LENOX — The town's scenic roadways will become part of the Western New England Greenway portion of an interconnected regional bicycle route system.
The Select Board voted unanimously on Wednesday night to endorse the town's participation in the Berkshire County segment of the route being set up by the state Department of Transportation. MassDOT was seeking the town's endorsement to apply for official designation of U.S. Bike Route 7, as it's described.
"The Western New England Greenway makes use of lightly traveled roads and shared-use paths, and avoids, to the extent possible, the use of Route 7 and other more heavily traveled roads," stated Mark J. Moore, the acting district highway director for MassDOT.
The entire Greenway route extends from Norwalk, Conn., to Montreal, Quebec. It involves no municipal funding on the local section and no increase in the town's liability along roads designated as the bike route, Town Planner/Land Use Director Gwen Miller told the selectmen.
The proposed Berkshire County segment begins in Ashley Falls, continues through Sheffield and Great Barrington, enters Stockbridge on Route 183 and continues through Lenox, including stretches of Main Street, Hubbard Street and East Street, crossing into Pittsfield via Chapman and Holmes roads.
In Pittsfield, the bikeway would include portions of Williams Street, Dalton Avenue and Cheshire Road (Route 8) before joining the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Lanesborough, a popular ride for bicyclists.
After passing through Adams and then along Route 8 in North Adams, the route continues adjacent to Western Gateway Heritage State Park and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, heading westward to Williamstown. Northbound bicyclists would enter Pownal, Vermont, en route to Bennington and points north, mostly along a series of scenic side roads.
Great Barrington, Stockbridge, Williamstown and North Adams have already endorsed segments of the bikeway, according to Town Manager Christopher Ketchen. Some of the four remaining Berkshire County communities along the route — Sheffield, Pittsfield, Cheshire and Adams — may follow suit this month, he said.
The state of Vermont has endorsed the entire bikeway from the Massachusetts line in Pownal to the Canadian border, while approval in Connecticut is pending.
"These long routes are advertised as a recreation opportunity and a tourist attraction," Miller said. Representatives of local communities can make suggestions to the Western New England Greenway Association and MassDOT about route alterations, spurs for side trips to local attractions and signs for the bicyclists along the route.
Miller noted that Lenox and its sites of interest are already promoted as a destination along the route.
"Typically, these long-distance bike tourists are older, very experienced cyclists," she said. "They know how to share the road well and they spend on average $100 a day, and with higher-end options, they might spend more." The bicyclists patronize restaurants, lodging facilities and tourist attractions along the route, according to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.
Selectman Kenneth Fowler suggested that the route would help boost shoulder-month tourism such as in October, with its usually ideal biking weather.
Suggestions for route alterations are being welcomed at Town Hall, Ketchen noted.
The nationwide bicycle-route network has been developed by the American Association of State Highway Officials, a nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing highway and transportation departments in the 50 states, and by the Adventure Cycling Association, a nonprofit advocacy group for bicycle travel.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
On the web...
For information and maps: wnegreenway.org.