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!

More Local Transportation Dollars = An Opportunity For Advocates

Starting this year, there is going to be a lot more asphalt poured, roads re-striped, and bridges rehabilitated here in the Commonwealth. A significant chunk of the new transportation funding passed by the state legislature goes toward increasing "Chapter 90" funding by 50%, or funding that goes directly to municipalities with very few strings attached as to how they spend it.

Unfortunately for us as a statewide group, all 351 municipalities in the state make individual decisions about these projects (simply too many for MassBike to keep track of). That means unless the local Department of Public Works chooses to add them, roads which are resurfaced may not include bicycle facilities. However, the perfect time to add bicycle facilities is when a road is already being repaved, since the cost of adding a bike lane is typically marginal.

To make sure that these road projects are bike friendly, we need your help!

There are a few simple steps that you can take to make sure that upcoming road projects are bike friendly:

  1. Find out if there is already a bicycle advocacy group for your city or region. If there is, touch base with them! They might have something in the works already. Not sure if you do? You can find a list of local bicycle committees here, or you can email

  2. If there is no group, or if you are taking the lead on this for your local group, contact your community's Department of Public Works or Planning Department. They should have a schedule of Chapter 90 projects.

  3. Start building a relationship with your city or town's planner or engineer. Most Chapter 90 projects are just to repave roads and re-stripe the way they were. But they don't have to be! Ask him or her what opportunities there are for safer streets for bicyclists.

  4. Let us know if you need any help! While we can't take the lead on these projects, we are happy to support you in your efforts.

  5. Have you checked out our guide, Shifting Gears: A Guide to Better Biking for your Community? It has a lot of good information which can help you along the way.

If you want to learn more about the process of advocating for better bicycle facilities, then you might consider bringing MassBike to your community through our Bikeable Communities Program. We can provide trainings, bikeability assessments, and other planning assistance. We don't want this opportunity to go to waste, so let's get rolling!

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.

Federal Update: Bike Funding Remains Intact–For Now

The past two weeks saw a flurry of action on Capitol Hill as federal transportation funding was debated in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Both chambers of Congress were unable to pass the Transportation Appropriations bill.

Congress will need to pass a continuing resolution by the end of September to avoid shutting down the U.S. Department of Transportation and keep transportation dollars flowing. And with only 9 legislative days on the calendar for September, it is unlikely that Congress will pass a Transportation Appropriations bill that features a carefully reevaluated spending plan. The most likely result is that we'll will get a continuation of the 2012 spending plan.

Throughout the debates in each Chamber, there was a chance that  multiple Congresspeople would introduce amendments that would eliminate federal funding for Transportation Alternatives, which funds programs like Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails.

We sent out two action alerts and asked you to contact both of Massachusetts' U.S. Senators and your specific U.S. Representative and ask that they vote against any amendment that would eliminate federal bike funding.

Our Congressional delegation heard you loud and clear! Both Senator Warren and Senator Markey told us that they heard from many of you, and that they would vote against amendments that would eliminate Transportation Alternatives. We are confident that our House members were similarly supportive. Keeping this federally funded program intact is critical because this is money that can be used to educate children about bicycle and pedestrian safety, improve sidewalks, bike lanes, and paths near schools, and build and maintain off-road paths and trails for everyone.

Our Senators and Representatives once again demonstrated their commitment to bicycling and walking, and we can collectively thank them for standing firm to support active living!

We will keep you updated once the Senate and House restart the process in September. Thank you again for your support–we would not be nearly as successful in our advocacy work without your help!

Action Alert UPDATE: Renewed Attack On Federal Bike Funding

UPDATED Wed., July 31st:

According to The League of American Bicyclists, which has been monitoring the recent federal action, "House leadership has pulled the Transportation Appropriations bill from the floor. Debate and voting have been postponed until September." The leadership most likely felt that they did not have enough votes on the bill to move forward. In actuality this is both a delay tactic and a victory (on our end). We are happy to see that federal bike funds remain intact. We will know more about the situation in the House in September.

As far as the Senate goes, tomorrow there will be a vote on the Senate Transportation Appropriations bill. We have gotten word from Senator Warren's office that if an anti-bike amendment is voted on, she will be voting NO. This is great news! Both of our Senators (Sen. Warren and Sen. Markey) have gotten the message loud and clear and plan on voting NO on any anti-bike amendments. Your responses have been incredibly helpful in attaining this positive outcome. We would not be nearly as successful in our advocacy work without your support.

We will continue to update you on the status of the Senate throughout Thursday's debate and voting period.

Original Post:

Federal funding for bicycling and walking continues to be at risk! Now, the House and the Senate are both poised to debate amendments that could completely eliminate Transportation Alternatives funding.

Last week we sent out an Action Alert asking you to contact our two U.S. Senators (Sen. Markey and Sen. Warren) to oppose Amendment 1742 by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

We just got word that Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has introduced Amendment 1798 to the Transportation Appropriations bill. Like Paul's amendment, this one would strip the Transportation Alternatives Program of all funds, thereby eliminating all federal funds for programs like Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails. This is money that can be used to educate kids about bicycle and pedestrian safety, improve sidewalks, bike lanes, and paths near schools, and build and maintain off-road paths and trails for everyone.

We need you to do 3 things right now:

1. Contact Senator Markey and Senator Warren again to save Transportation Alternatives by voting NO on amendments 1742 and 1798.

NOTE: In order to contact Senator Markey, you must call his office. A form email will not reach his office in time!

Contact Senator Warren:
Phone: (202) 224-4543

Contact Senator Markey:
Phone: (202) 224-2742
Email: Not available currently (due to transition from House to Senate)

2. Contact your Representative and ask him or her to vote NO on any amendment that could eliminate funding for Transportation Alternatives.

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to debate the Transportation Appropriations Bill tonight and tomorrow. At this point in time, we are not certain if or when there will be an attack on federal funds for bicycling and walking. Any Representative can introduce an amendment at any point, and we know some Representatives are opposed to funding for biking and walking.

We will likely have little or no notice before an amendment is brought to the floor for debate. We need you to act preemptively and contact your Representative now, asking him or her to vote NO on any amendment that could strip funding for bicycling and walking.

District |  Representative, Office Number, Link to Email Form
1   |   Rep. Neal, Richard, 202-225-5601, Email
2   |   Rep. McGovern, James, 202-225-6101, Email
3   |   Rep. Tsongas, Niki,  202-225-3411, Email
4   |   Rep. Kennedy III, Joseph P.,  202-225-5931, Email
5   |   VACANT
6   |   Rep. Tierney, John, 202-225-8020, Email
7   |   Rep. Capuano, Michael, 202-225-5111, Email
8   |   Rep. Lynch, Stephen, 202-225-8273, Email
9   |   Rep. Keating, William, 202-225-3111, Email

Don’t know who your U.S. Representative is? Click here and enter your zip code to find out.

3. Let us know who you contacted by cc'ing or emailing

We will keep you updated as the situation develops. Thank you so much for your help protecting funding for biking and walking!

Action Alert Update: Save Transportation Alternatives

The response has been great since we issued the Action Alert yesterday afternoon. Many thanks to those of you who have already reported contacting Senator Warren and Senator Markey! If you have emailed or called one (or both) of Massachusetts’ Senators, please email so we can keep track of who has been contacted.

Thank you very much to those of you who have already contacted Senator Warren and Senator Markey! Your phone calls and emails are making a difference.

We have heard from both Senator Markey’s and Senator Warren's staff that lots of you have been emailing and calling! Senator Markey has already stated that he is opposed to amendment 1742, and Senator Warren is still reviewing all of the amendments. More contacts are better, so please take a moment to review the Action Alert below, and make those calls and emails to Senator Warren right now. 

Original Action Alert:

Just last year Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21, that dismantled dedicated funding for biking and walking by combining Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails into one program and cutting the funding by 30%. This is money that can be used to educate kids about bicycle and pedestrian safety, improve sidewalks, bike lanes, and paths near schools, and build and maintain off-road paths and trails for everyone.

Now Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky wants to wipe out what’s left.

Senator Paul has introduced an amendment to the Transportation Appropriations bill to prohibit ANY MONEY from being used for Transportation Alternatives, and to redirect that money towards bridge repair.

While we agree that repairing our bridges is important, both for safety and economic development reasons, so are our local economies and the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. Dedicating the small amount of Transportation Alternatives funding to bridge repair couldn’t fix our country’s bridges in 50 years. This is really just an excuse to eliminate funding for important biking and walking programs. And, taking that small amount of funding away would dangerously undermine efforts in our cities and towns to provide safe and efficient transportation options for everyone, including our children. That is a trade we can’t afford to make.

Please ask Senator Markey and Senator Warren to save Transportation Alternatives by voting NO on amendment 1742.

Contact Senator Warren:
Phone: (202) 224-4543

Contact Senator Markey:
Phone: (202) 224-2742
Email: Not available currently (due to transition from House to Senate)

And please let us know you’ve taken action by cc’ing or emailing us at

Thank you so much for your help protecting funding for biking and walking!

Better Biking On The Vineyard With MassBike

Earlier in July, Programs Director Price and I (Kim) had the opportunity to tour Martha’s Vineyard (on bike—of course!) with some local planners and advocates, and to attend the Martha’s Vineyard Bicycle-Pedestrian Planning Advisory Committee (MVBPAC) meeting for the month of July.

We were there to take a look at some of the gaps in the bicycle infrastructure, and to provide advice on how the Martha's Vineyard Commission currently engages gathers citizen input. After traveling by ferry from New Bedford, which conveniently allowed us to transport our bicycles, we were met by staff members from the Martha's Vineyard Commission who guided us through three of the island’s six towns (Oaks Bluffs, Edgartown, and Tisbury). We later attended the regional Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Group meeting in Oak Bluffs.

Overall, we were very impressed with the existing infrastructure. Martha’s Vineyard offers a wonderful selection of off-street bicycle paths, which are widely used by both island residents and tourists alike. However, there are some critical gaps between paths and key destinations like town centers, a problem not uncommon to other multiuse paths in the Commonwealth. The MVBPAC plays a key role in guiding the development of those connections, making it very important to have a strong, effective committee.

[caption id="attachment_21043" align="alignright" width="294"] Programs Director Price Armstrong[/caption]

In September, the MVBPAC is going to meet again to form a strategic vision for its role in the development of new bicycle infrastructure, and other efforts to improve bicyclist safety. The Committee is looking for full- or part-time residents who are interested in helping with the important work of this committee.

For our part, we will be facilitating this upcoming meeting. MassBike has extensive experience working with Bike/Ped Committees around the state, and so we are looking forward to taking lessons learned elsewhere and recommending best practices on the Vineyard. This is another great example of MassBike using its institutional knowledge to build the local capacity which supports bicycling. This work is a part of our Bikeable Communities Program, and made possible through the support of the Mass in Motion program.

For those interested, the meeting will take place on Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at the Martha's Vineyard Commission in Oak Bluffs, MA at 5 p.m.

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