Efforts to update Manchester's Bicycle Master Plan rolling along again

Feb. 7—Efforts to update Manchester's Bicycle Master Plan are rolling along again.

City planning board chair Bryce Kaw-uh sent a memo to aldermen last summer asking to hire a consultant to draft an updated Bicycle Master Plan, based on current data and community feedback.

"Bicycling is an increasingly important mode of transportation for a wide range of activities here in Manchester such as getting to work, running errands, and general wellness," Kaw-uh wrote.

Kaw-uh made his pitch to aldermen in person in the fall, saying public safety is a critical issue.

"DPW recognized this in 2016 when it created the original document to 'develop a workable, realistic plan for the future that will encourage bicycle use and make it safer for residents to ride their bicycles.' Since then, the need for improved bicycling facilities has only become more critical," Kaw-uh wrote.

Planning board members voted unanimously to request approximately $150,000 in funding for a new official analysis of bicycle infrastructure in the Queen City and future opportunities for improvement.

The funding request had remained tabled at the committee level since October. Efforts to update the plan appeared to hit a bump in the road last month, when members of the aldermanic Committee on Community Improvement voted to remove the item from the table and receive and file it — effectively killing the request.

Kaw-uh wrote that several stakeholders, including planning board members and Department of Public Works staff, believe the city's current Bicycle Master Plan is outdated and in need of updates.

This week, the recommendation to receive and file went to the full board for a vote, with Alderman Pat Long removing the item from the meeting's consent calendar and moving to send the matter to the aldermanic Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic for additional study — without any funding requirement.

"My motion has nothing to do with the $150,000," Long said. "It has everything to do with this board discussing bike lanes. If you're okay with the plan, and it's just the $150,000 that has you stigmatized, then let's review the plan."

Alderman Jim Burkush said the committee left the item on the table for months because "we didn't want to spend the $150,000 and we were looking for other funding sources for a couple months."

"If we send it back to committee, at least we can continue the process. We can't spend that money now."

Alderman Ed Sapienza said he's not comfortable with the bike plan, because all the input he's received from constituents on the subject has been "negative."

"I haven't gotten any positive input from the constituents on bike lanes," Ed Sapienza said. "Universally, across the board, everything I've heard from the constituents has been negative — they don't want it."

"I've probably heard only positives from Ward 2," Alderman Dan Goonan responded.

Alderman Tony Sapienza pointed out Long's motion wasn't about spending $150,000.

"I would not vote to spend $150,000 I don't have to," Tony Sapienza said. "I do think it's a good idea to keep this plan alive and look for the $150,000. If we can find a grant or something, that would be a great thing."

pfeely@unionleader.com