Letter: Using Ferry Road as a bike path is not safe

Posted 2/25/21

I am grateful for Bristol Community Development Director Diane Williamson and her team, who with vision and vigor are championing the effort to connect the East Bay bike path to the Mount Hope …

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Letter: Using Ferry Road as a bike path is not safe

Posted

I am grateful for Bristol Community Development Director Diane Williamson and her team, who with vision and vigor are championing the effort to connect the East Bay bike path to the Mount Hope Bridge. I attended the Ferry Road neighborhood workshop, inviting residents to share views on the current plan — which essentially calls for eliminating some trees and re-surfacing the western, dirt shoulder of Ferry Road.

I learned that a lot of my neighbors, like my own family, love biking and are avid users of the current, wonderful bike path. I heard enthusiasm for bike paths in general.

But I also heard consistent, emphatic concern about using the western edge of Ferry Road as a bike bath.

According to coverage by The Phoenix of the Feb 17 Bristol Town Council meeting, it was conveyed that residents in the Ferry Road workshop raised concerns about “driveway access, trees, stormwater drainage, and safety of cyclists.”

Truth is, “safety” was not simply an item on a list of concerns. SAFETY was the concern. It dominated the conversation. It was the singular reason for objection, one voice after the next.

Ferry Road is riddled with driveways, many flanked by stone walls. Motorists exiting driveways would be blind to cyclists. And the concept of trees in the middle of a bike path —the plan calls for 21 trees greater than 12 inches in diameter to pepper the path — struck my biking neighbors and myself as absurd.

This road shoulder is barely wide enough to accommodate a proper bike even without trees. Expecting cyclists to squeeze into an untenably narrow passage around a tree — 21 times! — is not a good plan. One cyclist pointed out that the proposed bike path would only further compel him to bike on the street.

Furthermore, both cyclists and non-cyclists registered strong objections to the notion of implying that the Mount Hope Bridge should be traversed by cyclists — as a bike path leading to its doorstep would obviously imply. (To connect Portsmouth and Bristol by a bike path — one of the objectives of the “connectivity” mission — simply cannot be responsibly done with the current bridge. It’s far too narrow, not to mention the “expansion joints,” which cyclists on the call said make them steer clear even at times of light car traffic.)

This having been said, the worthy objective of safer biking and walking access between the university and downtown generated considerable, positive discussion about the concept of repurposing the shoulder of Metacom Avenue. To be sure, some investment would be required — for example, jersey barriers and a lighted crosswalk and so forth. While it might not be immediately intuitive to use such a high-speed, heavily congested road for a bike path, it tuns out (from a little research) that all sorts of towns and cities safely do so.

The workshop struck me as constructive —providing well-found objection to using Ferry Road, and offering a much safer, smarter alternative in Metacom Avenue. Thank you again to Diane Williamson and team.

Christopher Fay
Bristol

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Jim McGaw

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.