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Recent increased interest in bicycling from cities, towns and regional planning agencies has resulted in an increasing number of submissions of proposals for bicycle facilities to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Transportation and Construction (EOTC). This interest reflects changing views of transportation planning, as well as changes in Federal funding mechanisms.

The Bureau of Transportation Planning and Development (BTP&D) of the EOTC found that a statewide inventory of bicycle facilities proposals, as well as existing facilities, would be useful in order to create a context for review of new submissions and inquiries. The Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) entered into a contract with the Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts BCOM) to carry out the project

This report, including maps, is one of two final products of the bicycle facilities inventory project conceived in 1994 by the BTP&D. The other product is a computer database listing existing and potential bicycle facilities. The goal of the process was to provide a comprehensive inventory of bicycle facilities projects to the BTP&D and to the 13 regional planning agencies (RPAs) in Massachusetts.

The inventory process included three meetings in each RPA’s region. The first meeting was between project staff and RPA staff to discuss the project. The second and third meetings were open to the public. Public involvement was solicited through mailings to cities and towns, as well as to individuals and organizations with an interest in bicycling and transportation issues. The first public meeting was primarily for the purpose of receiving input, and the second one, for public review and comment.

In addition, the inventory project’s scope of work included the task of defining a subset of proposed facilities projects as priority projects. Prioritization is based on criteria established by the BTP&D, incorporates initial suggestions by project staff, and reflects input at public meetings. The RPA’s choices governed when there were substantial differences of opinion about priorities. Priorities should be understood as only for the purpose of this project. Several of the RPAs are preparing planning documents which may reach different conclusions or set priorities based on different criteria.

The majority of this report consists of a description of the existing and potential facilities in each of the 13 RPAs, followed by a short list of the priority projects. Cities, towns and the public participated strongly in the inventory project. The list of existing and proposed designated facilities for bicycle travel is substantially complete except for parking facilities, due to their very local and dispersed nature. The computer database which was submitted with this report contains detailed information on each project summarized in the report.

In addition to the inventory and prioritization, project staff was asked to suggest cross-state bicycle routes. Four north-south routes, two-east-west routes and a number of side trips are indicated on the maps included with this report and described in a separate section of the report. The primary focus of these routes is to promote tourism and vacation travel. The cross-state routes emphasize historic and scenic locations and attractive bicycling locations, rather than directness alone.

The following generalizations may be made from the input received:

  • The number of existing bicycle facilities varied greatly among the RPA’s. The Cape Cod Commission, Martha’s Vineyard Commission and Nantucket Planning and Economic Development Commission, seeking to accommodate increased bicycle use during the summer tourist season, have relatively high mileage of bicycle facilities in proportion to land area and population. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, with its large population concentration and tradition of bicycle use, also had a relatively large number of existing facilities.
  • The number and types of suggestions for new facilities also varied greatly among the RPAs. To accommodate summer vacationers, the Cape and Islands seek additions to their existing bicycle path networks, though numerous suggestions were also received for other facilities. Many suggestions in RPAs with large urban concentrations were for paths and road improvements to serve commuters and other bicyclists in developed areas. There were a substantial number of proposals for rail trails in small towns, though many suggestions also were made for maintaining and improving existing roads and highways.
  • Citizen interest in bicycle facilities is strong in every RPA. The interest by town and city governments varies, but appears strongest in RPAs which have taken a proactive role by establishing regional bicycle advisory committees where RPA staff, civic officials and citizens can work together.
  • Widely varying types of bicycle use motivate the desires of citizens, local officials and RPAs. Urban and suburban residents seek improvements in routes between their neighborhoods and destinations such as schools, workplaces and shopping areas. In rural areas, many suggestions were for bicycle facilities in towns, where trips are short. Experienced, adult bicyclist residents expressed a desire for maintenance of the rural roads and highways for their longer trips. There were also a number of suggestions for longer rail trails or "greenways" through rural areas. Bicyclists fall into two major categories: there are casual, family cyclists who prefer bicycle paths and lightly-traveled roads, but also experienced bicyclists who travel longer distances on a greater variety of roads and highways.
  • Practical options for types of facilities vary greatly, depending, for example, on the right-of-way width available for highway widening or the availability of an abandoned railbed for conversion into a trail. In addition, no single approach to bicycle facilities will satisfy all bicyclists. Plans to accommodate bicycling must strike a balance among the desires and requirements of the various categories of bicyclists. However, a flexible approach based on current engineering practices will go the farthest to achieve the goal of maintaining and improving a comprehensive network of routes which bicyclists will find attractive and convenient.

During the course of this 8-month contract, BCOM conducted 38 meetings in all parts of the state, 13 meetings with representatives of all of the RPAs and two rounds of 15 public meetings. The first round was attended by a total of 255 people, and the second round by 203. More than 800 written suggestions were received from 260 commenters. Commenters included individuals, representatives of bikeway advocacy organizations and bicycle clubs, and RPA staff. The suggestion form included in an appendix to this report was the basis for most suggestions.

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