The Union Leader is not always the strongest advocate for urban growth and livability in Greater Manchester–their strong support for a suburban-style liquor store on prime land in the heart of the Granite Street gateway to downtown and the West Side is just one recent example of promoting poor planning ideas for the city.

That makes today’s editorial in support of adding bike lanes as part of the Route 101 West widening–and hopefully beautification–project in Bedford even more encouraging.  This is one of those things that is such a no-brainer: relatively low cost with huge quality-of-life improvements.  It would be even better to see an express commuter bus running up and down Route 101 sometime in the future, delivering the many Bedford residents who work in the city to downtown or to commuter rail, and getting more people using the MTA bus system.  For now, bike lanes would be a good start.

Biking 101: A lane would help

In Bedford, there is a great deal of support for widening Route 101 from the Route 114 intersection to Wallace Road. It creates a huge snarl of traffic not only during rush hours, but in the middle of the day and even on weekends. The road simply is too narrow to handle the volume of traffic that needs to get through it.

Last Wednesday, Bedford residents and public officials turned out for a state Department of Transportation meeting on the widening project. The numbers were good because the issue is a big one for the town, and because the DOT wisely advertised the meeting on highway signs along that portion of Route 101.

We were struck by the strong support for moving the project up on the DOT’s 10-year plan. We also were struck by the suggestion of one resident, Bill Fisk, who rode his bicycle to the meeting. He urged DOT officials to make it easier for people to bike instead of just rely on cars. It was good advice.

A lot of bike enthusiasts have an unrealistic expectation that bike lanes will reduce commuter congestion. That is highly unlikely, although we know people who live in Bedford and bike to work. But the lanes are valuable nonetheless. They are recreational assets that double as possible commuter paths.

Putting a bike lane on a newly widened 101 would be valuable to the town (the shoulder west of Wallace Road is wide enough for bikes now). If the state doesn’t want to pay for it, the town should see how it could do so, preferably through donations.


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