WESTERLY — Misquamicut residents and public safety officials took a hard look Tuesday at plans for a bicycle loop proposed to run through a section of their village and expressed concern that the loop would add to summer road congestion and put the bicyclists in danger.
About 30 people attended a forum on the loop proposed by an informal committee that studied and developed the basic idea over a four-year period. The committee was recently established by the Town Council as a municipal commission. Representatives of Pare Corporation, hired by the council to serve as consultants, reviewed sets of options and cost estimates for each of the four roads on the 7-mile route: Shore, Winnapaug and Weekapaug roads and Atlantic Avenue.
Misquamicut Fire Chief Todd Findeisen said he did not have a problem with creating a bicycle path or lane on Shore Road but strongly criticized the idea of continuing the lane onto the other three roads, saying traffic backs up in July and August.
“This is a public safety nightmare, Findeisen said.
Pare proposed a 5-foot bicycle lane on both sides of Shore Road using existing pavement, and maintaining the current width of the travel lanes. A second option called for buffered paths on each side of the road. The shoulders of the road would be widened. A third option would involve widening the shoulders and creating a 10-foot wide two-way bicycle path on the north side of the road. A 5-foot-wide vegetative buffer would separate the road from the bicycle path, which could also be used by pedestrians. The third option would require, in some spots, the use of private property.
Two options were offered for Weekapaug Road. Under the first, 4-foot bicycle lanes would be established on each side of the road and the motor vehicle lanes would be narrowed from 11 feet to 10 feet. The second option called for a 5-foot-wide bike lane on the southbound side of the road and an 11-foot-wide shared motor vehicle and bicycle lane on the northbound side.
The first option for Winnapaug Road would establish 4-foot-wide bicycle lanes on both sides of the road and narrow the motor vehicle lanes on both sides from 11 feet to 10 feet. A second option would establish a 12-foot wide shared lane on the southbound side for bicyclists and motorists and a 5-foot wide bicycle lane on the northbound side. A third option would eliminate the sidewalks from the southbound side of the road, reduce the motor vehicle lanes to 10 feet and establish a 10-foot-wide two-way bicycle lane on the northbound side of the road. That lane would be separated from the roadway with a 4-foot wide buffer
The first option for Atlantic Avenue would narrow the motor vehicle lanes from 12 feet to 11 feet and establish 5-foot wide bicycle lanes on both sides of the road. The second option would establish a two-way bicycle lane on the north side separated from the motor vehicle lane, which would be reduced to a width of 10 feet. A third option would establish a 10-foot wide bicycle path separated from the roadway with a 4-foot-wide buffer. The motor vehicle travel lanes would be reduced to a width of 10 feet each.
Fred DeGrooth, Bike Path and Cycling Advisory Commission chairman, said the committee is likely to focus its initial efforts on Shore Road. He also noted that Pare’s work was intended to help determine the feasibility of the proposed loop.
The town was awarded a $300,000 grant through the state Green Economy Bond to be used for a multiuse path. The funds must be used for a path that is oriented toward Shore Road.
The company’s presentation will be available for viewing on the municipal website.