Lette: A bike-friendly Bristol is good for everyone

Posted 3/4/21

I thank the Bristol Town Council for advancing the bike path project. Continuing the process allows for more community dialogue and better final decisions. As a cyclist who rides throughout Bristol …

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Lette: A bike-friendly Bristol is good for everyone

Posted

I thank the Bristol Town Council for advancing the bike path project. Continuing the process allows for more community dialogue and better final decisions. As a cyclist who rides throughout Bristol for recreation, errands and commuting to work, I think that cyclists’ and pedestrians’ safety needs to be emphasized and prioritized more. Therefore, I write to provide a cyclist’s perspective about some concerns raised by the Council and other letter writers regarding a path on Old Ferry Road which I ride along often.  

One concern is that a path there could be too wide, degrading the area’s character and creating a “speedway.” Councilor Mary Parella suggested that creating a narrower path might be preferred because “serious cyclists” will stay on the road. This would be a mistake because it conflicts with the essential goal of having a safe, sharable path for everyone.

Whatever its width, an off-road path will definitely be used by many cyclists who want to avoid the road’s vehicles and narrow shoulder filled with gravel and sticks. Therefore, the path must be wide enough to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists comfortably passing each other. Pedestrians who walk side-by-side in groups will also benefit from a wider path.  

Regarding cyclists’ speed, it will surely be similar to the East Bay Bike Path (with less traffic) where pedestrians and cyclists coexist comfortably because of its 10-foot width. Cyclists don’t use shared paths for race training and don’t want to endanger themselves or others by speeding and hitting anything. On an Old Ferry path, cyclists will inevitably go slower because of narrowed curves around trees left in place (which I support) and out of caution for driveways.  

Regarding driveways, their presence is all the more reason why an improved path is needed. Many cyclists, runners and walkers — including local residents — already use this route extensively. All drivers currently need to watch for and not hit them. A formal path will increase awareness of the need to “share the road” and, thus, everyone’s safety as compared to the current situation.  

Regarding aesthetics, the area of the proposed Old Ferry path desperately needs improvement. Despite its “scenic” designation, much of the ground is an ugly mess due to bare, compacted soil; unhealthy, scraggly trees and stumps; increasing amounts of litter; and crumbling or no curb. Eroded, rocky, uneven parts are unattractive and hazardous for walkers. Installing a shared path would provide an excellent makeover of this highly visible and well used area, especially if funded by grants and the state as expected. 

Rather than worrying that an unnoticeable couple of feet of the path’s width, or any path at all, will “ruin” the neighborhood, everyone should welcome proposed improvements to this area. A more bike- and pedestrian-friendly Bristol will surely make our community more attractive to current and prospective residents, and visitors. I hope that most Bristolians and the Town Council will come to support construction of a fully shared-use path that prioritizes the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike, alongside appropriate design details.

Mr. Loren Byrne 
Bristol

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.