About 50 residents offered insight and stated their wishes for improvements to bicycle safety on Falmouth roads at a public forum hosted by the Falmouth Bikeways Committee, held in the Hermann Foundation Meeting Room of the Falmouth Public Library Wednesday, August 6, night.
Town manager Julian M. Suso, town engineer Peter M. McConarty, and selectmen Mary (Pat) Flynn, Rebecca Moffitt, and Samuel H. Patterson Jr. were on hand to listen to suggestions.
“It was a wonderful showing of cooperation between the stakeholders and those interested in making the town a more bike-friendly place,” said bikeways committee chairman Scott R. Lindell after the meeting. “I think that people felt heard by town leadership,”
Residents discussed possible bike routes for safer access to schools for children; the need for a connection from Trotting Park toward Teaticket Highway, Teaticket Park and the Teaticket Elementary School; and a need for a connection from the Shining Sea Bikeway to East Falmouth.
Dr. J. Keith Bleiler of Locustfield Road said that he has raised funds for a new skate park at Trotting Park. He would be in full support of connecting the Falmouth High School and Teaticket school to the two parks. He said that all the connection might need is volunteers to clean the area out and keep a path maintained, which he said he was willing to help with.
“We can do it,” said Patricia P. Johnson of Wild Harbor Road. She said the park is a valuable resource to the town and better access there should be a high priority. She spoke standing next to the town officials in attendance.
“Let’s set the bar high,” Alison S. Leschen of Lantern Lane said. She said there are bike-friendly cities, specifically in Europe, where life can be “amazing,” because of bike accessibility. “Let’s not just paint more sharrows.
Let’s aim high,” she said. (Sharrows are white signs painted on the pavement that designers hope warn drivers of bicyclists; there are some currently painted on Katharine Lee Bates Road and Shore Street).
Falmouth Bikeways Committee planned the forum in a continuing effort to create a network of safe bicycle routes on public streets. Committee member Edward T. Rowan said that bicycling is becoming more and more common and the town needs to respond.
A survey circulated throughout Falmouth echoed the concern. Although he said the results of the survey could be skewed, 90 percent of the 366 responders said they would bicycle more if conditions on public roads improved.
As a result of the survey, committee members sought the assistance of the Cape Cod Commission to create a master plan for bicycling. The commission will begin planning in October.
Martha Hevenor, a planner from the Cape Cod Commission, spoke at Wednesday’s forum about how bicycling has become viewed by both federal and state governments as an economic engine, as a way to attract young people to an area, as traffic mitigation and as a healthy lifestyle opportunity.
Ms. Hevenor studied a bike plan created in the Outer Banks in North Carolina. The community invested $6.7 million into bicycle infrastructure, which, she said, has lead to an estimated $60 million in gains annually from tourism.
The bikeways committee then gathered groups of the audience around 12 maps of Falmouth. Participants could mark where they commute by bike and roads they wish to cycle on but do not because of poor road conditions and other dangers.
Brick Kiln Road, Sandwich Road, Teaticket Highway and East Falmouth Highway, Davis Straits, Main Street, Gifford Street, Menauhant Road, and Route 151 were commonly marked in red.
Jeremy P. Tagliaferre said that his group highlighted Sippiwissett Road and Quissett Avenue because cars drive too fast through the winding roads and are a danger to bicyclists. His group also discussed Brick Kiln Road, which has a shoulder wide enough for bicyclists, but which is filled with gravel and other dangerous conditions. He said that “with a little TLC” the road could be a good route for students.
New bikeways member Christopher H. McGuire said that his table discussed the need to clean sand off Menauhant Road and Surf Drive during the summer months.
Other bikeways members said that participants wanted improvements to roads like Sandwich Road, Gifford Street, Jones Road and Route 151, where the shoulder is too narrow, when faced with the speed of cars.
Ivan D. Lima of Happy Hollow Road said that it is hard to bicycle toward the center of town from residential areas because major roads like Gifford Street or Sandwich Road are the only options. Mr. McConarty said that the town is working to shrink the width of roads and to widen shoulders for bicyclists.
Burton V. Shank of Cameron Road said that the town could optimize certain roads for biking, specifically Dillingham Avenue, and make those less friendly for car drivers. He recently visited Tucson, Arizona, where the government timed stoplights at every third road to a 15-mile-per-hour speed. As drivers became frustrated with the stop-and-go routes, bicyclists were accorded a safer path, he said.
Mr. Lindell concluded the meeting with a note that the commission will return in the fall for the opportunity for more input to the master bike plan.