LITTLETON — As town officials and community leaders continue their work to make Littleton a destination, there is new effort in that vision to make the town more bicycle friendly.
“We’ve worked with community partners to identify bike routes in town,” Greg DiSanto, planner with the North Country Council, said to several dozen residents gathered Tuesday evening at the Littleton Opera House to discuss strategies and opportunities.
The catalyst for meeting on the Littleton bicycle and pedestrian improvement plan was the completion of a special project by NCC under its contract with the N.H. Department of Transportation, which approved for it $6,920, with 90 percent provided by the Federal Highway Administration and 10 percent by NCC.
The council used the money to complete a report highlighting the best areas and streets for bicycling, the options, and the opportunities to improve biking and bike safety.
“There are benefits to being a walkable and bike-friendly community,” said DiSanto.
Children can bike to school and active people wanting to move to a community often consider how friendly it is for bicycles, he said. A system in town, too, could also connect to the developing PRKR MTN mountain bike trails.
In terms of economic development, DiSanto pointed to a University of Massachusetts study, which states bike-friendly communities yield more jobs and more people wanting to live there.
Littleton is a blend of residential, commercial and mixed use zones and the NCC project aims to make their roads more comfortable for bicyclists, he said.
Potential strategies include developing advisory shoulders - such as one that could go along South Street - so bicyclists and vehicles can more safely travel. Other options for different areas of town are shared travel markings that alert drivers as well as bike lanes, buffered bike lanes, side paths, narrower travel lanes, and curb extensions.
Potential bike routes were also identified, among them a Riverside Drive-Apthorp route
Attendees broke into three roundtable groups to focus on town-owned roads and state-owned roads and to discuss potential strategies.
The challenges they reported include how to navigate down a Main Street that also carries regular truck traffic passing through and for deliveries as well as biking along Cottage Street, on which motorists sometimes speed and on which the Grove Street and South Street intersection see many motorists stopping to turn.
Meadow Street, Union Street, and Grove and South streets were deemed to be the least safe.
Looking at streets that were more safe, shared lines were recommended as possibilities for Industrial Park Road and for Mill and Saranac streets. The rail trail, too, which seeks to convert the now-defunct railroad bed in town to recreational use, is also being looked at for bikes.
One suggestion, by Dave Harkless, owner of Littleton Bike and Fitness, is signage for motorists even before they enter the community advising them to reduce their speed and be aware of traffic patterns.
As Littleton implements the improvements in the years to come, NCC will likely provide them with some technical assistance that is smaller in scope than the project presented Tuesday, said DiSanto.
A town bicycle system can be developed in phases.
“We are recommending the town implement it gradually and in conjunction with repaving and restriping efforts,” said DiSanto.
He said, “We will support anything Littleton can do. They have a vision of being the preferred destination of the White Mountains and are doing things to achieve that vision.”