Make a good idea better: How to fully protect people on bikes along Maple Street

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O P I N I O N

THE SOAPBOX

Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.


As recently reported, the City of Manchester recently approved a temporary pilot program to reduce speeds on Maple Street. Maple Street — along with Beech Street — through Ward 2 have been nicknamed neighborhood highways because of the high speeds people drive on them, as well as their significantly high number of crashes. The pilot project along Maple Street between Pearl and North Streets will reduce two vehicular travel lanes down to one vehicular travel lane and one bicycle lane. News and a rendering of this proposed pilot design were shared earlier this week and depict the single vehicular lane, a five-foot wide bicycle lane, a three-foot buffer, and a place for cars to parallel park.

Despite the safer facility for people on bikes and the well intentions to slow down vehicles through the neighborhood, the pilot as proposed misses an opportunity to offer full protection to people on bikes. If the goal of this pilot is to make the street safer for all people and sew together the neighborhood, then the pilot should reconfigure where people in cars park and people bike along Maple Street.


Reorganizing where cars park and where people bike during this pilot will demonstrate numerous benefits:

  • The proposed change to the pilot would cost little to nothing more to implement — there is no change to the materials necessary compared to the current pilot.
  • Parked cars immediately adjacent to a vehicular travel lane are an effective strategy to calm vehicular speeds.
  • By moving the parking immediately adjacent to the travel lane, parked cars can act as a physical buffer between people driving cars and people riding bikes.
  • Moving the buffer away from travel lanes will extend the life of the pavement markings because vehicles will not be driving over them to park.
  • Preserving the proposed three-foot buffer between parked cars and a five-foot-wide bike lane will protect people on bikes from ‘dooring’ incidents.
  • Protected bike lanes are consistent with the City’s Bike Master Plan and supplement regional and State bike plan goals.
  • Encouraging a fully-protected bike lane is good for people using all travel modes. It says to people, “This place is for people in cars, trucks, and transit; this place is for people on bikes; and this place is for people on foot or with disabilities.”

Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart and Department of Public Works staff have invited the neighborhood to discuss the pilot project a meeting this evening 6 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, (235 Myrtle St.). Between tonight’s meeting and a second meeting to collect public feedback on the change, the neighborhood should consider supporting a fully-protected bike lane along Maple Street and eventually Beech Street.

Bike Manchester and Southern NH Planning Commission will demonstrate a protected bike lane Friday May 17, 7-9 a.m., along northbound Elm Street next to Veterans Park as part of National Bike to Work Day. All are encouraged to participate in the demonstration and learn more about how a protected bicycle lane can look in their neighborhood.


Derek Shooster is a transportation planner and Chair of Bike Manchester. He can be reached at shoosterd@gmail.com.