By Chris Maza
LONGMEADOW – Dr. William Harbison brought the Longmeadow Transition Group’s proposal for new bike lanes on some major throughways in town and painted shoulders on others to a recent Select Board meeting, but not everyone was impressed with the idea or the timing of the presentation.
Harbison, a local cardiologist and resident, explained the Transition Group’s mission was to promote the reduction of the town’s carbon footprint and increase green practices would allow the town to accomplish those goals while improving overall health.
“I think there are people who would never bike on Longmeadow Street or never bike on Shaker Road and would never consider running an errand on a bike,” he said. “My thought is that there are ways we could make Longmeadow a more bike-friendly community so people could not only enjoy biking, but use their bikes to reduce their use of oil, to reduce their use of their cars and improve our climate change.”
With much of the commercial business in a centralized location in town accessible by major roads, he said that bike lanes could encourage residents to utilize their bikes instead of cars to run errands.
He said, however, that Longmeadow was deemed unsafe for bikes because of the fact that there were no bike lanes and painted shoulders as well as very few painted shoulders and as a result, the use of bicycles in town was very low.
Therefore, Harbison suggested the painting of bike lanes on Laurel Street from Ardsley Road to Converse Street, Maple Road starting at Longmeadow Street, Hazardville Road between Shaker and Maple roads, and possibly Frank Smith Road.
He also suggested additional painted shoulders on Bliss and Wolf Swamp roads, Williams Street and Frank Smith Road if no bike lane was painted there.
In total, between shoulders and bike lanes, approximately eight miles of road would have to be painted in some way.
Along with the lanes and shoulders, the town would also install signs advising motorists of bicyclists in the area on Longmeadow and Williams streets and Wolf Swamp and Frank Smith roads.
Selectman Paul Santaniello called the idea of bike lanes “a political statement” that he said felt would add little to the town and questioned the timing of the presentation, which was slated on the Dec. 16 agenda to take place before Selectman Richard Foster’s infrastructure presentation and ongoing casino mitigation discussions.
“I see this more as a political statement of climate change and global warming,” he said. “I have to say that in a town that has as many sidewalks as it does we just spent 25 minutes talking about this versus the biggest issue facing this board, which is the casino.”
Select Board Chair Marie Angelides responded by saying she felt the conversation was appropriate.
“I think it is actually apropos because we’re talking about traffic, we’re talking about the casinos and the effects and having traffic experts,” she said. “This is the future, where we’re going as a town. It’s not something we’re going to make a decision on right away, but I think it is something that needs to be part of the conversation going forward.”
Selectman Alex Grant saw merit in the proposal, stating that he rides his bike on town roads and has found some of them to be unsafe. He added that there were several benefits to residents.
“It’s such a win-win,” he said. “You’re promoting fitness to kids, you’re promoting fitness for everybody, you’re getting cars off the road, you’re reducing pollution and increasing the quality of life.”
He also said the proposal should be considered because it would not require a lot of work or carry a heavy price tag.
“I’d like to see us follow up on this,” he said. “We’re really just talking about some paint and some labor behind it and some signs and this could have some definite payoffs in the future.”
Santaniello disagreed, stating the extra signs that would need to be posted would degrade the quality of life for residents and when lines have been painted on roads has caused uproar among residents in the past.