Art is the Handmaid of Human Good

Life in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA

New Bike Lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard


I won’t lie, this post was probably going to be a bit snarky until the universe set my inner jackass straight by only showing me lovely things on my ride. I had a meeting this morning in the Acre, a neighborhood I haven’t really had a chance to ride through since we moved (it used to be a part of my daily commute.) While I would usually have ridden to my destination via Merrimack or Salem Street, today I decided to check out the new bike lanes on Fr. Morissette Blvd.

I have to say, I’m impressed. This is the best iteration of Lowell’s bike-friendly pavement markings yet.
As you can see, the road is set up with a lane for car traffic, a buffer lane, a bike lane, another buffer lane, and a parking lane. As I was riding down the road, I noticed that traffic was going at about half the speed it used to pre-bike lanes/parking.
I am especially impressed with the buffer zones. As you can see from the photo above, while the door buffer zone isn’t actually wide enough to prevent a dooring, there is enough space between both buffer zones and the wide bike lane to avoid the door zone without having to swerve into the traffic lane.
The bike lanes themselves are well marked, with icons at each intersection and, depending on the length of the block, one or two additional icons painted on the road. At the Arcand/Fr. Morissette intersection, the lanes end and sharrows are painted in the road. Going towards Pawtucket Street, the lanes end pretty abruptly and Fr. Morissette becomes two-lane again. There are no sharrows. I am not sure if that’s because the street changes aren’t finished yet, or if this continues in Lowell’s tradition of bike lanes that end at inconvenient places (oops, a little snark slipped in) but I really hope it’s the former and not the latter *ahem*

And now for a few lovely things that made me really happy and leads me to believe that we’re really doing something right.

#1. I saw 15 people on bikes this morning. That’s during a total 20 minutes of riding. That’s double what I probably would have seen at this time last year.

#2. I had to drop my Henrietta off at City Bicycle to get a new pair of grips and kickstand put on. When I dropped off my bike, Jim asked me when I could pick it up. I let him know that I needed to go somewhere at 2:00 pm so if he couldn’t do it by then, I would pick it up tomorrow or Friday. His response: “2:00 is perfect, I actually have so many bikes in the shop that there isn’t really room to keep her for long.” It’s great that his business is booming, and it’s especially great for me to be able to get my transportation bikes (one Dutch grandma style three speed with an internal hub and coaster brake and one vintage English cruiser, basically the opposite of fast/sport cycles, although he fixes those too) fixed so close to where I work.

#3. After my meeting in the Acre, I had to drop off something at City Hall. As I was leaving, I noticed a vintage blue Schwinn crusier parked at the bike rack and as I was unlocking Henrietta, the owner of the cruiser came over to unlock their bike. The owner was a young lady with an adorable dog that she had trained to ride with her. I am not lying when I say that made my entire day. The photo below? Evidence of some pretty serious progress.


10 thoughts on “New Bike Lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard

  1. I am an avid bike rider but haven’t been wild about urban biking. The addition of bike lanes in downtown Lowell this year has made me feel much safer. I have always avoided Fr. Morissette Blvd, but these improvements will make riding down that street much safer.

  2. I’m super excited at the prospect (I live downtown and love anything that makes our fair city more walk- and bike-able!), but I hope they’re still planning additional signs, lights, and perhaps even barriers. This week I’ve witnessed nearly a dozen cars driving in the new parking lanes, driving into the bike lane to pass someone (especially someone turning left), or doing other terrifying things. Often going around the existing barrels and cones to do so! Yikes. Definitely a learning curve. Especially at times when there are events at Tsongas or LHS I think I’d be too scared to brave the bike lanes for now.

    • Thanks for the comment, Leeann. I think the lanes will definitely take some getting used to, especially for drivers in the habit of bombing down Fr. Morissette. When the first wave of bike lanes were painted, the city did some outreach via the Manager’s Blog. I hope they will do that for these lanes.

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