SALEM — Bike lanes will be popping up on some of the city's busiest streets this summer, in an effort to get people out of cars and onto bicycles.
Trial bike lanes — technically, traffic barricades to prevent cars from accessing parking spaces — will appear next weekend on Loring Avenue and on parts of Congress, Lafayette and North streets beginning next weekend, according to David Kucharsky, the city's traffic and parking director. The lanes are planned for weekends only, for five consecutive weekends starting July 27 and ending Aug. 25.
The trial lanes have been approved by the City Council.
"These are intended not just for cyclists, but for pedestrians, carriages. Existing sidewalks often have issues, and we find people walking in the street," Kucharsky said. "There's a portion of the population that wouldn't bike without having some sort of protected bike lane, so we're trying to see if putting these in place would attract more users."
North Street has the longest section of road getting the protected lanes: three-quarters of a mile on the western side of the street, heading toward downtown Salem, from Highland Street (opposite St. Mary's Cemetery) to Franklin Street, at the foot of the North Street overpass.
Lafayette Street will have a bike lane running a half-mile on the eastern side of the street, heading toward downtown Salem, from West Avenue (near Salem State) to Leach Street.
The south side of Loring Avenue from Canal Street to Lafayette Street, and the east side of Congress Street from Leavitt to Peabody streets, are also included in the plan. These smaller stretches of bike lane are aimed at easing accessibility from Marblehead to Pickering Wharf and The Point.
"The intent is so, if you're on the trail or coming from Marblehead, you can come up using this way coming up Lafayette," Kucharsky said. "Then you can make your way past Palmer Cove and up to Congress."
Impact on parking?
Some residents near the trial lanes have voiced concerns on social media over loss of on-street parking and whether the bike lanes would impact access to their driveways. It's an issue that Kucharsky said officials will be monitoring as the barriers go up.
"We'll certainly be looking at what this does to parking," Kucharsky said. "The intent is to see how this impacts ... parking issues and trying to get more space to other users in the right-of-way."
The barriers aren't expected to impact driveways, he said.
"We're looking to position those throughout to clearly delineate for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians where this travel lane is," he said. "We're not going to have them throughout (the designated areas). They're going to be strategically placed."
The proposal on Lafayette Street partly mirrors an idea raised by city officials a couple years back to shift parking lanes and create a protected biking lane between the sidewalk and parked cars. That proposal never moved forward.
"It was a much less sophisticated design that simply flip-flopped the position of the bike lane and parked cars," said Ward 5 Councilor Josh Turiel. That design would have made it hard for people to pull out of driveways, he said.
"You'd have to navigate through the bike lane, pull through the bike lane and the parked cars, and be on the edge of everything, obstructing the bike lane and cars to see if you can go," he said.
Turiel said he's not hearing much opposition on the trial bike lanes.
"There really isn't a lot of on-street parking normally during the weekends during the summer," he noted. "It's short-term, weekends only — a good way to learn without causing any permanent change or potential issues."