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Existing bicycle facilities vary greatly from region to region.
The inventory process revealed that relatively few designated bicycle facilities exist in Massachusetts, except in the Metropolitan Boston area, Cape Cod, Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket.
The Metropolitan Boston area has a long and uninterrupted history of significant levels of bicycle use for transportation, dating back to the 1880s. Riverfront parks, parkways and more recently, linear parks over new subway lines have become designated as bikeways.
Cape Cod, Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket have experienced heavy recreational bicycle use and have built designated bicycle facilities to accommodate this use.
Massachusetts Bicycle Route 1 from Boston to Cape Cod is a designated facility, mostly on-road, used mostly by vacationers and weekend travelers.
There has been a small boom in the use of undesignated trails for all-terrain bicycles. However, many of these trails are not direct routes, and many have unimproved surfaces and steep grades which render them most suitable for bicycles with wide tires and low gears.
Throughout Massachusetts as a whole, the great majority of bicycle use continues to be on undesignated facilities, mostly ordinary streets and roads.
The number and types of suggestions for new facilities also varied greatly among the RPAs. To accommodate summer vacationers, commenters on Cape Cod and the Islands seek additions to their existing bicycle path networks. Numerous suggestions were, however, also received for roadway improvements in congested areas, for example near the ferry docks in downtown Nantucket, and on parts of Cape Cod where the only through routes are heavily-traveled highways without shoulders. Many suggestions in RPAs with large urban concentrations were for paths and street improvements to serve commuters and other utility cyclists in developed areas. In several urban areas with river or ocean frontage, suggestions were made for facilities along the water, often as part of open space proposals, but also with considerable potential as bicycle through routes. There was 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.
Civic interest in bicycling has increased substantially in recent years. The new momentum for bicycle and pedestrian planning appears to result in part from the desire of communities for a greater variety of transportation options, and in part from the more flexible funding offered by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) of 1991.
The RPAs have taken differing approaches to bicycling. These differences reflect local bicycling conditions and population densities, as well as variations in the governmental process. Several of the RPAs have active bicycle committees or non-motorized transportation committees which serve as channels of communication between city and town officials, citizens with an interest in bicycling and RPA staff. In fact, some of the public meetings which were held as part of the inventory project were organized as part of the regular committee meetings. Several RPAs have prepared or are preparing comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian plans.
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.
Many existing facilities in Massachusetts have proven popular and appear to have initiated an upsurge of interest in bicycling in the communities and regions through which they pass. The Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in particular has exemplified this phenomenon. Active town bicycle committees have continued and grown after the opening of the trail, maintaining an interest in its upkeep and improvement, and also supplying new facilities suggestions. Interest in many facets of bicycling appears to have grown since the trail opened. Bicycling education programs for children, both in and outside the schools; helmet promotion campaigns; initiation of bicycle-mounted police patrols -- all reflect an increase in interest in bicycling in communities along the trail.
The comments, suggestions and proposals which form the basis of this report make it clear that the inventoried proposals for bicycle facilities do not represent a comprehensive statewide program. Available funding and physical constraints limit the construction of separate bicycle facilities. Even if all of the proposed designated facilities are built -- and many more were are described in the database than are shown on the maps or listed as priorities -- most bicycling will continue to be on streets, roads and highways which already connect to almost all destinations. For this reason, the maintenance and improvement of existing streets, roads and highways for bicycle travel must be seen as an important part of any program of bicycle facilities improvements.
Many different categories of bicyclists contributed their input to the project. The diversity of input makes it clear the importance of accommodating the desires and requirements of the various categories of bicyclists. A flexible approach will go the farthest to achieve the goal of maintaining and improving a comprehensive network of routes which bicyclists will find attractive and convenient.
This project concentrated on facilities. Nonetheless, numerous commenters from around the state emphasized that facilities represent only one facet of planning for bicycling. A widely used paradigm describes the "4 Es" of Engineering, Education, Enforcement and Encouragement.
The most comprehensive and balanced plans for bicycle facilities and planning appear to result from cooperative efforts among concerned citizens, representatives of bicyclists organizations and bikeway committees, police, city and town government officials, and RPAs. This approach to planning appears to bring forward a larger number and variety of suggestions and proposals, and to subject them to refinement and coordination. The community process typically involves town or city government officials, police, and interested citizens.
This report represents, so to speak, only the "tip of the iceberg" of information collected and made available through the project. So that maximum benefit may be derived from the project, the underlying data is also available.
More than 800 written suggestions were received from 260 commenters, who included individuals, representatives of bikeway advocacy organizations and bicycle clubs, and RPA staff. The suggestions fell into the following categories:
Other suggestions included improvements to bridges and existing bicycle paths; signage, signalization, traffic mitigation, ferry service, and bicycle parking. The number of projects is somewhat smaller than the number of suggestions, as some were submitted by more than one commenter.
The suggestion form included in an appendix to this report was the basis for most suggestions. Many written suggestions included maps and extensive comments. All of this material is being retained for future reference.
The written suggestions were entered into a computer database. The database allows sorting and retrieval of suggestions in a large number of different ways. For example, all projects which pass through any one town can be found and retrieved, or all proposals which are for road improvements in the MAPC region, or all projects which were proposed by a particular individual or organization. The ability to sort and find is what the BTP&D sought in order to have an overview of existing and potential bicycle facilities, both now and in the future.
This report is a public document. 20 copies have been submitted to the EOTC, and copies have been distributed to all of the RPAs. The report is on file at the State Transportation Library at 10 Park Plaza in Boston.
Computer data of the facilities inventory were assembled as a Microsoft Access 2.0 database. Access runs under Microsoft Windows on PC-compatible computers. The text of this report was prepared as a Microsoft Word 6.0 document. Computer data of the facilities inventory and text of this report are available on a 3.5 inch PC-compatible floppy disk from BCOM for the cost of reproduction and shipping.
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