Back in March, Programs Director Price Armstrong went to Renaissance High School to provide training to the students on how to undertake a Bikeability Assessment. The purpose of this project was to examine Carew Street as a pathway from the Liberty Heights neighborhood to the Connecticut Riverwalk and Bikeway. Last month, the students presented those findings at the regional planning agency in Springfield.
Aside from the initial trainings and feedback along the way, the project was driven entirely by the students. They undertook the assessment, processed the findings into a report, and then biked along Carew Street to present the report to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (pictured above). Additionally, they presented the findings of the report to the City of Springfield, which is good timing considering the broader project MassBike is currently engaged in. This report represents fresh eyes looking at ways to improve bicycling in the city. While you can read the full report here, the recommendations were:
- Repair potholes
- Update signage to allow access for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers
- Restrict vehicle parking to one side of the road to allow space for a bicycle lane
- Enforce the speed limit
- Ensure proper trash removal and implement littering laws
- Engage residents and community members to improve public safety
- Increase available bicycle parking
Of particular note was engaging residents and community members to improve public safety. During the presentation, the students recalled that while they were assessing Carew Street, a police officer pulled the students over and asked what they were doing on the street, and, “Didn’t they know that this neighborhood is dangerous?” This perception of danger from crime, whether justified or not, is a major barrier to bicycling that we will be working to address in the coming months.
This work represents the starting point for a vision of better connecting the city to one of its best biking and walking resources, the river path. While there is much progress to make, there are a lot of assets in the city to build on. Carew Street is lined with businesses, residences, municipal buildings, and other developments which attract travelers. The trick is just making sure that all users of the road, not just motorists, are safe while doing so.