As municipal design projects go, the effort to design a new bike route through Bristol is about as good as it gets. Paid for by state government, the process has been thorough and deliberate, with …
As municipal design projects go, the effort to design a new bike route through Bristol is about as good as it gets. Paid for by state government, the process has been thorough and deliberate, with outsized effort to get feedback from the public and from parties with vested interests.
Most impressive was the decision to pivot and incorporate a significant new concept late in the process. Rather than continuing to choose the single “best” route through downtown Bristol, the design team listened to the many people who have contributed ideas, including bikers who have navigated through downtown Bristol for years, and shifted to a bike “network” for the middle phase of the north-south journey.
The new concept means that between Thames Street and Ferry Road, bikers would have myriad options to navigate through the large grid of well-organized downtown streets — which is basically what they do now when biking through town. So why is this better?
It recognizes the variability in patterns, origins and destinations of bicyclists, but it also leads to improved safety at every downtown intersection, not just the few chosen along “the route.” Integral to the bike network would be a series of street markings and signs designed to make two-wheel travel safer for both the bikers and the motorists sharing the same space.
The best part is the foundation it would create for future bike “network” expansion east-west through town. So many of this town’s residents live on the east side of Metacom Avenue, which is a seemingly impenetrable barrier for anyone who considers biking or walking from their home to the beautiful downtown district, Bristol Harbor and the East Bay Bike Path. By building out the downtown safety infrastructure now, the town can take the first steps toward building safer routes from these dense but isolated population centers to the primary retail, dining, historic and waterfront district in this community.
Some residents have risen to challenge the bike route, circulating petitions and trying to get the whole project either moved out of their neighborhoods or shut down entirely. Hopefully decision-makers can see their way past the objections to envision a better path for Bristol — one with healthy and safe routes for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, embedded with economic vibrancy and appeal to both residents and visitors.