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Wellesley

Wellesley looks to make cycling safer

A year after a local man was fatally struck by a truck while riding his bicycle in Wellesley, town officials are creating a committee to study whether and where bike lanes and signs can be installed in the next year to make cycling safer.

“This is something that’s been looked at for a while, but it’s fair to say the accident brought it more to the forefront,” said Selectwoman Terri Tsagaris.

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Alexander Motsenigos, 41, was killed last August after a truck struck him while he was riding his bicycle on Weston Road. The truck driver was initially charged, but a grand jury chose not to indict him and the charges have been dropped.

However, Motsenigos’ family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit, which is pending in Norfolk Superior Court, according their lawyer, Carlin J. Phillips.

Wellesley's executive director, Hans Larsen, underscored the catalyst that the accident has provided in getting the town to move forward on improved safety for bicyclists.

“We are sobered by the fact that one of our residents died on our streets, riding a bicycle,” said Larsen. “It has caused everyone to think, and question if we have done enough, and what we can to do to avoid a reoccurrence.”

To that end, the Board of Selectmen approved the formation of the Bicycle Safety Committee last month. Members of the board are from various town departments and boards, including police, public works, planning, and School Committee; two bicycle advocates; and Selectwoman Ellen Gibbs, as well as Larsen.

‘We are sobered by the fact that one of our residents died on our streets, riding a bicycle.’

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“These are senior-level people who have a high level of experience to make the hard judgments in implementing bike lanes and safety programs,” Larsen said. “And in Wellesley, we need cooperation from all departments to make positive progress.”

Larsen said that although a first meeting date had not been set as of Tuesday, he expects the committee will meet in the next two weeks.

In the coming months, Larsen said, he hopes to discuss plans to create a network of connecting bicycle lanes on town roads, install new signs, and ramp up safety communication and education efforts for both cyclists and motorists.

He said he also hopes to make it safe for local students to bike to school, and to encourage the increasing number of commuters cycling to work.

“We want to get a better handle on where and when people bike, the number of bicyclists in town, and the type of bikers we have,” he said. “I have personally seen a lot more people biking, probably because of the increase in gas prices, the nuisance of traffic, and an emphasis on health and exercise.”

However, the committee faces challenges. Larsen said cyclists and drivers alike are attracted to downtown Wellesley, which presents a parking problem for both.

“We’ll have to look at balancing the demands for on-street parking,” he said.

Committee officials will also have to pore over road maps to figure out where and how to install the bike lanes, especially when certain roads are already fairly narrow and cramped with car traffic.

Tad Staley, president of the Needham Bikes advocacy group, said towns and cities near Wellesley have embraced a growing fondness for bicycling.

In recent years, Needham officials have installed signs, bike lanes, and “sharrows” — shared lane markings — that remind drivers to share the road with cyclists.

Newton has also recently made improvement to Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue, Staley said, and Boston has marked off about 65 miles of bike lanes since 2007.

Larsen said Wellesley’s new committee would probably also look at coordinating transportation with a new shuttle bus providing a link to the MBTA’s Green Line, and also at improving any off-road trails as necessary.

Wellesley has 26 miles of recreational trails, all of which are open to bicyclists, including paths along the Cochituate and Sudbury aqueduct networks that stretch from Framingham and Natick to Boston, said Janet Hartke Bowser, executive director of the town’s Natural Resources Commission.

Hartke Bowser sees the possibility of improving some trails to make them easier to ride, and increasing awareness of town forest bike trails, but she hopes an emphasis will be made on safety.

“I hope they educate bikers about the off-street options, but I also hope they make the streets safer for bikers,” she said.

Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com.
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