A Bright Outlook For Westfield And Its Local Advocates

[caption id="attachment_21057" align="alignright" width="300"] Price demonstrates how to use the MassBike Assessment Form to evaluate Westfield's streets.[/caption]

Westfield is poised to get a lot better for biking.

In July, Programs Director Price and I (Kim) traveled to Westfield, a city in the southern part of the Pioneer Valley, to conduct a bikeability assessment. We met up with eight volunteers from the community to gather observations about key roadways identified by the Friends of the Columbia Greenway. After a 45-minute training, we set the local advocates loose to gather the information that will ultimately be turned into a Bikeability Assessment (like the one found here). This is a fundamental part of the assessment process - getting information about the built environment through the eyes of the people who use it every day.

Westfield is home to a growing bicyclist community. With dedicated leaders like Don Podolski, Owner of New Horizons Bikes (the city's local bicycle shop) and Jeff LaValley, Chair of the Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail, in addition to others, local residents are working toward improving the city's bicycle facilities.

Key to that vision is the Columbia Greenway. This rail trail would connect Westfield to the Southwick Rail Trail, which then travels nearly the entire way to Hartford. Providing that connection to the downtown area will bring customers to local businesses, connect locals to a fantastic recreational amenity, and extend the off-road path network further into Hampden County.

The goal of the local advocates is to make Westfield's streets safe for bicyclists of all ages and ability levels.  We are proud to help!

These local advocates are taking it upon themselves to prepare for future opportunities to improve the area's bike infrastructure and get more people riding. When completed, the bikeability assessment will come in handy at future project proposal meetings as a tool to convince local stakeholders that bicycle-friendly infrastructure is worth the investment.

The assessment, which will be finalized by September, will feature a concise overview of the evaluation area, opportunities for improvements, local residents' observations, and potential new bicycle connections. We are happy to be able to expand local capacity and empower community members with tools to improve their city or town or neighborhood.

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

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