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Worcester Councilor Wants To Make City More Bike-Friendly

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

 

District 1 City Councilor Tony Economou wants to make it easier for residents to get around Worcester without having to get in their cars.

Economou filed an order at Tuesday night's Council meeting requesting that City Manager Michael O'Brien look into how the city's downtown can be made more bike-friendly through the implementation of dedicated bike lanes, installation of additional bike stands and other means. The order, which At-Large Council Kate Toomey signed onto, also requested that the City Manager report on whether Department of Transportation funding or federal funding is available to help finance the creation of such a bike-friendly atmosphere.

"As housing gets developed down here, people will be walking or they will be riding their bikes more," Economou said. "Let's be proactive."

Jim McKeag of the Worcester Downtown Neighborhood Alliance attended Tuesday's meeting to lend the order his organization's support for several reasons. While the group would like to see a decrease in car usage and an increase in bike ridership and pedestrian traffic from a health and environmental standpoint, they would like to see less bike usage on downtown sidewalks from a safety point of view as well.

McKeag said they have received several complaints about bike riders on the sidewalks downtown, and by incorporating bike lanes into the design of streets downtown, the city could improve the safety and experience of all travelers, whether on four wheels, two wheels or two feet.

Neil Medin has been a store manager at Worcester's Bicycle Alley for nearly 25 years and used to ride his bike around the city as a student at Clark. He said that Worcester has not become appreciably more bike-friendly over the course of those years.

"I have seen that it hasn't improved," he said. "A little bit here and there but nothing like some of these other larger cities."

What the city currently lacks, said Medin, are dedicated, safe bike lanes and places to park and lock bikes, which would help to encourage more ridership.

"Usually that's the start."

He said that several of the bike lanes currently in place in Worcester, such as those on Mill and Water Streets, suffer from not being well-marked or from being located where cars attempting to park at meters along the street have to bisect the bike lane when pulling in or out.

"Basically you're riding on the breakdown lane," Medin said.

Jonathan Sher, a shop manager and a member of the board of directors at Worcester Earn-A-Bike, said he has been hit by drivers several times both while riding and walking his bike across city streets and that more education and caution is needed by among those that share the road.

Sher reiterated that cyclists should always wear a helmet when they ride, wear reflective clothing and install lights on their bikes if they're going to ride at night.

"The reflective clothing makes a big difference because people don't see you on the road," he said, noting that rider still have to be overly-cautious even when they have the right of way.

But more bike stands and dedicated bike lanes downtown and elsewhere in the city would be a welcome addition.

"We're all of the same mind," Sher said of his fellow bike enthusiasts and Bicycle Alley. "We need to have some lanes where you can ride your bike comfortably." 

 

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