Weird Bike Lane Politics

A little history on the weird Bike Lane politics. Oy Veh.

The High Street Master Plan was presented at a Public Hearing in 2004, to cheers, except for Tom O’Brien, who was at that time the President of the Newburyport City Council. The mayor (Mary Anne Clancy) was at that meeting. All seemed to be well. In fact, all seemed to be great.

(And as a btw, the High Street Master Plan calls for things like textured cross walks, that look like bricks, but are not, so the Fire, Police and DPW could navigate without any problem, brick sidewalks for all of High Street, and yes, trees, and other good stuff.)

As I recall the Newburyport Planning Office had urged the mayor to give the press, press releases before the bike lanes, (the first phase of the High Street Master Plan) went down, so that people would have some information, and not be totally surprised. It is my recollection, that that piece of civic information never made it to the press, and the bike lanes were a surprise to folks who weren’t following along, which turned out to be almost everyone in Newburyport, MA.

Massive confusion and a visceral dislike of the bike lanes followed (this is a vast understatement). The Newburyport City Council decided that it would be prudent to officially vote on the High Street Master Plan, which they did, and it passed.

Then the Mayor, Mary Anne Clancy, vetoed the plan, and there were not enough votes on the Newburyport City Council to override the mayor’s bike lane veto (you need a lot of votes for such things as overriding vetoes).

What a mess.

What a mess especially because the bike lanes were only partially done. For example, as I remember, there was no signage put up to explain to the bikers and drivers when the bike lanes would stop and when bikes and cars would share road space together.

The rounded painted corners look like parking spaces. They are not. If things had been finished, those areas would have been striped, for no parking, so that people could have proper “sight lines,” or in other words, be able to see traffic coming from either direction.

And of course the textured crosswalks never got done, to help slow down traffic further.

All of this, and other stuff, left us in Newburyport, MA, in “bike lane limbo.”

So I would imagine that the Newburyport Planning Office and the Newburyport City Council would dust off the High Street Master Plan, take a good look at it after 4 years now, and decide what to do next. And give the public, I am sure, all kinds of good and helpful information.

Mary Eaton