(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
When bicycle advocates encourage non-cyclists to consider biking for transportation, one major reason for reluctance is a concern about safety.
“There’s a fear of traffic amongst a large number of people who want to bike but don’t,” said David Loutzenheiser, a transportation planner in the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program. “The people that are already biking have overcome that fear, and it’s certainly not as dangerous as people perceive. But that doesn’t really matter, because what people perceive is how they will react.”
That’s one reason the council has created a Greater Boston Cycling and Walking Map and a companion website at http://trailmap.mapc.org, which will be released in a public event at noon today. The map’s introduction is part of a series of events celebrating Bay State Bike Week, which runs May 14 – 20.
The free map is intended to be the most complete source of information on bicycle and walking paths across the council’s coverage area, from Littleton to Ipswich, Bellingham to Duxbury. Paper copies will be available at the council’s offices at 60 Temple Place in downtown Boston and will be distributed on request to communities throughout the region.
Loutzenheiser said one of the goals is to show area residents the trails they can use where they’re not walking or cycling alongside car traffic so that over time they become more confident when they do have to share the road.
“Once people are out biking on trails, then they become more comfortable in traffic because they have to go in traffic,” he said in a phone interview last week. “When you get more cyclists out there, the safer it becomes because of the critical mass. Drivers are looking out for pedestrians and cyclists; cyclists are looking out for drivers and pedestrians.”
Loutzenheiser stressed that the map is and will remain a work in progress, as cities and towns across the region add new trails and bike lanes and as more information comes in to the council about existing paths. He said the council had requested information on bike paths from all 101 cities and towns in the region it covers but that only 20 to 25 percent of those municipalities had responded, partly because many don’t yet have information on trails entered into an electronic geographic information system.
The team that developed the map will continue to seek and accept input from municipalities, local bike committees and individuals through the website and smartphone apps. Loutzenheiser said he hopes to be able to update the online map at least once a month and print an updated paper map as regularly as funding will allow.
“That’s been our intent all along, is to build an infrastructure and then expand it in a way that individuals and committees and towns and cities can help to input that additional information,” Loutzenheiser said. “It not only helps us, but it provides ownership and involvement by everyone that’s using it.
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(Metropolitan Area Planning Council)