Envision bike lanes

02May19

I have some bad news and some worse news.

The bad news: Bike lanes are coming to Wakefield Square.

The worse news: There’s not a thing you can do about it.

Why, you ask?

The answer can be expressed in one word: money.

The town wants $15 million from the state for a Main Street infrastructure project. The state wants bike lanes. No bike lanes, no $15 million. It’s as simple as that.

I’m guessing you didn’t hear the words “bike lanes” mentioned when you voted at last year’s Town Meeting to approve $331,500 the first phase of a design study that you were told would bring millions of dollars in state money for Main Street infrastructure improvements.

But now that the $331,500 is being spent, the town’s hired consultants have presented at the public Envision Wakefield sessions three options for the wholesale redesign of the downtown. Guess how many of those options include bike lanes.

If you guessed “three,” you win. But if you’re not a fan of spandex and helmets, you lose.

If you grew up here and you like your wide Main Street and the look of a downtown that reflects all the eras of its historical evolution, warts and all — too bad. If you moved to Wakefield thinking, “Here’s a nice, normal community, with normal streets and a normal downtown,” think again.

Get ready for the new-look Wakefield, complete with bike lanes, parallel parking and all kinds of other trendy stuff that engineers and architects get paid to dream up for other people’s towns.

If you like Wakefield Square the way it is, with possibly a few needed tweaks here and there, well, you obviously hate change. Move over, you dinosaur.

That attitude was voiced very clearly by one local “political analyst” during last week’s election night coverage on WCAT.

“There has been a generational shift,” he proclaimed, by way of explaining why all his favorite candidates won. The millennials, you see, have arrived and you no longer matter. Get ready for bike lanes, solar panels and windmills. Get rid of your filthy, carbon-belching automobile, old timer. Get yourself a Schwinn.

Under Wakefield’s green new deal, cyclists and pedestrians are the guests of honor and motorists are the proverbial skunks at the lawn party. We’re taking away roadway space and parking from cars and giving it to bike lanes. Plus, we need wider sidewalks so we can have outdoor dining two months out of the year.

And I’ve got some more exciting news for you!

All three of the “design options” will get rid of our current angle parking on Main Street and replace it with parallel parking – the better to accommodate our cool new bike lanes. The “preferred” design does preserve a token number of angle parking spaces. It’s unclear if that concession resulted from a moment of weakness or sanity.

You don’t need to be a traffic engineer to know that switching from angle parking to parallel parking will greatly reduce the number of available parking spaces in a downtown that is already desperately short on parking.

But never fear. They’ve got that all figured out, too. To make up the shortfall, we’ll just make Centre Street and Princess Street one-way and allow parking on both sides. Who cares if granny has to drag her walker a few extra blocks to get to her hair appointment? She won’t be around much longer anyway.

Funny, the artist’s renderings shown by the consultants at the “Envision Wakefield” sessions and at Town Meeting all showed Wakefield in nice weather, with leaves on the trees and young people in shorts and T-shirts blissfully pedaling through the downtown with a warm summer breeze blowing through their hair.

As one resident pointed out, it looks like something that was designed for Florida, not New England, where it’s winter nine months of the year.

Fifteen million dollars is a lot of money. But bike lanes, parallel parking and host of other changes are a lot to ask residents to swallow all at once.

The wholesale transformation of our historic downtown is now a forgone conclusion. But let’s not be too quick to label those who think it’s too much, too fast as “anti-progress.”

After all, we’re “stakeholders,” too.

[This column originally appeared in the May 2, 2019 Wakefield Daily Item.]



5 Responses to “Envision bike lanes”

  1. 1 Jack

    Your ignorance of environmental issues is matched only by your disregard for it’s importance. And, as someone who has biked through downtown Wakefield many times, I would add disregard for safety to the list of your willful ignorance.

    • 2 Dennis Clancy

      What environmental issues? If you’re talking about reducing traffic for the environment then (aside from the green hoax which is another topic) you aren’t factoring in the folks who will drive elsewhere to shop which will ADD to your pollution concerns. My concern is for the poor business owners who made an investment only to have people like you change the rules and syphon away some of their business for an ideology.

  2. 3 Carole S.

    Time to consider moving. I very seldom shop in downtown Wakefield due to the parking problem now, rest assured this will change from seldom to never!

  3. 4 Anthony Antetomaso

    I have been the target of many scornful remarks due to my utter distain for the New Wakefieldian. I’d say I was fairly prescient in that area. Hop on the Distain Train, neighbors! Choo-Chooooo!!!

    • 5 Dennis Clancy

      The new Wakefieldian is brainwashed, selfish, disrespectful, and clueless about how business works. Is there still room on the train?


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