BRUNSWICK — Bicycle proponents plan to use Federal Street to experiment with how to improve downtown cycling safety and infrastructure.
Members of the town’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee are proposing to place a shared lane, or “sharrow,” northbound on Federal Street from Bath Road to Mason Street, and another sharrow that turns into a dedicated southbound bike lane.
In a memo to the Town Council, the committee said improved bicycling infrastructure will offer safer access to downtown businesses, and offer cyclists an alternative to riding on traffic-heavy Maine street.
The new lanes will also demonstrate how sharrows and bike lanes can work on other streets in the town core, the committee said.
“What we’re trying to do is educate vehicular drivers and bikers to work together and share the road,” BPAC Vice Chairman Rich Cromwell said in an interview.
The committee intends to hold a workshop with Federal Street residents to gather their input on the project.
But town councilors, at a meeting last week, said the panel should consider broadening the scope of the workshop to include other residents, particularly those who regularly commute on Federal Street.
Cromwell said he had “mixed feelings” about going beyond the direct abutters.
“It’s really a focused issue,” he said, adding that opening up the discussion could bring in people who are not direct stakeholders in the proposal.
No date has been set for the workshop.
The shared lane proposed for northbound Federal Street will sanction cyclists to “take the (travel) lane” and maneuver around parked vehicles, Cromwell said.
Another shared lane in the opposite direction would transition into a dedicated bike lane starting at School Street, so cyclists can safely pedal up the hill and over the railroad bridge without getting in the way of traffic.
The proposal would eliminate approximately 13 parking spaces, from Green Street to the bridge, to accommodate the new bike lanes, Cromwell said.
In its memo to the council, BPAC notes that recent parking utilization studies indicate that the parking spots under consideration are some of the least used downtown.
The Federal Street proposal is just the first step in a larger plan to develop a “bicycle safety zone” in downtown Brunswick that would encompass the streets surrounding Maine Street, which is regarded as a dangerous road for cyclists.
“If you ride Maine Street every day, eventually you’re going to get hit,” Cromwell said. “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”
The safety zone is an alternative to a plan floated by the town’s Master Plan Implementation Committee to place bike lanes behind diagonal parking spaces on Maine Street, an area cyclists call “the death zone,” according to a BPAC document provided to the council.
Cromwell said BPAC intends to use the Federal Street design as a template for similar infrastructure on Mason, Mill, Union, Noble and Cleaveland streets.
“We need to do it one time, and see how effective it is,” he said.
Cyclists ride north on Federal Street in Brunswick on Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 23. A town committee is proposing new bike lanes on the street, part of a larger proposal to make downtown Brunswick safer for riders.