To the Editor:
Thank you to John Merrow and Eunki Seonwoo for their informative and timely articles in the Nov. 24 MV Times about the current state of our shared-used paths, and providing a perspective of the cycling experience on Martha’s Vineyard. Did John and Eunki accurately present the issues? Yes. Are the issues on the radar of local and state officials as needing to be addressed? In some cases yes, and in some cases no. Is there room for improvement on behalf of local and state officials being aware of the issues and following through on addressing the issues? Yes.
Currently, I am the chairperson of the Martha’s Vineyard Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) to the Island’s Joint Transportation Committee (JTC). During September 2021, the BPAC held an open meeting asking input from the public. The meeting was well-attended, and went on for two hours. Not surprisingly, many of the same issues raised by John and Eunki were reviewed at the meeting. Discussion continued at the October BPAC meeting.
The outcome today is a list of key findings and priorities compiled by the BPAC in conjunction with the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), which need to be addressed in both the short term and long term. A next step is for the various town board and committee members, along with the BPAC and MVC if invited, to engage in a constructive dialogue. Yes, solutions are needed. And yes, they are achievable.
Recently, the BPAC drafted a mission statement:
The BPAC exists to advocate for an enjoyable and safe biking/pedestrian experience for all users along our Island-wide roadways, SUPs, sidewalks, ancient ways and trails. The goal is for each Island town to be represented on the committee.
Within this context the mission of the BPAC is to:
- As appropriate, advise the Joint Transportation Committee of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and the island-wide community at large on bicycle and pedestrian projects, in addition to transportation planning activities.
- Participate in/organize educational opportunities.
- Seek to designate Martha’s Vineyard as a “bicycle-friendly community.”
- Advocate policies which foster bicycling and walking as a healthy and environmentally beneficial alternative to reliance on emission-producing vehicles.
- Monitor the progress and outcomes of key projects and transportation planning activities such as Complete Streets.
- Celebrate success.
The BPAC in conjunction with the MVC will do what it can do to move the needle. We on the BPAC are volunteers. So please be patient. And please be supportive. Our committee meets the second Tuesday of each month at 5:30 pm, and the public is invited to attend. Details are posted on the MVC website, within the calendar.
Data is an important consideration. From 2004 through 2020, data provided by the Steamship Authority indicate bicycle counts (bicycle tickets sold) to and from Martha’s Vineyard ranged between 26,000 and 35,000 annually, with the peak months being July and August. And up-Island in 2021, the Menemsha Bike Ferry operated for 70 days. The bicycle count (bicycle tickets sold) for 2021 was 7,000. Obviously, these numbers are only part of the story when considering bike rentals from local shops, in addition to seasonal and year-round residents who have bikes on the Island. And periodically, the BPAC conducts bicycle and pedestrian counts on select Island roadways.
In closing, there is some good news to report. According to a source within the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the goal is for the cracks in the pavement of the shared-use paths (SUPs) within the State Forest to be repaired on a temporary basis by the springtime. And the sections of the SUPs within the State Forest in need of repaving (about two-thirds of the total) are scheduled to be repaved in 2022. The other one-third of the SUP within the State Forest was repaved several years ago, as a result of the Island towns, via the JTC, directing transportation improvement funds for local projects toward the state-owned and -managed SUPs within the State Forest.
DeWitt is chair of the Martha’s Vineyard Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee. –Ed.