#5 – Connectivity, Walkability, and Recreation

Creating walkable, connected, and safe neighborhoods, town centers, and recreation areas is now more important than ever to many communities. Even after the pandemic ends, working from home is likely to continue to some degree, making these demands for accessibility and connectivity a fundamental aspect of long-term urban and suburban futures. Communities that incorporate emerging multimodal transportation options (besides driving - modes that include, walking, bicycling, and public transit), pedestrian zones, and enhanced public space models connected by trail networks are magnets for people of all ages.

What we know so far (from the Community Survey results and background research work):

HISTORY

  • Falmouth is implementing various bicycle, pedestrian, and trail plans. The most recent plan dates to 2016 and contains a 20-year vision for improved connectivity to and from major destinations as well as making neighborhood connections and ADA improvements to sidewalks and crossings.
  • The community is served by two Metro bus routes to Portland – one to the West Falmouth Crossing Area, the other serving Route 1, OceanView, and Route 88.
  • In recent years Falmouth’s trail network has expanded multi-fold, from 5 to over 50 miles.
  • The Town has been a leader of protection of open spaces. In 2017 approximately 3,500 acres were protected. The 2018 Open Space Plan is the Town’s guide for that effort.
  • Falmouth has made major investments on Route 1 South and Route 100 to make them more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
  • In 2017 Falmouth developed a regional Route 1 Complete Street plan along with Cumberland, Yarmouth, and Freeport that includes recommended improvements for all modes of transportation.
  • The East Coast Greenway is an on-road bicycle path that traverses Falmouth.

RELATED MACRO TRENDS

  • “Greenways” – ribbons of open space that are located in corridors that are either natural, such as rivers and streams, or man-made, such as abandoned railroad beds and utility corridors – are not new but have exploded in use since the pandemic. A common trend is to expand existing greenways or develop new ones to connect neighborhoods and communities and to create non-vehicular corridors for people to recreate.
  • Mobility hubs are new ways to provide connection points throughout a community so that people can access and utilize multiple modes of transportation to get to where they need to go.
  • Designing streets with a ‘Complete Streets’ approach is a global macro trend in transportation that focuses on providing access and connectivity for all people who use streets. Street networks using this concept are designed to provide better and safer streets for people walking, biking, driving, riding transit, and moving actively with assistive devices.
  • There is a macro societal trend towards more livable, multi-modal, and mixed-use neighborhoods and communities. The walkability of a community is a measure gaining traction among young and old alike. The 15-Minute City concept advocates that all people in a community should have access to all the goods and services they need within 15 minutes of their home without having to use a car.

WHAT IS CURRENTLY HAPPENING IN FALMOUTH

  • The Town is working on a Route 1 North infrastructure plan that includes a shared use path to the Cumberland town line.
  • The Town is also working to make sure that bicycle lanes and sidewalks are included in the Interstate 295 bridge replacements that MaineDOT has made on Lunt Road, and will be making on Bucknam and Johnson Roads.
  • The Town is also working to make bus stop improvements to include shelters, signage, and other improvements.
  • The Casco Bay Trail Alliance is working to realize a vision to convert the currently unused St. Lawrence and Atlantic rail line into a multi-use trail.

WHAT THE COMMUNITY SURVEY RESULTS SHOW

  • Falmouth Community Survey participants were asked to indicate how important they believed the following topics will be in shaping the future of Falmouth using a scale of 1-3 (not important), 4-7 (neutral), and 8-10 (important). The results are below.
    • Building a network of pedestrian-friendly sidewalks: 14% not important, 24% neutral, 62% important
    • Creating corridor connections between open spaces: 8% not important, 36% neutral, 56% important
    • Developing more transport options such as bike lanes and buses: 21% not important, 31% neutral, 48% important
    • Developing recreation trail networks: 6% not important, 23% neutral, 71% important
    • Ensuring easy access to waterfront: 4% not important, 24% neutral, 72% important

CONSULTANT’S INSIGHTS and POTENTIAL TRADE-OFFS

  • Communities across the developed world are investing in increasing the walkability and connectivity of their communities. The community survey results show that residents in Falmouth place a high value on improving and extending this type of infrastructure.
  • These amenities can produce multiple benefits (recreation, exercise areas, connectivity), but also come at a cost. Trails and corridors can be expensive to build, especially if land purchases are required.
  • If existing trends in health and wellness continue, it is likely that communities like Falmouth will be generally more physically active than today. Continuing to invest in this infrastructure will be important, especially to create seamless connections to create a full network of multimodal options. 

We would love to hear your thoughts!

Connectivity, walkability, and trail networks have become increasingly important to community “placemaking” – creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being – in recent years and especially since the pandemic. Survey results show Falmouth is no different. People of all ages desire healthy lifestyles that include walkability and recreational options that are easily accessible and available 24/7.

Where should the community of Falmouth focus its efforts to increase connectivity, walkability, and recreation for its residents?
Comments made via this portal are public. We expect conversations to follow the rules of polite discourse. Messages containing inappropriate content or language will be removed at the discretion of Future iQ.

20 Comments

The project narrative indicates shared-use space for pedestrians & bicycles. Please expand to consider separate, designated space for each (side walk & bicycle lane). Bicyclists travel at speeds of 15-30mph. Electric bicycles, now common on our streets, travel at a higher average rate of speed than manual cycles. As a person who walks daily, I find increasing danger for both bicycle & pedestrian traffic.

My observation of cyclists over many years of driving cars and large commercial vehicles is that cyclists want to be given all the respect due to motor vehicles while generally ignoring the rules of traffic and road signage. I have often seen cyclists ignore STOP signs, traffic lights and One Way signs. I’m sure many others have seen this same behavior.
Now a new class of bicycles has appeared which look to be more like “Electric Motorcycles”. I met a person recently who was putting his/her “bike” on a bus. He/she struggled to do so. It must have been quite heavy. He/she commented proudly that it had cost $6000. These new “bikes” are game changers.
Look Out Pedestrians!!
Motor vehicles in Maine must keep 3 feet from bicycles.
Must bicycles keep 3 feet from pedestrians?

Totally agree with mfp that both are needed; however, if it comes to choosing one or the other due to budget constraints, sidewalks should prevail, since cyclists (of which I am one) can use the road, whereas for pedestrians, that is more difficult. Without a sidewalk present, unlikely to encourage any walker activity. When I want to go for a walk that is not woods/trail based, I head to Yarmouth, Freeport, or Portland, where they have plenty of sidewalks and are much more walker friendly towns than the neighborhoods of Falmouth. I am so pleased that Falmouth is focused and committed to making some improvements in this regard.

Falmouth absolutely needs to do a better job of truly making things safer and accessible for cyclists and pedestrians. To mfp’s point above – in 2016 the Town widened Middle Road, ostensibly to make it ‘safer’ for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. Instead, it has just encouraged cars and trucks to travel much faster than the 35 mph speed limit. Main artery streets that are also highly residential (like Middle Rd, parts of Woodville Rd, etc…) should have sidewalks that separate pedestrians from cyclists. We should also be cautious about designing wide roads with no trees that encourage vehicles to speed well past posted limits.

The town has done a great job of investing in sidewalks and wider cycling lanes along Rt. 1 and Rt. 100. Unfortunately, almost none of the businesses along those corridors have bike racks and very few pedestrians who live close enough to use most of the sidewalks there, which leads to much less usage. I also hope that the rebuilding of the Bucknam Rd bridge includes sidewalks and wide lanes for bikes because the Bucknam bridge is super dangerous to walk or ride over right now and the Bucknam/Middle/Falmouth intersection has no crosswalks or safe traffic light times for pedestrians. It is effectively a wall separating the different neighborhoods (except by car).

Lastly, the town should absolutely continue to pursue the ‘Trail Until Rail’ plan recently proposed for the train tracks along 295 from Portland up to Yarmouth. Nothing could support the vibrancy of our community – and especially the Rt. 1 corridor – more than this project.

I would love to feel safer bicycling on Falmouth roads. For those of us that prefer road biking, there are very few Falmouth roads with enough paved shoulders, bike lanes or sidewalks. Falmouth Rd from Woodville Rd to Winn Road really needs a larger shoulder or bike lane. That is a main road for cars and bicyclists. Also Middle Rd. Even sections of Rte 88 do not have enough shoulder. Also Bucknam Rd is dangerous for pedestrians and if it was not, I am pretty sure more people would be able to walk and bike to Rte 1 , although I don’t know if that would be too expensive to warrant it. I also agree with Tom Ancona’s suggestions.

As a road and mountain biker I’m sympathetic to the desire to see more development to support those, but I’m also cognizant of what seem like significant headways in those areas, namely that the Town does not control all the roads in the Town given the State’s oversight, and also that with our weather the return on investment only yields benefits half the year for the majority of cyclists. If I remember correctly the early expectations around the Blackstrap Rd project were north of 10mm in costs, although the thoughtful work being done there addresses not just surface needs for cyclists but also structural changes to reduce speed on the road, which Tom alludes to above.

I will sound a lone contrarian note on sidewalks–if we are serious about preserving the rural, single family home character of the majority of Town then building a large amount of sidewalks with low utilization seems like a waste of time and money as well as creating a significant maintenance burden in the future. I would rather that any road work builds out more robust and generous shoulders to support biking and walking in equal measure, and the Town focus on speed control so people feel safe using them.

I agree with Michael. I too am a road, mountain bike and walker. There are many parts of town where the roads are dangerously narrow with very little to zero room on the shoulders. It is easy even for vehicles to lose control if the tire goes into our multiple immediate soft shoulders. Side walks are expensive so it is smart to keep them in areas that demand more foot traffic. Widened roads with generous paved shoulders give plenty of room for cyclists and pedestrians to share. Our neighboring towns have done a very good job of this.

I agree with you – there are rural parts of Falmouth, in which a sidewalk would be under-utilized and a burden to maintain. I believe sidewalks should be concentrated in the higher-density areas, connecting the Flats, the Foreside, the Rt 1 business center, etc – which, in addition to FNP and Underwood Parks, would allow for safer pedestrian traffic for those of us that chose to live/communte in these higher density areas and create more milage for those that chose to recreate here. And I think focus on driver speed is a good idea too.
For those of you who road bike, do you think painted cycle lanes and cross walks could help? My 84 year old father cycles daily in downtown Boston and does so in a bike lane painted red, which I think greatly improves his visibility.

I definitely see bicycling as under-managed, with a long long way to go for improvement. Consider this: the Falmouth school campus. How many kids do/can bicycle to school? very few, almost none. Because it is not safe and not convenient. Yet 100s are within a mile… narrow winding fast roads for cars on all sides where bicycles are a 2nd thought. Or switch topics – trying to get to/from a grocery store either Shaws or Hannaford – – it’s a bicycling nightmare….

I agree, James! We live just a couple miles from school and my kids would love to bike, but it simply feels too dangerous.

Boulder CO has bike paths. bike roads. you can commute to work on dedicated bikeways – – not sharing the side of the road and hoping the auto driver is considerate. If Falmouth had this it’s popularity among millennials would skyrocket…. but then of course the hand wringing over affordability would start….

Everything comes with a cost. Installation of sidewalks and bike paths has drastically increased the cost of “road projects”. The installation of these projects has reduced the funding that is available for maintenance of our roads. The Town needs a strategy and financial plan for how it will maintain the roads in Town. For example, how often should major roads be repaved? How often should minor roads be repaved? What is the status of all the current major roads from a paving perspective? How much money will be required to have all roads repaved at least every 20 years? Every 30 years? Money is being spent excessively on projects without an understanding of the long term impact on Town roads. Road repair money is being diverted to bike lanes and sidewalks without knowing the impact on roads.

MODERATOR COMMENT: It is great to see these conversational threads evolve.
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I’d like to chime in to say that I appreciate reading everyone’s thoughtful comments on this subject. I personally use route 88 often for walking and biking and find it scary at times due to the speed of traffic and lack of sidewalk. Walking and biking are hugely beneficial to my physical and mental health year-round (which is why I do it in spite of safety concerns), and I understand this is true for the many other people I pass while on route 88. I see people pushing strollers, kids on scooters and friends talking while walking side by side. I believe that the cost is justified it to install sidewalks on (at least a portion of) the Falmouth part of rte 88, without diminishing the shoulder needed for bike travel. I imagine this could be expensive and complicated if private land is involved… but it would be a great service to the health and safety of our community. Increased speed control on rte 88 is also a good idea, although as someone who also takes this road to get to work, I understand the desire to travel quickly at times. I still believe pedestrians and bikers should be a priority.

The current car-centric model of Falmouth will be increasingly undesirable for a number of reasons, and although electric vehicles are an improvement, they are not a solution. There is no question that Falmouth will eventually prioritize active transportation (biking, walking) and public transportation. The question is merely WHEN we start putting in the work — let’s start now so the benefits are reaped earlier and we have less backtracking to do. Our climate, our children, our healthcare system, and our community will be the better for it.

Reading above there is a consistent mention of vehicle speed. I live on Falmouth Rd which is the primary cross-town route between Rt.100 and Rt.1. Anyone who lives/bikes/walks on this road understands the vehicle speed issues and traffic volumes. There are many roads in Falmouth that experience the same issues. While volume is not likely to be reduced, we can do something about the speed and visibility.
1. Our cyclist and Running/walking community knows all too well where there are corners/intersections on main roads with reduced visibility due to tree growth. Example – Falmouth Rd near Sunnyfield Lane. Maybe there is an opportunity to cut back some of the low visibility areas.
2. Speed Limit – The town speed limit for the most part is 35mph, 25mph in some other areas. Have we explored expanding the areas that are 25mph, especially those that are heavily traveled by cyclists and walkers/runners who don’t have a sidewalk option? I would love to see primary roads between 88 and Route 100 be included in the 25mph zone.

I agree with Dan completely regarding the concerns around volume and speed!

I just want to gently push back on your proposed solution (cutting back trees). First, some anecdotal data, when the town widened Middle Road in 2016/17, it cut down a lot of trees, which did improve site lines in places and gave more room for pedestrians and bikes. However, what I’ve noticed is that this actually made cars far more comfortable speeding along my street than they would before. Additionally, the nice wide, smooth street (+ increased development in Yarmouth/Cumberland) has greatly increased the volume along Middle too. Both of these factors have made the street more dangerous to me as someone who walks/bikes regularly along the street with my dog and kids.

Second, here’s a great article about this phenomena as well:
https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2021/8/6/the-key-to-slowing-traffic-is-street-design-not-speed-limits

What do we need instead? More sidewalks on main thru-ways, narrowing the travel lanes and increasing defined, obvious biking lanes, and thinking about adding stop signs on main streets at critical intersections. If you have to stop regularly, it slows you down and may make commuters reconsider their routes. Additionally, we need to stop widening roads and cutting down trees that make drivers even more comfortable going at high rates of speed.

I appreciate having the opportunity to share my thoughts about where and how Falmouth should focus its efforts to increase connectivity, walkability, and recreation for its residents. We live on a cul-de-sac off Blackstrap Road and it would be great to have a safer way for kids, families, and others in this area to bike, walk, and run. There are so many streets with kids who are eager to take their bikes and play together, but the connecting roads are not safe due to the speed of passing vehicles and the lack of space/sidewalks for pedestrians. It would be great to have a bike lane, sidewalks, or safe shoulders that everyone could use, particularly on Blackstrap, Brook, and Mountain Roads. I suspect we would see a lot more pedestrians use these roads and it would certainly help to connect us all to the wonderful trails nearby.

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MORE INFORMATION​

For more information about the Town of Falmouth Vision and Values project, please contact:

David Beurle, CEO
Future iQ
Phone: (612) 757-9190
david@future-iq.com

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