NEW BEDFORD — Creating a 70-mile bikeway, consisting of a network of roadways and trails from Providence to Provincetown, is the ambitious goal of an alliance of volunteers and planners from across SouthCoast.
To promote its vision, the South Coast Bikeway Committee is holding a free workshop on the creation of bicycle-friendly communities at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School on Wednesday, March 14.
A lot of people probably haven't heard anything about this project yet, "so this is a good opportunity to get the word out," said Adam Recchia, principal transportation planner with the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District.
"We did one in Fall River last year and had over 100 people," he said.
Rhode Island is far ahead of Massachusetts in developing its bicycle network, Recchia said. "They have four or five paths now and we want to connect to their East Bay path."
The evening will begin with a Google Earth flyover of the proposed route with an overview presented by Recchia.
Given the difficulties with obtaining funding, building new bike paths along SouthCoast has become a long and arduous process, he acknowledged, with only nine miles of path completed thus far in the area.
"The main struggle is always the cost. But a lot of this bikeway involves using low-cost onroad improvements that make bicycling easier, such as creating special lanes on exisiting roads," he said.
To illustrate some of these alternatives, Bill DeSantis, a Rhode Island engineer with expertise in this area, will be making a presentation, Recchia said.
"He will also be explaining other ways to build bike paths for less money."
Pauline Hamel is the project coordinator for Mass. in Motion, a partner of the Bikeway Committee. In New Bedford, "We have a great recreational pathway at Fort Rodman now. But we want people to understand that this is not just about recreation but also transit," she said.
Other organizations partnering on the project include Voice for a Healthy South Coast, Narragansett Bay Wheelmen, the Cape Cod Commission and the YMCA, she said. "We have all these allies because there's great energy behind it now."
Bob Espindola, a keen cyclist who frequently commutes to work by bicycle, is the Fairhaven representative on the committee.
"I like to get out recreationally and also race a bit," he said. "It would be great if Sconticut Neck Road, for example, was a little more accessible for bicyclists."
The workshop in New Bedford will serve as a means to build momentum and get other communities involved in thinking of ways to improve conditions for bicyclists, he said.
The free workshop will be held in Voc-Tech's auditorium from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. An interactive map of the proposed route is available at srpedd.org/mbikeways.asp For questions contact Adam Recchia at 508-824-1367 or email@example.com.