Getting around on two wheels in the Queen City

Bike "sharrow" in Portland, Me. - photo by Corey Templeton

With rising gas prices, greater environmental awareness and more health consciousness, it’s no surprise that more people in Manchester and elsewhere are looking at getting around town on half-as-many wheels as the family sedan.  And while groups like Manchester Moves have made huge improvements in developing the Queen City’s trail infrastructure, there’s still much to do to make Manchester a truly bicycle-friendly city.

There have been positive bicycling developments in the city recently.  Last summer, the MTA installed bike racks on all its buses–something even the MBTA in Boston has yet to do on many of its major bus routes; and the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge connecting the Piscataquog Trail on the West Side with the Riverwalk and downtown has been bustling for a few years now.  More anecdotally, the number of cyclists on the road seems to be rising.

Still, Manchester lags behind some of its New England neighbors when it comes to a robust bicycling infrastructure.  To the northeast, Portland is actively expanding its inner city trail system, as is Manchester, but they’ve also designated plenty of bike lanes and shared lane markings, or “sharrows”, on city streets, and provided ample bicycle parking, something often lacking in Manchester.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that their bus system is better funded with longer hours and more frequent service, making it easy for Portlanders to ride to the bus stop and hitch a ride into town.

Hands Across the Merrimack Bridge - photo from Manchester Moves' Facebook page

There’s reason to be optimistic about the future of bicycling in the Queen City, though.  Along with the efforts of Manchester Moves and the dedication to expanding the rail trail network, there’s also the compact nature and easy navigability of the city’s grid system.  Given a push and improvements in infrastructure and education, Manchester seems could soon have a strong segment of bicycle commuters.

LivableMHT has put together a map of the existing and planned bicycle infrastructure, notably the rail trails, in and around the Queen City, as well as the on-street bike routes recommended by NHDOT.  There are some obvious issues with many with the recommendations, not to mention gaping holes in the routes, and few if any are accompanied by the bike lanes or sharrows needed to make bicycle commuting or recreation feasible for beginning and moderate cyclists.

Piscataquog Trail - from Manchester Moves

So what improvements would you like to see in Manchester’s bicycle infrastructure?  Where would you like to see bike lanes or sharrows?  Should they be on major roads or side streets?  Is there anything you’d like to see businesses, employers, neighborhoods or the city do to encourage biking?

Let us know.  As we get input, we’ll put together a community-based map of LivableMHT’s recommended future bicycle network for Manchester.

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7 thoughts on “Getting around on two wheels in the Queen City

  1. I think a sharrows would be useful on the bridges — making commuting between east and west more feasible for the novice. I commute over the Amoskeag Bridge, and while I’m a rather seasoned road cyclist, moderate cyclists have expressed some intimidation in attempting to bike on it. I think this is true for all the bridges that connect east and west. Of course there is a sidewalk, but that’s for pedestrians.

    I’d love to see the rail trail around Nutts pond extended in both directions, particularly into town. Also, I don’t think many people realize there is a trail going out to Massabesic. It would be nice to see it cleaned up and smoothed out.

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been meaning to look into Manchester Moves to see if there’s anyway that I can get involved.

  2. Well, I love biking, living in Salem NH right now, biking is not the best form or method of transportation. But when I can I go biking on trails and stuff. But beyond the trails, I wish I lived in a place where biking made more sense. As it is I bike when I can (pretty much only to the post office in North Salem.) However I wouldn’t mind living in a place like Manchester which would allow me to bike more regularly.

    But Manchester does lack bike racks. I think bike racks and lock ups are the primary amenity that is needed to get biking more popular. They are not cheap, and I personally hate cheap bike racks, (the ones not bolted into the cement or attached anyway to the ground, and thin metal that gets bent and I can not get my bike in there.) I like the bigger ones so bikes are not so close next to each other and they are attached to the ground.

    Bike lanes are also very convenient when i bike around towns and cities. Even if it is just a white line with a sign with a bike picture and arrow and a big bike painted on the lane. It is usually just enough room so cars do not need to pull into the other lane around me. Making me not need to worry as much. Also this allows me not to run over pedestrians on sidewalks as bikes are not suppose to be on the sidewalk.

    More specific to Manchester, the rail trails are all great, but additional trails would be nice. Some more recreational not necessarily leading to anywhere and some more destination specific leading to down town form the neighborhoods and vice versa.

    I like Boston how they incorporate many of the bike lanes and places where people bike into paths along parks. Martha’s Vinyard is a good example of a place where bikes dominate the roads, and having been there a lot, I have little complaints abotu what has been done for bikes. They can always have more, but I like it.

    Lastly (less biking as a method of transportation, but still cool) Seattle has an urban bike park. I can not get this out of my mind as being one of the coolest uses of land I have seen. http://evergreenmtb.org/wiki/index.php?title=I-5_Colonnade

    I think this would fit into most cities around New England as there are a lot of mt. bikers. But this was done by a group in Seattle, not the city. And this doesn’t really apply to bike lanes and amenities much. Just cool.

    Another thought is signage / public maps that show bike lanes and trails around the city and surrounding towns. Like one of those welcome signs with a city map or something, but one that is designated for bike info and maps. Explaining the available bike amenities and where to bike for pleasure.

  3. Sorry for the double post, but doesn’t the Piscataquog Trail cross that water? Or is that bridge unsafe? Does it continue into Goffstown?

    And, a complete connection form the MA border in Salem and Methuen to Manchester along the South Manchester Trail and somewhat existing trail in Salem – Derry would be nice. And when i say complete, like Eric posted, extended from Nutt Pond to Elm Street.

  4. I think bike lanes and sharrows are definitely needed in Manchester, or the number of cyclists will not rise much more than where it is now. It’s definitely nerve-wracking as a new cyclist to be riding with traffic downtown or on streets in somewhat less congested areas of the city where cars drive very fast (such as Boynton Street, near where I live). Education of drivers and cyclists would help a lot as well. Laws against cell phone use and texting (and serious enforcement) would make me feel a lot better too. I would like to see bike businesses offer more information and classes on different aspects of cycling, such as commuting and trail riding, and be much more open to casual riders. Many of the staff at various bike stores in the area are intimidating and come off as a little condescending to newbies.

  5. Sorry mike, the Piscataquog trail is unfinished, there is no bike/foot bridge across yet. You have to go up and cross on the (under construction) Biron Bridge, at present, and then wander through a housing development to find the (unmarked) head of the Goffstown trail. (Which is itself unpaved, incomplete, and not terribly well marked in places…riding it the full length is quite an adventure, even without running into snakes like I did.) There are plans to join them up and restore the trestle, which is very decayed, but it’s not clear who’s responsible for it, or funding, or if/when it’s ever going to happen.

    I have a Google map of greater Manchester ongoing with all the bike racks I find listed on it, here:

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=210608541616927105416.0004aa14a79bf3f6a8092&msa=0

    And a cyclist friend of mine has a blog about Manchester’s byways & oddities, with posts on biking too: http://manchesteroblique.blogspot.com/

  6. For those that didn’t hear it, The Exchange on NHPR had a good program on Bikes on August 1:

    http://www.nhpr.org/beefs-over-bicycling-granite-state

    As long as we’re making a wish list: signage for bike routes that are suggested for bike commuting. How about giving cyclists a reduced fare on buses as it reduces stress on the infastructure (roads, downtown parking, pollution and traffic). And when it comes to bike racks, it’s good to know where they are, but I never let the lack of bike racks stop me from locking my bike anywhere that’s convenient and unobtrusive, like a street sign. I figure, if the need is there, bike racks will follow.

  7. I like the reduced fares on buses idea a lot. Yeah, I road the Piscataquog trail, and it wasn’t half bad. I went all the way to Goffstown center. I think this is the most complete trail in the area. This and the Windham Rail Trail, both of which do just end in town centers rather than continue.

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