Commission exempts bikes from ban

WESTFIELD – The Off-street Parking Commission requested a Law Department review of a proposed draft of a regulation that would prohibit parking non-motorized vehicles in the city’s off-street parking lots.
The commission voted last night to send the draft to the Law Department for review after discussing how to prevent residents from storing non-motorized vehicles, basically tow-behind trailers, in the municipal parking lots.
The issued was referred to the Off-street Commission by Mayor Daniel M. Knapik and City Advancement Officer Jeff Daley in response to an issue at the Arnold Street lot.
The city recently fenced an area behind the apartment building owned by the Flahive family in preparation of demolition of the Elm Street building recently purchased from Hampden Bank, and to prepare the site for remediation of soil contaminants. Residents of the Flahive property had been using that city property for parking, including one resident who had a Wilderness travel trailer parked on the property. The resident moved the trailer, manufactured by Fleetwood, into the municipal parking lot, taking up two spaces.
Parking Administrator Denise Carey said the Arnold Street lot is one of the most frequently used lots in the municipal parking lot inventory and said the administration suggested the commission adopt the regulation “to prohibit non-motorized vehicle from (municipal) parking lots.”
At-large City Councilor Agma Sweeney attended the session and initiated discussion of the proposed ban of “non-motorized” vehicles.
“I understand that this is about a trailer, but I came tonight because, in broad terms, this ban could include bicycles,” Sweeney said. “Westfield is embracing bicycles and I hope that alternative transportation will be part of the planned upgrades in the city. I know that parking spaces are at a premium and that you have a difficult job regulating the use of the parking lots.”
Sweeney urged the commission to include accommodations for bicycle racks in the municipal lot inventory to promote the use of bicycles, especially with gasoline prices approaching $4 a gallon, which could result in greater bicycle use by city residents.
Commission Chairman Brian Hoose, an Arnold Street resident, shared Sweeney’s concern that the commission’s regulation support increased alternative transportation options such as bicycle usage.
“There needs to be places for bicycles,” Hoose said. “Accommodations included as the design (of the Gaslight District and downtown parking lot reconfiguration) progresses. We need to have space allocated for bikes.”
“It’s far more expensive to add those facilities after the work is done,” Hoose said. “It’s easier to incorporate them in the design phase than to correct an oversight afterward.”
Hoose suggested that the board and Sweeney communicate those concerns with Community Development Director Peter J. Miller Jr., and City Engineer Mark Cressotti for inclusion of alternative transportation facility in the plans for downtown projects.
“We can let them know this was raised as an issue,” Hoose said.

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