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.

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