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My Turn: Bikes are essential to future of Main Street

It has been argued that cyclists are irrelevant to the future of downtown. But encouraging more people to bike more often will be essential to creating a thriving downtown, and here’s why:

Going to buy something on a bike is more pleasant, healthier and economical than by car. People know this and more and more people want to use bikes to get around every year. If more people shop by bike more often, they will tend to go to places closer and more convenient rather than to a mall at the end of a very bike-unfriendly strip. If Main Street wants more business, it should be encouraging people to shop by bike.

Every parking space can fit 12 parked bikes. If Main Street wants to fix its parking “problem,” it should encourage more people to bike.

Main Street will be more successful if it’s a nice place to sit, have lunch or go for a walk. More people on bikes would reduce the traffic, exhaust and noise on Main Street and make it a more congenial spot. If Main Street businesses are serious about creating an environment that shoppers enjoy, they will encourage more people to bike.

People on bikes save money and thus have more money to spend downtown. They also save the city money by wearing out the roads less, so other taxpayers will have more money to spend downtown.

A bike-friendly Main Street gives downtown a leg up over the strip malls and Amazon.coms of the world. A bike-friendly Main Street gives downtown something those other places can’t offer: a pleasant meeting place, a community center, a pedestrian park, and thriving – service-oriented – businesses. But to get more people on bikes, downtown has to help encourage people who don’t feel safe biking in traffic the way it’s configured. It has to actively work to make Main Street more bike-friendly.

(Nicholas Coates is chairman of the Central New Hampshire Bicycling Coalition.)

Legacy Comments6

Those of you who are not in favor of a complete street in Concord NH need to do some research on the concept and see how such a design view can not only improve a communities local economy but also improve the health and wellness of its residents. I know change is scary, but lets look toward the future and not just settle for whats been done in the past. Change is a good thing.

If You Build It They Will Come! Supply and Demand. Parking issues have always been a main reason why downtowns fail. Couple that with stores that have small inventories and have to charge more for their goods and services, folks go elsewhere. We are not Concord MA or Portsmouth. The high rental rates for storefronts on Main Street sink business. I can go into most shops downtown and find I am often times the only one in the store. The downtowns that are profitable are the ones that know their income and target groups. Obviously that is not happening in Concord. And pretty trees and wide sidewalks will not change that.

The bicycle class is very different. I truly believe that they see automobiles as basically......evil. They are militant and their political push to get everything from bike paths to bike lanes in cities has been steady and certain. I ride a bike. When I do and a car is coming along behind me on a country road or in the city, I yield and stop or move out of the way. Not so with the Lance Armstrong (well, maybe not) wannabees with their spandex and pointy helmets as if they really need pointy helmets to reduce wind resistance......nope....they flash dirty looks at drivers, yell if they feel as if a driver did not yield to them and often cause chaos on the road. Yes, they pay taxes and yes many of us own bikes and mine is especially expensive.....but......to tell us that bike paths are essential because: "Main Street will be more successful if it’s a nice place to sit, have lunch or go for a walk. More people on bikes would reduce the traffic, exhaust and noise on Main Street and make it a more congenial spot." Well, la-de-da....that is one purists view. Commerce from downtown Concord has to come from many sources.....I am pretty sure that people are not going to bike in from Hooksett or Epsom. In my opinion, it is very pretentious to assume that downtown Concord "needs" anything in particular but business friendly access, free parking and merchants with great prices and values. "Pretty", "

"congenial" or "pleasant". No. Give the masses a reason to shop there!

I ride and commute here in Concord nearly every day at a modest 100 miles/week. I buy groceries 3 to 4 times a week and pick up what I can carry on the way home. The idea of everyone biking is romantic, but certainly not possible with the lack of bicycle parking available downtown or at the grocery stores. I current park where I can and pray for the best. I could talk about this concept for pages because the issue is neither simple or unimportant. On the upside, Concord drivers are for the most park friendly to cyclists as opposed to the nightmare I have experienced in other places. Drivers must be aware sidewalks are not for bikes and the road is to be shared. Us riders will not ride in the middle but please be aware there are some hazzards we have to avoid falling into on the side...Happy peddling.

Now that’s funny. Will you be strapping the bike to the back of your car and driving it to town or riding down that bike-unfriendly strip to get there??? I can just see all those people riding around town with all those packages they bought strapped to the handle bars. Can’t remember the last time I saw a spandex clad rider with saddlebags. Seriously Mr. Coates, chairman of the Central New Hampshire Bicycling Coalition, if you want a bike path then ask for it but don't try to tell people it is "essential to future of Main Street".

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