WESTERLY — A dedicated bicycle lane and exercise loop that would narrow the vehicular travel area through a section of Misquamicut appears to be moving ahead.
On Monday the Town Council voted 4-3 to soon consider a resolution that, if approved, would authorize Town Manager J. Mark Rooney to seek bids for design and engineering services for a loop that would go from Shore Road down Weekapaug Road to a section of Atlantic Avenue and then up Winnapaug Road to reconnect to Shore Road.
Bicycle lanes would be situated on both sides of the four roads. The project would involve repainting lines on the roads, marking the dedicated lane on the pavement and installation of 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 the report Pare Corporation of Lincoln submitted to the town last May after the company performed a feasibility study.
The loop under consideration by the council was estimated by Pare Corporation to cost about $130,000. Plans call for paying for the work with part of the $300,000 grant from the state’s Green Economy Bond that was awarded to the town in 2017. The grant expires July 1, 2020.
The Bike Path and Cycling Advisory Committee voted unanimously last month to support a request to the Town Council to pursue Alternative A, according to Fred DeGrooth, the committee’s chairman, who appeared before the council Monday. Councilors Sharon Ahern and Karen Cioffi voted against moving the resolution ahead to a future meeting due to safety concerns.
“I just can’t support it. The infrastructure down there is tight. To me it’s scary ... bicycle paths, and we need them, need to be buffered, real deal off the road, because these are for all ages,” Ahern said.
DeGrooth said he agreed and added that his committee had hoped to pursue either a buffered lane that would include a strip of asphalt to separate the road from the bicycle lane or a bicycle lane separated from the roadway by a vegetative strip but those two alternatives are estimated to cost $4 million and $7 million respectively.
Cioffi said she was concerned bicyclists would fall off their bicycles and land in the vehicular lane of travel.
“I can’t support this. It’s so dangerous to me,” Cioffi said.
Councilor William Aiello said the dedicated lane would improve safety by bringing greater attention to an area that is already frequently used by bicyclists, joggers and walkers. Councilors Christopher Duhamel and Suzanne Giorno made similar statements.
Councilor Brian McCuin joined Ahern and Cioffi in voting against moving the resolution forward to a future meeting. Duhamel, Aiello, Giorno and Councilor Caswell Cooke Jr. voted in favor of moving the resolution forward.
The council’s vote to move the proposed resolution forward to one of its future meetings came during a Committee of the Whole meeting when the council says it is precluded by the state Open Meetings Act from voting. Instead, the council describes its votes as “consensus” gathering. In this case the four affirmative votes are viewed by the council as a consensus of the council.