Make Great Barrington more bicycle-friendly

In a letter to the editor, Caroline Feather writes, 'More people would want to cycle for transport and not just recreation were they not afraid of being killed or maimed by motor vehicles.'

To the editor:

I am in Great Barrington for the summer, and have been commuting around here by bicycle. I have some suggestions for how the town could be made more cycling-friendly. Some efforts are already evident: the painting of symbols on newly paved roads to indicate cycling routes; and the creation of cycle lanes on Main Street (into which car users open their doors, necessitating very watchful cycling). These measures cost no more than the paint used to make the markings. Perhaps the income the town is receiving from selling marijuana could be spent on actual infrastructure for cycling.

In England, where I usually live, many towns and cities separate cycle paths from roads wherever possible. Very often there are routes shared by cyclists and pedestrians (and sometimes equestrians). When paved, these routes are divided in half, with red pavement for the cycle path and black pavement for the walkway. In other places, routes are not paved, but cyclists are required to yield to pedestrians. This works. It makes far more sense for cyclists and pedestrians to share a route than for cyclists and motorists to share.

The planned extension of the wonderful (but currently short!) River Walk could permit cyclists without endangering pedestrians or destroying their peace of mind, were it required of cyclists to yield the right of way, slow down when nearing pedestrians, and alert them to the proximity of a bike by ringing a bell.

The old cracked sidewalk down Route 7 could be replaced with a pathway for cyclists and pedestrians to share. If there were an insistence on cyclists sharing with motorists on this route, then it needs to be clearer that the road is also a cycle route. At the very least, road markings need renewing. But a breakdown lane that peters off into a foot-wide shoulder with drains and broken glass and other debris in it is extremely poor provision for cyclists. It would be far better to have a separate lane for cycling, as in the center of town.

Crossing arrangements at many intersections in Great Barrington are problematic for both cyclists and pedestrians. Drivers who are intent on turning right on red often pay little heed to the crossing signal that tells pedestrians they have a right to cross. This is dangerous.

As we are being told more urgently all the time by environmental scientists, we have to find ways to cut our CO2 emissions. The age of the fossil fuel-powered private car has got to come to an end if civilization is to continue. Serious investment in alternative forms of transport needs to happen without delay. More people would want to cycle for transport and not just recreation were they not afraid of being killed or maimed by motor vehicles.


Catherine Feather
Great Barrington