Advocacy & Safety - Congress approves funding for bike paths
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08-06-05, 04:27 PM
Congress has approved about $40 million to create or extend more than a dozen bicycle paths from the Berkshires to Boston.
The money was included in a six-year, $286 billion highway bill passed by Congress.
The bill provides more than $4 million for Hampshire County bike paths. In Somerville, a bike path would be extended by a half-mile.
08-06-05, 04:33 PM
Here's a better article:
SOMERVILLE, Mass. – Congress must know a little something about Massachusetts drivers because it has approved about $40 million to create or extend more than a dozen bicycle paths from the Berkshires to Boston.
“Biking is free,” said Abi Harper, 26, who pedaled to work Friday along the Somerville bike path, which will be extended toward Boston under the federal bill. “It’s better than getting into a car and sitting in traffic in this weather.”
Like most paths, the trails are just as likely to be used by joggers, walkers or parents pushing baby strollers, which is why advocates are flat out giddy about the new bill. Some projects have waited 10 years to be funded.
“There’s been a reawakening around the United States in terms of discovering lost things,” said Craig Della Penna, a Northampton resident who helps municipalities turn old rail lines into recreational paths. “These corridors are being discovered.”
Congress last week approved the six-year, $286 billion highway and mass transit bill. The measure was two years in the making and includes so many “earmarks” for local projects that just a handful of lawmakers voted against it. President Bush promised to sign it.
There are dozens of existing recreational paths spanning hundreds of miles around Massachusetts, and many more are in the works. Della Penna said there are 200 “rail-to-trail” projects proposed in a 100-mile radius around Northampton, including one plan that eventually would link Northampton to Boston.
“They become the most well-loved thing in the community,” Della Penna, who operates the nonprofit Northeast Greenway Solutions. “They rejuvenate communities.”
Rejuvenation is one of the goals of the proposed Holyoke Canal Walk, which received $3.5 million under the federal bill to construct walkways, railings, lighting and landscaping along old mill buildings downtown. The project has been 10 years in the making. Construction could begin next spring.
“This is a huge opportunity for Holyoke, which is a community that could really use a shot in the arm,” said Christopher Curtis, head planner at the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, serving 43 communities.
The bill also provides $4.4 million for Hampshire County bike paths, $4 million for the Southwick and Westfield rail trail, and $1.2 million for the East Longmeadow Redstone rail-trail path.
“We’ve never had anything quite as significant as this in terms of number of projects and the dollar amount,” Curtis said. “This may be the high point. It’s good news for all of Massachusetts. Everybody is close enough to one of these projects to take advantage of it.”
In Somerville, the bike path would be extended by a half-mile. Currently, the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway stretches about 12 miles, from Bedford through Lexington, Arlington, North Cambridge, and into Somerville, where it stops about 1.5 miles from Boston.
“Ultimately the goal is to link the Minuteman Bikeway . . . to the Charles River,” said Dorrie Clark, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, or MassBike. “Someone who lives out in the suburbs could bike in to the city to their jobs on bike paths.”
Cool! Congratulations. Sounds like you'll be doing some exploring! Now that I've discovered the local rail-trail bike paths, and found info on the Internet that shows future extensions to three other area towns, I'm chomping at the bit for them to finish!! I'm not one who has to go fast, I just like a peaceful ride and a great view without worrying about cars, trucks, potholes and fumes now and then!!
The first photo below shows my city (Goshen) in the lower left corner; right now the trail only goes north to CR 28 (about 1.75 miles) from SR 4, but this map shows how it will continue further north and east. The second map shows what's completed so far, and the last two are just nice pics from the northeastern leg of the trail - I can't wait to see these trails in the fall for myself! :) I was trying to find the map that shows further future trail extensions, but I'm not having much luck; it's supposed to run north to Middlebury and from there to Shipshewana, west from Goshen to Elkhart and from there to South Bend, and south from Goshen to Nappanee.
Maybe one of these days (like, when the oil starts to run out) all of these rail trails will be developed, and you'll be able to bike anywhere without motorized traffic! That'd be cool :D
Here is more of it...
The four pilot projects at $25 million each were the brainchild of Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, an avid cyclist and, more importantly, the senior Democrat on the House Transportation Committee.
"A lot of trails have been built for recreational purposes," said Keith Laughlin, president of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, an advocacy for turning abandoned railroad rights of way into bike and hiking trails. "This is for transportation. There will be an emphasis on connecting destinations, getting to work, getting kids to school."
At Oberstar's request, Laughlin's group proposed a dozen communities for the pilot grants. Oberstar and other key lawmakers narrowed that list to four -- the Minneapolis-St. Paul area; Sheboygan County, Wis.; Columbia, Mo.; and Marin County, Calif.
Minnesota wasn't the only state with a well-placed lawmaker. Wisconsin got an assist from Rep. Tom Petri, a Republican who chairs the committee's highway subcommittee; and Missouri was aided by Sen. Kit Bond, chairman of the Senate Environment Committee's transportation and infrastructure subcommittee.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, a Democrat from California's Marin County, doesn't have a leadership role on transportation, but she served on the conference committee that ironed out the six-year, $286.4 billion transportation bill.
Keith Ashdown, a vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, questioned why two of the pilot projects would be in a northern climate where year-round bicycling is difficult.
"The selection was based on who was on the conference committee and not where the money is best served," Ashdown said. "It doesn't seem like you'll get the lion's share of getting people off the roads."
Laughlin, however, said Minnesota's Twin Cities have among the highest use of bicycles in the country.
"A northern climate can be a positive," he said. "If you can show these are places where you can cycle year-round, you can do it anywhere."
Oberstar was vacationing this week and was unavailable for comment, but his spokeswoman, Mary Kerr, said the communities were chosen based on merit.
"They were selected as the most bicycle-friendly, and they had the human infrastructure in place -- people and groups that would be interested in getting it going," Kerr said.
08-07-05, 12:29 PM
Meh, who cares? No love for NYC? ;)
I keed, I keed! I heard from a commuter on a fixie on Friday that one of our local Greenways is going to be extended properly (by "going to be" I mean "money has been budgeted so that it happens"). Good news all around!
They set up one of those bike paths in my city on top of some old, abandoned railroad tracks. The stupid part of it, though, is the street that parellels the railroad tracks / new bike path is empty to begin with. That's why I see this as a waste of money. And the "cool" kids on their BMX bikes don't use the path. They still ride on the sidewalk or street.
08-08-05, 10:45 AM
I read this article in my local paper, too. I'm glad to read in Ranger's quote that the emphasis will be on transportational, and not recreational, trails, because that's not the impression I got from the original article. In particular:
Like most paths, the trails are just as likely to be used by joggers, walkers or parents pushing baby strollers, which is why advocates are flat out giddy about the new bill.
I would guess this paragraph was not written with transportational cyclists in mind, because why would we be giddy about riding to work on a path filled with joggers, walkers, and baby strollers? Language like this, by failing to distinguish between recreational and transportational cycling, does not help to promote cycling as a serious mode of transportation. I hope that the main point of the legislation is more transportational than this paragraph implies, and that the paragraph in question was simply the result of the story writer's failure to appreciate the difference between a recreational MUP and a bicycle commuting artery.
08-08-05, 02:33 PM
One goal of the project, as far as I understand, is to encourage the use of bicycles as alternate transport; or, more specifically, to see if bicycle use can reduce congestion enough such that further spending in this area would be justified on a nationwide basis.
I'm not sure that it can. Another article I saw (at http://minnesota.publicradio.org ) mentioned that most of the funding will go towards signage and education. Can $25 million spent on bike paths have a noticeable impact on congestion, particularly in the somewhat severe climate of Minneapolis/St Paul?
08-09-05, 10:28 PM
Signage (http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/HTM/2003r1/part9/fig9b-02_longdesc.htm) and education for both motorists and cyclists would be great. Maybe better than bike paths? (He says provokingly...)
Edit: Oh, yeah - and better enforcement! (No parking in bike lane, ride on the correct side, etc.)
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