By Michael J. DeCicco / Contributing writer
Posted Oct 12, 2016 at 12:17 AMUpdated Oct 12, 2016 at 1:21 PM
MATTAPOISETT — The committee charged with improving the safe use of the town’s bike path has presented the selectmen with recommendations that include reducing speed limits and decreasing the number of confusing signs.
Topping the draft executive summary report given to selectmen Tuesday night, the Bike Path Safety Advisory Committee wants to reduce the posted speed limit to 30 mph from Timberledge Lane south to Mattapoisett Neck Road and prior to Town Landing as well as northbound near Marshmere to Timberledge.
To do this, however, said committee chair and Police Chief Mary Lyons, the town needs to request the state Department of Transportation be allowed to lower the speeds there.
“Mattapoisett Neck Road is a ‘speed-zoned’ road, based on previously established speed zone guidelines,” Lyons said. “Therefore, it will not qualify under the new ‘thickly settled/business district’ legislation that was passed.”
The solution, she said, is to send a letter to the MA Dept. of Transportation secretary and chief executive officer requesting the town be allowed limited amendments to this legislation. Selectmen quickly approved sending out the committee’s draft letter with this proposal.
Under signage concerns, to relieve what the committee called “sign congestion” along the bike path route, it recommended removing or relocating the “Share the road” and green bike path signs from Timberledge to Old Mattapoisett Neck Road north and south.
Bruce Wheeler coached more than 1,500 games baseball and basketball at UMass Dartmouth, earning him the No. 36 spot on Buddy’s Best: Coaching Legends. #scvarsityIt also suggested additional painting markings to better warn motorists of approaching bike path crosswalks and installing electronic speed feedback signs on Mattapoisett Neck Road and Brandt Island Road as well as solar-powered “intersection ahead” signs. It noted the town’s Capital Planning Committee has already approved placing the speed signs on the fall town meeting for voter endorsement.
Under the need for better intersection design, the committee said it needed more research to find the best plan. Lyons said the options here could include narrowing the bike path lanes and add flashing beacons to slow motor vehicle traffic.
The ultimate goal, Lyons said, is approval of the Mattapoisett Bicycle and Pedestrian path that would include a final executive summary report and establishing a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to coordinate the plan with public safety officers.
The research is needed to answer the question, “What is the best plan for Mattapoisett?” she said.
WESTPORT — Bicyclists in Southeastern Massachusetts have long envisioned a world where they can pedal pretty much anywhere. Now that vision is getting closer to reality.
“We are here today to build a bike culture,” Bob Espindola said at the SouthCoast Bikeway Alliance’s sixth annual bike summit. “It’s really important to keep people engaged.”
The summit, held at White’s of Westport, attracted cyclists from throughout the region for discussions about organizing safe riding groups and getting children interested in cycling, and an update on the bikeway itself, a growing network of trails spanning coastal communities from Fall River to Wareham. Towns in the alliance collectively have more than 10.25 miles of multi-use path and 14 miles of bike lanes complete. Fall River, Marion, Wareham and Mattapoisett have almost eight miles in construction or planning over the next five years.
The alliance is made up of eight communities, including Dartmouth and Westport. It is a volunteer-run nonprofit supported partly by Narragansett Bay Wheelmen and Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District.
The summit highlighted some nfrastructure updates, including the addition of more “bike lane” and “share the road” signs in Fall River, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Fairhaven and Wareham. Bike racks have been installed at every building on the UMass Dartmouth campus. Alliance members also celebrated the 2015 opening of the Headwaters Conservation Area at 162 Blossom Road in Westport. The site includes hiking and off-road, unpaved biking paths. A grand opening ceremony for the Alfrted J. Lima Rail Trail in nearby Fall River is slated for June of this year.
In Dartmouth, 16 acres of land north of I-195 were recently acquired by the town, furthering efforts to create a proposed northern route, according to the alliance. A UMass Dartmouth transportation plan calls for pedestrian and bike improvements.
The Dartmouth Community Preservation Committee recently received an update on local plans for connecting Dartmouth pathways to the South Coast Bikeway. Greg Barnes, the town’s delegate to the bikeway steering committee, said plans are advancing for an off-road bike path in North Dartmouth from the Fall River pathway to the New Bedford line.
A developer’s donation of 16 acres of land will give the town a continuous bike route through the Southeastern Mass. Bioreserve, the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust-controlled Ridge Hill Conservation Area off Collins Corner Road, the Dartmouth Parks & Trails complex off Old Fall River Road, and on to New Bedford, Barnes said.
Chronicle Correspondent Robert Barboza contributed to this report.
Even with warmer weather some months away, bicyclists will have a place to meet and plan paths for the year ahead.
The South Coast Bikeway Committee, a steering committee of the South Coast Bikeway Alliance, met in Dartmouth on Jan. 12 to hammer out some details for the group’s upcoming summit.
The Alliance is working to promote and build up the South Coast Bikeway, a network of bike paths, multi-user paths and bike lanes stretching from Swansea to Wareham. According to its official website, the ultimate goal of the bikeway is to create a continuous system of paths for bikers “that will connect Rhode Island to Cape Cod.”
The alliance’s annual summit, now in its seventh year, is an attempt to build a bike culture in the region through guest speakers and panel sessions. This year, the summit will be held at White’s of Westport on March 24.
During the meeting on Tuesday night, the group discussed inviting local bikers from casual groups and participants in the nationwide initiative, Safe Routes to School, to speak at the summit.
“We’re hoping to get representatives of those groups there to talk to people about ways they can get out on their bikes and ride,” said Bob Espindola, president of the alliance and a selectmen from Fairhaven.
“In the case of the Safe Routes to School program, we do have some established programs where kids are riding to school with adult supervision,” he said. “What we’re trying to do is promote this concept to other communities. The people that participate enjoy it.”
He said that one such group has been a success in Fairhaven. Regarding casual cyclists, Espindola said such a group is already established in Fall River, and its members travel to other areas to ride together.
“It’s a relatively little-known thing that there are these riding groups out there. Some people find it helpful to ride with a group because it helps them ride more regularly. If they start seeing other routes that they can travel, they might not do it on their own,” he said.
The group intends to release a more solid itinerary as the date of the summit approaches. Generally, the night will include a review of accomplishments the alliance has had in 2015, a presentation by Erin Reed, a statewide coordinator with Safe Routes to School, and panel discussions.
They also want to allot some time after the scheduled presentations to allow attendees to network with other bicyclists.
This past summer, the alliance held a successful campaign, called the South Coast Summer Bike Challenge, in which bikers in the region tracked their miles from May 1 to Labor Day as part of a national competition.
There were 112 participants who collectively rode 87,000 miles. The bicyclists from the South Coast placed first out of the 32 teams in the Commonwealth. The group also placed 25th out of 1,945 teams nationwide.
The alliance plans to use to use the summit as a chance to entice more bikers to log miles during the third Summer Bike Challenge in the year ahead.