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Bike-Walk Alliance of NH Advocates Better Health, Less Polution

Nov 21, 2014 09:22AM ● Published by Kevin

On the Windham Trail. Photo courtesy of Dave Topham.

Last week, we featured the Granite State Wheelmen Bicyclying Group: a long-standing organization of recreational cyclists. In 2006, the group found a new inspiration for advocating utilizing the great outdoors and educating the community on the benefits of cycling and walking.

Enter the Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire. Founder Dave Topham once again took some time to discuss the group and its benefits to the community.

Around Concord: Tell us a little about the Bike-Walk Alliance of NH, what is the main draw that people reference?

Dave Topham: BWA-NH is the statewide bike-ped advocacy, safety, and education organization. It was started as the GSW is strictly a recreational bike club but was being asked to do more and more in support of state programs. A lot of knowledge and expertise had been accumulated since 1971 but a different organization was needed. The tax structure of a 501c3 versus 501c7 for a social club makes a big difference. GSW members (and everyone else) use the roads, rail trails, and benefit by meaningful legislation and infrastructure while BWA-NH pushes for the funding and implementation of good ideas and projects to benefit bicyclists and pedestrians whether they know it or not. More and more people are seeing the need for sensible bike-ped accommodations via “Complete Streets.” Better health, less pollution, less congestion, and safer roadways for all users are part of the BWA-NH focus.

Note that all BWA-NH sponsors are automatically GSW members as even bike-ped advocates like to save money in bike shops and socialize on rides and over pizza.

AC: Is the group active year round? How does the experience change throughout the seasons?

Topham: BWA-NH is very active year round but not by running events. Bike-ed classes, legislation, working with NH-DOT advisory committees, and coordinating rail trail development are non-stop efforts.

AC: What's something people usually assume about the group? What do people usually assume that's incorrect?

Topham: Many people have yet to learn about BWA-NH and what we are trying to accomplish. Some of those who hear of BWA-NH think we are trying to create special and costly facilities just for bicyclists and pedestrians. That is not the case. Our emphasis is to have NH-DOT and local planners / developers keep in mind that our roads are for all users, not just motor vehicles. When roadways are designed with all expected users in mind, the incidents of car / car crashes is reduced by about 25% with little or no extra money being spent to develop the infrastructure which will more safely accommodate all users. 

AC: What is your personal favorite aspect of the group?

Topham: Seeing our infrastructure designed and built in the most cost-effective way to serve the most people more of the time. Second, to have better education for motorists and bicyclists so as rules of the road are followed by everyone.

AC: What's the funniest, strangest, most unusual thing people have asked you? 

Topham: “Why should bicyclists go with the flow of traffic. Isn’t seeing a car coming toward you safer?”; “I don’t need lights on my bike at night. I can see fine in the dark.”; “Bicycles should only be used on sidewalks. The roads are strictly for cars.”

AC: Are there any recent or upcoming changes that people should know about - resources, funding, legislation, development, etc.?

Topham: BWA-NH will try again for the Vulnerable User legislation and start the effort to implement a Complete Streets policy statewide. More easily available and affordable bicycling education programs for children and adults are planned for 2015.

Bike-ped funding opportunities were highlighted in a March conference organized by BWA-NH and held at the DHHS auditorium in Concord. Limited funding on a highly competitive basis is available under the Transportation Alternatives Program, Recreational Trails Program, and the Community Development Finance Authority. Grants may be available at times from various companies and the medical sector.

BWA-NH cannot be everywhere and doing everything needed statewide, but we help regional bike-ed advocacy groups get started by them being affiliated with BWA-NH for tax purposes. We currently have five affiliates under our 501c3 agreement with more advocacy and outreach groups expected. Two rail trail groups fall under this affiliation as BWA-NH sees many advantages to promoting rail trail development around the state.

Anything else we should know about you, the group, how people can get involved, etc.?

Topham: The BWA-NH office is located at Concord Crossing, just west of Route 93 Exit 17, at 2 Whitney Road, Suite 11, Concord NH 03301, phone 603-410-5848. Tim Blagden is the Executive Director. Anyone wishing to learn more about BWA-NH or become involved may visit our web site or email [email protected]

Read More

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