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In addition to collecting and evaluating suggestions for bicycle facilities, BCOM was asked to suggest two east-west and three north-south bicycle touring routes across Massachusetts. BCOM has exceeded these requirements, describing four north-south routes, two east-west routes and several side trips.
Touring by bicycle is a popular vacation activity with significant economic impact. Particularly, inn-to-inn vacation tours have become a thriving business in many parts of the US. In Vermont, for example, the economic contribution of bicycle touring is greater than that of maple sugaring.
The scenic and cultural resources in Massachusetts are world-class. In Massachusetts, bicycle touring is popular statewide, and especially on Cape Cod and the Islands and in Berkshire County. Massachusetts attracts bicyclists from other states and countries. For example, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst hosted the 1995 eastern touring weekend of the League of American Bicyclists, attended by 1300. A 1994 East Coast tandem weekend was held at Gordon College in Hamilton. Cape Cod is a popular and nationally-known touring destination. Massachusetts is in an excellent position further to promote bicycle touring,
Massachusetts might attract more bicycle tourists by overcoming the unwarranted perception that route choices are difficult due to greater population density and heavier traffic than, for example, in Vermont. Massachusetts has many lightly-traveled roads which are ideal for bicycle touring. Knowledge gained by researching and riding local roads is necessary to determine which are most suitable as touring routes. The purpose of the cross-state route suggestions is to assemble this knowledge and make it available to government agencies and the public.
Cross-state routes are identified here which are easily implemented through maps and guides, without the need for construction of new facilities. It is also desirable to look at potential future improvements. Wherever possible, potential improvements suggested through the bicycle facilities inventory process have been suggested for potential upgrading of the cross-state routes.
Massachusetts Bike Route 1 from Boston to Provincetown serves as a model for the other suggested touring routes. While the route corridor of Bike Route 1 has remained the same, parts of the route have benefited from improvements, especially on Cape Cod. This process is ongoing.
To a considerable degree, cross-state route choices depended on input from local commenters at the public meetings held as part of the inventory process. Existing resources such as the 1986 Massachusetts State Bikemap were used, as well as the fund of knowledge of bicycle club members who travel the roads extensively in various parts of the Commonwealth.
Criteria for the cross-state routes included directness, attractiveness of the riding experience, and access to points of interest such as historic sites and scenic vistas. Massachusetts has an abundance of such resources.
Three of the four north-south bicycle touring routes lie in the three major north-south lowland corridors of Massachusetts: the Berkshire Valley, the Connecticut Valley and the coastal plain. The fourth route connects the Blackstone Valley and Merrimack Valley.
The westernmost north-south route lies entirely within Berkshire County. It enters at the Connecticut border in Ashley Falls, mostly following lightly traveled rural roads. It passes points of interest including the Colonel Ashley House and Bartholomew Cobble Nature Preserve. Continuing through Sheffield, Egremont and Great Barrington, the route passes the Shays Rebellion Battle Monument, Albert Schweitzer Center and Simons Rock College. The route then passes through the sparsely populated west valley to West Stockbridge, and onward to the remarkable Hancock Shaker Village museum.
Continuing though the west side of Pittsfield, the route passes Burbank Park, with a swimming area and picnic tables. Slightly off the route is Taconic State Park, which offers camping.
The route continues north on U.S. Route 7, a major highway which has wide shoulders and relatively light traffic. It turns east on lightly-traveled and very scenic Massachusetts Route 43, Green River Road, passing Mount Hope Park. From Williamstown, the route turns east up the Hoosic River valley on Route 2. Though it has wide lanes, this part of Route 2 is a commercial strip for most of its length. The touring route avoids the largest concentration of commercial driveways by crossing over to Hoosic Street, Williamstown which becomes Massachusetts Avenue in North Adams. From North Adams, the route climbs north to Clarksburg State Park and to the Vermont border, where it exits to Vermonts Route 100, the bicyclists favored north-south route through Vermont.
The Connecticut Valley route enters Massachusetts via Loomis Street in Southwick, proceeding to Westfield. It continues northward along the base of the Berkshire foothills to Northampton. From Northampton, it follows the Connecticut River northwards until it joins the northern east-west route in Whately. It continues with that route to Northfield, where it continues north to join a designated New Hampshire bicycle route at the border.
Points of interest include Northampton with its cultural attractions; Old Deerfield Village; and many village greens along the route.
Several proposed rail trails could be incorporated into this route.
The central Massachusetts north-south route runs east of Worcester. It was surveyed in the early 1980s by the Adventure Cycling Association (then called Bikecentennial) as part of a Maine to Virginia bicycle touring route. Points of interest include the Blackstone and Upton State Forests, and the Fruitlands Museum in the town of Harvard. The abandoned Hollis branch rail line from Ayer to Dunstable is in state ownership. A rail trail may be constructed here, and if so, the northern segment of the Central Massachusetts route could be moved to the rail trail. Part of the southern section might also follow the proposed Blackstone Valley Bikeway, which closely parallels the touring route.
The northern part of the coastal route begins at the Charles River in Boston, and makes its way on streets to the Minuteman Bikeway in Lexington. Turning east from the center of Lexington, it passes through Woburn and Wilmington, passing Horn Pond, the historic Middlesex Canal, the Count Rumford House and the monument to the discovery of the first Baldwin apple tree. In Andover, the route passes the industrial village of Ballardvale, Phillips Academy, and Harold Parker State Forest, with its camping and swimming facilities. The route continues northeast through Middleton, Boxford, Georgetown and Newbury to Newburyport, and exits to New Hampshire via Salisbury.
The southern part of the coastal route mostly follows the Claire Saltonstall Bikeway, Massachusetts Bicycle Route 1, which has been officially designated since the late 1970s. This route uses MDC parkways and bicycle paths in Boston, continuing on secondary roads with some stretches of highway to Cape Cod. Points of interest include the Blue Hills Reservation and Trailside Museum in Milton; Massasoit State College in Brockton; the East Bridgewater town green and the Robbins Pond swimming area; Plymouth Rock; the Cape Cod Canal; and the many scenic and recreational amenities of Cape Cod. The terminus of the route is in Provincetown, where ferryboats provide connections to Plymouth, Quincy, Boston and Gloucester. The route includes a spur to Woods Hole which connects with ferries to Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket.
The northern east-west route enters Massachusetts via Route 43 in Hancock, where it links to a New York cross-state route described in a popular guidebook. The Massachusetts route crosses to the Pittsfield area via Brodie Mountain Road, then continues to Route 8 north, and via Wells Avenue to Route 116 east. In Savoy, the route turns southeast onto River Road, through the Windsor State Forest. From Plainfield to Williamsburg, the route follows Massachusetts Route 9. It then turns north via secondary roads through Whately and to Deerfield, passing Old Deerfield Village.
The route continues through Greenfield to Northfield, with alternate routings on either side of the Connecticut River. It could incorporate portions of the proposed Franklin County Bikeway once this is constructed. East from Northfield, the route follows very scenic and lightly traveled roads east to Winchendon, then turns south along wide Route 140 and passes Mt. Wachusett State Park. The route turns east again along Route 62 to Clinton, then north to pass through Littleton, Athol and Concord. It passes the Old North Bridge Historic Site in Concord, as well as the Lexington Battle Green and Minuteman Monument via the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway before the final leg into Boston.
The southern east-west route enters Massachusetts in West Stockbridge, traveling the length of Route 102 to Lee with a short side trip in Stockbridge that includes the only existing designated bicycle path in Berkshire County, on the grounds of the new Norman Rockwell Museum. Except for a short stretch in Stockbridge which the touring route avoids, Route 102 has wide shoulders and relatively little traffic, since through traffic uses the parallel Massachusetts Turnpike. Stockbridge has several museums in addition to the Rockwell Museum, and also a theater company and several art galleries.
From Lee to Westfield, the touring route follows Route 20. Like Route 102, Route 20 has relatively light traffic because it parallels the Massachusetts Turnpike. There are steep climbs in both directions over the Berkshires, but no southern route on roads can avoid them. A potential future alternative to Route 20 with gentler grades is provided by the abandoned railbed of the Huckleberry Trolley line that once ran between Blandford and Lee.
The southern route passes through Holyoke and runs north of Springfield on secondary roads and highways, joining Route 20 in Brimfield. At Sturbridge, it turns south from Route 20. It passes through Southbridge and Webster and crosses the Blackstone Valley on scenic, historic Hartford Road. Most of the section between Belchertown and Mendon runs parallel to Grand Trunk Trailblazers rail-trail proposals, which could be incorporated into the route.
From Mendon eastwards, the route skirts the Rhode Island border, then heads southeast to the Berkley-Dighton Bridge across the Taunton River.
Points of interest include the industrial section of Holyoke, with its waterpower canals and old factories; also, several museums including a Dinosaur Footprints museum and Old Sturbridge Village.
The southern east-west route joins the coastal north-south route in Sandwich, terminating in Provincetown at the tip of Cape Cod.
A number of side trips have been designated for the touring routes.
In Berkshire County, these include a challenging ride up and over Mount Greylock; a scenic ride through the Monument Valley east of Great Barrington; and a cultural attractions loop that brings riders directly to the front gate Tanglewood for Boston Symphony concerts.
A spur of the northern east-west route follows Route 8A from Savoy to Charlemont, then continues north along Zoar Road and River Road to the Vermont border. The sights along this route are extraordinary, and include the east portal of the Hoosac Tunnel, the Yankee Rowe atomic power plant, and a pumped-storage power plant. Excellent highways in Vermont connect River Road with Route 8 in North Adams, at the northern terminus of the Berkshire Valley north-south cross-state route.
An alternate routing in the Connecticut Valley crosses the Connecticut River from Northampton to Hadley and proceeds to Amherst along the Norwottuck Rail Trail. It then turns north, passing through the hill towns of Leverett, Shutesbury and Wendell, and via Warwick to Northfield. Points of interest include the cultural attractions of Amherst and swimming at Lake Wyola in Wendell. This side trip may be incorporated into either the Connecticut Valley north-south or northern east-west route.
North of Boston, a loop to Cape Ann offers a longer option for the coastal north-south route.
A spur route of the southern east-west route connects into New Bedford, location of a historic district including a whaling museum, and of a ferry service connecting with Marthas Vineyard.
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