My Turn/Touloumtzis: Greenfield vows to share its roads with bicyclists


Published: 7/25/2016 6:25:36 PM

Streets are a vital part of livable, attractive communities, and Complete Streets are streets for everyone. They are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete Streets make it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work.”

These are the first few lines from the new Complete Streets (CS) policy Mayor William Martin recently enacted and which the Town Council unanimously endorsed. Having such a policy is one of the main transportation strategies recommended in “Sustainable Greenfield,” the town’s Master Plan.

What will such a policy actually look like in practice? We already have some examples in town. At a Complete Streets informational and brainstorming session held on March 14, Beth Giannini — senior transportation planner at FRCOG (Franklin Regional Council of Governments) — provided images and details about a few of these.

The roundabout at Greenfield Community College’s entrance is one example. This dramatic intersection redesign has proven to be safer for both motorists and cyclists, with pedestrian accommodations integrated as well.

Another is the recently finished project at the intersection of the Mohawk Trail, River Street and Shelburne Road. One feature of this redesign has been to reduce the crossing distance for pedestrians. Significant sidewalk improvements were also made, including bringing some of the curb cuts up to ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance — meeting the legal obligation to accommodate those using wheelchairs and benefiting parents pushing strollers, as well. Some bike lanes have also been incorporated.

At that same March event, Greenfield Assistant Planner Maureen Pollock mentioned efforts made to improve the conditions for safe cycling in town.

One has been accomplished: adding bike lanes on much of Federal Street last year. While costing relatively little in design, paint and maintenance, these markings serve both to affirm for cyclists their legitimate right to use the roadway and to continuously alert drivers to be on the lookout for bike riders.

Additional “sharrow” markings (the word is a combination of “shared” and “arrow,” and the symbol combines a bicycle symbol with two chevrons) are used at spots where parking or turn lanes squeeze out the bike lane, to indicate that bicycles will briefly need to be farther out in the travel lane.

Another example that’s in process demonstrates that making streets more “Complete” is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Turners Falls Road is an important travel link between our two communities and experiences a lot of bicycle and foot traffic. Many have expressed concern for the safety of vulnerable road users on this challenging, one-mile stretch. But given the ledge above and steep slope below the roadway, widening for a bike lane or sidewalk would be very difficult and expensive. Efforts instead have focused on selecting the types and placement of signage to alert motorists to be more cautious, as well as painting sharrow markings for the tight turn onto the bridge.

Organizers of the March event asked the audience for input. Attendees brought up Main Street as needing to be made more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.

Other bike suggestions included a bike lane on Silver Street and other key routes enabling students to safely bike to the high school. Also mentioned was creating better access to the existing bike path running from Colrain Street to the Swimming & Recreation Area.

And one attendee speculated that making certain roads one-way would improve the safety of some of the bike/car traffic flow in town.

More pedestrian-specific, participants said they would benefit from new sidewalks and safer walkability on Elm Street, Leyden Road and between the two shopping plazas west of the I-91 rotary. There were also recommendations for new crosswalks at several locations.

Lastly, there was the general recommendation of replacing or adding trees to make walking more pleasant and cooler in summer.

The Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee more recently held an Open House on June 3 to share updates on a wide range of topics covered in the Master Plan, including transportation. Concern about crosswalk safety was expressed by both an elder and the parents of a young child expressed concern about crosswalk safety.

One relatively inexpensive and flexible approach to improve such safety recommended in “Sustainable Greenfield” is expanded use of standing “Yield to Pedestrians” signs placed in the middle of crosswalks. Several are currently in use on lower Federal Street.

For more expensive projects, one tangible benefit of participating in the state’s Complete Streets program is potential funding. We became eligible with the enactment of the policy and participation in CS trainings by town employees, such as DPW Director Don Ouellette. Afterwards, a task force will create a CS priority plan. The Task Force will regularly update and solicit feedback on potential projects from the public.

At the March event, Carole Collins, director of Greenfield’s Department of Energy & Sustainability, gave a presentation highlighting the broader economic, physical, mental, and environmental health benefits of Complete Streets and how other towns have attracted new residents, businesses and visitors, as well as enhancing their sense of community.

For more information, check out the National Complete Streets Coalition online.

George Touloumtzis wrote this on behalf of the Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee.


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