ACTION ALERT: Save the Bike Lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard in Lowell


The City of Lowell is considering removing bike lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard less than a year after their installation.

Last August, the city installed the bike lanes between Pawtucket Street and Arcand Drive, following recommendations made in the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan. This was an important step towards making Lowell a more accommodating place for residents to ride bikes for transportation and recreation. Lowell blogs Art is the Handmaid of Human Good and Learning Lowell have both written extensively about the project.

Now, Mayor Rodney Elliott and City Councilor Rita Mercier have filed a motion to remove the bike lanes and revert Father Morissette Boulevard to its previous configuration, four lanes for car traffic. This motion will be debated at a City Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday April 29, at 6:30 PM. The meeting will take place at Lowell City Hall at 375 Merrimack Street.

Although we recognize there are concerns with the design of this specific bike lane, this is not a reason to remove it in haste. We believe this a great opportunity to open a dialogue on what the City of Lowell can do to continue improving its roadways, including Father Morissette Boulevard, for all road users.

We strongly encourage Lowell residents to attend tomorrow night’s City Council meeting and speak up in favor of bicycle infrastructure. In order to get on the speaking order, you must register to speak on the motion with the City Clerk ahead in advance of the meeting: call 978-674-4161.

Can’t make it to the meeting? Before tomorrow afternoon, call the office of Mayor Elliott (978-674-4040) and Councilor Mercier (978-453-2467) and share your thoughts. If you have a relationship with any of your councilors, we recommend contacting them directly as well. Alternatively, use this online contact form to send an electronic message to an individual member, or the entire City Council.

Here are specific points we think will be important to mention either at the meeting, on the phone, or via email:

  • Conduct a full review of Father Morissette Boulevard: With less than a year on the ground, it is too soon to deem the bike lanes a failure. Before making any changes to the roadway, study how the bike lanes could be improved and connected to a broader network that will encourage more bicycle use across the city.
  • More bike lanes, not less: City Manager Bernie Lynch noted that “More than 2/3 of residents surveyed identified bicycle infrastructure as a key opportunity for improving the City’s transportation network.” Bike lanes improve roadway safety for all users and encourage new people to try riding a bike. Getting more people to choose active transportation is an important part of reducing obesity and improving public health. Bicycle infrastructure has proven economic benefits, too.
  • Form a Lowell Bicycle Committee: build local support and capacity for implementing the bike network recommendations made in the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan.

By taking action now, you can let the Mayor and City Council know that Lowell residents support better infrastructure for biking, and at the same time lay the groundwork for ongoing bicycling improvements in Lowell. If you plan to attend, please let us know by emailing

– David

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10 Responses to ACTION ALERT: Save the Bike Lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard in Lowell

  1. Lynne April 28, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

    If you bike and spend money in the city of Lowell, make your case. There is another movement of “being concerned about the downtown economy” which could tie in here.

    Also, if you want to speak (and you don’t have to be a Lowell resident to do so, though more political weight is alas given to locals) you must register to speak on the motion with the City Clerk ahead of the meeting (up to the meeting time): call (978) 674-4161.

    • MassBike April 28, 2014 at 6:25 pm #

      Lynne, thank you providing those additional details.

      • Lynne April 28, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

        No worries. If you want a tour of the location in so-called rush hour, local Steve Albert gave us a truck’s-eye view (Steve is an avid local biker) of the road at 5pm today. I posted the youtube on my blog.

        The two arguments that appear to be “driving” this (at least, on the surface) are public safety and traffic issues. Neither is really a good argument, since that road is not heavily used and was over-designed for levels of traffic it never wound up seeing, and as for public safety, it’s nice to drive there now that people do not think it’s some sort of divided highway…it was a speeding zone prior to the bike lanes being added.

        • Sarah April 28, 2014 at 7:29 pm #

          I live in Lowell and This road is very heavily used by for postal traffic, the Tsongas Arena, Umass Lowell, Lowell High School, Lelechur Baseball Park, and the police department – it is also a major access road to downtown and to get to Route 3 and 495. It is wrong to say it is not heavily traveled. I am all for bikeable cities, but I – on a regular basis – almost see bikers killed due to this lane set up. It is really dangerous and not working. I hope some safe solution can be figured out. A connected bike path systems away from the road seems a lot safer.

          • MassBike April 29, 2014 at 9:49 am #

            Sarah, thanks for your thoughts. MassBike is aware of the concerns people have raised with the current roadway design. That is why we are encouraging residents to speak up in favor of finding ways to improve not just these particular bike lanes, but the entire bike network in Lowell. We believe the city can come up with a better design than simply removing the lanes outright. This is also an important moment to show the Mayor and City Council that residents care about bike infrastructure and want more access for bikes across the City of Lowell.

          • Lynne April 29, 2014 at 10:40 am #

            The motion is worded, literally, to get rid of the bike lanes on this roadway entirely. Not “address” them. Not “study the issue to make an informed decision.” Just get rid of them.

            Also, I travel on Father Moressette sometimes (by car). I have never seen anything dangerous. The Lord Overpass by bike is dangerous. Central St/Thorndike/Dutton is dangerous as all get-out for biking. Father Moressette, now that people are driving close to the speed limit because it no longer looks like a divided highway? I’d bike there in a heartbeat if it were on a route useful to me.

            This perception of dangerous vs. safety is pretty far off from the reality.

            How many people on bikes have been injured or killed on this stretch of road since the lanes went in? Anyone?

            I agree, I am a huge fan of separating the bike lane from traffic entirely. A lot of places do this. It’s more expensive though, as you have to install new curbs or bollards to do it. Often, you see places where you have a lane of travel, a place for parking, THEN a bike path (separated by bollards or curbing) and then sidewalk. It’s a nice ideal, but I bet if you saw this come up for a vote in Council, it would die from a vote based on the costs associated.

            Now, FMB probably could accommodate the space for separated bike lanes, but I don’t think the political climate right now is inclined to propose such a progressive and useful idea.

  2. Marianne April 28, 2014 at 6:28 pm #

    Thanks for posting this!

  3. Ryan Berard April 29, 2014 at 1:39 am #

    Thank you for posting this. Great that the word is spreading. Hopefully this attention will translate into a positive outcome.

  4. Leeann April 29, 2014 at 1:15 pm #

    Thank you so much for posting this.

    Lynne is right: this motion isn’t to “discuss” or consider how they’re working, whether they might be improved or need to be changed, etc. They went in not that long ago, and now they’re hastily declaring them a failure and calling for them to be ripped out. I am hoping with all this attention we can convince them to have a reasonable and thoughtful discussion about them, how appropriate improvements/education might be done to address any concerns, and how they fit into bigger plans for the city: for bikers, walkers, and drivers.

  5. Steve April 30, 2014 at 9:35 am #

    We succeeded in convincing the council that there was enough community interest in keeping the lanes with the hope of improving them. The issue is being sent to a subcom for further review.