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State parks agency to study how to accommodate bicyclists

A sign alerted drivers to a painted bicycle lane across Cambridge Street’s Mass. Pike ramp.
A sign alerted drivers to a painted bicycle lane across Cambridge Street’s Mass. Pike ramp.(John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

The department in charge of the state's parks will conduct a comprehensive, $500,000 study to see how parks and parkways can better accommodate bikes, its top official announced Thursday.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation's commissioner, Jack Murray, said the study comes as cycling has become a growing form of transportation and recreation.

"As an agency that serves the Commonwealth in both of those areas, it is critically important that we work with our partners to identify roadways within our system to improve the safety for both cyclists and drivers," he said in an announcement on the study.

It will look into updated traffic information and parkway conditions, particularly for areas that have bike traffic, according to state officials. They said they hope the information will result in ongoing maintenance work and capital improvement projects.

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The study comes as welcome news to bike advocates, who have been pushing the department to do a better job maintaining parkways regularly used by cyclists, including clearing them of snow.

"They've been working with us diligently to really expand what DCR does with bikes," said Pete Stidman, director of the Boston Cyclists Union advocacy group. "It's a natural role for the parks agency."

The Department of Conservation and Recreation, which is a part of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, oversees 450,000 acres of parks, forests, beaches, bike trails, watersheds, dams and parkways.

The agency will have multiple partners on the study: The state Department of Transportation and local municipalities will help focus on off-road multiuse trail projects, such as the Neponset River Greenway, Greenough Boulevard in Cambridge and Watertown, and the Watertown Rail Trail.

The department will finalize the scope of the study in the next four to six weeks, with the completion timeline depending on the bids and the final contract.

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Nicole Dungca can be reached at nicole.dungca@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.