Mad Dog continues to marvel at the functionality of representative democracy. Tonight he attended a meeting called by the Rockingham County planner who has labored for over 5 years trying to get a dedicated bicycle path built from Portsmouth through Hampton all the way past Seabrook to the Massachusetts line. Many communities have accomplished this sort of "Rails to Trails" project, which allows people, in particular children with their parents, to bicycle along a bicycle friendly surface with no automobiles around to threaten imminent death to any seven year old who swerves off the path. Washington, DC has a particularly well developed bike path, far from incursions the maddening automobile, a sanctuary for families on bicycles, and wherever the trail wends its way, it is filled with parents and children like some latter day village square. Wherever they build it, the people come, on bicycles, spending quality time together.
But that is not the vision of the representative to the New Hampshire House of Representatives from Hampton, the Hon. Fred Rice, whose mission it is, Mad Dog divines, to protect Hampton from the threat of SMOG.
|Downton Hampton, NH As Mr. Rice Sees It|
What has apparently eluded Mad Dog is that cars come to idle at the intersection of Rte 1 and Rte 27 and a line of traffic can build up at busy hours, sometimes as many as eight cars long! All those idling engines befoul the air and create a health hazard for the women and children of Hampton. They are breathing in particulate matter, right there in front of the Old Salt.
Mr. Rice explains there is no way to widen the road there into four lanes, two north, two south, but if the abandoned railroad bed can be purchased as part of the bicycle path Rails to Trails plan, the bypass road be built along that portion which runs through Hampton from Rte 27, behind the Old Salt clear up to Rte 1 at the bridge to North Hampton, and the problem of Hampton air pollution could be solved, because those cars would not have to idle but could fly along, not polluting the air one bit! Moving automobiles, everyone knows, are even cleaner than bicycles.
|Hampton as Mad Dog Sees It|
Of course building a road along this stretch of what the planners hoped would be the bicycle path would mean the bicyclists would have to "share the road" with their motorized brethren, but surely this is not too great a sacrifice to ask for clean air.
|Mr. Rice with his Soul Mate|
Mad Dog was able to ask Mr. Rice if Mad Dog had understood him correctly: Mr. Rice was proposing to place a motorway smack in the middle of the route of the bicycle trail, cutting off North Hampton from Seabrook with the sound of motors and the smell of tail pipe exhaust along the Hampton stretch of "greenway." The chairman of the committee intervened to separate Mad Dog from Mr. Rice before Mad Dog could fire off the salvo he so yearned to voice: "Fred, in the over 300 years since Hampton was founded has there ever been one, single day of smog in Hampton, New Hampshire? In what alternative universe are you living?"
Mr. Rice did address the unspoken questions: "Studies are ongoing."
The Dog was dragged off, frothing and growling, and Mr. Rice excused himself from the meeting.
|Hampton As It Ought to Be|
Some believe we should just humor Mr. Rice, and he will go away. But Mr. Rice has a history with that intersection of Route One and Route 27. Rumor has it there was an opportunity to bury all those unsightly power lines which make that intersection look like a power plant, but Mr. Rice scuttled that effort. Aesthetics weren't worth the cost.
And a bathroom, even a port o' potty, for Plaice Cove--Mr. Rice drew the line. He is all about containing costs.
But smog prevention, now that is worth every penny.