WESTERLY — The Town Council is expected to vote Monday on whether to go forward with plans for a bicycle loop on four roads in Misquamicut.
The council had voted previously, in May, to authorize Town Manager J. Mark Rooney to obtain bids for design and engineering work. The loop would use Shore Road, Weekapaug Road, Atlantic Avenue and Winnapaug Road. In a Dec. 23 memorandum to the Town Council, Lisa Pellegrini, director of the municipal Development Services office, told the council that a quote had been obtained, but also said the state Department of Environmental Management was seeking assurance that the council planned to follow through with construction of the loop.
DEM authorized a $300,000 grant from the Rhode Island Green Economy Bond for the project in 2017. The grant expires on July 1.
The council discussed the loop during its meeting on Jan. 6 and agreed to conduct a vote on Monday. Some councilors said they viewed the loop as way to protect bicyclists and joggers who already use the roads for exercise, while other councilors said the roads were too congested for a bicycle loop.
"I almost view it as creating an attractive nuisance, on very busy roads, for people who don't live here and don't understand exactly how crazy it can be," said Councilor Sharon Ahern.
Councilor Suzanne Giorno took a different stance. "They're going to ride their bikes regardless of whether they do this or not, but I see it as an additional safety precaution ... this is an additional safety benefit for something that is already happening," she said.
The project would involve repainting lines on the roads, marking the dedicated bicycle lane on the pavement, and installing signs along the route. Vehicle travel lanes would be narrowed to allow for 4- to 5-foot wide bicycle lanes. The loop was described as Alternative A in a report prepared for the town by Pare Corporation of Lincoln and submitted to the town in May 2018, after the company had performed a feasibility study. The town paid $30,000 for the feasibility study.
Councilor Karen Cioffi joined with Ahern in raising safety concerns. "With or without a sharrow this town was not made for bicycling along with traffic during the summertime in the height of tourist season," Cioffi said. Sharrows are arrows painted on the road to alert motorists that part of the road is dedicated to a bicycle lane. State law grants bicyclists access to the entirety of most roads.
Pare Corporation would not have developed a project option "that is going to harm our citizens," said Council President Christopher Duhamel, who bicycles along the Shore Road area.
Recreation Director Paul Duffy said DEM would likely allow the town to construct the loop after July 1, to avoid building it during the summer rush, as long as funds for construction are encumbered by contracts for the work.