ORLEANS — Mindfulness is not just a word for people who meditate in a quiet studio. It’s also for those of all ages and abilities who walk, bicycle, take the bus, or use some kind of motorized vehicle to get to school or work or the store or a place of worship or the beach or the bank…people who want to choose something other than a single-passenger car trip to get somewhere in town.
Toward that goal, the Orleans select board has appointed a bike and pedestrian committee that will have a hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the DPW facility at 40 Giddiah Hill Rd. The meeting is billed as a “forum/listening session…to identify priority roadways and byways” for people to use to travel safely, accessibly, and mindfully. Refreshments will be served.
Alice Thomason Van Oot of the committee said that there was “no particular problem” in Orleans that triggered the application to the Complete Streets program, but “it really caught our eye” that such a move “gives the town more leverage for funding” for improvements in the ways people can move around the town’s streets.
According to background information from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MASSDOT), communities have gotten funding for such projects as median islands, corridor improvements, crosswalks, bus stops, bicycle lanes, and improvements to lighting and transit connections.
“What’s really important,” Van Oot said as she spoke about the application, “is to know what the community values.” She thinks that safety is important. “Safe bus stops are important,” she said, and maybe, with people “standing at the end of a dirt road, maybe just a bench” would be a simple improvement.
Van Oot said that in Orleans the public works and police departments have been “very responsive – talking the same talk. Anecdotally, all [of these town employees] are aware of families walking to the beach…it’s collaborative and contextual” about caring for safe ways for people to get around town.
In the winter of 2018, the town applied and received a MASSDOT technical assistance grant to develop a Complete Streets plan, and with the grant, hired the Cape Cod Commission for help.
For more information about the Complete Streets meeting, visit capecodcommission.org/OrleansCompleteStreets or call 508-362-3828. The meeting will accommodate people who need American Sign Language, Braille, large print, and other interpretations. Call ahead at 508-362-3828.
Van Oot said that a study in 2011 revealed that 81 percent of people who bicycled through Orleans did not stop in town. Why? She said that the tourists needed signage and other ways to help them get around, visible bike racks so they would know that they could park safely, and good sidewalks. A dedicated bike lane over Route 6 “made a huge difference” in bike traffic in Orleans, she said.
The town’s website lists the members of the bike and pedestrian committee, and any one of them may be contacted with ideas.
Van Oot said that she bikes and walks around Orleans herself. “It’s something I value and something I know.” She said that her committee would like to address the way that people get around town “systemically and systematically” with ideas that the citizens of Orleans can “formally and universally endorse.”