Cycletracks on the Arborway

Recently, the DCR laid down new bike lanes on the Arborway, part of the network of Emerald Necklace roads running through Jamaica Plain from Forest Hills to Jamaica Pond. While this should be a positive gain for city cyclists, unfortunately the DCR ignored the advice of bicycle advocates and painted lanes that are inadequate and even dangerous to cyclists.

The Boston Cyclists Union is staging a campaign to replace these poorly-designed bike lanes with cycletracks, a six-foot wide path protected from automotive traffic by a two-foot buffer.  Please sign the petition and add your comments at the Boston Cyclists Union website.

The Arborway is part of a network of city parks dating back to the 19th century that has unfortunately been adapted for use as a freeway for automobiles.  While there are posted speed limits of 25 mph, drivers routinely travel at speeds close to twice that speed. Speeding is encourage by the inordinate space devoted to cars ranging from 4 lanes to a ridiculous 8 lanes between Centre St and Parkman Drive. Building cycletracks will create safe space for both bicycle commuters and recreational riders enjoying the parks.  A more inviting space to ride will encourage more bicycling and reduce automotive congestion. And narrowing the excessive space devoted to automobiles will help calm out of control speeding and reckless driving.

Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Bike Safety, Boston, Forest Hills, Jamaica Plain | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Should Cyclists Be Allowed To Roll Through Stop Signs?

The following article is getting a lot of attention among bicycle circles and even among friends not into bicycling:

Stromberg, Joseph . “Why cyclists should be able to roll through stop signs and ride through red lights.” Vox. Vox Media, 19 May 2014. Web. 12 May 2014. <http://www.vox.com/2014/5/9/5691098/why-cyclists-should-be-able-to-roll-through-stop-signs-and-ride>.

The author contends that bicycle riders are more aware of their surroundings than motorists and can determine whether or not it is safe to go through an intersection without stopping for a stop sign.  He follows with data on the energy expended by a cyclist to get up to speed after a full stop. Unfortunately, my experience conflicts with Stromberg’s theory as on multiple occasions I’ve been riding my bike and nearly been hit by another bicyclist who ran through a stop sign or red light (luckily, no collisions as of yet).  Obviously those bicyclists were not alert to the fact that I was there pedaling along the street before they passed the sign.  To be fair to Stromberg, he suggests slowly rolling through stop signs not buzzing through at full speed as these riders did.  But I have doubts. Should the law be changed I expect that many bike riders would bother with the nuanced distinction of a slow roll compared to just continuing at speed. Our nation’s current laws and infrastructure for motor vehicles tend to be guided by the idea of moving as many motor vehicles as swiftly as possible with as few hindrances as possible.  This creates a sense of entitlement among motorists that encourages speeding, reckless driving, and disregard for other road users (bike riders and walkers).  I think the Idaho stop would have a similar effect on bike riders.  Let’s face it, most people, regardless of conveyance are going to do whatever gets them to their destination fastest, and I don’t think the regulation of public roads should necessarily make everyone’s self-interest the top priority.

Instead of changing to a dual system of laws where some users stop at stops signs and some do not, I propose instead that we should focus on changing the infrastructure of the streets to encourage sharing roads and negotiation at intersections.  When I rode a bike in Amsterdam there were several intersections where two narrow streets met where there were no lights, stop signs, or any signs at all.  Instead of chaos, the effect was a calm crossing negotiated among all vehicles, much like Stromberg expects would happen with the Idaho stop.  The thing in the Amsterdam example is that everyone is following the same rules, and the lack of signaling actually makes it fairer for bikes.  Of course, the Netherlands’ vulnerable users laws and liability that places the burden on motorists would also make for a welcome improvement in the United States.  On larger roads, bike riders should be able to travel on buffered lanes that have protections at intersections such as separate bike signal lights or  protected lanes around a roundabout. Anyway, that’s what I would do if I were in charge.  What do you think?

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Bike Lanes (a couple of interesting articles)

A couple of interesting articles about bike lanes and their affect on traffic congestion (or as is demonstrated in these articles, the lack thereof.

First there is:

Bike Lanes Don’t Cause Traffic Jams If You’re Smart About Where You Build Them by Gretchen Johnson and Aaron Johnson, FiveThirtyEight.com

Then there’s this response to the Johnson & Johnson piece:

Bike Lanes Don’t Lead to Congestion, But Some of Them Should
by Angie Schmitt, StreetsBlog, USA

Posted in Bike Safety, Links | Leave a comment

March 27th: LivableStreets’ 6th Annual Boston Bike Update

I’m registered for the 6th Annual Boston Bike Update.  Join me with an RSVP to LivableStreets.

When: Thursday, March 27, 2014

Where: Boston Public Library, 700 Bolyston St, Boston

Agenda:

5:30pm Doors open – No reserved seating.
6:00pm Presentations begin
7:45pm Q&A begins
8:30pm Q&A ends
8:30-10pm LivableStreets member social @Lir Irish Pub
Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Boston, Boston Bike Update, Boston Bikes, Events, LivableStreets | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feb. 26th: Public Meeting for Protected Bike Lanes in Downtown Boston

Come voice your support for a vastly improved bicycling in Boston’s central core at the public hearing for the 25% design of Phase 1 of the Connect Historic Boston bike trail and Constitution Road protected bike lane proposals.

WHERE: Boston City Hall, Room 801

WHEN: Wednesday, February 26, 2014, 6:00 PM

More information via MassBike.

The proposed network. Image: Connect Historic Boston 

Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Boston, Downtown, Urban Planning | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Biking and the Southwest Corridor

I’m not much of a winter biker. I’ve done it in the past and learned that it can actually be warmer and more comfortable than waiting for a bus. I expect I’ll do it again in the future.

But right now in my lice I drop off my daughter at daycare everyday on the way to work. Our bike commute already has it’s challenges. We live on a steep hill and when we get to the bottom we join the traffic frenzy around Forest Hills which is currently designed to support a highway interchange. The infrastructure encourage a high volume of traffic and is engineered to allow drivers to speed, and they do. Once we get through all of that, we can ride on the protected Pierre Lallement Bike Path in the Southwest Corridor Park and breath a sigh of relief. In the winter, the hill gets icy, snow mounds narrow the main roads and the drivers get testier. And, apparently, the Southwest Corridor bike path offers no refuge because the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation does not maintain it well after snowstorms, as has been reported in national news.

So, I don’t bike in the winter time. Maybe when my kids are older or if Hubway opens up year round in Boston that will change. But I have a lot of respect for winter bike riders and know that they’re in on a good thing. That’s why I find it outrageous that the DCR not only fails to properly clear snow from the bike paths, but as revealed in an email exchange posted on Universal Hub, some DCR higher ups have a dismissive view of bike commuters.  Unfortunately, Universal Hub tends to have a right-wing bias and so many of the comments there reflect the idea that motor vehicles are normal and that bicycling is done by outsiders.  They say that maintaining bike paths in the winter wastes “their” taxpayer money and that if someone wants to bike in the winter they should use the plowed city streets (of course, I expect that if they were drivers behind you on a bike they’d tell you to get off the road).

The way I see it is that the city has streets for everyone using whatever mode of conveyance of their choice, protected paths for bike riders and walkers, and limited access highways like I-90, I-93, and Storrow Drive exclusively for motor vehicles.  Their would be outrage if Storrow Drive was not properly cleared after a snowstorm and drivers were told that they could still drive on the city streets.  Similarily, the idea that bike paths are recreational  and intended for commuters.  Storrow Drive, Soldiers Field Road and other parkways are maintained by the DCR and are still expected to open for commuters at any time other than a state of emergency.  It shouldn’t be too difficult for the DCR to send a plow down the bike path regularly during and after snowstorms, or arrange with another agency to do so.  And yes, the paths are wide enough for a truck with a plow as they are routinely used by patrol cars and maintenance vehicles in the warmer months.

Anyhow, I’ve probably said too much, and I’m glad that other people and groups are working for a positive resolution as well as bringing attention to winter biking in Boston.  Check out these links for more!

There has already been a positive response as the DCR is planning a meeting to discuss winter biking issues.  More information at the ever-resourceful BCU website.

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Write a Letter to Help Fix Cambridge Street

Wednesday is the deadline to help fix Cambridge Street by signing Fix Cambridge Street‘s community letter to MassDOT at http://tinyurl.com/CambridgeStreet.

Please also send an email to dot.feedback.highway@state.ma.us with your own comments (mention “Project File # 606376″).

Keep up with news on Facebook and Twitter.

My letter to MassDOT is below.

January 27, 2014

Richard Davey, Secretary and Chief Executive Officer
Frank DePaola, Administrator, Highway Division
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza,
Boston, MA 02114
RE: Project #606376 Cambridge Street bridge over I-90, Allston, Boston
Dear Secretary Davey and Administrator DePaolo:
I’m writing in regards to the Cambridge Street Overpass in Allston, Project #606376.  I appreciate that in recent public meetings and plans that community concerns have been incorporated onto the Cambridge Street renovations.  However, the street design is still geared toward high-speed / high-volume motor vehicle traffic, increasing the risks for bicyclists and pedestrians.
I work in Allston and live in Jamaica Plain, and whenever possible I prefer to commute by work.  Any route I take to work must cross the Massachusetts Turnpike, but crossings are few and far between with the majority of them designed almost exclusively for automotive traffic with wide lanes and high speeds (this includes Cambridge Street, as well as Carlton/Mounfort St, Beacon St, and Charlesgate).  These crossings are intimidating to bicyclists at best and downright dangerous at worst.  While the Cambridge Street crossing is the most direct route, I often go miles out of the way to Massachusetts Avenue to avoid the stress and risks of biking on Cambridge Street.
With this in mind, and the concerns of Allston community members, bicyclists, and pedestrians, I would like to encourage the following modifications to encourage the goal of slowing automotive traffic speed and creating a safer street for pedestrians and bicyclists:
  • Do not install a median fence.
  • Reallocate excess space from roadway to bicyclists and pedestrians
  • The new pedestrian crossing should use a standard red/yellow/green traffic signal
  • Plant landscaping in the median between the Mansfield Crosswalk & Lincoln Street.
  • Use permanent coloring to distinguish the sidewalk and cycletrack
Thank you for your consideration and attention to my concerns and those of others who wish to transform Cambridge Street into a safe, accessible and attractive gateway to the Allston community.  Working together we can the project to remake Cambridge Street something we can all be proud of.

 

Posted in Advocacy, Allston-Brighton, Bicycling, Boston, Urban Planning, Walking | Leave a comment

Boston Bikes 2013 Bike Survey

If you rode a bike in Boston anytime in 2013, Boston Bikes wants to hear from you.

Complete their survey online.  It just takes a few minutes.

 

 

Posted in Advocacy, Bicycling, Boston, Boston Bikes | Leave a comment

Cambridge Street Overpass Public Hearing Tonight in Allston

Cambridge Street Overpass Public Hearing (via LivableStreets)

TONIGHT: Tuesday, January 14, 2014, 6:00pm @Jackson Mann Community Center,
500 Cambridge Street, Allston

RSVP & discuss the project at https://www.facebook.com/events/1446934668862883/
Join the “Allston Footbridge” group to learn more: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AllstonFootbridge/

Follow “Fix Cambridge St” on Twitter at https://twitter.com/fixcambridgestr

For more information from MassDOT:
http://www.mhd.state.ma.us/default.asp?pgid=content/hearings/allston_011414&sid=hearing

I previously wrote on this topic back in July.

 

Posted in Advocacy, Allston-Brighton, Bicycling, Boston, Urban Planning, Walking | 1 Comment

New Hubway stations in Jamaica Plain!

8 new Hubway stations opened in Boston yesterday including four in Jamaica Plain! Now one can pick up a bike at Egleston Square, Hyde Square, Centre Street, the Monument. This will be a huge advantage for my commute as we go into the colder days of fall when I may not be up for peddling all the way to work.

New Docking Station by the Jamaica Plain monument (Photo via JP Bikes Facebook page)

Posted in Bike Share, Boston, Hubway, Jamaica Plain | Leave a comment