MassDOT tweeted about a new Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Awareness and Enforcement Program that was announced today. The program is going to give cities money to make transportation for all users safer. The funding will be used to help pay for stepped-up enforcement, raising awareness about all forms of transportation, and creating safer infrastructure. Twelve communities have been chosen for the first round of funding with Haverhill representing for the Merrimack Valley.
I would love to see some of this money come to Lowell, but I won’t be holding my breath. Opportunities for funding such as this seem to be the wave of the future, and it’s quite disappointing to see my city sliding backwards (and potentially cutting itself off from funding opportunities in the process.)
I am also hoping to attend the City Council meeting to discuss why I think bike lanes are important, but just in case I can’t make it, I did send the following letter to the City Council:
I am writing in regard to the motion to remove bike lanes from local streets. I do not support this motion.
I have lived in Lowell for ten years. I have worked in Lowell for seven years. I own a home in Lowell. I am active in the community: I am a Pollard Library Trustee, I volunteer for local organizations, and I participated in Public Matters. I am also a bike commuter who uses the bike lanes to ride to work; to PML meetings and events; to volunteer activities; to visit local restaurants, bars, and shops; and to visit my friends. Basically anything I am doing, I am doing via bicycle.
Safety is important to me and it makes me happy that I live in a city that is concerned for my safety on a bicycle. Since the bike lanes were painted a couple of years ago, I have felt much safer riding my bike in Lowell than I did in the past. I have found that drivers are more aware of my presence and less likely to find it strange or shocking that I am on the road. I have also found that the response that I get from drivers has been positive. People wave to me and say hello. Maybe I have been lucky, but most drivers have been friendly and polite (although they are a bit amazed when they see me riding in winter.)
I watch the City Council meetings most Tuesday evenings and I know that a couple of hot topics of conversation have been parking issues downtown and economic development. Now, I am obviously not an expert on either of these issues but I can speak to my personal experience with both. As far as parking issues downtown are concerned, well, I don’t have any. I lock my bike up and head to my destination. I am not taking up a coveted parking space that someone else could be using and I am not contributing to traffic. Because I am on a bike, I am also eating, drinking, and shopping at places that are easy for me to get to on my bike. Instead of heading to Nashua, Salem, or Burlington to spend my disposable income, I am dining out in Lowell’s restaurants, drinking in Lowell’s bars, and shopping in Lowell’s stores. I even get my bikes serviced locally at City Bicycle on Market Street.
Having a variety of ways to get from one place to another, including transit, pedestrian, cycle, and, yes, automobile infrastructure have helped other cities in both the Untied States and Europe alleviate parking and congestion issues and increase economic development. I think that instead of doing away with the bike lanes, our city should look to what bike lanes can do to help us with our parking and economic development issues.
If you would like to discuss this issue, or even go for a bike ride, I would be happy to hear from you.
If you’re local and want to support the bike lanes, please consider contacting the City Council. The City’s website has a handy form that can be accessed here, the last item under the Department Facts tab on the left.
Thanks to Learning Lowell, Left in Lowell, and RichardHowe.com for your thoughtful posts on both the bike lanes and the Sun kerfuffle. I haven’t heard anything from the Sun and I can’t say I am particularly surprised. It’s easy to steal things from the internet and it seems the Sun is not immune to that temptation which is obviously really unfortunate.