By Marjorie Nesin
---- — Bicyclists wound around Rogers Street Wednesday atop Schwinns, Treks and Fuji cycles, rolling down the hill or peddling around the corner in pairs, groups or solo — many riding along newly painted bike lanes for the first time.
The bike lanes, painted on parts of Rogers Street and Western Avenue over last weekend, are part of a pilot program, as cycling enthusiasts like Gloucester’s Heidi Wakeman map out added lanes for next spring, with the aim of increased safety and accessibility.
“Gloucester can be a beautiful place to ride, but there’s a perception that it can be dangerous,” said Wakeman, who pushed this project and had joined the city’s Open Space and Recreation committee with the aim of being a voice for cyclists in Gloucester. “The lanes are as much for cyclists to know where to ride, as for drivers to be aware of cyclists on the road.”
City Project Manager Steve Winslow gathered state so-called ‘Mass in Motion’ grants through the city’s Get Fit Initiative to fund the line painting, and city councilors voted to approve the white bike lanes at the end of May.
Wakeman learned to ride a bike as a kid in Rockport. She met her husband, who owned a bike shop in Oregon, when she cycled in the West Coast state as a mode of transportation.
She and her husband and sons have participated in Gloucester’s Cyclocross events, and ridden in races and for pleasure. Basically, she loves biking and wants to share that joy with cyclists at all levels and with a variety of reasons for riding.
“There’s different types of people that ride for different reasons — transportation, to do errands, for exercise,” Wakeman said. “If we can make cycling here easier for people, it might make it easier for them to get on the bike.”
Alexandra’s Bakery owner Jon Hardy was riding his bike from the bakery to his home Wednesday. He shifted from the sidewalk to the road as he came upon pedestrians on the sidewalk and the bike lane grew closer.
Hardy said the lanes are a “great thing,” but he hopes everyone on the road will continue to use caution.
“I just don’t want motorists or cyclists to forget you have to be aware. Riding in the lane doesn’t protect you from everything,” Hardy said.
Painted lanes for bikes have been shown to reduce traffic accidents by 50 percent, cutting the frequency of crashes in half. City Project Manager Steve Winslow, also a cyclist, said state data found “a pattern of crashes” in the downtown areas where he plans to implement the lanes.
“That’s why these particular streets were picked out, there were more accidents along those stretches of road,” Winslow said. “It is only a painted line but it does create more awareness, more distance.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.