By Zenya Molnar, Contributing Writer
Westborough – From teaching cooking in a Life Skills class at Westborough High School to being a former Westborough School Committee member, Bruce Tretter serves his community in all ways. He is now chair of Westborough's Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee whose mission is to improve cycling and pedestrian access to the town and to promote safety. As chair, Tretter facilitates progress in bicycle and pedestrian safety by coordinating with departments across the town.
Tretter, who grew up in Westchester, N.Y., rode his bike frequently as a child.
“When I was younger, my bike was my car,” he said, noting that he is amazed at how few kids use bikes today. “People would rather bike on trails rather than roads. To me, that identifies a problem.”
Tretter believes that it is important for people to be aware of bicycle and pedestrian safety. The Advisory Committee, which was formed under a year ago, strives to build upon and improve the foundations that Westborough already has in place for safe biking and walking.
In conjunction with Westborough's Department of Public Works (DPW), the committee is currently undertaking a project to increase the amount of signs that identify crosswalks. These signs have three parts and are brighter to make them more visible to people passing by.
In order to choose the highest priority locations for the signs, Tretter met with Westborough Police Chief Alan Gordon. Using Google maps, they identified about 15 places, mostly downtown, that needed attention. According to Tretter, no new signs will be placed in the rotary in the center of Westborough, as he believes there are already too many distractions.
Initially, the Westborough DPW intended to install three or four new crosswalk signs a year, but once Tretter rode his own bike to observe a similar sign in Northborough, he realized their usefulness. He had the idea to increase the amount of new signs to accommodate 20 crosswalks, which the town is now piloting.
In addition to the crosswalk sign project, Tretter reported that the committee is working to create a new bike trail that extends from Framingham to Shrewsbury. Formerly a trolley track called the Boston to Worcester Airline Trail, the 18-mile-long level bike trail will be the first of its kind, starting from Framingham and stretching through Westborough, Northborough, and Shrewsbury.
Don Burn, a member of the Advisory Committee and “the spirit behind the Charm Bracelet Trail [in Westborough],” according to Tretter, presented a trail plan to the committee. Tretter said that once the land is surveyed, the committee will remove vegetation and install crushed stone in the section between Interstate 495 and Park Street in Westborough, making it accessible for walking and mountain biking.
“It's about establishing credibility so when we go to the state to get on a list for future projects and funding, we'se proven ourselves that it's a viable thing,” Tretter said. His goal is to complete the first section of the trail within the next few years.
Pedestrian and bicycle safety is a growing concern on the national level as well as the local. Tretter, who used to live in Washington, D.C., said that 30 years ago, cars did not want to share the road with bicyclists. But on a recent trip to the nation's capitol, Tretter was excited to discover a two-lane bike path in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, an initiative by the mayor of D.C. “to improve non-motorized access in the city,” Tretter said. He mentioned that his recent experience bicycling in D.C. was “safer than driving through the middle of Westborough.”
Tretter noted that bicycling and walking are beneficial, as they are healthy activities, they relieve congestion on the streets, and they help the environment. Initiatives usually stem locally and then they receive state or national support.
“I think it's great, because [the local level] is where the energy really is,” he said. “It's all about chipping away and just building and moving forward.”
For more information on the Westborough Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee and for resources on bicycling and walking, visit http://www.town.westborough.ma.us/public_documents/WestboroughMA_BComm/BPAC.