We all know that walking and biking are good for our health and for the environment.  Yet many of us hop into our cars for even short trips.  We also know that in Manchester there are often too many cars and congested streets.  What can we do to make Manchester more pedestrian and bike friendly?

Improving safety is a first step.  Parents are reluctant to let their children bike to school because of automobile traffic.  Some sidewalks need repair.  Better signage, bike lanes and improved sidewalks would help solve these problems. 

Residents often cite Manchester’s small village feel as one of the town’s attributes they most like.  A line of cars snaking through downtown or speeding cars entering and exiting town detract from this and pose safety issues. Improving walking and bicycling infrastructure can support that small village feel.

But old habits die hard.  From the 1950’s, automobile infrastructure was seen as a national security issue.  Roads were built and we drove.  Now cars are the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases and we realize that climate change poses a national threat.  An increase in walking, bicycling and other non-motorized forms of transportation is a way that everyone can play a part in making things better.  The infrastructure for cars is extensive, but not so for our walkers and cyclists.

Supporting walking and cycling doesn’t just contribute to a healthier environment.  It also makes us healthier.  Numerous studies provide compelling evidence of how moderate exercise including walking and cycling can increase longevity.  A recent Danish study showed those who got moderate exercise were 40 percent less likely to die over a 25- year-period than less active people.

The Bicycle and Pedestrian committee, a group of volunteers, is working with town administrators to make walking and bicycling more accessible and safer in Manchester.  Our meetings, typically the second or third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m., are open to the public and we welcome input.

One of the committee’s initiatives over the next few months, is looking at School Street north of Lincoln and its side blocks towards the schools.  Northern School Street has the advantages of being wide and signaling to incoming traffic that there are bike riders in town.  The side streets to the schools are important as the safety of our children is critical.

We are also looking at improving sidewalks in these areas, especially where the streets are narrow for cycling and some might cycle on sidewalks.

Many town residents may have ideas that could contribute to our plans. Some may know from professional responsibilities about the most effective strategies for improving bicycling accessibility and safety.  Others may have their own personal experiences and insights to share. Come join us at our next meeting!  The zoom link is on the town’s website http://www.manchester.ma.us.  You can also contact us by email at  bikeandpedcommittee@manchester.ma.us. Together, we can make a difference.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee, Manchester-by-the-Sea

The Cricket accepts submissions for opinion pieces that offer a thoughtful, fact-based take on issues that impact our community.  Please send submission ideas to news@thecricket.com.