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Plan aims to increase biking and walking in Nashua

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

September 02. 2015 10:31PM


NASHUA — A regional pedestrian and bicycle plan for the Nashua area has been designed to increase the number of bike paths and enhance local walking conditions within the next five years.

Completed by the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, the plan highlights goals that could be implemented by nearby communities to improve the walkability and bicycle activity in the area.

If the plan is supported by cities and towns in southern New Hampshire, infrastructure improvements to promote active lifestyles could be feasible in three to five years, according to the document.

There are seven goals associated with the plan: encouraging short distance non-motorized trips, increasing awareness of active transportation as a viable alternative, promoting a healthy lifestyle, enhancing the economic vitality of the region, enhancing active transportation options in the region, improving air quality and implementing and sustaining active transportation options.

“Incremental improvements will have the greatest impact on the greatest amount of people. Even if we created one to five miles of bike lanes a year, that would be enough to start,” said James Vayo of Visualize Nashua, who is also an avid supporter of bicycle transportation.

Vayo, who worked with the NRPC in the early stages of the plan, said the city is beginning to understand the various stressors that limit bicycle ability, especially in the downtown area where traffic can be the most congested.

“The challenge, of course, is how to fund the infrastructure improvements,” said Vayo.

He said the bike and pedestrian infrastructure should be included in the annual budget process — similar to road paving.

If one percent of the population bikes to work, then one percent of the money that is set aside for road improvements should be allocated to bike lanes or bike trails, Vayo said.

“I have a personal goal of getting the city to create a committee of community stakeholders who understand the benefits of walking and biking,” he said, adding the committee could ultimately create a downtown pedestrian bike master plan that would help make real, attainable changes.

Some of the short-term objectives included in the regional pedestrian and bicycle plan echo the need to encourage towns to adopt land use regulations that support active transportation, develop an outreach strategy, collect bike collision data, increase safe walking and biking behavior and improve walking and biking conditions in local business districts.

Longer-term objectives include increasing the amount of spending on bike and pedestrian infrastructure, increasing the number of trails near residential areas and creating community plans to improve bike infrastructure.

In Nashua, Vayo said the concept of connecting inner-city neighborhoods such as Lock Street, which is at the heart of French Hill, with Main Street, would be incredibly beneficial to pedestrians and bicyclists.

khoughton@newstote.com


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