Funding Sought To Study Shared-Use Pathway

by Ryan Bray
An article at May's annual town meeting will seek funding to study options for a shared-use path from Beach Road out to Nauset Beach. FILE PHOTO An article at May's annual town meeting will seek funding to study options for a shared-use path from Beach Road out to Nauset Beach. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS – Efforts to explore the potential for a multi-use pathway extending from Beach Road to Nauset Beach will start with a request for funding in May to study the concept.

The transportation and bikeways committee plans to bring an article to voters at the May 13 annual town meeting seeking $85,000 to conduct a feasibility study to explore options for a shared-use path.

As the main access point from town to Nauset Beach, Beach Road is heavily traveled, especially during the busy summer season. But the stretch lacks a safe means for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorists to use the roadway, Alice Van Oot, the committee’s chair, told the select board Feb. 28.

Van Oot said the proposed shared-use path is part of the committee’s vision for a broader network for multimodal transportation in town.

“I think it’s really important for the public to understand that this isn’t just about being able to have a bike path,” she said. “It’s really about helping to create a network of safe transportation for things other than cars to move about our community.”

Van Oot said the shared-use path has been a need in town for many years, noting that a Complete Streets prioritization plan prepared in 2021 with the assistance of the Cape Cod Commission identified a path leading out to the beach as its top priority. As the town works to create more housing opportunities that are expected to attract more families to town, she said the time is now to start making Orleans more accommodating to multimodal transportation.

“We have had more requests from the public to try to improve these kinds of opportunities, to try to do everything from slowing traffic down so people can feel safe walking and biking to providing sidewalks or pathways,” she said.

Stephanie Gaskill of the transportation and bikeways committee said that the Beach Road study is part of a longer look at where multimodal travel fits in along Main Street. A separate feasibility study has already been funded to look at options from the intersection of Route 28 and Main Street out to Beach Road, she said. There’s also been funding committed to engineering improvements at the intersection of Main Street and Tonset Road.

The committee plans to do significant public outreach on the proposed path ahead of town meeting. That includes a public hearing scheduled for March 11 as well as a presentation to the board of health.

“I think that it is very important that we listen closely to hear what are people’s concerns, what are people’s hopes for such a thing and work very hard to see that the warrant that goes before the town meeting in May passes,” said committee member Peter Allgeier.

Van Oot said if funded, the feasibility study will ideally identify four options for designing a shared-use path along Beach Road. But Orleans resident Ken Heritage also stressed the importance of better educating pedestrians, cyclists, dog walkers and other non-motorists about safely sharing the roadways with vehicles.

The state’s Vulnerable Users Law requires motorists to observe a four-foot distance from non-drivers when using the roadway. But he said pedestrians, cyclists and dog walkers can do more to protect themselves from cars. He said he’s seen issues at the intersection of Main Street and Old Colony Way, where the Cape Cod Rail Trail crosses, as well as along Tonset Road with non-drivers getting too close to vehicles.

“It seems to me you need to get on the pedestrians and the cyclists some before you go down this road of forever adding signs and flashlights and everything else that we really don’t need and people don’t listen to,” he told the select board.

“We have tried and I think we have made some great strides in terms of informing folks about the four-foot rule,” Van Oot said. “I’ve frankly been very impressed with seeing people moving away.”

Van Oot also touted the economic benefits of creating a shared pathway out to the beach. Mefford Runyon of the select board agreed, saying he saw the potential benefits such a path might have for the local blue economy.

Andrea Reed of the select board thanked the committee for being inclusive in its approach to exploring the pathway. She said that public opinion on the need for such a pathway has evolved in her 25 years as a resident.

“Thank you for moving this ahead, but doing it with the sensibility to having conversations before creating conclusions,” she said.

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