Easthampton rolls out new bike lane, pedestrian safety upgrades

  • Easthampton City Planner Jeffrey Bagg stands beside a newly installed bike lane Tuesday on Williston Avenue. The bike lane, which is funded by the Shared Streets and Spaces program, extends from Nashawannuck Pond to the Easthampton High School entrance. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Marlon Mendoza, who works for Gomes Construction, finishes concrete Tuesday on a new sidewalk that leads from Nonotuck Park to the Easthampton High School parking lot. It is handicapped-accessible and is funded by the Shared Streets and Spaces program. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ryland Illingsworth, from left, Evan O’Malley and Jack Dawson, all of Easthampton, ride on a newly installed bike lane, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 on Williston Avenue in Easthampton. The bike lane, which is funded by the Shared Streets and Spaces program, extends from Nashawannuck Pond to the Easthampton High School entrance. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A new sidewalk at the rear of the Easthampton High School parking lot leads past Daley Field to Nonotuck Park. It is funded by the Shared Streets and Spaces program. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A new crosswalk between John Bator Park and Nashawannuck Pond on Williston Avenue in Easthampton, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020 will soon have rectangular rapid flashing beacons, or RRFBs, and a new sidewalk will extend from the Nashawannuck Pond promenade to the park, top. The sidewalks and crosswalk will be handicapped-accessible. The project is funded by the Shared Streets and Spaces program. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A crosswalk at the corner of Berkeley and Pleasant streets in Easthampton will soon have sidewalk bump-outs and rectangular rapid flashing beacons, or RRFBs. It will be handicapped-accessible and is funded by the Shared Streets and Spaces program. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A new sidewalk that leads from Nonotuck Park to the Easthampton High school parking lot has been completed, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. It is handicapped-accessible and is funded by the Shared Streets and Spaces program. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Evan O’Malley, from left, Jack Dawson and Ryland Illingsworth, all of Easthampton, ride on a newly installed bike lane Tuesday on Williston Avenue in Easthampton. The bike lane, which is funded by the Shared Streets program, extends from Nashawannuck Pond to the Easthampton High School entrance. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 9/15/2020 7:07:39 PM

EASTHAMPTON — A new, temporary bike lane — opened for use last week on Williston Avenue — is part of a series of changes coming to city streets thanks to $160,000 in grant money from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Shared Streets and Spaces program. The bike lane runs down part of Williston Avenue to the high school, where a second part of the grant supported paving a connection to Nonotuck Park.

“When we started this conversation, it was going to be an alternative to get kids to the high school,” City Planner Jeffrey Bagg said of the new lane.

And while students in Easthampton are now starting school remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bagg underscored that the lane still provides a dedicated bike route to the park.

The grant will also be used to install permanent safety improvements at a crosswalk on Pleasant Street and to create a handicapped-accessible crosswalk on Williston Avenue.

Additionally, the sidewalk near the new Williston Avenue crosswalk will be extended. While the bike lane is set to be in place for just a year, the other projects funded by the grant money will be permanent.

“We picked ones that build on other projects,” said Bagg.

He also noted that when applying for the grant money, applicants got more points in the application process toward temporary projects that could become permanent.

Bagg said that public reaction to the bike lane has been generally positive. But city resident Faune Albert wasn’t happy about it. She said the city would be better served by reducing the speed limit for the street, instead of creating a new bike lane, and she expressed concern about the narrowing of the drive aisle.

“Larger vehicles come down the street,” said Albert. “I wish that they had consulted more people from the community.”

Bagg said that the 10½-foot diameter of the narrowed drive aisle is wider than some of Cottage Street’s drive aisles, which are 9½ feet in diameter.

“It’s not overly narrow,” he said.

He also said that the city is exploring reducing the speed limit on Williston Avenue for the duration of the program.

“We think it would be important to consider that,” he said.

Some neighbors have reached out to the city and praised the bike lane for slowing traffic down on the street, Bagg said.

“It’s had a calming traffic effect,” said Lauren Faulkner-Duncan, who lives on Williston Avenue and has enjoyed riding in the bike lane.

Marvin Ward, who lives near the bike lane and serves as MassBike’s representative on the Joint Transportation Committee of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, is all for it.

“I think there should be something permanent,” Ward said of the bike lane. “Lots of kids like to go to school by bike.”

On Sunday, starting at 10 a.m., there will be a ribbon-cutting and bike-riding event to celebrate the new lane. ValleyBike Share will also be there, giving out free ride passes for those who qualify.

“We’re hoping to get a little bike parade,” Bagg said.

Westhampton

Westhampton learned last week that it had received a $61,100 Shared Streets and Spaces grant, which it will use to improve pickups and drop-offs at Westhampton Elementary School.

“The less people you can have walking around the school buses … the safer it’s going to be,” said Cheryl Provost, the town clerk and administrative assistant.

Provost said the grant will help pave an area off of Hathaway Road that’s frequently used as a drop-off point for the school, on Kings Highway, which has adopted a hybrid model for the fall.

“The thought was to improve that,” Provost said of the site, which would provide a second pickup and drop-off location for cars at the school. Additionally, the grant will fund adding a bike rack and a pavilion to the area.

Provost said having two pickup and drop-off locations for school will help with social distancing and decrease traffic.

Westhampton Select Board Chairman Philip Dowling applied for the grant. He said that his first attempt was unsuccessful, but he succeeded a second time with the help of two consultants from the state Department of Transportation.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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