Cycling and driving in harmony: Complete Streets initiative changes roadway dynamic

Editor's note: This article was updated on July 31, 2016, to reflect that Joshua Chittenden is general manager of Berkshire Outfitters. The business is owned by Stephen Blazejewski.

ADAMS — Forget blaring car horns, forget the famous finger salutes and consider nothing but peace along the pavement.

Selectmen are likely to approve a policy targeting that precise strategy, a community with "complete streets," providing ease of use and safety to every visitor and citizen. The initiative could be approved at an Aug. 3 Selectmen's meeting.

Complete Streets is a state Department of Transportation program focused on providing "safe and accessible options for all travel modes — walking, biking, transit, and vehicles — for people of all ages and abilities."

If the policy is approved by town officials and sanctioned by the state, the town could generate grant money targeting specific projects, Community Development Director Donna Cesan told Selectmen's Chairman Jeffrey Snoonian and Selectmen Arthur "Skip" Harrington, John Duval and Joseph Nowak.

Selectman Richard Blanchard was absent from the workshop session.

"It immediately came to mind what we could do on Commercial Street and southern Route 8," Cesan said, referring to the possibility of grant revenues. Pedestrian traffic and a roadway wide enough to build cycling lanes are reasons for the focus, she added.

Cesan said additional improvements could involve extending existing bicycling lanes and designing new ones. That idea sounds very good to Joshua Chittenden, general manager of Berkshire Outfitters outdoor gear shop at 169 Grove St., he said during a subsequent Eagle interview.

Chittenden was not at the meeting but was asked to comment in part because his store is along the southern Route 8 corridor. He is an avid cyclist and rents bicycles from the store.

"I think it sounds like a great thing," Chittenden said, referring specifically to extending and increasing bicycle lanes. "With cyclists, the problem is motor vehicle traffic. The law is to share the road and no one has more right to use a road than anyone else."

Cycling is growing in popularity and scenic venues including the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail are luring folks to the town for outdoor recreation, he said.

"Cyclists are not going away, and outdoor recreation is growing, so for Adams to get behind something like this is great," he said. "Yesterday (Wednesday), I had people in that were renting bikes and they were from Israel. It was their first time here and they thought it was beautiful."

During the meeting, Cesan said that once a town policy earns MassDOT approval, town officials could start developing a Complete Streets plan. State approved policies may be eligible up to $50,000 toward plan costs, Cesan said.

There are three criteria to meet state requirements: municipal employee attendance at a Complete Streets training, creating a town policy scoring at least 80 points out of a possible 100 points from a MassDOT scoring system, and development of a Complete Streets Prioritization Plan.

A plan identifies projects that would meet Complete Streets goals. State revenues can help bring projects to completion, Cesan said.

"It is possible to get $400,000 for priority projects," she said, and noted that the revenue may be spread out over several projects. The ability to use the funds for more than one project is a benefit, she said.

Cesan mentioned "green" ideas could be utilized as well. She specifically noted capturing and using runoff created by rainstorms to water municipal plantings and cited Pittsfield's "rain gardens" as an example of something that might be included in a Complete Streets project.

Harrington quizzed Cesan about costs of the projects, and Cesan said that in general, because existing streets are being redone rather than new streets being constructed, any differences were minimal.

Harrington emphasized his interest in public safety. "We as a group need to focus on where we can slow traffic down," he said. "We need to find ways to correct things. This is huge in the character of our community. We need to do things the right way. We are responsible for the future of our kids, our grandkids and everybody else."

A revived and user-friendly approach to community streets could bode well for the town future, Chittenden said.

"My gut says that we have young families move away and then realize that this area is pretty great and they come back," he said. "Look what the rail trail has done. There are many people who would never set foot on the old railroad go out on a the paved path and ride bikes, walk and talk about how great it is."


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