Quick take

  • New approaches to transportation must reflect future needs
  • People in neighborhoods everywhere want slower traffic
  • Younger people would prefer not to use vehicles
  • Safety for all road users needs prioritizing, especially for walkers and bikers

The people of Portsmouth realize transportation -- how we get around in our daily lives -- is changing rapidly. Rather than try and make old ways work in a new world, we can embrace this change and plan accordingly.

In outlying neighborhoods, residents have long requested effective traffic calming on their streets. Residents want alternatives where they have the realistic option to leave the car at home. Talk to the generations in their 20s, 30s, and 40s and you’ll hear the same theme over and over: if I didn’t have to drive a car, I wouldn’t. They are the future and we should be planning for their world. Ironically, the city’s under-valued 2025 Master Plan already points us in the right direction.

The alternatives are obvious: walking, bicycling, and expanded public transportation. At the same time we must continue to improve our streets for drivers through modern road design, good signage, and strategic parking. Being able to get around without a car, however, benefits environmental and personal health, reduces carbon emissions, and frees up public space. There is no downside.

Our city has made some slow progress, but has also taken backward steps. We have an under-appreciated policy framework that includes a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian master plan, now in the early stages of implementation. Our city scorecard says we can do better. We have already adopted a “Complete Streets” approach but it’s application is spotty. We built the first truly buffered urban bike lane project in New Hampshire. As motivated residents organize and work with the city, we are introducing real traffic-calming measures such as bump-outs and speed tables.

Pain Points

  • Outlying neighborhoods have unsuccessfully requested traffic calming for decades.
  • Some key streets lack sidewalks and buffered bicycle lanes suitable for riders of all ages.

We recommend that the city:

  • Adopt a high-level planning goal to achieve “15-minute neighborhoods.” This approach -- which also applies to housing and services -- strives to create neighborhoods where residents can live within a short drive, walk, or bike-ride to a school, public transportation, a place to buy fresh food, a playground, and a park.
  • Determine appropriate traffic speed according to a modern human-centered framework such as “Vision Zero” or “City Limits.”
  • Accelerate implementation of traffic-calming initiatives based on citizen advocacy and using already prioritized criteria.
  • Proactively support use of electric vehicles via incentives and recharging infrastructure.
  • Use strategic signage and traffic calming to reduce overall volume by discouraging drivers from using Portsmouth as a short-cut through route.

Get involved

Interested in biking in Portsmouth? Visit local non-profit advocacy group, Seacoast Area Bike Riders.