Successful “Rack It Up!” Program Is Back For 2017

Free bike racks available for businesses and organizations in Jaffrey, Walpole, Winchester and Harrisville

By Liz Kelly, Southwest Region Planning Commission

Rack it Up! logoIn an effort to encourage more bicycling in the region, the Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation (MAST) and the Southwest Region Planning Commission (SWRPC) are seeking businesses and organizations in Jaffrey, Walpole, Winchester, and Harrisville to participate in Rack it Up!, a community-based bike rack initiative that aims to increase both the number and visibility of bike racks in the Monadnock Region.  The goal is to encourage bicycling as a healthy, fun and convenient transportation option for residents throughout the region.

Over the past three years, the Rack it Up! Program has provided 438 secure bicycle parking spaces at various locations in Keene, Swanzey, Hinsdale and Troy, including Yolo Frozen Yogurt, the Monadnock Humane Society, Brewbakers’ Café, the Hannah Grimes Center for Entrepreneurship, Ashuelot River Park, and the Samuel E. Paul Community Center.

Supported by the CDC’s Partnerships to Improve Community Health initiative, and administered by Cheshire Medical Center – Dartmouth Hitchcock to Healthy Monadnock partners, MAST and SWRPC are working to increase access to physical activity opportunities such as walking and bicycling.

Bicycling is an affordable and increasingly popular mode of transportation that has significant community health and environmental benefits.  Bike racks benefit businesses and organizations by increasing parking capacity, promoting physical activity and healthy habits, and providing more transportation options for customers and employees.

According to Mary Ann Kristiansen, Executive Director of the Keene-based Hannah Grimes Center and a 2015 Rack it Up! program participant, the bike racks “help promote an active culture, which is important in attracting entrepreneurs and younger people.  It helps promote a positive image of our community- that it’s a place to live, work, and play.”  To apply, go to www.mastnh.org/rackitup, or contact Liz Kelly at (603) 357-0557 or lkelly@swrpc.org for more information.

About Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation (MAST):
MAST is a volunteer coalition of organizations and individuals working to implement sustainable transportation solutions in the Monadnock Region.  MAST recognizes the broad impacts that our transportation system has on us as individuals and as communities- everything from access to employment and services to cost of living to our health and beyond.  MAST’s mission is to “promote all modes of transportation that enhance the environmental, economic and physical health and well-being of citizens in the Monadnock Region.”  To learn more about MAST, visit www.mastnh.org.

About Healthy Monadnock
Healthy Monadnock 2020 is a community engagement initiative designed to foster and sustain a positive culture of health throughout Cheshire County and the Monadnock Region. Founded and developed by the Cheshire Medical Center/Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene in 2007, Healthy Monadnock’s action plans are being guided in the community by the Council for a Healthier Community, a group of 30+ individuals representing organizations, institutions, and businesses.  Community partners and Champions are working together to improve the quality of life and prevent the leading causes of death for everyone by implementing strategies to: increase healthy eating and active living, increase income and jobs, improve mental wellbeing, increase emergency preparedness, reduce substance misuse including tobacco, increase educational attainment, and increase access to and quality of healthcare.  To learn more about Healthy Monadnock, visit www.healthymonadnock.org.

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MAST: At the Helm for the Region’s Sustainable Transportation Efforts

carsharing2Originally Published in the Monadnock Shopper News

This month, Monadnock Buy Local gathered a list of businesses, organizations and initiatives strengthening Sustainable Transportation efforts in our region.  One initiative that came up again and again was the Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation, a.k.a. MAST.

MAST is a volunteer-driven alliance working to bring a better transportation future to our region.  MAST’s vision includes each of us spending more time interacting with others and less time alone in a vehicle.  MAST works to buoy transportation options that enhance the environmental and economic health of our region and the physical health and wellbeing of community members.  Simply put, MAST wants to offer you healthier options for getting around.

“The group recognizes the broad impact that our transportation system has on us as individuals and as communities — everything from employment, to our cost of living and our health,” said Henry Underwood of Southwest Region Planning Commission and MAST Steering Committee Coordinator.

MAST is looking for volunteers passionate about transforming transportation in the Monadnock Region.  Here’s a review of three initiatives MAST plans to tackle in 2017 and an invitation for you to get involved.

Go For the Gold: Bicycle Friendly Community

The City of Keene is one of four “Bicycle Friendly Communities” in New Hampshire.  A Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) welcomes and encourages bicycling with infrastructure (paths and bike lanes), educational programs (Safe Routes to School) and policies (Complete Streets). While MAST is proud that our city achieved a Bronze BFC status in 2015, we’ve set our sites on reaching a higher status in 2017 — let’s go for the Silver… or better yet, the GOLD!

“The League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) program is a tool for communities to make bicycling a real transportation and recreation option for all people,” shared Henry.

MAST volunteers plan to assist city staff with Keene’s BFC application by gathering data and garnering support for programs or practices that help boost our city to a higher status.  Discover more at bikeleague.org/community.

Carsharing

MAST recently published a report that collected background information, case studies and next steps for developing a carsharing program in Keene.  Carsharing allows an individual to rent a car for short periods of time — by the minute or hour, instead of by the day.

Imagine you plan to bike to work, but suddenly remember you have a midday meeting across town.   Normally, you’d skip the bike ride and take the car — but with a carsharing program in Keene, you can ride your bike to work and reserve a car through the carshare program to get to your meeting.  Ride your bike to that central location, where the carshare is parked, and off you go.

Since the cost of carsharing is much lower than private car ownership, carsharing can bring more mobility to those who need a vehicle for only occasional trips.  If we built up our carsharing fleet with hybrid or electric cars, we’d also lower our community’s vehicle emissions — a goal in the City of Keene’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

“Carsharing is a transportation option that offers the benefits of having a car without the cost or hassle of private ownership,” added Henry.  “In 2017, MAST will work with community partners to determine the feasibility of carsharing in Keene and the Monadnock Region.”

Learn more at carsharing.org.

Bike to Work Day in May

MAST and the City of Keene plan to host a Bike to Work Day event in May.  Last year, bicyclists, walkers and transit riders stopped by Railroad Square in Downtown Keene to listen to a proclamation by Keene Mayor Kendall Lane, participate in a Complete Streets Workshop and enjoy a free commuter breakfast, as well as a variety of giveaways.  This year, we’re looking for volunteer energy to expand and energize this event.

Bike to Work Day is part of a national month-long celebration sponsored by The League of American Bicyclists to promote bicycle commuting.

“From fashion shows to group rides, local groups find unique ways to celebrate their diverse bike cultures and community pride,” states The League of American Bicyclists website.  “Whether you bike to work or school; ride to save money or time; pump those pedals to preserve your health or the environment; or simply enjoy exploring your community, National Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride.”

Get rolling at bikeleague.org/bikemonth.

Monadnock Buy Local supports the work of MAST and believes its work is integral to building a stronger Local Living Economy — one that is more local, green and fair. We serve on MAST’s Steering Committee and invite more individuals, businesses and organizations to climb aboard.  Contact Henry Underwood at hunderwood@swrpc.org or visit the MAST website at www.MASTNH.org.

Transportation Coalition Seeks Volunteers and Partners

13096267_977788955609456_919586139168187820_nThe Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation (MAST) seeks interested individuals and organizations from around the region to join the coalition in promoting transportation solutions that enhance the environmental, economic and physical health and well-being of citizens in the Monadnock Region.

MAST is a diverse coalition of public and private sector stakeholders interested in a better transportation future for the region. The group recognizes the broad impacts that our transportation system has on us as individuals and as communities – everything from employment to our cost of living to our health. For many households, a lack of affordable transportation options can present a major barrier to accessing jobs and services. In fact, transportation is the second largest expense for most households in United States after housing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spent $9,503 on transportation costs in 2015, not including gasoline/motor oil and new car purchases.

In order to address these challenges, MAST has emerged as a forum and structural framework to build consensus on transportation needs and solutions, foster the development of local and regional partnerships on transportation initiatives, advocate for sustainable transportation solutions, and more.

“MAST is a volunteer-driven organization,” says Jen Risley, member of the MAST Steering Committee. “We are looking for people who are passionate about transforming transportation in the Monadnock Region, to see more walking, biking, transit, and other transportation choices. More specifically, we are looking for individuals to serve on the Steering Committee, which meets quarterly, or on one of our subcommittees.” Each MAST subcommittee focuses on a specific project, such as organizing a “Bike to Work Day” event in May.

“I continue to be involved in MAST because I feel that transportation is a crucial issue in our region,” says Peter Hansel, President of Filtrine Manufacturing and a MAST Steering Committee member. “Not only is transportation one of the largest energy hogs but the lack of transportation alternatives has social and economic consequences. While we have made some progress, we can still do better in supporting public transportation, complete street designs and improving inter-city busing, just to name a few. MAST can be a catalyst by collaborating with other organizations to achieve common goals.”

For those who are interested in learning more, the MAST Annual Meeting is a great way to meet the Steering Committee, hear about the projects the group is involved with, and connect with others in the region who are interested in implementing sustainable transportation solutions. The Annual Meeting will take place on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at the HCS conference room located at 312 Marlboro Street in Keene. Please RSVP to Mari Brunner at mbrunner@swrpc.org or (603) 357-0557.

Interested individuals and organizations are encouraged to contact Mari Brunner at mbrunner@swrpc.org, (603) 357-0557, or visit the MAST website at www.MASTNH.org.

About Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation (MAST)

MAST is a volunteer coalition of partners-organizations and individuals that support the MAST mission and vision. The mission of MAST is to “promote all modes of transportation that enhance the environmental, economic and physical health and well-being of citizens in the Monadnock Region.”

Hinsdale Creates Safer Streets for Residents

Hinsdale Adopts “Complete Streets” Policy

Press Release: Healthy Monadnock

When you have two state roads running through a small town, traveling can be hazardous for pedestrians and bicyclists. Town officials of Hinsdale (with Routes 119 and 63 traversing its Main Street) have long wanted to address this dangerous problem.

Town selectman recently passed a “Complete Streets” policy, which will now consider all of Hinsdale’s 4,046 residents — and not just motorized vehicles — when improving its roadways. The Southwest Region Planning Commission (SWRPC) assisted the town in developing the policy as part of their work with the Partnerships to Improve Community Health (PICH) initiative, a collaboration of Healthy Monadnock partners funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hinsdale is the fourth town in the Monadnock Region to adopt a Complete Streets policy; Keene, Swanzey and Troy also have Complete Streets policies in place.

13612375_1018565084865176_4595127328645631323_nThis summer, Hinsdale participated in a Complete Streets demonstration project — a temporary installation of traffic-slowing methods — that inspired town officials and residents to move forward with the policy, said Kathryn Lynch, the town of Hinsdale’s community development coordinator.

“Drivers are not friendly toward, or stop for, pedestrians on Main Street … every day there are close calls,” noted Lynch. The town’s Main Street has four crosswalks; the street also serves as a thoroughfare for the two state highways.

“When we did the Complete Streets demonstration project this summer, we noticed that traffic really slowed down for pedestrians,” said Lynch.

The demonstration project included a bike lane, curb bump-outs, and “parklets,” which are small parks that occupy a parking space with landscaping and benches for people to sit and relax. The parklets were placed across the street from each other, forming a ‘pinch point’ to slow traffic as it entered Main Street.

13590460_1018565864865098_4702550403317192057_n

“It really brightened up Main Street,” said Lynch. “And it worked. Traffic slowed down.”

The Hinsdale board of selectman adopted the Complete Streets policy in August. The policy requires that any construction of a new road or alteration of an existing road would take all users of the roadway, including pedestrians and bicyclists, into consideration. The policy also looks to create traffic-calming elements on its Main Street; costs would be paid for by grant money.

“We are hoping to do some parklets, or bump-outs that are seasonal,” said Lynch, who has recently applied for a grant to pay for the improvements. The bump-outs would be temporary decking material with planters and benches that could be stored during the winter months when the area needs to be cleared for snow plowing.

The town is also looking to increase the visibility of crosswalks on Main Street to alert motor-vehicle traffic to pedestrians. Lynch also hopes to convince the state’s Department of Transportation to reduce Main Street’s speed limit, currently at 30 miles per hour.

“Right now, drivers just don’t stop for us,” she said.

Other roadways in town also need improvement, noted Lynch, namely School Street where the town’s elementary middle/high schools are located. Among the problems are gaps in the sidewalk network, sidewalks that are in poor condition, and a dangerous blind curve used by schoolchildren to cross Route 119 to school. Other discussions among townspeople and selectmen have included utilizing the rail trails for pedestrian and bicycle traffic for those getting to work or school in town. Lynch is meeting with the state DOT and officials at the National Parks Assistance Program to help promote these ideas.

Complete Streets, coupled with Safe Routes to School programs in its schools, and its new 23 bike racks through the Rack it Up! program, are all steps in the right direction to make Hinsdale a more bike and pedestrian-friendly town, said Lynch.

“Complete Streets will give Hinsdale a stepping stone to make its roads safer,” said Lynch.

May is Bike to Work Month

With spring in the air, the Monadnock Alliance for Sustainable Transportation (MAST) and the League of American Bicyclists, a national organization of bicyclists, announce that May 20, 2016 is Bike to Work Day.

 RSVP on Facebook

 Monadnock Bike-Walk to Work Day Poster (pdf)

Why Bike to Work?

Forty percent of all trips in the U.S. are less than two miles, making bicycling a feasible and fun way to get to work. With increased interest in healthy, sustainable and economic transportation options, it’s not surprising that, from 2000 to 2013, the number of bicycle commuters in the U.S. grew by more than 62 percent. More bicycle commuting data is available at www.bikeleague.org/commutingdata/.

2016 Bike to Work Day Schedule of Events*

MAST invites bicyclists to stop by Railroad Square in Keene between 6:00 am and Noon on Bike to Work Day to take advantage of free coffee, snacks, giveaways.

6:00 am – Noon: Free commuter breakfast, including coffee, juice, bagels, and fruit (while supplies last).

6:00 am – Noon: Free bicycle adjustments and maintenance Q&A provided by Advanced Cyclist

9:00 – 9:45 am:  Complete Streets information session at the Hannah Grimes Center, located at 25 Roxbury Street in Keene.  Find out why 30 states, including all New England states except New Hampshire, as well as more than 600 counties and municipalities have adopted Complete Streets policies to help improve the quality of life for their citizens, from healthier kids to more independent seniors.

10:00 am: Mayor’s proclamation about Bike to Work Day

10:15 – 11:15 am: Bicycle and Walking tours of Keene showcasing bicycle-, pedestrian-, and transit-friendly street design. Led by the Bike Walk Alliance of New Hampshire and MAST.

Noon: Raffle drawing. Prizes include a Bicycle Basket from Peterboro Basket Company, a Bicycle Basket from Advanced Cyclist, a free 1-month membership at the Keene YMCA, a Monadnock Food Co-op gift card, a 1-month pass for the City Express Bus, and more! Winners will be notified via email or phone.

* Schedule subject to change

Log Your Trips and Win Prizes

CommuteSmart New Hampshire is challenging commuters to “commute smart” – carpool, walk, telecommute, bike, or use public transportation. By logging your smart commute in the new online trip logger, you can compete with other teams and individuals statewide to win prizes and get free giveaways. Register today to get started! www.CommuteSmartNH.org

The CommuteSmart NH Statewide Challenge begins May 16th. There will be a one-week competition during National Bike to Work Week (May 16-20, 2016) and a season long competition (May 16 – October 31, 2016) focusing on setting new records for reducing single occupancy travel and as a commitment to environmentally-friendly commuting.

Bike to Work Day Event Sponsors

MAST would like to thank the following event sponsors for their generous support:

  • Advanced Cyclist
  • Brewbakers Cafe
  • City Express Bus
  • Elm City Bagels
  • Hannah Grimes Center
  • Keene Family YMCA
  • Monadnock Buy Local
  • Monadnock Food Co-op
  • Prime Roast Coffee