Mayor Menino scores another win for better biking in Boston.
After hundreds of hours of work from a diverse collaboration of academics, the Boston Police Department, the Boston Public Health Commission, and several Boston Cyclists Union interns, the city has far greater insight into the causes of bike crashes than ever before, thanks to an extensive new Cyclist Safety Report released by the city yesterday.
Mayor Thomas Menino also took the occasion to add a promising new goal for the city: to reduce the bike crash injury rate by 50% by 2020. The study seems poised to change the conversation around bike safety-and may even accelerate Boston’s bike boom.
The study’s well-timed release was tainted however by a math error in its “Findings” section. Both the Boston Globe and Boston Magazine are running corrections today on the number of bike crashes that involved a cyclist running a red light or a stop sign. It was originally reported as 28%, but the real figure is likely to be between 5.9% and 12%, (taking it either from the full number of crashes looked at (1,790), or only those which indicated a cause of some kind (891)).
This flaw and a few other calculation errors have been corrected in the report and appear to have been limited to the “Findings” section, which had a different author than the Boston Police Department (BPD) and Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) sections that follow. The actual numbers on running reds can be found on Page 43 of the report, in the BPD section.
The correct data indicates that while running red lights and stop signs is clearly causing crashes and should be discouraged, it is not the most dangerous behavioral factor measured. Riding against traffic was just as common, drivers “not seeing” the cyclist was 50% more common, and dooring was nearly twice as common, suggesting some additional enforcement priorities for the city. And any enforcement that targets cyclists should also be done in a way that helps ensure it does not discourage cycling–keeping in mind the city’s goal of increasing the Bike to Work rate to 10% by 2020.
Some examples of crash types in the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT).
Some familiar crash types, such as the right hook and left cross, are missing from the study because they have yet to be coded in this data-though that appears to be a future goal. The police Department’s study recommends training officers to use a sophisticated standard called the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis Tool (PBCAT) to better classify crashes in the future.
Some of the more interesting findings and possible recommendations were:
- The number of crashes isn’t rising, but ridership is-which could indicate a “Safety in Numbers” effect. If it’s true, it means increasing ridership may play a part in making individuals safer.
- Taxis are twice as likely to be involved in doorings as cars-which makes the hackney industry a great target for driver education and design or technological solutions (pay attention MIT). The city has been working on a sticker for taxi doors for over a year now and may be close to implementation.
- People of college age are disproportionally affected by bicycle crashes-which indicates the city’s universities have a stake in creating safer street designs around their campuses, and an opportunity to educate their students on bike safety.
- Bike injuries and deaths may have cost between $6.2 and $46.7 million in 2010 alone.
- Bicycle crashes occur in every neighborhood, city council district and legislative district.
- Pedestrians hit by cyclists account for only 2% of all bike crash incidents in the Boston Police Data, and only 1.5% in the Boston EMS Data.
A crash cluster on S. Huntington that shows where all the crashes that involve bike wheels getting stuck in the trolley tracks are happening. Focusing a design solution on this small area could reap big safety benefits.
And one of the most powerful developments coming from the BPD study is yet to come. One of the biggest tasks in the study was taking out all the personal information in the police reports so they can safely be made available to various city departments, the advocates, researchers and perhaps even the public. The idea is to make them available in a new interactive crash map where neighborhood residents and transportation consultants alike would be able to get a good sense of what the existing problems might be on a street that is being reconstructed or repainted.
The study does not provide any new significant insights on helmet use and its effect on preventing crashes or injury, though it does mention that other studies have shown that when you are in a crash, helmets may reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by up to 88 percent.
This is true. Wearing a helmet is the smart thing to do. But even if everyone did, it would not be likely to move the needle significantly on the total number of injuries from bike crashes in the city of Boston.
In 2010, according to a recent Boston Emergency Room study the Boston Public Health Commission was involved in creating in 2011, head injuries were only 2.2% (31) of emergency room visits for bicycle related incidents. Much more common were fractures and dislocations (398), open wounds (231) and sprains and strains (144).
The upshot is that there really is no magic bullet for bike safety. Reducing the bike crash injury rate by 50% is more likely to be accomplished by a comprehensive approach–with physically-separated bike facilities like cycletracks a necessary ingredient, but also biker and driver safety education, new legislation that encourages motorists to be more careful around cyclists and pedestrians, and many other elements.
One new tool to hit Boston this spring is truck sideguards on the city’s Public Works Department truck fleet. The largest pilot program of its kind, the program is meant to encourage private companies with trucks to follow suit. Buses and trucks were involved in the majority of cyclist deaths last year, and the addition of wheel guards for buses and sideguards for trucks would help make those types of crashes less serious.
The city is already beginning to address some of these approaches, including cycletracks proposed for Seaver St. in Roxbury and Mt. Vernon St. in Dorchester this year, but this new crash report can help us be smarter about the details. It also helps build the argument for building cycletracks in corridors where bike crashes are more frequent-such as the proposals for cycletracks around the Public Garden and down Malcolm X Blvd.
But more importantly–this crash study was a collaborative effort. If our community continues to foster these rich collaborations between Boston’s bright academic stars, advocacy groups, and government, the future will be bright for all modes of travel.
Heartfelt thanks go out to Rappaport Fellow Dahianna Lopez, BPD Commissioner Ed Davis, BPD Superintendent Daniel Linskey, BPD Captain Jack Danilecki, BPD’s Marjorie Bernadeau, Maria Cheevers, Treymayne Youmans and Carlos Cannon; Boston EMS chief James Hooley, EMS data analyst James Salvia, BPHC Commissioner Barbara Ferrer, Boston Area Research Initiative’s Dan O’Brien, Harvard School of Public Health’s David Hemenway, WalkBoston’s Dorothea Hass, and Boston Cyclists Union volunteers Ira Hubert, Jannik Mikkelsen, Erik Adams, Natasha Gayl, John Ferrante, and Rafael Medina who directly helped complete this research.
Membership and Development Manager – Boston Cyclists Union
The Membership and Development Manager is the main generator and organizer of the Boston Cyclists Union’s rapidly growing membership and volunteer corps, also overseeing other fundraising and development opportunities.
- Hours: Full time
- Reports to: Executive Director
About the Boston Cyclists Union:
The Boston Cyclists Union works to make the city healthier and more enjoyable by promoting the bicycle. Our fast growing 1,000-member grassroots organization is becoming one of the most active and effective advocacy groups in the city. In 2012, our membership doubled. In 2013, we hope to double it again. The Boston Cyclists Union’s work is helping to increase ridership in Boston, Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville. We want to Connect the City with a complete system of physically separated bikeways designed so that anyone, from an 8-year old child to an 80-year old grandmother will feel safe and comfortable riding a bike.
- Lead and manage programs and events designed to retain, maintain and grow Bike Union membership.
- Identify grant opportunities, communicate with foundation officers, and create drafts for grant proposals.
- Identify contract opportunities, communicate with contractees, and create drafts for contract proposals.
- In collaboration with the Executive Director, develop and guide major donor strategy.
- Set membership strategy, membership numbers and budget goals to produce desired results.
- Develop targeted membership materials and campaigns with diverse communities and partners (e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Phone-A-Thons, events, etc).
- Manage lead generation and customer retention programs.
- Collect and analyze historic and survey data to create new programs and refine existing membership programs.
- Champion new practices in membership maintenance and recruiting and implement new strategies.
- Develop and conduct volunteer trainings focused on member recruitment and increased member engagement in Union activities.
- Develop and manage business and employer membership and member discount proragrams.
- Work with the Executive Director and Development Committee to improve upon existing and create new programs and outreach for membership.
- Responsible for a wide variety communications involving all facets of membership including new programs, weekly and ongoing communications, and all member messaging and branded materials.
- Collaborate with Development Committee and skilled volunteers on membership materials.
- Create organization-wide themes, talking points and messaging across all trainings and membership materials.
- Perform other duties as assigned.
- Deep commitment to the Boston Cyclists Union mission.
- 3-5 years experience in a similar field.
- Strong interpersonal and relational skills.
- Demonstrated track record of successful project planning and goal reaching.
- Ability to work individually and as part of a team.
- Excellent communicator.
- Superior analytical and problem-solving skills.
- Experience with direct mail, e-mail campaign marketing, phone banking, and social media communications.
- Organized, and detail oriented.
- Professional, positive, outgoing, friendly demeanor.
- Desire and ability to implement systems that will allow your work to scale quickly and significantly to be able to reach more people.
- Extra points for working knowledge of Salesforce, Constant Contact, Vertical Response and/or InDesign.
Salary is based on experience. We are a small, extremely fast-growing non-profit and strong performance will be rewarded as our budget allows. This is a full-time position.
How to Apply:
Send a compelling cover letter and resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Membership and Development Manager Candidate, YOUR NAME” in the subject line, and be sure to mention where you saw the job advertised. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis until the position is filled. We strongly encourage applicants to submit their application by February 20, 2013. People of color and women are strongly encouraged to apply.
Boston Cyclists Union is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political orientation.
Rendering by the city of what the finished cycletrack on Beacon St. could look like.
By Alex Epstein, Mark Chase and Christine Casalini
On Monday the City of Somerville changed up their public meeting style at Somerville’s Argenziano School to help bring the community together around their plan for a cycletrack on Beacon Street. Rather than presenting and letting the audience react, the city appointed one person each to speak for residents, businesses, cyclists and pedestrians in turn, followed by short Q & A sessions, and then broke out into evenly divided groups to try to find solutions. Audience members were encouraged to wear colored stickers that allowed them to represent their many overlapping interests.
Alderman Maryann Heuston led things off, representing the official resident interest. Key points she raised addressed crosswalks and how to better manage parking for businesses and residents; she specifically mentioned a parking meter policy and putting to better use the many off-street private lots on Beacon Street.
During public comments, one landlord feared that the project would devalue his house and that no one would want to rent his apartments anymore. This perspective was quickly countered by another Beacon Street homeowner who believed that cycletracks and a renewed streetscape will boost his property value and the desirability of the neighborhood. By the sound of the clapping in the room it appeared that proponents outnumbered opponents by at least two to one. As the meeting went on it became clear that the proponents were not just cyclists. Those who spoke in favor included several Beacon Street residents and one prominent business owner.
Following Alderman Heuston, Beacon Street Laundromat owner Domenic Ruccio made a very short presentation asserting that the project would make at least some of the businesses on Beacon Street “inviable” and that empty storefronts would follow. This was countered by the Biscuit bakery owner Andrew Platt, who expects it to bring more customers and economic benefits. He noted that at first he too was skeptical, but now sees many benefits to the project. He urged fellow business owners to embrace the changes. Platt is the first business owner to speak out publicly in support, though others have confided support to neighborhood volunteers working on the cycletrack effort.
One resident lamented the increase in traffic on Beacon Street as Kendall Square builds out millions of square feet of employment. Kendall Square was recently noted, however, for a 14 percent decrease in car traffic even as more office space has been added. It is hoped that by encouraging more commuters to bike to work, automobile traffic on Beacon St. will decrease as well.
Alex Epstein, Beacon Street resident and Chair of the Somerville Bicycle Committee followed as the representative of cyclists. Donning a haircut from Kiki’s and noting the many local businesses he patronizes, he spoke about how Beacon has been reinvented before and how critical bike improvements on this corridor are for SomerVision (the city’s comprehensive plan). He defined what a physically separated cycletrack is and how its benefits address years of community input to the Bike Committee, such as eliminating dooring crashes and encouraging residents who are interested in cycling but concerned about safety to get on their bikes. Along the way he debunked the myth that most of the parking spaces are to be removed for cycletracks (in fact only 30-35 reasonably well used legal spaces would be eliminated). Alex wrapped up showing that over 70% of Beacon Street’s customers walk or bike and since research shows bicyclists outspend drivers at restaurants, bars, and convenience stores, more bikes mean more business.
Astrid Dodds from Agassiz, Cambridge was a surprise addition (being from Cambridge) and spoke for pedestrians. She made detailed points about the need for more crosswalks along Beacon, particularly between Somerville Avenue and Sacramento Street. At the same time she expressed concern about bicyclists riding on the sidewalk and hitting pedestrians. In the design, the cycletrack is separated from the sidewalk by street furniture and some advocates have called for changes that would put the cycetrack at a third level in between street and sidewalk levels, to help indicate to the vision impaired and others that a crossing exists. In Denmark, cycletracks through pedestrian areas are commonly sunk just .75 inches to indicate the crossing.
During the breakout sessions, conceptual drawings were displayed on easels and people plastered them with sticky notes to record their feedback. Loosely organized tables of attendees then reported on their feedback, which was usually detailed: how to handle a specific type of parking space, lane markings, types of crosswalks, and more.
Some feedback was to keep the cycletrack raised at minor side streets (just as it will be level across driveways) and to dash and color green the bike lanes through every intersection. Also, for pedestrian safety, installing proper crosswalks at every block seems important, especially since with parking on one side, more people will be crossing the street.
Overall the meeting gave the supporters of the cycletrack a great deal of positive momentum, but whether or not that momentum will carry through to the more important state public hearing on the 25 percent design for the street this Monday remains to be seen. At this meeting, all comments are recorded and those in favor and against will be counted by the MassDOT, helping it determine whether or not to approve the project. If the cycletrack concept is approved, the next stage will be to reach the 75 percent design where many details will be ironed out. Advocates plan to watch this process closely and continue to improve design before it is built in 2014.
Monday February 4th, 6:30 PM
JFK Elementary School (rear entrance)
5 Cherry Street
If you can’t attend the hearing, send a letter! It’s very important to make your voice heard. Only together can we make an impact on safer street designs. Send your comments to:
Thomas F. Broderick, P.E., Chief Engineer
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116
Attention.: Project Management Section, Project File No. 607209
Written comments will also be accepted at the hearing. Mailed statements and exhibits intended for inclusion in the public hearing transcript must be postmarked within ten (10) business days of this Public Hearing.
By Charvak Karpe
The NYC Bikes in Buildings law guarantees a secure location for bikes in the work place.
Recently my office moved to One Boston Place, a CBRE owned property, from a location an Faneuil Hall, also owned by CBRE. Bikes were officially banned at my old office, but the policy wasn’t enforced. I’d wheel my bike into my office, while another tenant would keep hers in the women’s room.
The first time I tried bringing my bike to the office at One Boston, a security staff member stopped me. He said the building didn’t want to be liable if someone stole the bike, which didn’t make any sense to me. I asked him who set the policy, and he answered:
“There’s nothing you can say to [the building manager] that would change her mind.”
He said the rack outside was completely safe, and monitored by guards.
“If someone takes parts off my bike, we’ll have it on video, but I won’t have my parts,” I said.
“No, we’ll stop them while they do it,” he promised.
I looked up at the monitors above his desk.
“Nobody’s watching the rack now,” I said.
He told me that the camera was being monitored on another screen behind the desk, that I couldn’t see.
So, I bought an old beat up road bike and locked it outside.
A few weeks later, someone took the front wheel and security didn’t know about it until I reported it stolen later in the day. The guard on duty then told me that an entire bike had been stolen there a month before.
Thinking that I could maybe sue the building for guaranteeing the safety of my bike at the rack, lying about that safety, and then having it stolen while guards were supposedly watching, I figured I had a pretty good position to work from. I met the building management and listened to their concerns around bikes causing damage to the building. I presented the building management with information on the NYC Bikes in Buildings law and proposed the building charge a fee for permits to bring bikes in. That way, only people with nice bikes would bring them in, and it might assuage their paranoia about messengers and beater bikes. Also Bike Lids, a product I found that protects bikes from theft, might be secure, look much better, and serve tenants. Considering that in the fall of 2002, One Boston Place completed a $6 million lobby renovation featuring polished green onyx, African cherry wood and mahogany, spending around $12,000 on dramatically improving the exterior appearance with some Bike Lids would be cheap and make a lot of sense since it would earn more LEED points. The building is up for LEED renewal in a couple years, and the existing rack was installed with the last LEED renewal, so my proposal may have some hope yet, but apparently they’re not chomping at the bit to install them.
The building manager said she appreciated my professional approach, agreed that bikes are the way of the future, took materials I had printed on the NYC law, but said she would have to check with the owners and couldn’t promise anything. I had an escalation plan floating around in my head that involved first suing the building for the stolen wheel and then bringing my bike in despite of the policy because the use of force continuum prevents the security staff from physically stopping me. The legal process for enforcing the building’s policy would be a hassle for them and either they would ignore the problem or they’d contact my company about the issue. Then it would be my company’s problem instead of mine because they would either have to fight the building policy or let me go (I can easily go work someplace else that better supports my lifestyle choices).
Several weeks later however, the building manager instituted a policy allowing bikes to use the freight elevator, just like in NYC. When I started bringing my bike in, the security guard who first told me I couldn’t bring my bike in the building high fived me with a smile and said, “the battle is won.”
I saw the head of security as I was leaving one night and he was very friendly, telling me how his friend was into racing bikes and was going to participate in the Mayor’s Cup race. Everyone seemed happy with the outcome and showed no ill will towards bikes. A colleague of European origin agreed that it was absurd that bringing a bike in was even an issue and that I had to use the freight elevator instead of the passenger elevator. Like, do people in wheelchairs have to use the freight elevator too?
One problem that I encountered was that the freight elevator is unstaffed part of the evening and used for garbage disposal the rest of the night. That means I have to go downstairs, wait five minutes for the freight elevator, interrupt the trash disposal to go all the way back up and pick up the bike. Instead, I began using the passenger elevator to leave the building in the evening because most tenants leave before I do, but one night the building manager saw me and reiterated that I absolutely had to use the freight elevator. I’m a little surprised she didn’t pretend she didn’t see me instead. Using the freight elevator in the evening is an inconvenience. I’m still being treated unfairly, but I’ve won a little progress and I figure it may not be worth fighting until I really want to quit my job.
Do you have a story about bike parking in your home, school or workplace? Please send it to the Bike Union at email@example.com. We’re collecting stories for our indoor bike parking improvement campaign. Your story could help inspire a city ordinance or other action to correct the many problems we hear about.
Bike Union executive director Pete Stidman explains cycletracks and crash data on Fox 25, Mon., Dec. 10.
It’s unfortunate that it takes the loss of life to awaken the powerful news media to the problem of bike safety——but when it happens it’s important to send the right message. Bike Union Executive Director Pete Stidman has been spreading the message of how Boston can become safer for bikes in the Boston Globe
, on NECN
, and on Fox 25
over the past week, to name a few.
Union volunteers have also been in touch with hundreds of members to get their feedback, suggestions and support via the annual phone-a-thon. (You too can volunteer tonight!) Members are saying they value that they now have a voice, that they appreciate and want to see more of the Union Rider newsletter, and that above all the advocacy of the Bike Union is why they ask their friends and family to join up and support. Together we are stronger.
By John Ferrante and Pete Stidman
Christopher Weigl, 23, Boston's fifth bike crash victim of 2012. Ridership has increased 31 percent this year over 2011, according to interim Boston Bikes coordinator Kris Carter, while ambulance runs for bike crashes have gone up by 5 percent.
In the wake of Thursday’s tragedy on Commonwealth Avenue, a previously scheduled bike safety hearing called by City Councillor Ayanna Pressley produced a significant victory for the Boston Cyclists Union’s long-term bike crash data improvement campaign this week.
Interim bike coordinator Kris Carter told the council the Menino Administration is now committed to carrying out the first thorough analysis of Boston Police narrative reports for bike crashes ever completed in the city. The analysis will cover 2009-2011 and will give transportation planners and others the first piece of the bike crash puzzle in Boston–the cause of crashes.
The commitment to study crashes was a ray of hope on an otherwise sad and emotional day. While Union volunteers rode to work with City Councillor Felix Arroyo from Jamaica Plain to highlight bicycle safety, 23-year-old Boston University photojournalism student Christopher Weigl was killed by a turning tractor-trailer truck in front of Landry’s Bicycle Shop on Commonwealth Ave. at St. Paul Street. The crash’s location along a major bike commuting route was seen by hundreds of passing cyclists and quickly attracted citywide media attention. Some crash site witnesses changed their plans and left work to testify at the bike safety hearing at city hall.
The hearing began with a moment of silence for Weigl, and then turned toward a very serious discussion of how to put an end to the violence cyclists experience on Boston’s streets.
“We want Boston to be the safest bicycling city in the country,” said the hearing’s lead sponsor, Councillor at-large Ayanna Pressley, who said that as someone who uses public transit exclusively and doesn’t own a car. “I view bike lanes as an equal part of our transportation infrastructure.”
“We are actually talking about a matter of life and death,” said Councillor Arroyo, who co-sponsored the bill. He recounted his morning ride with the Bike Union. “You actually have to fight the cars to get on to the dedicated cyclists lane.”
Councillor Arroyo cited a ridership increase in Seville, Spain from 6,000 cyclists to 60,000 as directly attributable to the creation of ultra-safe cycletracks throughout the city. “If you build it, they will come,” he said. His trip to Seville’s 2011 Velo City conference was funded by SRAM and Bikes Belong after a recommendation from the Bike Union.
Testimony of Barbara Ferrer from the Public Health Commission was telling. She acknowledged that while her department had access to some data — police incident reports and Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) data — those resources are not typically used for injury prevention research. But thanks to constant pressure from the bike union since the 2010 death of 22-year-old Eric Hunt at Huntington and South Huntington in 2010, this is about to change.
Testimony from the acting Boston Bikes coordinator in the Mayor’s Office, Kris Carter, included an announcement that a study of three years of police narrative reports from bike crashes would be completed in the short term. Boston police narrative reports contain the information about cause of bike crashes, and have never been looked at in a comprehensive way before.
Although this is a big win for the Bike Union and all cyclists in the city, it is only a first step towards creating a more comprehensive data set on bicycle crashes.
Bike Union executive director Pete Stidman testified on behalf of the Union and explained that tying in emergency room data would provide information on severity of injury. By linking the two data sources using EMS data, one would be able to see what types of crashes are causing the most severe injuries, and target those crashes in particular with a wide variety of education, enforcement, and infrastructure improvements. The data would also help give insight into whether or not cyclists are to be blamed for the crashes, as is often the slant in certain media outlets.
“What you hear a lot is, ‘What are we doing about these scofflaw cyclists?’ I’m not saying that cyclists don’t cause accidents; they do,” said Stidman, citing one study that found bicyclists at fault in one-quarter of bike accidents. “But that is not the key problem.”
Stidman also requested that personal information in the data be redacted so that Boston’s rich educational and research community could access it and come up with innovative ways to analyze it. A broad spectrum of research specialists, from places such as the Harvard School of Public Health, MIT, Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the Boston Area Research Initiative have been in touch with the Union and expressed their interest in getting ahold of the data.
Union board vice president Phi Tran testified about the Vietnamese community's use of cycling as a way to get around, and their loss of 63-year-old cyclist Doan Bui to a drunk driver on Morrissey Blvd. earlier this year.
Testimony from Stidman, Anne Lusk (Harvard School of Public Health), Steven Miller (LivableStreets Alliance), Jessica Robertson, and Sarah Freeman (Emerald Necklace Conservancy) also focused on infrastructure, and in particular, the creation of more separate facilities such as cycletracks and bike paths.
“Biking has been growing rapidly, but most people in Boston are still too scared to bike,” said Robertson, Transportation Coordinator for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “The city must install more cycle tracks and bike lanes with physical separation from traffic.”
Carter cited plans for cycletracks on Malcolm X Boulevard, Summer Street, and Melnea Cass Boulevard. The Union is pushing for cycletracks on Charles Street, the streets around the Public Garden, Seaver Street in Roxbury, and Beacon Street in Somerville.
Beacon St. is a busy commuter route lacking safe cycling infrastructure
The third public meeting on Somerville’s ambitious Beacon Street cycletrack proposal started out with a series of surprising slurs on bicyclists.
“When I was a kid and I got my first bike, the first thing my dad told me was: Don’t ride in the street,” said Vincent Drago, a longtime Somerville resident. He added that Somerville Ave. runs parallel to Beacon Street and has a bike lane “as wide as two tables.” “Why do you need to bike on Beacon Street at all?”
A second resident stood up and asked why the city would encourage bicyclists to come into the neighborhood when they wouldn’t be able to afford a house. In all five speakers trash-talked cyclists before Boston Cyclists Union Executive Director Pete Stidman got to the microphone.
“I am not a Somerville resident, but I am someone who represents cyclists who don’t normally have a voice in these decision-making processes… and I have never heard such insults,” he said.
Stidman presented a crash map of Beacon Street and cited results of the Union’s Customer Survey of Beacon Street (carried out with help from Livable Streets Alliance) and encouraged residents to take the decision “seriously,” because people are getting injured on the street.
Over the previous weeks, Union and Livable Streets Alliance volunteers from Somerville and beyond criss-crossed the street’s business areas to collect 406 surveys that asked people about their shopping habits and how they got to Beacon Street. The results indicated that the grand majority of shoppers (68 percent) were pedestrians, that cyclists and cars were roughly even (even though cyclists make up roughly a quarter of the through traffic on Beacon), and MBTA transit users a close fourth.
When motorists were asked how they would respond if parking was “harder to find,” one third said they would go somewhere else, that group making up 3.4 percent of the total customer mix.
The Union concluded from the study that efforts should be made to make parking for businesses easy to find through better regulation or metering near business storefronts—neither of which are done now for Café Rustica, Beacon St. Laundromat, or the businesses around Star Market. Also, based on evidence collected when other cycletracks have been installed around the country and the world, a longer cycletrack (e.g., all the way to Inman Square) is more likely to increase the cycling rate. Given that cyclists are stopping to shop more often than motorists on Beacon, such an increase could be a boon for local businesses.
A long evening followed Stidman’s comments as people on each side of the debate stepped up to the mic to state their opinion—each getting roughly the same volume of applause, albeit from different parts of the room.
“[The number of people biking] was in the dozens seven or eight years ago when I started and it’s going to keep growing,” said Somerville resident Phil Goff, citing the city’s bike count of 253 cyclists at peak hour at the intersection Beacon and Washington streets. “I think the city should really be considering a cycletrack all the way down to Inman Square.”
About as many speakers described times they’d been doored or hit while biking on the street as did shop owners predicting doom for their businesses. But a few paths toward resolution were also forged.
Hayes Morrison, Somerville’s director of transportation and infrastructure, said the city would go back and study the parking situation in depth, confirming the counts made before and also looking at the twice-a-week street cleaning nights when half the parking is off limits on Beacon. The city is also pursuing parking space leasing arrangements with Star Market and other parking lot owners on the street, many of whom have vast amounts of parking to spare.
Despite studies that indicate massive reductions in injury risk for cyclists when cycletracks are installed, and the fact that streets are fully reconstructed only every 30 to 50 years or so, there are still a number of people against improving Beacon Street for cyclists—or calling for a simple repaving. It’s important that those who recognize the opportunity in this $4 million project to increase access to this key commuter route make their opinions known.
There are two ways you can help ensure a safer ride on Beacon Street.
1. Sign the petition here.
2. If you are a Somerville resident, write a letter (as short or as long as you like) and cc the following list of people including the Somerville Chief of Staff, Somerville Director of Transportation and Tranposrtation, MassDOT Project Manager, Somerville Aldermen At Large, and your ward alderman. Find their email addresses here. Not sure which ward you live in? Click here!
Want to learn more? Check out our Beacon Street Factsheet and our Beacon St. crash map.
The Casey Arborway project will connect the Southwest Corridor, Franklin Park and the Arboretum
If you support the bright future vision of Forest Hills as a bustling business center and green gateway to the Southwest Corridor, Franklin Park and the Arboretum, the Union urges you to pen a letter to the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency this month as the Casey Arborway project undergoes environmental review.
The environmental review was triggered by the removal of nine trees wider than 14 inches at chest height, according to the report but the project will pose no major environmental impact.
Let MEPA know what you think the health benefits of the current design will bring, such as creating easier access to parks and increasing the number of people who ride a bike for transportation or exercise. The filing is available at bit.ly/caseyMEPA. Comments are due by Jan. 8 and can be sent to Michael.Trepanier@state.ma.us.
Despite this reality, a small group of those who were frustrated by the neighborhood’s choice to build at-grade rather than bypassing Forest Hills with a highway bridge will be trying to use the MEPA review to derail the process. At this point, all delays have the potential to threaten funding for the project, which has a spending deadline in mid 2016.
It will also be important to show up in force at a MEPA public meeting on Thurs. Dec. 6, 6pm, at English High School, 144 McBride St., Jamaica Plain. The Union strongly recommends cyclists turn out in force and speak up to be recorded as a supporter of the project.
Meanwhile the plans for the new Casey Arborway continue to evolve as the state now moves from 25 percent design toward a more detailed and complete 75 percent design. One particular sticking point is the future of a dual system of bike lanes and two-way bike paths along the new arborway. Pedestrian and disabled persons advocates have requested shorter crossing distances, pointing out that bikes would have an enormous amount cross section width with a dual system.
The Bike Union is asking MassDOT to improve the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s snow removal capacity before removing the bike lanes from the plan in the only practical way they can under current rules-with capital equipment. Specifically, a high-speed Bombardier snowplow.
The current view from Rutherford Ave.- not exactly accessible.
For months Charlestown has been divided over the future character of Rutherford Avenue-will it continue to operate similar to a highway, or become a walkable and bike-able city street? A meeting has been scheduled for Thurs., Dec. 6 that may help decide the matter.
At issue is a proposed change to a formerly community-approved plan to make Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue far more pedestrian and bike friendly area. The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) first proposed the change as an option back in May in response to community pressure from a group that raised alarms about future traffic jams that were not reflected in BTD traffic projections.
The new option would maintain an underpass at Austin Street that the city’s traffic engineers admit is not required to handle traffic and would hinder pedestrian access to Bunker Hill Community College. Regardless of whether or not the underpass stays or goes, a linear park and bike path along one side of the street will connect from the Alford St. Bridge and the border with Everett to the N. Washington St. bridge that connects Charlestown to the North End. That bridge is also slated for reconstruction, and the Union is already working to ensure better bikeways on it.
“The Boston Transportation Department wants your input to select a preferred design,” reads an announcement for the meeting, which will be held Thurs., Dec. 6, 6:30pm at the Knights of Columbus hall, 545 Medford St., Charlestown.
Since the meeting in May, Gerald Robbins, former vice president and one of the founders of the Boston Cyclists Union, has helped found a new neighborhood initiative called the Rutherford Corridor Improvement Coalition. The new RCIC has hosted several community meetings extolling the benefits of the “surface option,” and is now calling together people who support calmer traffic and pedestrian-friendly environments.
“We believe that this may be the last public meeting in which to speak up so that Rutherford Avenue reaches its potential to safely accommodate and integrate all modes of transportation, reconnect the neighborhood, and create long-term land use decisions that best benefits the neighborhood and region,” wrote Robbins in an email. “We are asking residents to support the surface road plan at the Austin Street intersection.”