Council paves way for bikes
Money to narrow area of South St.
By MADDIE HANNA Monitor staff
Projects to make Concord roads safer and more bike-friendly took priority during last night’s city council meeting.
Councilors decided to spend $8,000 in grant money on signs, striping and educational materials for the city’s first designated bike route.
And they voted to spend more than $98,000, also in grant money, on narrowing the South Street roadway in front of Conant and Rundlett schools, a project that will prevent cars from stopping between the crosswalks.
Though not directly related, the South Street project - funded through the federal Safe Routes to School program - will tie into the North-South bike route, which will begin near the Bow town line on South Street and run north along less-trafficked roads before connecting to North State Street.
Along that route are Rumford and Kimball schools. In mapping the route, members of a city bike committee "tied the Safe Routes to School zones together," said Peter Rhodes, who chairs that committee. "I would like to see children biking more to school."
The bike route will feature markings painted on the pavement that designate lanes to be shared by cars and bicyclists. That puts the bicyclist on the right side of the road, with traffic.
And it tells bicyclists to stay on the road. Accidents often occur when people bike on sidewalks, said Jennifer Kretovic of Concord 2020, the citizens group providing the money for the route.
Increased bike traffic will prompt drivers sharing those lanes to slow down, Kretovic said. Pamphlets and other measures would educate both driver and bicyclist, and "we think this will really be the one that pays off for the city," Kretovic said.
City Manager Tom Aspell said the city would have to pay $2,600 a year to maintain the pavement.
Before casting his vote in favor, Councilor Keith Nyhan said he didn’t intend for the bike markings to get preference over other annual road striping.
"It’s a good idea, but funding is what it is," he said.
The Safe Routes project intends to alleviate congestion on South Street, especially in the mornings, where cars stop to drop off students as buses pull in, which "becomes confusing and an unsafe condition," City Engineer Ed Roberge said.
After the road is narrowed and bike lanes added, on-street drop-offs will be banned, Roberge said.
Several councilors asked how school consolidation would affect the project, and Roberge said future concepts for the campus include the two driveways and associated crosswalks.
City engineers will work closely with the school district in the coming months, he said. Construction won’t begin until the end of June, when school is out for summer.
Also at last night’s meeting, Deputy City Manager Jim Howard told councilors the negative credit watch on the city’s bond rating has been removed.
While it likely won’t reduce the cost of borrowing money, the alternative before the ratings agency would have been to drop Concord’s credit rating, Howard said.
Had that happened, he said, "it would have cost us more."
"This is a huge accomplishment and really puts the city in good financial standing going forward," Aspell said.
"But it doesn’t solve our budget problems," Howard added.
At the start of the meeting, the council recognized outgoing councilors Doug Black, who served for eight years, and Dick Lemieux, who served for four. Concord police Detective Todd Flanagan, who’s leaving the department after 20 years, was also recognized.