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.”
Order yours today!
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/
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!
For over a decade, MassBike has coordinated the Massachusetts delegation to the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. This is the nation’s largest annual bicycle advocacy event. It's an opportunity to go to Washington and let our congress know how important it is to continue promoting policies and funding that favor bicycling.
Even if you are new to legislative advocacy, don’t fear: we set up the meetings and train participants on what to do. We will discuss important bicycling issues, share stories, and network with other advocates from across the country.
If you have any questions or plan to join us, please feel free to call 617-542-2453 or email email@example.com
Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation: Update
MassDOT’s contractor, White-Skanska-Consigli (WSC), anticipates setting up the final configuration of Stage 3 by Thursday, February 11, 2016. The shift of the tracks to their temporary positions was completed over a series of Red Line Weekend Diversions. The relocation of the large barrier fence along the tracks will be completed by February 1. The installation of the upstream “Salt and Pepper” towers, hampered by the cold temperatures of mid-January, is complete with the last stones installed this week. Now that the towers are complete, removal of the staging will begin this weekend, followed by the placement of concrete sidewalks and curbs adjacent to the towers. Once the sidewalks and curbs are in place, the final sections of temporary fence needed for the new upstream bicycle lane can be installed. WSC anticipates the final set up for the upstream bicycle lane will be complete by the end of the day on Thursday, February 11, 2016, when inbound and outbound bike travel is shifted. Stage 3 work will take approximately eight months to complete. View the Stage 3 Graphic for travel space configuration along the Longfellow Bridge.
All bike travel, both inbound and outbound, will be shifted to the sidewalk on the upstream side of the bridge on February 11. During this stage, inbound vehicles and all pedestrians will continue to use the downstream side of the bridge.
Red Line Configuration
The construction of the temporary outbound Red Line track (called a “shoo-fly”) on the roadway is complete. The outbound trains were shifted to the shoo-fly track and the inbound trains were shifted to the old outbound track in mid-January. This shift allows WSC to rehabilitate the bridge under the current location of the MBTA inbound tracks.
The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using the existing signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway (Route 28)/Charles River Dam Road and Land Boulevard.
For more information, visit the project website at www.mass.gov/massdot/longfellowbridge. For questions or issues and concerns related to construction, please call the project hotline at 617-519-9892 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. View construction progress photos on MassDOT’s Longfellow Bridge Flickr Album.
MassDOT’s contractor, WSC, encourages drivers to avoid the area and seek alternate routes to minimize delays. Those traveling through the area should expect delays and should reduce speed and use caution. The schedule for this major infrastructure project is weather dependent and subject to change without notice.
BOSTON, M.A..- (January 25, 2016) - On March 1 the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition will take an anchor position in a shared work environment with potentially other transportation advocacy leaders at the Cambridge Innovation Center at 50 Milk Street in downtown Boston. The CIC houses co-working space in Kendall Square and Boston. The long term goal of the co-working space is to create a hub of active and sustainable transportation advocacy.
With proximity to the State House, Boston City Hall, and the Department of Transportation the Cambridge Innovation Center is the ideal location to act as home-base for the crucial work that is done with government partners. The shared space will further develop the collaborative efforts within the community, increase MassBike’s ability to effectively pursue change and strengthen a unified voice.
MassBike will be an active and engaged member of the diverse CIC community, hosting various events and educational programming throughout the year. The multi-floor facility specializes in creating affordable shared space environments with event space, conference facilities and professional communication design.
“We want to put our team in an exhilarating environment alongside some of the best and brightest thought leaders. The long term goal is to make the collective bicycle lobby in Massachusetts the strongest in America. In short, we want to go to the zone defense,” said MassBike Executive Director Richard Fries.
Although families have joined the tour throughout the ride’s history, in 2016 Cycle Massachusetts is adding a truly family-friendly weekend option:
- Kids 11 and under ride and eat for FREE
- Shorter manageable tour routes on quiet roads. Ride to Old Sturbridge Village, with shuttle service available in either direction.
- Evening activities – maybe even a campfire with s’mores
- Ride to the famous Publick House to pick up goodies at their famous bakery
- Outdoor kid-friendly movie
- Saturday afternoon ice cream social
Sarah J, from Danvers MA, who rode for the first time at age 8, says: “Cycle Mass is fun because everybody is kind and helps anyone in need. Cycle Mass is also a great way to meet new friends. If you get tired, you can get picked up by a sag wagon. You can have a snack any time at the rest stops. There are fun activities every evening.”
Of course the Cycle Massachusetts tour has plenty of options for unaccompanied grown-ups, and it’s a particularly beautiful route this year:
- One ride – four states! Not only do we explore Massachusetts, but we’ll ride the quiet roads of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York as well
- There’s an option for just about every schedule – join us for a weekend, or 4, 5, or the amazing 7 day tour
- Back to the Berkshires! We’ll explore the quiet roads of this legendary region. We even have an “Alice’s Restaurant” ride to celebrate the scenes of this famous song
- From ice cream shops to friendly farmstands to roadside museums, Massachusetts is best enjoyed at a bicycling pace. Beautifully-designed routes feature quiet roads, and you’ll have many options of how far to ride.
We’re excited to welcome riders to our fantastic start/finish location at Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts. With two nights on their lovely campus, two nights in the cultural mecca of Great Barrington, and a night each in Agawam and Suffield, CT, riders will have time to explore the most scenic vistas, visit local landmarks, and savor each experience with new friends.
Cycle Massachusetts is from July 30th through August 5th (2, 4, 5, and 7 day options available) and all proceeds support the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. It’s all available for one low fee – and even better, all proceeds go to support the Massbike. Your vacation will help everyone in Massachusetts enjoy safer bicycling!
Cycle Massachusetts isn’t just about the bike – it’s the unique camaraderie that keeps riders returning year after year. From a daily “social hour”, to sharing stories over delicious hearty meals, to nightly entertainment or excursions to local attractions, to s’mores at the campfire – it’s like summer camp for all!
“At a biking pace, you can stop and discover so many things you wouldn’t see otherwise – it was really wonderful!”
-rider Nathalie Apchin of Milton
Dates: July 30th through August 5th (2, 4, 5, and 7 day options available)
One ride, many choices!
- 7 day (Sat-Fri) $795
- 5 day (Mon-Fri) $575
- 4 day (Sat-Tue) $465
- 2 day (Sat-Sun) $175
Where: Dudley (2 nights), Great Barrington (2 nights), Agawam, and Suffield, CT.
Start/finish location is Nichols College in Dudley, MA
How long? Cycle Massachusetts offers two routes each day. The shorter route is between 30-40 miles and the longer route is usually between 45-70 miles.
For riders getting back in the saddle: Riders who want to shorten their distance can use the free “Head Start Drop-Off” service that allows participants to start up to 20 miles into the route.
The food: We provide a hearty catered hot breakfast every day except registration day. Lunch is “on your own” and enjoyed along the day’s route – we’ll have suggestions of some fantastic local eateries. We’ll enjoy delicious catered dinners at our overnight locations.
Creature comforts: This is a camping tour that includes hot showers. The very-popular “Comfy Campers” service is available for those who prefer to camp in style.
Included: Tent and gear transportation, daily ride choices, cue sheet/GPS files/maps, route notes, most meals, camping privileges, nightly entertainment, tour t-shirt, parking during the tour.
Sign up today: The registration deadline is July 15th, and Cycle Massachusetts is limited to 150 riders! An early-bird discount of $25 for the 7, 5, and 4 day rides ends March 1st.
Please join our pals with the Friends of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail for a public meeting on the redevelopment of Western Avenue in Westfield.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Doors Open at 6.30pm, Meeting Begins at 7:00pm
Westfield Middle School South, 30 West Silver Street, Westfield, MA 01085
- It is a main access route to/from the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail
- It is a major link in Westfield's transportation system, serving east-west travel
- It has ample right-of-way
- It is a connector between major destinations including BayState Noble Hospital, Westfield State University, Westfield YMCA, Stanley Park, Highland Elementary School, downtown, off-campus (WSU) student housing, Amelia Park campus (including Amelia Park, Amelia Park Ice Arena, and Amelia Park Children's Museum), Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield, Westfield Middle School South, and more.
Moreover, a forward thinking design for Western Avenue is one which will:
- Promote healthy & active lifestyles
- Create a sense of community & connectedness
- Promote a vibrant & creative local economy, and
- Provide safe & equitable (all ages, all abilities) access to viable, active, alternative transportation routes.
Add your voice to supporting a forward thinking approach to Western Avenue.
Bicyclists Pack Hearing Room to Compel Lawmakers to Make Roadways Safer
BOSTON, Mass. -(January 7, 2016) - Emotional testimony filled the State House hearing room as the Joint Committee on Transportation yesterday heard legislators, advocates, law enforcement officers, doctors, lawyers and those who have been impacted by injury or loss of a loved one testify in favor of critical bills to protect cyclists and pedestrians. The standing-room only crowd spoke in favor of several bills, with a focus on four that consist of the vulnerable users bill, bike lane protection bill, truck-side guard bill, and a bike path crosswalk bill.
Rep. William Straus, co-chair of the committee, opened the event by announcing that after the completion of testimony from lawmakers and government officials, the testimony for bicycle and pedestrian bills would be moved up in the hearing schedule due to the number people there to speak.
MassBike’s team was onsite to speak on behalf of the two bills they filed for vulnerable users and bike lane protection. “We can potentially prevent these incidents from happening rather than dealing with the after-effects of tragedy,” said Barbara Jacobson, programs director for MassBike.
“Maybe the people listening could hear what happened and hopefully choose to make those changes that would save someone else's life,” said a tearful Brianna Arnold, a political science major at Stonehill College, who lost her uncle just last week when he was killed riding his bicycle in Worcester.
This hearing was a big step towards making these bills state law in Massachusetts but the process will continue during the spring before receiving a full vote of the House and Senate.
“For bike advocates this was the most important chance to speak. We had a broad range of support and emotional testimony. And our bills had zero opposition,” said Richard Fries, executive director of MassBike. “We will need this type of political momentum as these bills move to the Ways and Means Committee and then to the full votes of both houses.”
MassBike will follow the Transportation Committee to provide updates as to whether they report favorably on each bill.
“We expect a favorable report at the phase,” said Fries. “But when we go to the full vote is when we will need our membership to engage with each of their lawmakers. This could be historic for bicycling in the Bay State.”