Major concerns in Falmouth include traffic, noise, and parking. Also of concern locally and nationally are issues of health, safety, and the environment. There is one simple solution that addresses all of these problems; the bicycle.
Bicycles provide a pollution-free, quiet, healthy, and fun transportation alternative that makes our roads safer and less congested. Fourteen bicycles can also be parked in the space it takes to park just one car. Adding bicycling infrastructure to local roads dramatically increases the number of trips made by bicycle—a recent study by Portland State University and the US Department of Transportation found that municipalities that added bike lanes to their roads had an average 75 percent increase in the number of trips made by bicycle within their first year. Imagine the effect if just 10 percent of Falmouth residents started making local trips of five miles or less by bicycle instead of by car.
Bicycling can be so much more than recreational outings along the Shining Sea Bikeway. When municipalities change their streets to enable bicycles to be seen as a viable option for getting around town, the result is residents using their bicycles to go to work, shop, or to run everyday errands. Towns reap the benefit of this in less road damage (a bicycle costs taxpayers roughly one cent in road maintenance costs per mile, versus a sedan’s six cents), reduced healthcare costs, better air quality, and less traffic congestion and parking needs. Modest up-front investments in cycling infrastructure more than pay for themselves in long term savings.
Short term, my dream for Falmouth would be to see bike lanes (not just sharrows) painted on all town roads. Long term, my dream would be to see on-street parking eliminated from Main Street, with the road shut to all vehicle traffic during daylight hours in the summer. Cars parked parallel to roadways are unsightly and dangerous. They also use valuable public real estate that should be enjoyed by the public at large. Main Street is never so lively as when it is shut to vehicle traffic during arts festivals or other events.
Local businesses fear that if parking disappears, their customers will go with it, but their worries are misplaced. The real danger to local brick and mortar stores are Walmart and Amazon.com. If main streets are to survive, they need to do so by becoming destinations in themselves. Cars are antithetical to this objective; lively pedestrian malls, however, attract people who come for the atmosphere, spend money at local businesses, strap their purchases to the backs of their bicycles, and pedal home to happier and healthier lives.
Rudy N. Breteler
Woods Hole Road