Survey under way to extend bike paths
The Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) Monday announced a study designed to find ways to close six existing gaps in the network of paths that now partially link the three down-Island towns and are shared by walkers and bicyclists.
The current network of shared-use paths (SUP) takes pedestrians and bicyclists through the towns of Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown, and connects to the extensive network of paths in the State Forest. But, the network currently has six major gaps that at times force bicyclists and pedestrians onto the road. "Many bikers find this stressful," said the Martha's Vineyard Commission in a press release.
Last week, the Martha's Vineyard Commission awarded a $20,00 contract to Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. to look at these missing links, and to examine alternative ways to make the missing connections.
The study is being performed with a grant of up to $15,000 from the Federal Highway Administration and MassHighway under the auspices of the Martha's Vineyard Unified Planning Work Program and up to $5,000 from the town of Edgartown.
The study will outline the main parameters for the new paths so that towns selectmen, departments of public works, the Martha's Vineyard Commission's joint transportation committee and citizens can evaluate the proposals.
Bill Veno, Martha's Vineyard Commission senior planner, said that even if the network were made continuous, that would not mean an end to bicyclists on the roads. Many bicyclists opt not to use the shared-use paths, which can become congested with pedestrians, and some bike tires don't function as well on the sandy paths as they do on the roads. Mr. Veno said that there is no talk of making paths exclusively for bicyclists as of right now.
The commission hopes that a completely off-road route down-Island will make bicycling and walking a more attractive alternative to driving, he said.
The Martha's Vineyard Commission identified one of the challenges in a request for proposals issued this spring. It said that because of the narrow streets and rights-of-way in the hearts of each of the towns, it is presumed to be highly improbable to bring SUPs right to or through the center of any of the towns. The proposed strategies for dealing relating to town centers are: bring the SUP as close as possible to the centers of town - within easy walking distance - to locations where it is possible to create a bicycle rest area with bike parking and other amenities; and create a continuous SUP around each town linking the other SUPs near the town.