Beverly awarded bronze level bicycle friendly designation

The bike lane on Brimbal Avenue in Beverly.Staff file photo

BEVERLY — The city has won a bronze in bicycling — and we're not talking about the Olympics.

The League of American Bicyclists recently designated Beverly as a bronze-level bicycle-friendly community, the first on the North Shore to receive that distinction.

Jonathan Salt, who leads the Beverly Bike Committee, said the designation acknowledges all of the work that the volunteer group and the city have done over the last decade to improve bicycling in Beverly.

"It's become a much better bicycling city because of all this," Salt said.

The League of American Bicyclists is a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that advocates for safer roads for bicyclists. Communities can submit applications to receive recognition as a bicycle-friendly community and also get assistance from the organization to make improvements.

On its website the group lists 10 "building blocks" of a bicycle-friendly community, including bicycle network mileage, bicycle education in schools, and what share of its budget is spent on bicycling.

Beverly received scores ranging from 2.4 to 3.2 (out of 10) in five categories. The organization also conducted a survey of several hundred residents to use in determining its award, Salt said.

"We were quite shocked to get the bronze, because it was the first time we submitted an application," Salt said.

Beverly is one of 10 communities in Massachusetts to now have the bronze designation. Three communities — Boston, Nantucket and Provincetown — have silver awards. Somerville is the only one with gold.

Salt said the city has about 10 miles of "bike infrastructure," which includes bike lanes and shared-lane markings. It could potentially have 40 miles, he said.

Salt said the 10 miles might sound small, but many of the bike lanes are on key roads such as Rantoul Street, Cabot Street, Brimbal Avenue, Dodge Street and Lothrop Street. One of the strategies is for the bike lanes to serve as a connector, such as between the Montserrat and North Beverly train stations or Cummings Center and the downtown.

"We've kind of hit some of the more significant areas already and there are more to come," Salt said.

Salt said one of the big steps in the city becoming more bicycle-friendly came five years ago when it was designated a Complete Streets city, which allowed access to state funding to build out "complete streets" that emphasize bicyclists and pedestrians. The city has also lowered the speed limit on many streets, making it safer for everyone, he said.

"We've always worked hand in hand with the city," Salt said. "Mayor (Michael) Cahill has been a great supporter."

In a press release, Cahill congratulated the Beverly Bike Committee on achieving the designation and "setting the standard for access to safe biking on the North Shore."

"As we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and become accustomed to this 'new normal,' the availability of safe bicycling for recreation and commuting have become more important than ever," he said.

Salt, who used to commute to General Electric in Lynn on his bike, said more people, including drivers, seem to be operating more safely when it comes to bicycling.

"I've been an avid cyclist all my life and I've ridden my bike in Beverly for more than 50 years," he said. "All of a sudden I'm out biking and seeing everyone following the rules of the road and wearing their helmet. There's been a big change."

The bronze designation is good for four years. The League of American Bicyclists will issues a report telling the city what it needs to do to improve its status in future years.

"I think a lot's been done," Salt said. "And I think a lot more needs to be done."

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535 or pleighton@salemnews.com

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