A letter from the Executive Director: Time to pass the torch!

Riding on the Dunsmuir St. cycletrack in Vancouver during the Global Velo-City Conference in 2012.

Riding on the Dunsmuir St. cycletrack in Vancouver during the Global Velo-City Conference in 2012.

The Boston Cyclists Union’s first five years have shown amazing growth, culminating in some incredible achievements fixing bikes and fixing streets. The Union played a significant role in bringing the City of Boston from worst cycling city in the country status into an innovative leader in bike planning and policy. I have worked very hard and I’ve also enjoyed every minute of it, and most of all getting to know all of you.

My passion is to influence positive change in the city I love, and hopefully to influence others around the world to do the same in their own hometowns. With the victories on Comm Ave. and Vision Zero that you and I played a strong role in, we’ve entered a new and interesting era for bike advocacy in Boston–one where the precedents are on the ground and many of the administrative tools we will need to create a far safer and more enjoyable city are falling into place.

These developments and the Bike Union’s strong framework for the Bikeways for Everybody and Vision Zero campaigns create a natural opportunity for new leadership at the Bike Union. They also give me an opportunity to pursue exciting new ideas on how I can be even more effective at creating change in our region.

Pitching the Bike Union in the rain on City Hall Plaza in 2011.

Pitching the Bike Union in the rain on City Hall Plaza in 2011.

While there is no specific timeframe for me passing the baton, the board and I are working together on a nationwide search for a new Executive Director. We’re looking for a person who has the passion and skillset required to take this wonderful, scrappy little organization with a big footprint into the future–toward new and fascinating challenges. Meanwhile, the Bike Union will continue to teach bike repair, build the Bikeways for Everybody campaign, and advocate new strategies for Vision Zero. I will remain director of the Union until we have further news to announce.

Rest assured that even after I move on, the Bike Union will remain committed to focusing primarily on the City of Boston in the core of our service area, which, thanks to our support and to the incredible work of the Walsh Administration, is emerging as a national leader on bike safety. Brookline, Cambridge and Somerville, as always, are within our sights as well.

With candidate for mayor Marty Walsh and former Union board president Phi Tran at the Bike Union's Annual Party (Meeting) in 2013.

With candidate for mayor Marty Walsh and former Union board president Phi Tran at the Bike Union’s Annual Party (Meeting) in 2013.

I welcome your calls and communications as I consider my next steps, and I encourage all of you to keep the Bike Union in your hearts when it comes time to renew your membership, make a donation or volunteer. When the time comes for me to leave, undoubtedly there will be a party invite in your inbox! The Bike Union’s power has always come not from me, but from you, our supporters, and I thank your for that support.

I love you all and ¡Viva la Bike Union!


Pete Stidman

P.S. (from the Board of Directors) The Board wishes to thank Pete Stidman for his tremendous hard work, inexhaustible efforts, and myriad achievements in building the Boston Cyclists Union from scratch. In just a few short years, he has made it into a respected, informed, and constructive voice for advancing our mission of creating a healthier, more livable Boston region through promoting the bicycle for everyday transportation. The Bike Union’s mission is of course part of his own personal mission, and we look forward to his continuing help and participation in our organization as well as in the city and region.

Celebrate Boston's biggest cycletrack yet

A rendering of the innovative new Connect Historic Boston "Bike Trail" a.k.a. cycletrack coming to Causeway Street near TD North Garden.

A rendering of the innovative new Connect Historic Boston “Bike Trail” a.k.a. cycletrack coming to Causeway Street near TD North Garden.

Way back in September of 2010 the Bike Union sent a comment letter to the city on a 25% design for Causeway Street in Boston. It suggested for the first time the concept of “Harborbike;” a two-way cycletrack connecting Atlantic, Commercial and Causeway streets.

The idea kicked around in Boston’s City Hall for a year or two as plans for the three streets continued to evolve, getting mentions in public meetings for bike lanes on Atlantic, Commercial and Causeway, but then got picked up by a team of planners working on ideas for “Connect Historic Boston” – a project that aimed to improve access for visitors to National Park Service properties as well and thousands of Boston residents.

The resulting innovative and smart Boston Transportation Department concept won a very competitive $15.5 million national TIGER Grant in 2013 and hundreds of Boston Cyclists Union members like you showed up at several public meetings to support it at design meetings ever since-helping to create an amazing new facility that will be safe and inviting to people of all ages and abilities.

Tomorrow, the first ground will be broken!

Come join us, the city, the state, the feds and Boston’s bike advocacy community for this huge historic moment!

Connect Historic Boston Groundbreaking
Fri., July 10, 1pm
(open house starting at noon)
Union Street in the Blackstone Block
(near Union Street and Marshall Street)

See you there!

A Magic May and a new mission

Bike Union volunteers taught bike repair for free to help attract more attention to the Go Boston 2030 Visioning Lab--which is creating a new transportation plan for Boston.

Bike Union volunteers taught bike repair for free to help attract more attention to the Go Boston 2030 Visioning Lab–which is creating a new transportation plan for Boston.

It’s a pleasant trick of nature that the first month of fair weather biking in Boston is also a time when the fall and winter’s labors produce fruit-in the form of significant bike activism victories. Did you catch them all?

First, the weather. Every bicyclist was lobbying Mother Nature for an early end to this winter’s ferocity and she granted that wish to great cheers. The Bike Union welcomed the sun at Wake Up the Earth, Harvard Mayfair, the Annual Spring Kickoff, and the Rush Hour Race. Our staff and volunteers really tested their limits, but all the hard work paid off with over $20,000 in donations and over 200 new memberships during the month of May.

People join the Boston Cyclists Union because of the powerful work it does. And they had a multitude of examples to choose from this May. Riding on the heels of winning protected intersections on Commonwealth Ave in April, and a Vision Zero commitment from Mayor Walsh, the month had it’s own list of wins.

As the month dawned, the work of the Urban Paths & Parkways Committee, led by executive director Pete Stidman, heard back on a request that some of the money used to repave roads would be re-appropriated to repave critical bike paths. After querying over 70 advocates from around the state, the Charles River paths were the clear priority ask for the UPPC. As a result, the DCR agreed to repave two miles of the Charles River paths on the Boston side of the river this fall.

On the weekend of May 8-9, hundreds of people flocked into the GoBoston 2030 visioning forum, part of a citywide planning process director Stidman helps guide from his seat on the steering committee. The Bike Union was there in another way as well, teaching bike repair to visitors to help make sure a wide diversity of bike voices showed up. Their votes on the thousands of questions gathered will serve as the basis of a new transportation plan for the city.

On Wed. May 13, Stidman sat down to his first meeting of the official Vision Zero Task Force, discussing new ways police could be reporting crashes so as to provide more information on how to prevent them with bike researcher Anne Lusk (a co-founder of the Bike Union). The new task force is largely comprised of the groups and agencies that have been working on the health commission’s Crash Data Task Force for the past several years.

A comparison of the design concept submitted to the Town of Brookline by the Bike Union, and the design the town came up with afterward.

A comparison of the design concept submitted to the Town of Brookline by the Bike Union, and the design the town came up with afterward.

Later that evening, a half a year’s work on the Gateway East project in Brookline paid off at a public meeting in the town hall. A project that started without any bike infrastructure whatsoever six months ago now has cycletracks, thanks to an effort that had lots of contributors(including Anne Lusk and members of the Brookline Bicycle Committee). The Bike Union contributed a full design concept, an artistic rendering of what it might look like, and dozens of calls with key stakeholders and decision makers. The tools helped the community make a more effective argument to win the kind of safe streets that they want, and the calls helped pave the way. The project also includes some of the first “floating bus stops” in the area.

The very next day, Boston’s Inspectional Services Department began inspecting trucks contracting the City of Boston for the installation of sideguards and blind spot mirrors-thanks to an ordinance the Bike Union helped pass. The mirrors help truck drivers stay aware of people nearby and should a crash occur, sideguards help prevent serious injury or death. There is also now a bill moving through the State House that would extend the requirement to all trucks of a certain size registered in the state, it’s sponsored by three great Dans: Representatives Dan Hunt, Dan Ryan and Dan Cullinane. Go Dans go!

Civil Engineering professor Peter Furth passes along his knowledge of the Dutch version of Vision Zero to City staff.

Civil Engineering professor Peter Furth passes along his knowledge of the Dutch version of Vision Zero to City staff.

On the Friday the 15th, bike activist of the holy variety Rev. Laura Everett and the Bike Union held a touching Blessing of the Bikes on Copley Plaza and then on Sunday the kids came out for the JP Bikes Spring Roll and Brookline Bike Parade, setting an apropos prologue for Bike Union board member Peter Furth, who was called in to City Hall on that Monday to give a detailed presentation on how the Dutch accomplish their version of Vision Zero to the city’s entire leadership on Transportation.After witnessing the power of Dr. Furth’s words, it’s clear that a new shift is just beginning to take place in city hall: the idea that we need to design for the mistakes people make. Some mistakes are intentional (like running a red light or jaywalking), some aren’t, but we need to create designs that help ensure those mistakes can’t lead to death or injury.

It’s a critical time for Boston. The core urban cities and the state are all in support of promoting bicycling and making it safe. The Bike Union knew this day was coming, and our Activist Group knew it would create new opportunities. Chief among them, the opportunity to go after what almost all of us really want: super safe bikeways that take us everywhere we most want to go.

A map of the Harborline Bikeway, the first of five Bikeways for Everybody.

A map of the Harborline Bikeway, the first of five Bikeways for Everybody.

In pursuit of these “Bikeways for Everybody” the Bike Union’s Activist Group, working with local residents, has developed the first of five proposals for crosstown bikeways. It’s called the Harborline Bikeway and it extends 15 miles, all the way from Mattapan Square to Assembly Row, with a spur out to Castle Island in South Boston. The route would connect tens of thousands of people to safe bike infrastructure along key commuter routes, and it could be 80% complete by 2020 and 100% complete by 2025 if current projects are fast-tracked, and a few small connector projects are started.

The map of the Harborline Bikeway is here. Explore it. Think about a city where every neighborhood has access to a facility as nice and as useful for getting to work as the Southwest Corridor is for Jamaica Plain. For health, for happiness, for less congested streets and fewer crashes of all kinds–Bikeways for Everybody.

What bikers should know about car insurance

Attorney Darin Colucci

Attorney Darin Colucci

By Attorney Darin Colucci

Should someone who bikes ever have to think about car insurance? If you’re lucky you’ll likely never have to deal with it in your lifetime. But for the unlucky few who have to drive now and then or are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, knowing all the little details can make a big difference.

For example, did you know that if you do own a car, your own car insurance can pay your medical expenses if you’re in a bike crash with a motor vehicle?

Or did you know that Massachusetts employs a “No-fault” system; or that PIP (Personal Injury Protection) and “no-fault” are synonymous?

Insurance is a minefield of terms, provisions, exclusions, limits, and subsections that all seem to contradict each other; and unraveling that riddle can be difficult. It’s not something you should ever leave to chance. Understanding the various coverages is critical in selecting the appropriate insurance for your needs, and in making a claim if something goes wrong.

Even though there are numerous companies that sell car insurance within the Commonwealth (Commerce, Safety, Arbella, etc), all policy language, regardless of the company, is standard. There is only one policy, set forth by the Massachusetts Automobile Insurers Bureau, that will determine whether or not a company has to provide coverage given a particular set of facts. The interpretation of that policy will quite often come down to the skill of your attorney.

Here are three interesting facts about that all-encompassing policy:

  1. If you do own a car, your own car insurance is responsible for up to the first $8,000.00 of your medical expenses if you are hurt in an accident, regardless of whether or not the accident was your fault.
  2. There is a portion of your own policy that can compensate you if someone responsible for hurting you is underinsured; and
  3. Even if you don’t own a car but live with a family member that does, you can fall under their policy for certain of these coverages.

Cyclists are treated as “pedestrians” in the policy. That means that if you are cycling and become injured due to the negligence of a motorist, you could maintain a claim against that motorist’s car insurer to compensate you for your damages. But if you ever you find yourself in this situation, there is no substitute for professional guidance. Give ten lawyers the same case and you’ll get ten different results.

For example, a lawyer once called our office and stated that he represented a cyclist who had become badly injured due to a negligent motorist, but that the responsible party had only minimum insurance, which in Massachusetts is $20,000.00. In other words, that was the most money that could have been obtained from that particular car insurer for that particular accident.

The client, though, refused to accept such a small amount, even though his attorney had represented to him that there simply was no other means of recovery (the defendant did not have means). The attorney asked that we speak to the client and explain the facts of the situation and try to get him to take the settlement.

We met with the young man and started asking questions about the accident. Turns out that at the time of the accident, the person driving the car was attempting to make a left into a driveway, but didn’t own the house. She was actually a home healthcare worker visiting a client, and her employer had a “non-owner policy” that had a $1,000,000.00 limit.

In the end, we were able to secure a six-figure settlement that represented true compensation for the injury suffered. The key was understanding the interplay between insurance policies and doggedly pursuing the matter until justice was done.

Your help needed on Casey Arborway one more time

The western end of the Casey Arborway project, notated with the improvements being added.

The western end of the Casey Arborway project, notated with the improvements being added.

WE at the Boston Cyclists Union apologize for having to post this important action alert, but if you live in Boston, we need to ask for your immediate action to support a decision many Jamaica Plain residents supported by a factor of 3 to 1 back in 2012, because it is again being dragged into Boston’s City Council chambers——this time with a citywide focus. Bridging Forest Hills has convinced City Councillor Charles Yancey to order a public hearing on the project to explore the health impacts of dust as the bridge is removed AND in Yancey’s words, to question the decision to build at-grade.

Please take a moment before tomorrow’s city council session to remind your Boston City Councillor, your at-large councillors, and particularly Councillor Charles Yancey, that you support a bike and pedestrian friendly Forest Hills. (See below for their phone numbers and emails).

There have been 36 public meetings on the Casey Project, including 10 widely advertised community meetings, including one in Mattapan. Yancey did not recall that there was a meeting in Mattapan for the project when the Bike Union called him today, but the meeting was organized by State Rep. Russell Holmes of Mattapan. But despite this being the second largest MassDOT public process in recent memory (the Big Dig had a few more meetings), a small but determined group of highway-like infrastructure supporters in Jamaica Plain have never accepted the majority-approved decision to build an at-grade boulevard instead.

We’re asking that:

  • There be no further delays of the Casey Arborway reconstruction project. There have been too many delays to this project already.

A few talking points around the at-grade option (check meeting minutes or this interview with neighborhood activist Clay Harper for more info.)

The Casey Arborway project will mean:

  • A more inviting place to walk.
  • A more inviting place to bike.
  • A more scenic and enjoyable place to drive.
  • Along with the DCR’s new Arborway project and a future effort to get a cycletrack on Morton Street almost all the way to Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan, this project will create an off-road route all the way from Franklin Park to the Landmark Center in the Fenway neighborhood.
  • A new farmer’s market and other events are made possible in a new park the size of Copley Plaza at the end of the SW Corridor and next the Forest Hills MBTA station.
  • Commuters will no longer have to cross the Arborway to get to the Forest Hills Orange Line station (a second headhouse is being added).
  • An expanded busway for the 39 bus.
  • Walking and biking paths connect the Arnold Arboretum and Franklin Park.
  • An under-the-bridge environment will not attract drunken loitering and crime.
  • Car commuters passing through will have an opportunity to stop and support local businesses.
  • More pedestrians and cyclists in the area will increase revenues for local businesses.
  • A visible gateway to the Arnold Arboretum that includes 69 different species of trees and shrubs (most of which would never thrive without access to sunlight).
  • Congestion and overall trip times for motor vehicles will actually be reduced from current conditions for the majority of drivers (although speeding over the area on a bridge to get to traffic tie ups on Murray Circle and at the Morton St. and Blue Hill Avenue intersection will not longer be a possibility).

The only defendable drawback to the bridge is that the 7 percent of users who want to turn left off of the Arborway will be taken a couple minutes out of their way, they will have to make a U-turn and turn right instead. For the benefits of this project, the Bike Union and the coalition of organizations supporting the Casey At-Grade decision think this small sacrifice is worth making.

Please email or call your city councillors now (and apologize for having to call on this issue that should have been resolved in 2012)!

President and District 2-Bill Linehan Bill.Linehan@boston.gov 617-635-3203

D1-Salvatore LaMattina Salvatore.LaMattina@boston.gov 617-635-3200

D3-Frank Baker Frank.Baker@boston.gov 617-635-3455

D4-Charles C. Yancey Charles.Yancey@boston.gov 617-635-3131

D5-Timothy McCarthy Timothy.McCarthy@boston.gov 617-635-4210

D6-Matt O’Malley matthew.omalley@boston.gov 617-635-4220

D7-Tito Jackson TJackson@boston.gov 617-635-3510

D8-Josh Zakim Josh.Zakim@boston.gov 617-635-4225

D9-Mark Ciommo Mark.Ciommo@boston.gov 617-635-3113

At Large-Stephen Murphy Stephen.Murphy@boston.gov 617-635-4376

At Large-Ayanna Presley Ayanna.Pressley@boston.gov 617-635-4217

At Large-Michael Flaherty Michael.F.Flaherty@boston.gov 617-635-4205

At Large-Michelle Wu Michelle.Wu@boston.gov 617-635-3115

Comm Ave cycletrack serves as kickoff for Vision Zero in Boston

The morning after his staff received a standing ovation for their safety-centric redesign of Commonwealth Ave in Allston, Mayor Marty Walsh held a press conference to tie the project into a much broader initiative: Vision Zero.

Mayor Marty Walsh kicked off Boston's first Vision Zero initiative this morning in the Eagle Room at City Hall. The Bike Union will be a member of the new task force.

Mayor Marty Walsh kicked off Boston’s first Vision Zero initiative this morning in the Eagle Room at City Hall. The Bike Union will be a member of the new task force.

“We had a couple bike fatalities last year and seven pedestrian deaths, we can do [all modes of transportation] better,” said Walsh. Vision Zero in Boston will begin with extending the crash data work done with bikes to pedestrians, and identifying hot spots. The task force will seek to create rapid response improvements and create “residential slow zones.”

Along with the Boston Cyclists Union and WalkBoston, the Boston Police Department, the Public Works Department, the Boston Public Health Commission, and Boston Emergency Medical Services will be involved in the task force–convening roughly the same group that has been working on the Health Commission’s Crash Data Task Force for over 2 years.

In other cities such as New York, San Francisco and Portland Oregon, Vision Zero has expanded to include a much broader set of policy changes at various city departments. The likelihood is that as the task force studies the problem of road injuries and fatalities, more initiatives will arise.

The Commonwealth Avenue project itself is a major step forward for Vision Zero, and the mayor defended the plan with confidence.

“Their purchase[s] may be smaller, but they’re more frequent,” he said of pedestrians and cyclists–an oft cited fact in before-and-after studies of cycletracks and other facilities that typically increase local business revenues.

A rendering of one of the protected intersections planned for Comm Ave.

In particular the protected intersection design in the Comm Ave planis rather new in the U.S., having only been installed in a suburban area in Austin Texas so far. NACTO has been holding special design charrettes with Boston and other cities who are working to implement it. The design helps reduce the common “right hook” crash type by creating more visibility between cars and bikes, and will likely change the way cycletracks are built in cities around the country.

During door-to-door canvasing by the Bike Union and local advocates Galen Mook and Matt Danish, the business community expressed support for the plan. However, in this morning’s Boston Herald, City Councillor Mike Flaherty criticized it.

“At a time when we just overspent tens of millions on snow removal and the administration is talking about the need to close five schools, someone comes up with the idea to remove 73 parking meters from the streets of Boston, meters that could generate up to $341,000 a year,” Flaherty said to the Herald. “I want to know who did that cost-benefit analysis.”

Talking to Councillor Flaherty today, the Bike Union confirmed his support for the safety improvements to the street. His priority is to find a way to replace the $341,000 in lost revenue, and his comments were made last night. This morning the Mayor announced that the city will be replacing all of Boston’s traditional parking meters with smart meters-which typically raise parking revenue by 33 percent where they are implemented.

The two announcements coupled with Mayor Walsh’s first-in-the-nation ordinance on truck sideguards are putting Boston on the map as a leader on bike safety on the national level. A large part is due to your continued support of the work the Boston Cyclists Union is engaged in every day. If you appreciate our work, please donate or join now.

New Arborway cycletrack could transform Boston

Send your comments to DCR to make it real

A new plan for the Arborway would transform dangerous rotaries into roundabouts with safe crossings and bike paths.

A new plan for the Arborway would transform dangerous rotaries into roundabouts with safe crossings and bike paths.

Last Thursday the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) took a dramatic new step forward for people who bike, for Jamaica Plain and Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace park system, and possibly for creating safer designs for all the parkways in the Commonwealth.

“For us to be able to successfully implement these changes would mean a lot for the wider network because it shows what’s feasible,” said DCR’s Director of Partnerships Conrad Crawford. “And we have to thank the advocacy community for clarifying our thinking on this. Knowing that we have the demand and the support in the human-centered advocacy community means that we feel a lot more supported in being creative. If people weren’t able to attend the meeting we urge them to share their opinions on this project.”

A cross-section how the proposed Arborway cycletracks would look as they left Forest Hills in the direction of Jamaica Pond.

A cross-section how the proposed Arborway cycletracks would look as they left Forest Hills in the direction of Jamaica Pond.

Fulfilling an official Bike Union request made in May 2014, the plan includes cycletracks between Forest Hills and Jamaica Pond that–along with work soon to get underway in Brookline’s Route 9 crossing–will someday mean an uninterrupted Bikeway for Everybody between Franklin Park in Dorchester all the way to Landmark Center in the Fenway neighborhood.

Notably, the Longwood Medical Area, with over 30,000 jobs on site, is on the route.

Another effort to get cycletracks on Morton Street to Mattapan will likely gain momentum from the new connection, as will other aspects of the Parkway Plan now getting underway at the DCR, including Centre Street and West Roxbury Parkway. It also provides a very exciting model for how the DCR can make its many traffic rotaries safer for pedestrians and people on bikes.

Instead of the Kelly and Murray traffic rotaries that exist today on the Arborway——in which traffic in the circle must yield to incoming high-speed traffic——the new plan proposes three “modern roundabouts.” Two of the roundabouts form a “dumbbell” pair that helps traffic merge from Centre Street and the Arborway at Murray.

Unlike rotaries, incoming traffic in modern roundabouts enters at a perpendicular angle and must yield to traffic already in the circle. This has the effect of slowing motorists down, calming traffic and creating awareness of pedestrians, bikes and other vehicles. Roundabouts also help optimize efficient traffic flow and prevent gridlock for motorists. The plan would remove four traffic signals. Because they take up far less space, there is more room for Bikeways for Everybody to skirt around them.

With these roundabouts, raised pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes, the new concept would encourage drivers to drive at slower speeds but also help move through the area more efficiently with fewer stops. All of this, said Ian Lockwood, a consultant with Toole Design Group who spoke at Thursday’s meeting, would help greatly reduce the number of injuries and deaths on the street. Over 130 crashes occurred on this stretch of the parkway between 2009 and 2012, according to Toole’s analysis.

The crowd of around 40 neighborhood residents, and at least one motorist/cyclist from Dorchester, were overwhelmingly positive about the plan. Asked if anyone didn’t like it, the crowd didn’t produce a single naysayer, though some urged the DCR to make sure to explain it well to people who drive.

Roundabouts were controversial when they were first introduced to the U.S. in the early 1990s, but a 1998 study concluded that though public opinion was often sour before installation at the time, 73 percent of the public supported roundabout installation after the fact.

A map showing just some of the DCR Parkways that could benefit from the example of safe comfortable bike infrastructure the Bike Union is working to support on the Arborway. The Bike Union is part the Urban Paths and Parkways Committee that is overseeing the plan.

A map showing just some of the DCR Parkways that could benefit from the example of safe comfortable bike infrastructure the Bike Union is supporting on the Arborway. The Bike Union is part of the Urban Paths and Parkways Committee that is overseeing a new $500,000 Parkway Study that will explore adding bike infrastructure to all of the systems parkways.

The introduction of the roundabout to the DCR’s parkway system could not come at a better time. The DCR’s $500,000 study of their entire parkway system, also triggered by the #WinterBiker and Arborway Cycletrack campaigns, will provide an opportunity to talk about replacing dozens of rotaries in Metro Boston to make conditions safer for all people who bike, as well as pedestrians and motorists.

It’s in the bike community’s interest to keep supporting the DCR so our state park system can be as awesome as every staffer working there believes it should be.

Please check out more of the plan and send in your supportive comments and suggestions to dcr.updates@state.ma.us. Please note “Arborway Bicycle Facilities” in the subject line, though this project is so much more! Deadline for comments is Friday, March 6.

You can also send comments to:
DCR Office of Public Outreach
251 Causeway St. Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114

Boston moves toward cycletracks on Commonwealth

Your support needed to make it to 100%

A remaining challenge will be ensuring the cycletrack reaches all the way to the intersection with the BU Bridge, as depicted here. Illustration created by a Bike Union volunteer.

A remaining challenge will be ensuring the cycletrack reaches all the way to the intersection with the BU Bridge, as depicted here. Illustration created by a Bike Union volunteer.

One of the most challenging campaigns Boston’s bike advocate community has ever taken on is now benefitting from a very positive turn. Boston’s transportation department has been working on a cycletrack option for Comm Ave since December, and thanks to a highly collaborative effort between the Boston Cyclists Union, Livable Streets Alliance, BU Bikes and you, it may well become the most effective protected bike lane in the country.

“We’re heading toward bike tracks on Comm Ave but there’s some related issues there we’re trying to finish up,” said Boston’s Deputy Transportation Commissioner Jim Gillooly. “We’re intent on having the public meeting that we’ve been talking about for the past three months… in the last week of February.”

The Bike Union's redesign of Comm Ave suggested protected intersections, an idea that has been taken seriously by BTD.  Design created volunteer Fei Peng.

The Bike Union’s redesign of Comm Ave suggested protected intersections, an idea that has been taken seriously by BTD.
Design created volunteer Fei Peng.

A unique aspect of the Commonwealth cycletrack plan is the city’s close attention to intersection design. The design concept delivered to the city by the Bike Union has helped spark internal discussion about the pros and cons of the protected intersection design versus the signal-protected intersection design often used in New York City. Either design is said to reduce the “right hook” type of collision so common on Comm. Ave, according to Boston Police bike crash data analyzed by the Bike Union.

“We still need to iron out a few things about how the intersections would work, we need to do some further dialogue with our public works folks [about maintenance], we also need to do some work briefing abutters on the street,” said Gillooly. “And the other ingredient we need to sort through is implications of where curbs would go to, and continue the discussion with the utility companies. These snow days aren’t really helping us at all, but it is a reality out here we have to deal with.”

All in all, Gillooly is making a massive effort to alter the city’s plans for Comm. Ave to meet a September deadline for full construction documents, and a lot of his haste is in response to the full-throated cry he heard from you—-the active members of Boston’s bike community. A key turning point for the city seemed to occur around two big events, the Mayor’s Bike Ride with Marty Walsh on Nov. 22 and the Dec. 9 public meeting organized by BU Bikes with help from the Bike Union and presentations from Boston’s “Big 4” advocacy groups (the Bike Union, Livable Streets Alliance, WalkBoston, and MassBike). At the first, the Mayor experienced first hand Comm Ave’s dooring risk to people who bike, and at the second, over 130 of you braved rain and floods to let the city know how important this route is to you.

Just one month later on Dec. 23, leadership of the Big 4 were called in to City Hall to see an early draft of the plans that included a cycletrack idea to see if there was hope for a consensus based on the new direction—a requirement for state funding of the project. There was. Now, everyone is awaiting the results of this work at a public meeting Gillooly hopes will happen in the last week of February. It is essential that you show up once again, perhaps this time in 10 feet of snow, to express your continued support of the cycletrack on Comm Ave.

The Walsh Administration is working hard to make sure the bike community is protected from harm, and cyclists would do well support this plan in the public forum to ensure that bikeways are indeed built for everybody in Boston.

Somerville's Doug Johnson starts as Community Organizer

New position at the Union is about engaging more volunteers and members in the Union’s work

Doug Johnson

The Bike Union’s new Community Organizer Doug Johnson, speaking at the Annual Spring Kickoff in 2014. Photo by Jon McCurdy.

The Bike Union is looking forward to a banner year for its programs and advocacy campaigns thanks to the addition of Somerville resident Doug Johnson to the staff.

Doug first got involved with the Bike Union in 2012 as an Urban Planning Intern while earning a Master’s Degree in city planning from Boston University. He was motivated to focus his studies on ways to improve safety for all users after the tragic deaths of five cyclists in Boston that year, including fellow BU student Christopher Weigl. For the Bike Union, he helped analyze the growth of bike ridership in the city over time and got active in the Beacon Street cycletrack campaign.

During the summer of 2013 Doug co-led a cross-country cycling trip with the non-profit organization Bike & Build, raising money for and working with local affordable housing non-profits along the route. After returning from the West Coast, he worked as a tour guide at Urban Adventours, before taking a position as Community Organizer for the Union.

Doug has been enjoying his commute from Somerville to Bike Union Headquarters in Roxbury since accepting the position, and plans to participate fully in Boston #bikewintah. If you’re interested in getting more involved with the Union send Doug an email or call at 617-516-8877.

Show up, Speak up for cycletracks on JP's Arborway!

A rendering of a possible Bikeway for Everybody on The Arborway in Jamaica Plain. Rendering created by the Bike Union.

A rendering of a possible Bikeway for Everybody on The Arborway in Jamaica Plain. Rendering created by the Bike Union.

Since 2011, the Bike Union has helped lead local residents and other orgs to reconnect the Emerald Necklace for bicycles. Over the past 4 years, the coalition has successfully promoted an at-grade solution for the reconstruction for the Casey Overpass, and a buffered bike lane on Morton Street that now reaches halfway to Mattapan. One of the last remaining problems to solve is the connection between the Casey Arborway project and Jamaica Pond. Next week we have an opportunity to bridge one of the last gaps!

The Arborway cycletrack discussions were sparked last year shortly after the #WinterBiker campaign created by the many neighborhood groups in the Bike Union’s Organizing Group took place. The momentum started by that campaign birthed the new Urban Paths & Parkways Committee at the Department for Conservation and Recreation, and then, due to an internal communication breakdown, the DCR’s maintenance crew painted inadequate bike infrastructure on the Arborway. This sparked a Bike Union letter campaign that asked the agency to remove the dangerous new bike facility to make space for a more thorough discussion of how this portion of the Arborway (from Eliot Street to South Street) could be made comfortable for cyclists. Now, the DCR is moving forward with that discussion!

There will be two public meetings for this project within one week. At the first (Feb. 2) the DCR will seek community input on what kind of bike facilities would work along the Arborway. This includes Kelly and Murray traffic circles. At the second (Feb. 5), the DCR will present alternatives and gather more input.

It is extremely important that the DCR hears from people like you who would prefer cycletracks on Mon., Feb. 2, and also that you or your friends or family also show up on Thurs., Feb. 5 to support the cycletrack alternative moving forward.

Show up, speak up for Bikeways for Everybody!

Arborway Bicycle Facilities Public Meeting
Mon., Feb. 2 6:30 to 8:30pm
Thurs., Feb. 5, 6:30 to 8:30pm
Arnold Arboretum Visitor Center/Hunnewell Building
125 Arborway, Boston

Find out more here.