New bike lanes coming to Concord

Last modified: Friday, May 09, 2014
Clipboard in hand, Craig Tufts sat on the corner of Manchester Street and Old Turnpike Road for three hours Wednesday.

“I got a lot of funny looks from people driving by,” said Tufts, who is a transportation planner for the Central New Hampshire Planning Commission.

Tufts wasn’t there for the people driving by in their cars – he was counting bicycles. Other volunteers and staff members have been conducting similar counts across the city, as part of the commission’s effort to collect data on cycling in Concord.

“Transportation is more than just driving your car,” Tufts said.

For those cyclists, a new bike lane is coming to Concord. The Central New Hampshire Bicycle Coalition has given $17,000 to the city to stripe more than 5 miles of a bike lane on Route 3.

In 2010, the city published a master plan aimed at making Concord a more bicycle-friendly community. This bike lane is in keeping with that larger vision, said Nik Coates, chairman of the Central New Hampshire Bicycle Coalition.

“What we’re really trying to do is build community,” Coates said. “I think where all modes of transportation are accepted and respected, people feel like they can participate in the community. . . . It’s a more inclusive community.”

As the city implements its master plan for cyclists, the Central New Hampshire Regional Planning Commission has begun to collect data on trends in bicycle and pedestrian traffic around Concord.

From 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Tufts counted about 24 bikes pass by his street corner. Last May, a volunteer counted as many as 43 bikes passing through the intersection of Main and Center streets during a three-hour period. Another marked 52 bikes near North State and Bouton streets in three hours, Tufts said.

Those numbers will likely grow with a national trend toward more cycling, said Tufts, who also serves on the cycling subcommittee for the city’s Transportation Policy Advisory Committee.

“I would say it’s definitely getting more popular,” he said.

The city striped its first bike lane on part of Clinton Street in 2009. Making way for cyclists was one of the motivations behind the city’s bicycle master plan in 2010. Bike lanes are increasingly a part of the city’s infrastructure projects, Roberge said. That means working a bike lane into a project like the Route 3 reconstruction, or adding one to a corridor like Loudon Road. When Loudon Road shrinks from four lanes to three, a 5-foot-wide shoulder will accommodate bicyclists.

“We’re really trying to stay focused on pedestrian and bike improvements in the community,” Roberge said.

To Coates, those improvements have given Concord an edge over other area communities.

“I think in comparison to the rest of the state, Concord is the most bicycle-friendly city in the state of New Hampshire,” Coates said.

Ride with traffic

Tufts agreed Concord is “ahead of the curve,” but he also praised the bicycle coalition for footing the bill for the bike lane on Route 3. About $10,000 of that money came from a state Department of Transportation grant, but the remaining $7,000 came from fundraising by the bicycle coalition.

“It’s a really cool thing that they’re putting their money where their mouth is,” Tufts said.

As the city continues the fifth phase of its work to rebuild that road this summer, City Engineer Ed Roberge said the coalition’s money will make the bike lanes happen much more quickly. The lanes might not have been painted for years, he said, but this money will be used to mark the bike lane on Route 3 between Borough Road and Penacook Street by this fall.

The bike lane continuing through Penacook village will be painted next summer, Roberge said. The money will also pay for 12 “wrong way, ride with traffic” signs to direct bicycle traffic around the city.

“What the coalition wanted us to work on and prioritize was to do those markings now,” Roberge said. “They kind of prompted us to look at doing it quicker, and they responded by providing the dollars to do it.”

A clear bike lane along this road will make the connection between Penacook and downtown Concord safer, Coates said.

“We’re trying to encourage people to feel comfortable getting on their bikes,” Coates said.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)