Guest columnists Nina Levison and Ethan Tupelo: Main Street’s redesign needs to be more progressive, forward-thinking

  • Ethan Tupelo of Pedal People Cooperative transfers recyclables to a bin on his trailer during a route in the State Street neighborhood of Northampton in March 2020. Gazette file photo

Published: 6/9/2021 4:27:38 PM

The Main Street redesign is an exciting opportunity to reshape downtown Northampton and positively influence the Valley. As our central gathering area, Main Street should be a space that prioritizes food, art, businesses and culture — not where cars speed through.

As worker-owners of Pedal People, we remove waste from downtown and for thousands of Northampton’s residents, biking through the city every day of the year for nearly two decades, through two recessions and a pandemic. Beyond providing a model of worker-ownership at a living wage, we hope that we have shown what’s possible by bicycle, and how our community needn’t be as dependent on cars and trucks.

Redesign Option 3, which gives more space to pedestrian and bike transit, received high survey support and has been selected by the mayor. However, many of us chose that option frustrated with the lack of more progressive designs. It’s barely adequate to meet the current needs of our community, let alone the accelerating climate crisis we face.

What kind of downtown will we want and need decades from now? One that prioritizes eco-friendly forms of transportation, such as walking and biking, and minimizes reliance on the most energy-intensive transportation: large vehicles occupied by one person.

Our priorities should be:

<sbull value="sbull"><text xmlns="urn:schemas-teradp-com:gn4tera"></text></sbull>A Main Street for humans and human-powered transportation, with other vehicle space only for emergency access, public transportation, and for those with mobility needs

■Free and regular downtown public transportation to reduce need for personal vehicle use, such as continual buses or trolleys

■Parking closest to Main Street for those with mobility needs, and safe pedestrian and bike paths to Main Street for everyone

■Increased public space of all kinds, such as outdoor dining, parks, art spaces, and performance areas

We have already seen glimpses of this possible future when we close Main Street for some of our most popular events, like the Summer Block Party or First Night. We ask that the city support our local businesses as they adjust to changes on Main Street that will ultimately benefit everyone. Let’s create a downtown that reflects our welcoming and culturally thriving community.

Nina Levison and Ethan Tupelo are worker-owners writing on behalf of Pedal People Cooperative.


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