This letter to the editor was published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on May 18, 2009.
As a citizen of Northampton, a member of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike), and a commuter and recreational cyclist who doesn’t own a car, I was one of many dozens of people attending the April 27 Mass Highway hearing on the Manhan Rail Trail to support the construction of the new portion from Northampton to Easthampton.
I use the existing local multi-modal transportation system at least several times a week during the academic year, when the Five College bus system runs, and at least once a week in the summer and during the winter intercession. It is safe, convenient, and reliable. But PVTA provides fairly limited service to Easthampton, and construction of the new portion of the Manhan Trail will enable me – and many cyclists like me who aren’t fond of biking on Route 10 – to commute to and from Easthampton on Sundays and nights after 8 p.m., when PVTA doesn’t provide service.
On a number of occasions, I’ve considered attending an evening arts event at an Easthampton venue, but rejected the idea because I knew that, if I were unable to create a car pool, I’d have to bike back to Northampton in the dark. Although Route 10 has wide shoulders, it also has a high speed limit and provides a nerve-wracking cycling experience, especially after nightfall.
An expanded Manhan Trail would enable me to exercise more often and attend events in Easthampton, supporting cultural and environmental organizations. As a member of a local women’s outdoor group, I’d be highly likely to encourage others to use the trail and to lead recreational rides on it, patronizing Easthampton businesses along the way.
The completion of the new trail segment is an appropriate and needed expenditure of public funds. It has great potential to provide jobs, reduce vehicle emissions, improve public health, expand recreational opportunities for the disabled, and be connected to an expanded transportation infrastructure in the Pioneer Valley.