PITTSFIELD, Mass. - Putting a question on the November ballot to let voters decide the fate of the bike lanes on North Street is an item of unfinished business on the Pittsfield City Council’s agenda.

“The question was voted in," councilor at-large Karen Kalinowsky said. "A summary is what the big dilemma of the last two city council meetings were.”

What You Need To Know

  • A "communication from (City Solicitor) Attorney Pagnotta on a petition from Councilor Kalinowsky amending City Council request to place a ballot question on the November 7, 2023, ballot" is on the latest Pittsfield City Council agenda

  • The proposed ballot question intends to give Pittsfield voters a "yes" or "no" choice over the layout of North Street
  • There was an understanding by some councilors that the city clerk and solicitor would craft how the summary read, but there has been confusion over what the council wants the question to ask voters in regards to the bike lanes and traffic layout
  • Another petition on the agenda is from Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., "requesting to change parking on North Street to head-in diagonal, recommending to refer to the City Engineer for study".

The council supported Kalinowsky’s petition to put a question on the ballot about returning traffic patterns on North Street to what they were before the addition of bike lanes. The issue in meetings since the January vote is over the wording of what a "yes" or "no" vote would mean.

“In my opinion, this is as clear as mud," council president Peter Marchetti said at the February 28 meeting. "The question itself, says 'shall the Department of Public Services no later than May 1, 2024 return North Street to four lanes of traffic with turn lanes' – doesn’t say anything about the bike lanes. That was the intent of the petition originally to remove the bike lanes. And then the 'yes' vote would require the city to remove the existing bike lanes and return North Street to four lanes.”

Residents and city councilors have raised concerns about the safety of North Street both with the bike lanes and if it returned to four lanes of traffic.

“If the people vote to return this back to the way it was, it doesn't always have to stay that way," Kalinowsky said. "This plan just isn't safe. You know, if they you can come up with a plan that, you know, the majority of the people in the city like. I mean, they can always change it to something different.”

Adding to the discussion, Downtown Pittsfield Inc. has a petition in the works to allow for diagonal parking on North Street. This plan would make the bike lanes smaller and keep the two single lanes of traffic. The organization polled their downtown members, saying about 60% of respondents liked the idea.

“This may not be a yes or no answer on whether or not bike lanes exist or one way traffic or two-way traffic or four lanes," managing director Rebecca Brien said. "Our goal really is to make improvements based on our membership and their feedback on what's going to be best for our community, and we feel the councilors request has the same goal. We're just hoping that we can find a compromise that will allow our downtown businesses, pedestrians, as well as the bikers here in the community to be able to share the space.”

Councilor Peter White tabled the question about removing bike lanes at the meeting on February 28. He said he intends to rescind the council’s January 5-4 vote.

Kalinowsky said city residents should be able to decide.

“I just think people need to realize it's important for people to have a voice in local government and I’m trying to give them that voice,” Kalinowsky said.

If the council votes to rescind their original vote from January, the item would be removed from the agenda for future meetings. The Tuesday, March 14 city council meeting may be postponed due to snow, the city will provide an update on their website.