The first public meeting on the master plan was held Wednesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is developing plans to make Pittsfield safer and more accessible to bicycling.
The first public meeting for the Pittsfield Bicycle Facilities Master Plan was held on Wednesday but the plan has been in the works for the last year or two, said City Planner CJ Hoss.
Though Pittsfield has a few areas with bike lanes or shared road lanes, the city would like to take a more progressive approach with simple roadwork projects or more extensive plans in the future to try and take on more ambitious, safer bike facilities.
"There's a need to take a citywide approach," Hoss said.
This project will look at how residents who commute by bicycle get around the city. It also aims to make sure there are adequate bicycle store lockers, bike racks, and maintenance stations for them. Additionally, it will consider the need to bathe in between trips and is looking at providing access to showers to make commuting easier.
The city has been working on this project with consultant Kittelson & Associates Inc., which provides transportation planning, engineering, and research services to government agencies, municipalities, and private organizations.
Project manager Aditya Inamdar and transportation analyst Caitlin Mildner of Kittelson & Associates introduced this project in the meeting.
"We would love to be in Pittsfield today and meet you all in person and do a more traditional public outreach engagement event," Inamdar said. "But because of the COVID-19 pandemic we are doing this virtually."
Inamdar explained that they are still in the early stages. Since this was the first meeting, Inamdar and Mildner introduced the project, talked about basic goals and objectives, the project timeline, and some initial findings from their existing conditions analysis.
They introduced themselves along with project principal Conor Semler and gave some basic information about the plan's purposed timeline.
The overall vision is to create a safe, comfortable, and accessible bicycle network in the to serve people of all ages and abilities. This is broken down into four project goals of safety, accessibility, sense of place and sustainability.
The objectives are to develop a citywide plan based on transportation, land use, and demographic factors and prioritize a plan recommended for full-scale buildout over time.
"We just don't want to end up with a map with a bunch of lines on it," said Inamdar. "We want to understand what those lines mean."
This plan also aims to identify complementary facilities such as bike racks and maintenance stations to think beyond just bike lanes to wholly assist people choosing bicycling.
In terms of scheduling, the team has been working on the project since August, looking into existing conditions, existing data, and talking to major stakeholders to get public feedback.
There is also a website featuring a survey that asks how frequently a person bicycles, how often they would like to bike, what are destinations a person frequents, and types of facilities a person would like to bike on. The public is urged to take this survey soon as it is only open until the end of October.
The website also has all the data collected so far and a mapping tool where residents can give feedback on where they feel safe or unsafe on a bike to help inform decision making.
"I think this tool is especially important," said Hoss. "In an ideal world, we would be doing public meetings where we could have a workshop and have maps all over the place where people could show up and draw on them and make notes, but this is the virtual side of trying to do that."
The draft network will be presented in the second project meeting in December and the goal is to finalize the master plan in spring and present it to the Pittsfield City Council and in March.
The Kittelson & Associates team is using a public outreach approach with a project advisory committee comprised of city staff who need to coordinate for implementations purposes. The team is also talking to larger employers, property owners, developers, bike advocacy groups, and school officials to get targeted feedback.
Additionally, the team will likely conduct another survey after the conclusion of the first to obtain additional feedback.
The team is using an existing conditions analysis of Pittsfield that includes land use and zoning, major destinations, major employers, schools, destination sites, and demographics.
They are also looking at how the transit network builds into the bicycle network because they are interconnected and both benefit residents who do not drive.
This data will be used to understand needs and concerns, assess existing bike networks including high-stress and low-stress streets, identify need for bicycling infrastructure, and then propose a prioritized list of recommended projects.
This project is by coincidence running parallel to Pittsfield's Shared Streets and Spaces program to expand improvements to sidewalks, curbs, streets, on-street parking spaces and off-street parking lots in support of public health, safe mobility, and renewed commerce in their communities.
During the meeting, Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales explained that about three years ago the city became a Complete Streets city, which means it considers about all modes of transportation.
"All of these policies one way or another go with that policy," he said.
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