There is a new addition to Charles Coleman Boulevard: Shared-Lane Markings, referred to as “sharrows.” This road marking – the wide shape of an arrow in front of a depiction of a bicycle – is placed at the center of a lane to indicate that a bicyclist may use the full lane.
And in another sense, the marking is a symbol of an area’s affinity for bicyclists, designating the road as biker-friendly.
The village of Pawling is only the second community in Dutchess County to have sharrows, and their implementation is part of a broader effort spearheaded by Village Trustee Brian Griffin and community volunteer Betsey Brockway. Brockway and Griffin, both avid cyclists, are invested in making their hometown a welcoming place for bikers.
“Subtle things make a bike friendly community,” said Brockway. “For example, there is good signage on the roads and the roads are built wide – ideally for a dedicated bike lane, but even simply so that the shoulder is large enough for a biker to feel safe.”
Such roads are technically termed “complete streets,” and they are spaces where all non-drivers feel safe and welcome, due not only to the conditions Brockway describes but also wide sidewalks, green spaces between roads, and bike racks.
Griffin expanded on the idea of safety. “A huge part of creating a bike friendly community is education and awareness so that people understand that bicyclists have rights just like drivers. The aim is to create environments that bicyclists feel comfortable using.”
Brockway and Griffin are members of B-PAC, the Dutchess County Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee. The Committee is working to update Dutchess County’s Bicycle-Pedestrian Plan, which will be published later this year. The plan will use extensive survey data collected from various areas of the county to outline a threefold vision for creating these environments in the area, spaces that non-drivers feel comfortable using.
Through public and private resources including grants, events, connections with local business, and educational materials, Brockway and Griffin hope to help enact this vision in Pawling.
Although their investment in the cause stemmed from their passion for biking, they emphasized that the creation of these environments will benefit not only bikers, but all community residents on a local and global scale. B-PAC in particular is focused on walking and biking as an equitable and Eco-friendly form of transportation, not solely recreation.
That is, making the town biker-friendly also means making it more accessible to those who for physical or socioeconomic reasons cannot drive. B-PAC surveys have shown that although 38% of the total Dutchess County population has one or no cars, less than 1% of people in the county bike to work. Furthermore, for approximately 5,000 people in the county, the LOOP bus is the only way to get to work.
One way areas can be made more accessible is by creating greenways. According to the Hudson River Valley Greenway Compact Program, “Greenways are connections between people and places, both cooperative agreements among neighboring communities and paths where the national and human landscapes coincide.”
Griffin noted, “Small communities like Pawling rely on such connectivity. And greenways are especially relevant to the village of Pawling because of it’s unique layout – all of our sidewalks in the village connect to our retail stores, our parks, and the Metro North Station.”
And although sidewalks and trails are what people may typically think of when they think of greenways, greenways come in all shapes and sizes. Later this year, bike racks will be installed in Pawling and in all of the LOOP buses, providing citizens with new opportunities. For example, a citizen could recreate their commute to work by combining traveling on the LOOP bus and biking.
Creating more complete streets and installing greenways in and around Pawling would not only make the area more accessible, but would help boost the local economy and tourism. Brockway noted that one of their long-term goals is to connect the rail trails in the area to Pawling.
“Recreational bikers begin on rail trails,” she said, “and rail trails have been noted to pump approximately 9.2 million dollars into nearby economies. Biker-friendly communities attract families, who will come to the town to bike and end up buying lunch, stopping for ice cream, or perusing a local landmark.”
Griffin added, “Complete streets translate to better communities. We hope that by reforming Pawling’s roads, we can promote Pawling and help more people see what makes it so special: for example, the green, our parks, and our lakes.”
Click Below to Listen:
[audio:http://www.pawlingpublicradio.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/130727_Emma-Daniels_Biking.mp3|Titles = Emma Daniels_Biking]