Since the summer, MassBike has been working on a bicycle planning project with the City of Holyoke to assess the level of public support of bicycling, and next steps to making it easier to go by bike in The Paper City. To that end, last week the City held an open house for gathering input on ways to improve bicycling. MassBike Programs Director Price Armstrong (me) was there to give ideas on particular routes for bicycling, cite examples from other communities, and brainstorm solutions for barriers that were identified.
In the end, the two maps of Holyoke (which included the downtown area and a more suburban/rural part) were thoroughly marked up with problem spots, ideas for improvements, and general comments about bicycling in Holyoke. A lot of local expertise was provided from members of MassBike’s Pioneer Valley Chapter, in addition to other residents of Holyoke. Overall, there was one key area of agreement – while Holyoke has a number of bicyclists, more work needs to be done to bring them together. The Open House was the first step of that process.
Some of the other preliminary findings include:
- Recreational riding opportunities are excellent, with both on-road and off-road routes providing scenic and exciting rides.
- There are no bike-friendly river crossings from Holyoke into Chicopee or South Hadley.
- The riverfront is an underutilized area, and a great opportunity for a multi-use path.
- The bicycle facilities that do exist (bike lanes) typically disappear by the end of winter, resulting in motorists entering the bicycle lanes more frequently.
- There should be more bicycle safety education offerings, especially in Holyoke schools.
- Biking to the Holyoke Mall, a major commercial area, is very difficult.
Over the next several weeks, we will work to combine these findings with the results of a community survey and other outreach activities into a “Needs Assessment.” The intention is that this document will provide the foundation for continued relationship building and dialogue, crucial ingredients to the longer-term goal of building the infrastructure, both built and human, for better bicycling conditions.