Back Talk: Cyclists Beware and Holyoke Charter Schools

Vertical Grates a Danger to Cyclists

The last part of my bicycle commute from Greenfield to Gill is the Gill-Montague Bridge. I had been enduring black hole potholes, asphalt that was worn down to dirt, and trucks and cars barrelling within feet of me. My vision of trips on a designated bike trail, with an unclenched jaw and leisurely glances at the river beneath were immediately shattered when I saw that they had installed vertical grates! All claims to safety had been utterly cancelled out.

These death traps were eliminated in the bicycling resurgence of the 1970s. It’s a simple concept to avoid a horrific scenario: wheels can’t wedge into horizontal slots. Therefore, cyclists don’t land on their heads.

Installing such grates is not only profoundly unsafe, it is a violation of the Massachusetts Engineering Directive of 2009 that clearly states: Hook Lock Cascade Grates shall be used on facilities where bicycle travel is legally allowed. (Do a Google image search of the Hook Lock Cascade Grate – no wheel going through those suckers!)

I wrote letters to both MA DOT [Massachusetts Department of Transportation] and Gov. Charlie Baker. Although I didn’t receive a reply from either, a few weeks later strips of metal had been welded onto the grids horizontally, in an attempt to rectify the problem. The strips marginally improve the odds for the brave souls who dare venture over the bridge. The right (and legal) thing to do would be to replace the grates, but that does not appear to be the plan.

Massachusetts may rank as one of the top five states of bicycle ridership growth, but incredulously stupid mistakes such as this are certainly not doing much to contribute.

Back to the white knuckles.

Amy MacKenzie


A Holyoke Perspective on Charter Schools

I have been seeing a lot of Pro-Charter School advertisements on TV lately. The ads claim that local districts get MORE money for their budgets from the charter schools. I found that claim to be questionable.  So, today I asked our assistant treasurer for the breakdown regarding Charter School income and expenses.

This is what she shared: “Last year Holyoke Public Schools received $1,694,132 in for charter school receipts, but we paid out $11,384,647 for charter school tuition.” This got me thinking, with Holyoke having a $90,000,000 school budget, paying charter school tuition represents roughly 11% of our budget.

So, the second largest expense (next to salaries) for Holyoke Public Schools is to financially support NON-PUBLIC schools?! Based on these Holyoke Public School budget numbers, the claims in those TV advertisements are completely untrue.  Dr. [Stephen] Zrike, our school administrators, teachers, students, school committee, and parents are working very hard to improve Holyoke Public Schools.

We owe it to them, and to ourselves as members of this community, to dedicate as much of our financial resources to Holyoke Public Schools as possible. With more charter schools popping up, we will be giving away more and more of the much-needed budget money for our schools and teachers. This ultimately will negatively impact our children and our community. Therefore, I am voting NO on Question #2 and I encourage you to do the same.

James M. Leahy, City Councilor

From our Readers

Author: From our Readers

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