Mattapoisett residents discuss bike, pedestrian safety

Oct 3, 2019

MATTAPOISETT — When the bicycle and pedestrian committee asked for feedback on safety in the North Street neighborhood north of Route 195, residents were quick to recall bike accidents and close calls with cars, leading to a discussion of potential options for change. 

Neighborhood residents gathered at Center School on Thursday, Oct. 3 to discuss ongoing safety concerns. A narrow, winding road, lack of sidewalks or bike lanes, and fast moving traffic, the area has been dangerous for many years, according to those who live there.

Neighborhood resident Diane Ortega recalled an incident from about 2006 when her husband was walking their young son in a stroller on North Street, and a driver sped past them, hitting her husband’s arm with their rearview mirror. Luckily, her husband and son were not injured in the incident. Another resident said that to date, he has seen three bicyclists hit by cars in the area.

Police Chief Mary Lyons said that from May 21 to June 16 a radar sign recorded 44,348 cars traveling on North Street, of which 32,180 were driving faster than the 35 mph speed limit, however, most were only by a small margin. The average speed of all cars was 36 mph, and 85% were traveling slower than 43 mph.

Committee Co-Chair Robert Teixeira added that speed isn’t the only issue. Compared to the village, the ‘North Street-north’ section of town lacks sidewalks, making it more dangerous for pedestrians. 

“I want to walk with the grandchildren, there’s nowhere to walk,” he said.

Other neighborhood residents expressed similar concerns, saying that they don’t allow their children to meet friends at the town beach, and other hangout spots, due to safety concerns about walking there without sidewalks.

Others mentioned the high volume of traffic, and work trucks that use the road to get to Rochester.  Lyons described North Street as a “feeder road to the highway” accounting for the amount of traffic.

Highway Surveyor Barry Denham said that any alternatives for the road would have to comply with state and federal laws, leaving the town with two main options.

Denham said that in the future, the road could be widened to have added  six-foot-wide bike lanes and sidewalks, or that the road could be kept as its current width, and repaved.

Some residents agreed with safety concerns, but also voiced concerns about widening the street due to its scenic character, and number of trees and stone walls that would be moved or taken down to accommodate such a project.

One idea proposed at the meeting would be to create a woodland path running parallel to North Street, specifically for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Lyons stressed that all ideas mentioned at the Oct. 3 meeting were not final, and that input from the public will be taken into consideration going forward.

To help gauge public opinion, Committee Co-chair Bonne DeSousa provided attendees with a survey about their concerns. This survey is available at the Mattapoisett Town Hall, and Mattapoisett Library.