To the editor:
The town of Ipswich is currently considering road reconstruction projects on Jeffrey’s Neck Road and on Argilla Road near Crane Beach. Both of these roads are popular destinations for cyclists and pedestrians, but unfortunately both will likely be more dangerous, as currently proposed, after reconstruction.
This week, three members of the Ipswich Pedestrian and Cyclist Advocacy Group submitted a letter to the Ipswich Select Board, urging them to carefully consider changes to the current design of these roads that would improve the safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Below is the submitted letter.
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March 23, 2020
Dear Select Board Members,
On behalf of the Ipswich Pedestrian and Cycling Advocacy Group, we wish to thank you for your attention to pedestrian and cyclist safety in your March 16 discussion of the proposed Jeffrey’s Neck and Argilla Road reconstruction. We would like to note that there were a number of citizens interested in this agenda item that could not listen to the discussion or provide comments during the meeting. Because the Town Hall meeting room was closed to the general public during the meeting as a result of the virus pandemic, we urge you to provide additional opportunities for the public to provide comments and concerns on these important projects.
There are several factors that we ask you to consider when reviewing the design:
1) Existing town plans and citizen votes: The citizens of Ipswich have supported the Community Development Plan (CDP), the Complete Streets Program, and the Climate Action Plan, all of which encourage non-motorized modes of transportation by increasing public access to safe pedestrian and cycling routes on our town roads. As an example, the 2003 CDP’s transportation action plan explicitly states that Ipswich should “support non-automotive transportation modes, including cycling and walking.” Furthermore, the CDP “recommends the development of additional trails and sidewalks as well as efforts to support bicycling.”
2) Climate change: The transportation sector in Massachusetts represents over 40% of the state’s total greenhouse gas emissions. In order to make meaningful progress in mitigating climate change, a “business as usual” approach towards transportation-related emissions in not sustainable. In addition, the town of Ipswich is incurring significant expense to modify these roads due to the effects of increasing sea-level rise and storm surge. It would be counter-productive to modify these roads in a way that discourages non-motorized modes of transportation that are part of the solution to the climate crisis.
3) Safe access to Ipswich’s beaches: While Ipswich is known for its beaches, there are currently no safe routes to our beaches other than driving. Although a road design that includes pedestrian and cycling access would not be as safe as a dedicated pedestrian and cycling path, it would be an improvement over the current design. Crane Beach and Great Neck are popular destinations for cyclists. As currently designed, the roadways do not provide adequate travel space for cyclists. This is especially the case for the proposed Jeffrey’s Neck Road project, where an 11.5-foot-wide road with metal guardrails would constrict the roadway and limit options for cyclists to avoid cars.
4) Traffic congestion: Safe pedestrian and cycling access reduces cars and traffic congestion on Jeffrey’s Neck and Argilla roads, as well as on connecting roads and downtown Ipswich.
5) Healthy outdoor activities: Safe public access to walking and biking routes is an important factor in encouraging all age groups to incorporate regular exercise into their lifestyles, especially to popular local destinations like Crane Beach. This couldn’t be more important now, in light of the current virus pandemic.
We encourage you to press for the following design elements:
1) At least two feet of space on the road for cyclists and pedestrians. There is currently no shoulder in the proposed road design, and sharing the road with cars in a safe manner is the best option available.
2) Prominent ‘sharrows’ and similar markings that alert drivers to look for pedestrians and cyclists and respect their safe use of the road.
3) Any measures that slow and calm automotive traffic, such as narrowing travel lanes, signage, and road markings, would increase safety to pedestrians and cyclists.
Thank you and keep up the good work,
(as members of the Ipswich Pedestrian and Cycling Advocacy Group)