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.