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Holyoke takes a step toward 'complete streets' with new bike racks

Date: 9/15/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- They're not just bike racks, but are part of a larger program to encourage healthy fitness and eating habits in the city of Holyoke and a plan to reshape the downtown area.

At a Thursday press conference -- conducted while workers installed two of the racks at City Hall -- Mayor Michael Sullivan and other officials explained how the 20 racks that will be installed around the downtown are part of an effort to encourage greater exercise and reduce pollution.

Funding through the Federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program paid for the racks.

Sullivan said that he is speaking with the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) about bike lockers at the new intermodal transportation center in the former fire station a block away from City Hall as another way people can integrate bikes into their commute. The bike lockers would allow people who use the bus to get into downtown to have a place to store their bikes for the final leg of the trip.

The need for more amenities for bike users came out of the Center City Visioning Plan and the Kellogg Foundation funded Holyoke Food & Fitness Policy Council Project. The idea of encouraging bicycle use was also a priority of the city's Youth Commission, according to Hazel Rosario of the Community Leadership Council. The commission received two bikes from Sullivan at the press conference.

Kathy Anderson of the city's Office of Planning & Development, said the original implementation of the bike racks was to have been part of an urban renewal plan that was to come out of the Visioning Plan, but the city decided it didn't want to wait any longer to install the racks.

Sullivan also commented how he admired the Yellow Bike project in Portland, Ore. in which a non-profit group took donated scrap bikes, repaired them, painted them yellow and made them available in key locations foro anyone to use for free.

Sullivan also said he was interested in how Madison, WI, designated a six block area of its downtown as a car-free zone.

Catherine Ratte of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission said the bike racks are a part of " the lofty goal of 'complete streets.'"

She explained motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and transit raiders share "complete streets." She noted that children who regularly walk have a 45 percent better chance to avoid childhood obesity.

The Holyoke YMCA is also involved in the effort to create better fitness habits and Catherine Sands of the group Fertile Ground said her organization is working on a plan to make wellness a focus in the city's schools. Sands said the program would use "scratch" recipes using local produce in the schools' meals program. Local farmers would raise some of that produce, while the students themselves would grow some in community gardens.

The bike racks are located at City Hall; Court Plaza; C-Town market, 13 Cabot St.; Dam Cafe, 37-39 Myrtle Ave.; Nick's Nest, 1597 Northampton St.; The Flats Market, 36 Ely St.; Gramp's, 212 Lyman St.; Mi Plaza, 325 Main St.; New Cuba Market, 427 High St.; Holyoke Mini-Mart, 657 High St.; Rohan New Room, 648 High St.; Tony's Market, 801 High St., Sam's Market, 515 High St.; Manny's Market, 155 Sargeant St.; Post Office, 650 Dwight St.; Holyoke Health Center, 230 Maple St.; Old San Juan Bakery, 408 High St.; MD Beauty Salon, 394 High St.; Salsa Rengue, 392 High St.; Rivera's Variety, 673 High St.; and El Sabor Caribienne, 341 High St.