Sandy Milo and Claudia Lefko: Cycling to downtown dangerous

Published: 8/31/2023 5:17:12 PM

We’re neighbors — Sandy Milo (S) and Claudia Lefko (C) — writing because we have some issues and questions about Picture Main Street, the $20-plus million, three-year project to redesign downtown. We’re concerned about even greater congestion on Pleasant Street, where we ride our bicycles almost daily.

Bicycling is big in the Valley, but “bicycling” is a bit different, really, from what we’ve have been doing for years and years: getting around on a bicycle. We’re not zooming along in spandex, keeping speed with cars when we’re forced to ride in traffic.

S: I’m a senior citizen and longtime resident on Holyoke Street. I frequently ride my bike downtown to do my errands so as not to add to the congestion and exhaust fumes collecting in my neighborhood. Since the last redesign of Pleasant Street, I am amazed no one has been killed riding on the side of the road.

C: Sandy lives just about half a block from me. We often cross paths biking in the neighborhood; Sandy often has her small dog on the back of her bicycle. We’re both “older women” riding modest bicycles to get here-and-there from our downtown neighborhood, less than half a mile down Pleasant Street from Main Street

S: There is absolutely no extra room for a bike on the side of Pleasant Street. The crosswalk bump jutting into Pleasant Street puts me right in the line of oncoming traffic. If big trucks or wide vehicles come up behind you, there is absolutely nowhere to go. It’s much too scary to ride on the side of the road. Being elderly, I have slow reflexes and am handicapped by cloudy vision. The situation is impossible for someone in my situation.

I ride my bike slowly and carefully on the sidewalk. I’m polite to people and give a warning. I’ve been treated with respect. I don’t go far … I live, basically, downtown. So I prefer my bicycle. I don’t need to take up a parking space that is a treasure in downtown Northampton. And, I’m not in a car, in the traffic causing more congestion.

C: I ride in traffic from the corner of Holyoke and Pleasant Street where the car lane is marked as the bike lane. For starters, the crosswalk at the intersection is confusing; cars will often stop as I wait, thinking I want to cross the street. It’s a nice gesture. But, I feel their frustration at finding themselves behind a gray-haired woman on a 3-speed bike when I turn into traffic in front of them.

Trucks can be terrible; I feel them pushing behind me, brakes pumping on and off. Sometimes, despite the double line on a narrow two-lane street, cars pass me; sometimes they lean out the window and yell at me. All in all, it’s a bit treacherous riding between frustrated drivers and parked cars on a major thoroughfare to and through the city center: Pleasant Street is Route. 5, after all.

The response from the Planning/Sustainability Office in response to concerns about traffic on Pleasant Street was to say: It is not part of this Main Street project. But shouldn’t it be considered, along with all the side streets that will be affected by this huge change?

And what about all those idling cars stuck in traffic in our neighborhood. What does that mean for our air quality?

Sandy Milo and Claudia Lefko live in Northampton.


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, your leading source for news in the Pioneer Valley.

Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

23 Service Center Road
Northampton, MA 01060


Copyright © 2021 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy