Needham Bikes requests involvement of Needham officials

posted Nov 27, 2012, 9:58 AM by Jim Lerner
Dear Needham Officials -

As you probably know, Needham Bikes is a private non-profit organization that since 2008 has been working on improving bicycle safety and accommodations around Needham. With great support from town officials, including Park & Rec, DPW and the Board of Selectmen, we have been able to add safe biking signage around the town to improve visibility for cyclists and raise awareness of cycling as the kind of healthy and community-oriented activity that helps make Needham a great place to live.

We have held annual Needham Bikes Fair each spring to build this spirit, offering family fun rides (see image below), bicycle tune-up workshops and a used bicycle exchange. Needham is indeed a marvelous place for bicycling, with hundreds of participants visible every day on our streets, and Needham Bikes is working to make a good thing even better.

At this time, we would like to raise to your attention a concern about the bicycling environment in Needham, particularly as it relates to safe routes - for bicycles as well as pedestrians - between Needham and Newton. There are really only three viable routes between Needham and Newton - Central Ave, Highland Ave and Kendrick St. - but none offers a clean, open and inviting route for non-motorized travelers.

The Rt128 Add-a-Lane project will expand the crossings over the highway on Highland and Kendrick, and MassDOR engineers have designed bike lanes on each street. However, because of high-speed traffic entering and exiting the highway on these bridges, we feel that the passage will become less safe, in spite of the bicycle lanes.

Needham Bikes has a vision in which more open, clean and safe passage between Needham and Newton will provide access to resources like Cutler Park and the Charles River, where shopping on Needham St. can be a less congested experience, where commuting to Newton and further in-town can be safer and more appealing. We have worked with bicycle and pedestrian advocates in Newton to escalate our concerns about the future multi-modal transportation routes between the two municipalities.

What we hope for is a re-evalution of the current designs, in a way that will enable more creativity than the standard AASHTO Highway Construction Guidelines allow. We are hoping for a Complete Streets perspective within which to view the transportation corridors, and we hope to get support and advocacy for this cause from as many local officials as possible.

We have authored a letter to Richard Davey, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation, asking his attention on this matter. That letter is attached to this email. We would like to follow up this initiative by hosting a public hearing in Needham as soon as convenient this fall, where supportive officials can engage with MassDOT project personnel to raise our concerns and discuss alternatives.

If you have any questions or concerns about this initiative, please let me know or connect with a member of the Needham Bikes Board (listed below, and copied on this email). We will follow up with suggested dates and agenda for a prospective public hearing.

Thank you for your time and attention on this matter,

On behalf of Needham Bikes,

Tad Staley

cc: Needham Bikes Board
John Bulian
Chris Dollase
Gary Levine
Kurt Mullen
Aaron Pressman
Bill Pryor
Bob Rooney
Peter Zheutlin