out ridership numbers year-round.

  • Winter ridership depends on a variety of factors, not just precipitation or temperature, but rather on snow clearance and perceptions of safety.

  • In order for a municipality to have a year-round bicycling culture, the infrastructure must be designed with winter in mind - not as an afterthought or reaction to a storm.

  • Many municipalities such as Minneapolis and Montreal have winter bike maintenance plans to ensure that priority and connected bike routes are plowed.

  • Design separated bike lanes so that they are wide enough for plowing equipment, such as tool cats, to successfully remove snow.

  • Covered bike parking at transit stations will promote multi-modal transportation year-round.


Temporary Solutions: Sneckdowns


[caption id="attachment_24475" align="alignright" width="300"] Sneckdown in Downtown Boston, February 2015[/caption]

“Sneckdown” is buzzword amongst sustainable and active transportation advocates and planners. A sneckdown is a form of traffic calming that uses snow to  give a clear depiction of how much roadway space cars need. The snow-covered space on the roadways indicates opportunities for space to be reallocated for different uses such as bike lanes, protected bike lanes or curb extensions. Sneckdowns act as traffic calming mechanism and tap into a complete streets design framework with minimal costs.

[hr]

Thoughts

What I found interesting was that usually when people talk about  biking in the winter, some proclaimed doing so with gusto, whereas others sheepishly confessed to doing so. If bicyclists are a niche market, those who bike year-round are a niche within a niche. The WCC brings to the forefront many of the issues year-round riders face: mainly, cold weather, maintenance concerns and  desires for connectivity to the road network.

For biking to be a legitimate and safe form of daily, year-round transportation, bike infrastructure needs to receive the same degree of maintenance and prioritization given to cars.  As ridership continues to increase, bicycling year-round will become as normal and as easy as, well, riding a bike.

One thing that I really enjoyed about being in a city that celebrated winter biking was that the people embraced winter, rather than treating it as an obstacle or something that “just happens.” I think that it is important to understand that seasons are not inherently bad, they add richness and diversity to places. By focusing on the creative opportunities winter provides, rather than as barriers or obstacles, it creates a sustainable and diverse city that is navigable by bike year-round.

[caption id="attachment_24476" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Hiawatha LRT Trail, Minneapolis[/caption]

Next Steps:

Interested in getting into winter biking? Winter Bike to Work Day is this Friday, February 12! Please visit www.winterbiketoworkday.org for more information. Join us at Flat Black @ 50 Broad Street for a special Rise & Bike at 8 AM on the 12th! Do you need something cool to stay warm? Check out our neck gaiters here.

Your Town Tuesdays: The Significance of Westfield

By RICHARD FRIES

WESTFIELD, Mass. (Feb. 8, 2016) - For many Bay State residents the city of Westfield is not much more than an exit on the MassPike. But this college town could soon boast the state's longest protected bike lane and serve as a nexus of a network of bike paths stretching north to Amherst and south to New Haven, Connecticut.

Note the word is “could.”

There is a good plan and a great plan. With the good plan, Westfield will have a bike lane running the full length of Western Avenue which connects downtown with Westfield State University. But MassDOT, led by the state's Complete Streets Czar Luciano Rabito, is urging the city to use state funds to go with the great plan: a protected bike lane.

The plans were developed in response to a cluster of crashes – including some fatal collisions – identified in this college town.

Per usual, a handful of abutters were able to stall the plan. Mayor Daniel Knapik was opposed to the protected bike lane. And the college administration took no stance. And local bike advocates failed to sufficiently raise their collective voice.

In November, effectively the eleventh hour of the project's design phase, things changed. Voters elected a new mayor, Brian Sullivan. Westfield State brought in a new president, Dr. Raymond Torrecilha, both of whom were favorable to the path. And local advocates, led by MassBike's Pioneer Valley Chapter President Sean Condon, rallied to the cause.

“The city seems to be leaning towards it,” said Condon, who attended the public hearing held Jan. 26. Held simply to provide input for city officials on this one issue, the hearing filled an auditorium. “There were clear lines drawn between those for and those against. But more spoke for (the protected bike lane) than against.”

Supporters tended to be younger residents with children. Opponents typically were older. According to Condon, however, a number of elder residents spoke in favor of the path, noting it created a safer city for their grandchildren.

“The Western Avenue protected bike lane will play a significant role in connecting population centers and recreation destination,” said Peter Sutton, the new Massachusetts Bike-Ped coordinator. “It is a connector between major destinations including Baystate Noble Hospital, Westfield State University, the Westfield YMCA, Stanley Park, Highland Elementary School, downtown and off-campus WSU student housing, Amelia Park campus, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield, Westfield Middle School South and more.”

And that is within the city. The connectivity to other cycling networks could amplify the impact this protected bike lane would have on Westfield’s economy and quality of life.

Currently the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail is less than four miles long but connects to the Southwick Trail and a network or 30 miles of trails extending deep into Connecticut. During this year two major developments are expected with the completion of the Westfield River Levee trail and the completion of a trestle bridge across the Westfield River. That bridge will connect Westfields trails to roads through Southampton and on to the paths of Easthampton, Northampton, Hadley and Amherst. Southampton remains the lone community without a rail trail in the area.

To the east, plans are developing that would see major bike-friendly initiatives in West Springfield  and Agawam, both of which are applying for Complete Streets funding. This week the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s Joint Transportation Committee will be hosting an all-day seminar that focuses primarily on Complete Streets policies.

Writing this next paragraph is hard to do without sounding like an “as-seen-on-TV” ad. BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE! The recent development of Amtrak's Vermonter service has seen the opening of stations in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. Congress is pressing Amtrak to adopt roll-on access for bicycles. Public hearings are being held throughout 2016 on this subject along with other service elements of Amtrak. The public comment period has been extended through Feb. 16. To add your input, click here: NEC Future Comment Page

New policies within the Federal Transit Administration have also enabled municipalities to apply for funding to build bicycle accommodations – ranging from bike lanes to parking to signalized intersections – within a three-mile radius of any transit stop. Hence the entire greater Springfield area could see a labyrinth of bike friendly facilities.

All of this could patch into that Westfield network of trails and that protected bike lane. The entire Pioneer Valley could become one of the most bike-friendly areas in the United States with state officials seeing the value in marketing the “Happy Valley.”

Modify Watches - Show your support for bike advocacy

We've teamed up with Modify Watches so you can show your support for MassBike in style! Grab one today and a portion of the proceeds will go towards our continued efforts to improve bicycling in Massachusetts. And if you use discount code PERFECTGIFT you'll receive 25% off your order.

Order yours today!

 

Rise and Bike: National Bike Summit and Federal Policy

Join MassBike Executive Director Richard Fries Tuesday February 9th as part of our monthly coffee chat series at Flat Black Coffee - 260 Frankling Street from 8am to 8:30am. Stop by on your way to work!

This month, as we get into planning our trip to the National Bike Summit in early March, MassBike is looking for your feedback and comments regarding federal transportation policy.

Rise and Bike is part of a MassBike event series, with a rotating panel of discussions on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. For more info, click here: http://massbike.org/events/rise-and-bike/

New MassBike Gear!



Just ask Board Member Tim Johnson and he'll tell you that these MassBike neck gaiters are the best cycling accessory you can get! Just enough to keep you warm on those extra chilly days and easy to carry in a pocket or toss in your bag.  Stay warm while representing your statewide bicycle advocacy group!

Made from 100% polyester microfiber that wicks away moisture!


 

 

 

Purchase one now!




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