By Peter Vancini
Massachusetts is among the top five states where bicycle ridership is growing, but it lags in developing the infrastructure to keep riders safe.
The lack of bike lanes and trails is a nationwide problem. Massachusetts ranks 15th in the nation for the most bike commuters per capita, according to a 2016 report by the League of American Bicyclists, a nonprofit advocacy group that produces bike “report cards” for each state.
Yet only 0.8 percent of the state’s workers — a little over 26,600 people — commuted to work by bike in 2014. This is still above the national average of 0.6 percent of workers biking into the office.
To pick up where reinvestment act funding left off, Massachusetts in 2014 announced the Complete Street Funding Program, which provides up to $450,000 per qualifying bike/pedestrian project. There’s $12.5 million to spend for fiscal years 2016-17 — which averages out to be about $1 million less per year on bike projects compared to when reinvestment money was available.
“If ultimately the goal is to move a person a certain distance, then the least expensive way to move that person is by bicycle and walking facilities,” Feiden said. “If we had to keep widening streets … we couldn’t afford it. So every time we get somebody out of their car by walking or bicycling, we save taxpayers money.”
Meanwhile, bike trail projects all over the Valley that have been in the works for years are beginning to connect.
The guiding force behind these bicycle and pedestrian initiatives is the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s Regional Transportation Plan, a federally-mandated outline of transportation planning over the course of at least 20 years.
The PVPC’s 25-year plan seeks to identify barriers to bicycling and pedestrian traffic and better accommodate them during improvement projects as part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s GreenDOT environmental sustainability program.