This email came to me after the article came out in Adventure Cyclist. I forwarded it on to Josh Lehman at Mass DOT for comment.
I read with interest the article by Dan d’Ambrosio on “A Bicycle Route Network for America” in the current [September-November 2009] issue of Adventure Cyclist. However, I was disappointed that I did not see any clear indication of an East-West route through Massachusetts. I would like to make a suggestion for such a route based on my recent experience.
Having done much long distance bicycle touring (which I define as at least 50 miles from the departure, and one overnight) in Europe, I regret the lack of comparable opportunities in the United States.
On May 13 of this year I set off on my bicycle from my home in Cleveland, Ohio, for Cambridge, Massachusetts and my 50th Reunion at MIT (800 miles). I was joined by a contemporary who rode with me as far as Albany, New York, before heading south for his 50th reunion at Columbia in New York City. A second contemporary, who is 50 years out of Harvard, joined us in Buffalo, and after Albany continued with me on to Cambridge.
Planning for the trip from Cleveland to Buffalo [Lackawana] and on to Albany and the Massachusetts border was straight forward since there are published routes. There were no recommended trans state route for Massachusetts, and at this point, I almost gave up on the trip, but I eventually came up with a satisfactory route.
From Cleveland to Buffalo [Lackawana] we used the ACA Northern Tier route, and was thankful for the fact that I could download the GPS coordinates into my computer, and then into my Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx.
From Buffalo to Albany we basically followed the Trails & Parks New York Canalway Trail. Where the trail was crushed limestone, we used low traffic parallel roads except for a few stretches where no suitable parallel road was available. We found Canalway preferable to the designated and signed NY State Bike Route 5, which is on busier roads.
Between Albany and the Massachusetts border, we followed Bike Route 5 which joins US 20 at Schodack Center. While the highways utilized by Bike Route 5 for the most part have wide paved shoulders in good condition, there were about 10 miles on this Section of US 20 where the shoulder was awful or non-existent making for a terrifying ride.
Planning the route through Massachusetts was an intimidating challenge because of the Berkshire Mountains, and almost caused me to give up on the trip. The Rubel maps show bicycle friendly roads, but do not give any recommended long distance cross state through routes. Besides, the map for Central Massachusetts is not available, but I was able to borrow a copy and scan the desired sections. A friend who had ridden transcontinental a few years ago, finishing in Massachusetts, came to my rescue. I followed his route to Worcester and from Worcester we followed the East Coast Greenways route to Cambridge.
The eventual route selected through Massachusetts proved to be quite satisfactory for experienced touring cyclists. We continued on US 20 to Pittsfield.
Out of Pittsfield, we took SR 9 to Dalton, SR 8 to Hindsdale, and SR 143 to Williamsburg, and had planned to take SR 9 to Florence/Northampton. However, out of Williamsburg, we actually took South Street, Audubon Road, Mulberry Street and Florence Street which route was undoubtedly more enjoyable than SR 9. A rail-trail is in progress between Williamsburg and Florence and should be available in the not too distance future. In Florence we stayed with trail activist Craig de la Penna who may be known to you.
Out of Florence, we took the rail-trail into Northampton and across the river. Then, since some misguided soul decided to have the rail-trail from this point paved with glass chips, we walked our bikes to the point where we could connect with Bay Road (crossing SR 9 during the morning rush hour was a harrowing experience). We followed Bay Road to the point where it connected with SR 9 above Belchertown, and then continued on SR 9 into Worcester. Traffic in Worcester was less than desirable, but then that’s life in the city.
Out of Worcester, we followed the East Coast Greenways route to Cambridge. This routing is undoubtedly known to you.
Oliver E. S.