Why a Community Pathway?
By the end of the 19th Century, cycling was growing from a hobby to an established form of transport in various countries, but roads at the time were often rutted or poorly surfaced. Moreover, the arrival of the motorcar in the early 1900's created new and ominous safety hazards for people on bicycles. Thus a century ago a worldwide cyclist campaign for road improvements and segregated bike lanes began.
Today, people living in the suburbs and rural areas are forced to use automobiles for their everyday transportation needs. Schools, shopping and workplaces are often too distant to be reached by walking, and public transit is not always available. Like the automobile, a bicycle provides personal transportation which is available when needed without waiting or adapting to a schedule; however, unlike the auto, a bicycle is quiet, light weight, does not consume fossil fuels or foul the air with pollutants. If a community wants clean air, low cost transportation, low impact recreation in the outdoor breezes, (and what community doesn't?), then a safe, multi-use pathway is the way to go. Public pathways boost transport and recreational opportunities, encourage exercise at all ages, yield significant health and environmental benefits as well as stimulate local economies.
One of the major impediments to cycling in the 21st century, especially in many U.S. towns in the east, is the lack of safe pathway routes to where people need and want to go - to village centers, schools, shopping malls, workplaces, parks, etc. This is particularly true in Wareham which has a large land area with many small villages located miles from each other and no safe, non-motorized way to get from one to another. Not only might a pathway in Wareham connect these community parks and villages, but it would also serve as a strategic link in a regional bikeway stretching from Providence to Cape Cod and points north to Boston and Maine.
In 2006 the Board of Selectmen appointed a BIke Path Committee to explore possible bike routes, costs, and sources of funding. [There is an existing pathway in Fairhaven and Mattapoisett, a planned bikeway in Marion and an existing one in Buzzards Bay along the Canal.] Seeking a connection between Marion and Buzzards Bay, the Town enlisted the Southeastern Regional Planning Economic Development District (SRPEDD) to help determine a feasible route for the project. Together with the Community Pathway Committee (new name, same Committee) SRPEDD developed a proposed route with alternatives and drafted a report in 2006. Though preliminary and subject to a future feasibility study, the Report offered a conceptualized written plan for the Wareham segment, including maps, route recommendations, funding responsibilities and opportunities.
Subsequently, a feasibility study was conducted by Weston & Sampson, Engineering, Inc., culminating in a formal report issued in the summer of 2010. The Report outlines the process for selecting a feasible route through the Town based on land availability, cost-effective engineering, construction and maintenance factors. Analysis of existing right-of-ways in the town, maps and photographs of the recommended route and alternatives are included, along with potential funding sources and MA Highway Design Guide standards.
The term "bikeway" can be used to describe any facility for use by bicyclists. There are three classes to bikeways: Classes I, II, and III. Class I bikeways are bicycle paths that exist separated from roadways or in their own right-of-way. They are two directional and typically 10-12 feet wide. For obvious reasons, Class I bikeways are the safest and most desirable. Class II bikeways are bicycle lanes on existing roadways. They are typically 5-6 feet wide and are located between the outside travel lane and either the edge of the paved roadway or the parking lane. Class III bikeways are shared travel lanes, where automobiles and bicycles share the same lane. These lanes are usually at least 14 feet in total width and are usually the same as normal lanes except they may be signed as shared routes. Generally, Class I and II bikeways are preferred in all cases over Class III bikeways.
Wareham Community Pathway:
The proposed Wareham Community Pathway will be approximately 12 miles in length, constructed in 5 Phases. Phase I is planned to start at Blackmore Pond Road just beyond the intersect with County Road and then follow the abandoned rail line to Fearing Hill Road. There are a number of route possibilities from there, but we will need to concentrate on only one Phase at a time! Design and construction of all phases are subject to approval by the MA Department of Transportation. Ideally, the finished route will connect west Wareham to the Marion Bike Path on Old County Road and pass east through Wareham to the Town Line of Buzzard's Bay at Cranberry Highway. As of March 2011, preliminary talks have begun with MA DOT and the Town. We have a lot of work to do!