Boston’s bike culture is expanding in all directions, and one of the services other cities around the country have that hasn’t made it to Boston just yet is the “Bike Kitchen.” A Bike Kitchen is an open bike workshop that anyone can come in and use or rent to fix up their ride. The Community Spoke is one of a small handful of projects that are endeavoring to fill that gap.
The welcoming sign of the Community Spoke! bike community, a welcoming and all-inclusive safe space for cyclists.
“We really stress that the Community Spoke is meant to be a safer space,” said a volunteer who preferred not to give a full name. “We let everyone know to be respectful of others while they’re in the shop.”
One way Community Spoke promotes a “safe space” is by prohibiting oppressive language or behavior toward anyone’s personal identity. Another is by holding an exclusive Women and Trans Night, every third Thursday, along with occasional volunteer nights to introduce fresh faces to the group’s mission and beliefs.
Along with these events, the Community Spoke provides an open shop for all comers every Tuesday evening. Aside from the space and access to tools, volunteers also provide informal bike repair education. There’s also the possibility of working on an earn-a-bike program, where cyclists build their own bikes from the frame up. These resources advance the mission of the Community Spoke, which is to encourage cycling as a means of personal freedom. Continue reading The Community Spoke!: An Open Shop and a Safe Space
Alarmist flyers decrying the elimination of “all parking” on one side of the street have appeared on telephone poles and car windshields along Beacon Street in Somerville–in a clear attempt to raise ire in the neighborhood against the city’s plan for a cycletrack.
The flyer calls residents to arms and to a meeting this Monday, Oct. 29–a meeting that was originally called by the city to talk to businesses about their particular concerns. Following the lead of the publicly posted flyer, the City of Somerville forwarded the invitation on the flyer to the list of people who have expressed interest in the project.
Domenic Ruccio, owner of the Beacon St. Laundromat quickly rescinded the public invite, however, when he learned the city had forwarded it to other interested parties in the neighborhood, including cyclists who attended the city’s public meeting on Oct. 15.
“As the organizer of this meeting it is unclear to me how you came to believe this meeting was open to the general public,” wrote Ruccio in a email to Somerville transportation planner Hayes Morrison. “Unfortunately the Cafe Rustica is quite small and we will give admittance priority to neighborhood residents who have not yet had an opportunity to offer input on this plan. With that caveat, we are happy to welcome anyone interested in attending to this meeting.”
“I am very uncomfortable participating in a meeting that has been advertised in the public but is not open to the public,” replied Morrison, offering to relocate the meeting to a larger space that could accommodate all interested parties. But that solution was not acceptable to Ruccio.
“What constituency do you feel would be disadvantaged by possibly not getting into the meeting room if attendance by concerned Beacon Street residents has filled it?” wrote Ruccio in a further email.
The Boston Cyclists Union is encouraging Somerville residents who feel strongly about creating a safer street for bicyclists and pedestrians to take up Ruccio’s invitation to local residents to attend. Many cyclists in this community, including members of the Somerville Bicycle Committee, are in support of a cycletrack to increase safety. Beacon Street, according to Deputy Chief Paul Upton of Somerville Police Department, is host to more bicycle crashes than any other street in the city of Somerville, and many injuries result.
Beacon Street Neighborhood Meeting
Mon., Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m.
356 Beacon St.
The flyer for this meeting claims that the plan “will genuinely jeopardize the viability of businesses on Beacon Street who rely on street parking to supplement walk-by traffic.” But it neglects to mention the various ways in which the city has proposed to protect parking spaces for residents and businesses alike.
Currently, the street is often used by residents from other parts of Somerville to park and walk down to the Porter Square MBTA Station, to Lesley College, or to work at the Cambridge Health Alliance or retail stores along the strip. To stop this practice, the city has proposed to create a Beacon Street resident sticker and mandate one-hour parking for all other visitors (currently the street is two-hour parking with an exemption for all with a Somerville resident sticker).
As it stands, Beacon Street is “not South Boston,” as one resident put it, and parking can usually be found, although it might involve a bit of a walk. A parking study carried out by the city’s consultants found that the available parking on the northern half of the street is only 50 percent utilized, and the southern half near Inman Square is 63 percent utilized.
The Bike Union, with some help from Livable Streets Alliance and local Somerville residents, is also carrying out it’s own Customer Intercept Survey to determine how customers are getting to local shops, how much they spend, and which shops they spend at. The methodology of the survey is very similar to other studies carried out in San Francisco on Market Street, in Toronto on the Bloor Street Annex, and in Cambridge in Central Square. The early results of this survey will be available at the meeting this Monday, and we are still looking for volunteers to help distribute them! To volunteer, click here.
The BPHC's helmet campaign depicts bloodied youth as a scare tactic.
Boston’s bike community will be the first to tell you that helmets are a good idea. Over the last few weeks, however, a large part of that community, including virtually all of its leaders, is up in arms over an advertisement that is meant to get more people wearing helmets.
The ads are meant to scare people (they are meant to be targeted at young men in particular) into wearing a helmet, but it seems obvious to most observers that the ad will likely scare people away from bicycling altogether. And that would be bad, given that physical activity would really help out with the Mayor’s Million Pound Challenge—one of the city’s key prevention strategies this year. www.BostonMovesForHealth.org
The truth is that the Boston Public Health Commission—which paid around $50,000 for a month’s worth of bus stop posters depicting bloodied young cyclists—did ask for the Bike Union’s involvement on the campaign beginning back in May. The problem, however, is that they didn’t value our or other advocacy groups’ advice when we came to the table.
At that first meeting, the Union, MassBike, Livable Streets Alliance and others made it very clear to the various city agencies and health professionals in the room that the bike community would be open to just about anything but a scare campaign for the simple reason that we, thousands of Bostonians who support bike advocacy and volunteer in many ways, and the City of Boston itself have worked very hard to increase the cycling rate. We want to preserve those numbers, and get more people riding for the health benefits and other good things that it brings.
Given the clarity and unity on that message, the presentation at a second BPHC meeting on the proposed helmet ad campaign in August came as a shock. The worst fears, the things the advocacy community had specifically asked not to have, were there on the screen in bloody triplicate. Gasps filled the room. The Union asked if the ads had been tested to see if they might discourage biking. The BPHC responded that they had done focus groups and had asked that question. But when the Union requested and received the focus group results, it was clear that the question had not been addressed.
Instead, the “focus groups” actually comprised of only one focus group of a “men’s health” group, an online poll of 21 people (only one of whom did not wear a helmet), and three comments from “college/grad students.” The online poll participants suggested many positive ad ideas, the men’s health group asked for more shock value, and the “college/grad students” appeared to be studying health-related fields (thus having a clear bias).
These findings, to the Union’s leadership, did not seem like a thorough investigation of potential effects of a negative ad campaign. Moreover, it seemed at various times during our conversations with the BPHC, that increasing or at least maintaining the cycling rate was not one of the directives of this campaign. And if that was the case, why would one branch of government be allowed to run the risk of working against the work of another branch of government, in this case, Boston Bikes?
Additionally, it is not clear that focusing on the use of helmets has a significant effect on rider safety. A study of bicycle-related injury data from all nine Boston Emergency Rooms was projected at that first meeting about the helmet ads, and city officials, bike advocates and ER doctors in the room saw that only 2.2 percent of the 1,411 bike crash victims the ERs saw in 2010 had head injuries. Only a third of those people, 11 in total, had injuries serious enough to be admitted to the hospital after the ER. This number is dwarfed by hospitalizations for injuries of other kinds.
Another statistic from that meeting showed that 28 percent of bike crash victims in 2010 had fractures or dislocations, and over a quarter of those were admitted for a longer hospital visit (82 people). Overall, 58 percent of all hospital admissions (post-ER) for bike related incidents in 2010 were for fractures or dislocations, compared to 8 percent for head injuries. So why not focus on the prevention of the crashes in the first place?
The ER study is one of the only products of a BPHC investigation into bike and ped crash data that has now spanned two years, and it does not mention helmets as part of its conclusion. Instead it highlights the need for prevention through education and outreach, access to information on the “environmental context” of injuries (such as location and cause from police and ambulance data), and identifying crash hot spots.
All of this is in line with what the Bike Union has been recommending for the last three years: data-driven safety efforts. Better crash data, we believe, will help make the argument for better infrastructure and policies and inform strategies for prevention through targeted safety education and outreach.
For the $50,000 spent on this ad campaign, or a fraction of it, the city could have paid an expert to compile and redact private information from the police reports that tell us all about the cause of crashes. Then, that data could be matched with valuable ER information, allowing us to see how the most serious crashes are happening, and make all of the findings available to the transportation department, advocacy groups, and to the health department. This would allow the city to build better bike infrastructure in smarter ways, encourage targeted bike safety programming from other organizations, and maybe even some put out some ads that hit the target and actually make biking safer.
A second bombardier sidewalk plow could be required to ensure the Department of Conservation and Recreation can keep the SW Corridor and the future Casey Arborway paths clear all winter long.
Planning continues on the new Casey Arborway that will connect Franklin Park and the Arboretum with a strip of asphalt, a strip of green, two sidewalks and two extra wide bike paths. For the past two months the Design Advisory Group (DAG) has been grappling, among other things, with the idea of having a two-way bike path on each side of the street instead of a two-way bike path and an on-street bike lane on each side.
On one half of this debate sit pedestrians and disabled persons and their advocacy groups, who would highly prefer shorter crossing distances for safety and convenience, and on the other half are a smaller group of more seasoned bike commuters who say they would prefer the bike lane for speediness and fear that the two bike paths wouldn’t be clear of snow and ice in the winter time.
So in the spirit of solving the debate for everyone, the Boston Cyclists Union is seeing if the snow removal problem can be fixed not only for the Arborway, but for the entire Southwest Corridor and future Morton Street cycletrack as well.
Union leadership reached out to Dan Driscoll, director of facilities planning at the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and Kevin Hollenbeck, the man in charge of the DCR’s plows on the day of a big snow event. Over a couple hours we discussed the varying gale forces produced by leaf blowers, the very real hazard of squirrels blindly chasing acorns across bike paths, and actually learned a lot about snow removal too.
It turns out that the Southwest Corridor, because it is near transit stations, is a “priority one” snow removal path in the DCR’s rubric, meaning it is scheduled to get attention in the early AM after any snow day or night, before most of us are awake. But during super snowy winters, Hollenbeck’s crews can have trouble keeping up, which is why cyclists saw the SW corridor disappear under bumpy ice for several weeks in Boston’s heavy winter two years ago.
The main bottleneck isn’t staff, it turns out, as Hollenbeck can pull snow emergency staff from more than one pool of DCR employees, but equipment. Hollenbeck employs a variety of tools from shovel on up to Bombardier, the latter being the real workhorse.
A Bombardier is basically a little tank with a snow blade on it. It rides on tracks and can plow through a foot or more of fresh fallen snow while pushing the needle on the residential speed limit, even on ice. And the shed that stores snow removal equipment for the Southwest Corridor and other local paths has only one Bombardier, whereas sheds that serve the Stonybrook Reservation and Neponset River have two.
Now, Hollenbeck knows enough about 4 a.m. SNAFUs than to promise perfect snow removal in Boston with only one vehicle in his roster that can blast through anything, but at the prospect of an extra Bombardier in the barn, his eyebrows went up and he started to nod. Would it mean you could keep those paths clear all year no matter what?
“Let me put it this way,” he said. “It’s the difference between going 8 miles per hour and 30 miles per hour.”
A Bombardier would greatly increase his crews efficiency on snow swept mornings, Hollenbeck said, but to really reach 100 percent satisfaction with snow removal cyclists need to also do their part. Crews do not patrol for ice and snow after the first plows roll through, but anyone can call in any time ice forms to tell the DCR where the problem is (617-626-1250 or email at email@example.com).
Also, Driscoll pointed out that the design of the new Arborway will determine how easy it is to plow and keep clear of ice. The current path has poor drainage in parts and too much shade in others. Curb cuts and clearances between street furniture needs to be wider than ten feet. Certain trees, like oaks and beeches, hold on to their leaves late into winter—which means that ice on certain patches of asphalt doesn’t melt until March. Evergreens also have this effect.
The Union and the DCR will be watching the design along with a lively DAG, but if you live in Jamaica Plain and will be riding the SW Corridor or Casey Arborway in the wintertime—you may want to start asking MassDOT and Secretary Davey how they plan to increase the DCR’s snow removal capacity along with the new parkland they will receive when MassDOT completes the Arborway’s construction, and will it include a tracked snow plow like the Bombardier to bring SW Corridor’s shed up to snuff. Here, by the way, are the appropriate emails to cc on such an email: firstname.lastname@example.org, katherine.Fichter@state.ma.us, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Traffic leading out of Harvard Square northbound.
Cycling out of Harvard Square northbound on Mass Ave can be confusing and dangerous, but major improvements are on the way thanks to comments the Union and others made on an upcoming reconstruction project there, one of the Bike Union’s first forays into street design in the city of Cambridge. That city is working on major renovations of the Cambridge Street Tunnel and the Cambridge Common which are also coordinated with a renovation of the Science Center Plaza on the Harvard University campus.
Over the summer Bike Union intern Christina Kim studied plans for a five-foot wide bike lane through a tunnel where cars routinely travel over 35 miles per hour, and made several suggestions with the help of ED Pete Stidman. Not all of them were followed to the letter, but many were accepted and a much more pleasant commute is in store for many who pass through the area.
Instead of a 5-foot bike lane, which is the minimum in most situations, the Cambridge Street Tunnel will host a 6.5-foot bike lanes with a 1-foot painted buffer zone separating cyclists from traffic—inspired by the buffered bike lane on Commonwealth Ave under Mass Ave in Boston. For cyclists heading north on Mass Ave from Harvard Square, a unused traffic island named Dawes Island Park (a.k.a Flagstaff Park) will be widened to incorporate a short bike path that will allow riders to avoid the traffic circle almost entirely. Cyclists heading south will be similarly safe from traffic when the take advantage of a bike access included in a new renovation of the Cambridge Common. Bikes will also be allowed on the Harvard Science Plaza giving people the opportunity of avoiding Cambridge Street altogether.
Big thanks to Christina K. for helping the Union expand its influence to the other bank of the Charles River!
Omar Dauhajre, having grown up in Puerto Rico, an island that has potential to be a bicycle haven but has instead given into sprawl, decided to move to Boston where his quality of life could be improved by its urban transportation infrastructure. It had been his dream for a long time to be able to be independent of his car to earn his living, and it became true when he was hired for his current job, about 4 years ago, as an Executive Assistant at Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion. Its location is close to his house and is easily accessible through the South West Corridor. This has improved his quality of life in such a way that it has made him an advocate for bicycling ever since.
Jeff Gang grew up biking for fun in Beverly, Mass. Three years ago, he rode with Climate Summer, doing bike-based community organizing around climate change, which led him into political organizing. Today he is the Coordinator of The Green Life Online, a national netroots non-profit that works with environmental consumers. He mostly bikes to get from A to B these days, but it’s still fun.
Vanessa Green has worked with the national nonprofit Clean Water Action since 2004 to politically engage people, from leading field canvass teams on health issues and electoral campaigns to collaborating with local, state and national groups towards improving neighborhood air quality. She studied and lived in Europe during 2008-2009 and learned that huge steps forward in bicycling infrastructure are possible for Boston and other metro areas in the US, and that one of her favorite things to do is to ride her bike in the quiet of the night under any skies. Amidst her active interest in yoga and meditation practices, playing basketball and other games, and the healthy development of children/youth, Vanessa is ready to reserve time and space in her life to organize and fund-raise in support of the Union’s vision.
Trina Jackson has facilitated numerous trainings, workshops and dialogues on racial justice, anti-oppression organizing, and reproductive justice for women of color. In addition to coordinating the work of NIAAS (Network of Immigrant and African Americans in Solidarity), she works as an organizational development consultant to social justice nonprofits in Boston. She has served as an advisory board member of the Mass CEDAW Project, is a founding member of Boston Incite! Women of Color Against Violence, Boston Women of Color Coalition for Reproductive Justice, and served on the Board of Directors for Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE), an environmental justice organization.
Conor Semler is an urban transportation planner focusing on planning, design, and implementation of non-motorized and public transportation systems. Following five years of consulting nationally and internationally, he moved to Boston to work for the Downtown Business Improvement District where he is the staff planner and project manager. Conor has lived car-free since moving to Portland, Oregon in 2007 and has integrated bicycling into his daily life, which serves as his professional motivation and contributes to his personal health and happiness.
Aisha Shillingford has over 10 years experience in youth work, community organizing, and nonprofit administration and has worked in the nonprofit field in Boston since 2002. Aisha has served on the board of directors of Bikes Not Bombs and is an avid volunteer and leader in Jewish-Muslim interfaith organizing and dialogue. She is a trained bicycle mechanic and recently started mountain biking in Franklin Park. She also loves bicycle touring, city riding, and encouraging and supporting others to ride bicycles in the way that best works for them. She is passionate about sewing and art with found objects, and lives in a co-operatively structured house with her partner, five other housemates and two cats. She has a BA in Environmental Analysis and Policy from Boston University, an MSW in Macro Practice from Boston College and is currently pursuing an MBA in Nonprofit Management and Entrepreneurship from Simmons School of Management. She is originally from Trinidad and Tobago and has lived in the Boston area since 1998.
Philip Stango is an avid cyclist (commuter, racer of road and cyclocross, long distance rider, around town, etc.) who has been biking to work at Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program almost every day for the last five years. During his time at BHCHP he’s worked as an Americorps volunteer, case manager, front desk manager and project manager, and he plans to bring skills from each of those roles to the Union.
Jason Stockmann is an MRI researcher by trade and a lifestyle cyclist who is eager to get involved in bicycle advocacy and organizing in Boston. Before moving to the Bay State, Jason was gubernatorial appointee to the Connecticut Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, where he served as secretary and webmaster. As a board member of ElmCityCycling and a member of Rail*Trains*Ecology*Cycling, Jason was also active in a successful multi-year campaign to add bicycle hooks to Metro North railcars between CT and NYC.
Noelle Janka (current president) is program coordinator for the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School. Before that she was the recruitment director for Green Corps, a training program in grassroots environmental organizing. Noelle has worked on multiple political and environmental campaigns, including the campaign to elect President Barack Obama. She is a resident of Jamaica Plain, a yogi and an avid gardener. Noelle works with several committees, helps coordinate interns and volunteers, and looks forward to the day when all Bostonians can ride around the city with children and grandparents and feel totally safe.
Ray Porfilio (current treasurer) is an architect and principal with Epstein Joslin Architects where his work focuses on the planning and design of sustainable solutions for civic and institutional clients. A resident of West Roxbury, he rides his bicycle for his commute to Cambridge, for good causes, and for fun. He has been involved with the Boston Cyclists Union since its inception, and serves as chair of the Finance and Operations Committee.
Kiersten Kaye (current clerk) is an organizational development consultant with her own practice. Her work focuses in three primary areas: leadership coaching and teambuilding; corporate training and performance programs; and talent acquisition programs. Kiersten resides in Medford Square and is a member of the Northeast Bicycle Club (NEBC) and a ride leader for their Tuesday Night Women’s Paceline Ride. Additionally, Kiersten teaches indoor cycling at the Boston Sports Clubs in Davis Square. Whether riding in the city, on a country road, or in the woods, with a group or on one’s own, Kiersten believes that safety is the foundation for all cyclists and hopes her work with the Boston Cyclists Union will benefit cycling safety and awareness for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. She also serves on the Finance and Operations Committee and chaired the Board Selection Committee.
Nick Abreu is a fourth-year medical student at Harvard Medical School. He lives in Cambridge and looks forward to his daily commute into Boston on his Bike Friday. After rediscovering his childhood love of bicycles while researching abroad in London after college, he’s been hooked; rallying classmates to commute by bicycle, working with administrators to make HMS a greener, healthier community, and traveling to western Kenya to research how bicycles may be used to improve healthcare delivery. He is co-chair of the Communications Committee.
Jasmine Laietmark believes in bikes. Since graduating from Massachusetts College of Art, she has worked for transportation justice in a variety of roles. She was Director of Grassroots Fundraising at Bikes Not Bombs, coordinator of the City of Cambridge’s CitySmart program, and Resource Organizer at Alternatives for Community and Environment. As a cycling advocate, she was a driving (cycling?) force behind the Boston Bicycle Reflector publications and the Lady K Memorial Ride series. She has been with the Bike Union from its inception, serving as chair of the first annual meeting and spring kick-off events and member of the Union Building Committee. Jasmine believes that the bicycle is a powerful tool for solidarity, empowerment, and transformative change.
Jonathan McCurdy had his eyes opened to cycling as transportation when he moved to Jamaica Plain in 2004 and started volunteering at Bikes Not Bombs. He was a year-round bike commuter from 2005 to 2010, when changing work requirements caused him to start driving. Looking longingly at cyclists while stuck in traffic has reinforced his faith in the bicycle as transportation. Jonathan has been a member of the City of Boston Bicyclist Advisory Board since 2000. He has been involved with the Union since its inception and serves as vice chair of the Bike Promotion Committee. He is also one of the organizers of the Halloween Bike Ride; you might see him leading the costumed wheeled masses around the city on Halloween night. Jonathan works for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health providing direct services and case management to homeless families in the greater Boston area.
Dana Ostberg can be seen riding down the Southwest Corridor in JP to her position as the nurse in the Adolescent Clinic at Martha Eliot Health Center in Jackson Square, encouraging her patients on the way to bike safely and choose health. She worked previously with young people at Bikes Not Bombs, Boston Public Health Commission, and The Steppingstone Foundation. In her spare time, she trains for the World Four Square Championship as part of the squarefour.org league and participates in the local agriculture scene as consumer, volunteer, and friend.
Luis Sanchez is a retired civil engineer with most of his career endeavors in the Boston area. Since his retirement he has been devoting much of his time to bicycle advocacy. He believes in bicycling as a way to empower people and build closer communities. He serves as lead mechanic for the Union’s Bike to Market program and is a member of the Bike Promotion Committee.
Phi Tran is currently attending UMass Boston double majoring in studio art and sociology. Phi’s main passion is community organizing with the youth community of Boston to address social injustices such as teen dating violence, homophobia, and gang violence. Phi has become environmentally aware ever since getting involved with green initiatives on and off campus, and he rides his bike to and from school instead of driving to reduce his carbon footprint. Phi serves on the Finance and Operations Committee and the Bike Promotion Committee with a special focus on developing youth programs.
Meet board members old and new at the Union’s 2nd Annual Meeting September 27, 2012. Questions about the board selection process should be sent to email@example.com
The text below was e-mailed to Union members on Friday, September 7, 2012 for informational purposes.
In the interest of clarity, the Boston Cyclists Union Board of Directors is proposing an amendment to its bylaws that would make a small change to the process for choosing board members. Currently, a board selection committee carefully evaluates candidates and proposes a slate to the board of directors, which then approves the slate. The slate is then brought to the full membership for a vote at the annual meeting. Intended as a way for the membership to approve and affirm the board slate created and voted on by the board, the fact that it was arbitrarily termed an “election” in the bylaws has led to some confusion among candidates and members alike.
Riding on the Dunsmuir Cycletrack in Vancouver.
A letter from the executive director
Hello from the Velo-City 2012 conference! Some of the best and brightest bike planners in the world are meeting here in Vancouver, British Columbia and I’ve been sent to gather all the latest and greatest tactics to help us cover our city with pedal-powered vehicles. Many wouldn’t know it out on the East Coast, but Vancouver is the perfect North American locale for such a meet-up. It is fast becoming one of North America’s most amazing bike cities (and a super nice place to hang out to boot!).
Starting in the 1950s, when America was spreading suburbs like lard across the land, Vancouver city planners began encouraging developers to erect residential towers near its downtown, keeping them far enough apart to preserve views for all. This method of “Vancouverism” spread to create one of North America’s densest cities (even edging out our beloved Boston). All of this urbanity is strikingly balanced with vast public spaces taking advantage of the natural beauty of the North Shore Mountains, English Bay, Coal Harbor and several islands, all visible from the city on clear days. Vancouver is also home one of the largest urban parks in North America, Stanley Park. Riding around its edge and checking out the beaches and beautiful bay views gave me dozens of ideas about how we can separate bike and pedestrian traffic in Boston’s Emerald Necklace and elsewhere.
Continue reading From Vancouver, with bikes
Brookline's Route 9 Crossing concept. The Union has recommended that the radius of the right turn from Pond Ave to Route 9 be narrowed with paint or bollards to slow traffic making the turn, and that a loop or microwave detector be used on the path to detect bikes early, and thus reduce waiting times for cyclists at the light.
A committee of handpicked town officials and residents made a call on the future of one of the remaining gaps in the Emerald Necklace last week, putting the signalization and reconstruction of the park’s much-lamented bike/ped path crossing of Route 9 on the fast track, and setting a tone for a host of other changes to come.
The concept for the short term changes to the crossing, first presented at a June 6 meeting in Brookline’s Town Hall, includes new bike/pedestrian pathway segments through tiny slivers of the park on both sides of Route 9 and a signalized crosswalk over Route 9 itself, including a widened median and expanded waiting area within it that would allow waiting room for a half-dozen bicycles or more.
The crossing has long been on the top priority list for bicyclists in Jamaica Plain and points south, though due to the crossing’s location in the Town of Brookline none of those residents, nor the Boston Cyclists Union, were given any representation on the committee. As a result, the vote on the final concept was held during the same meeting wherein the public first laid eyes on it, leaving little room for thoughtful public comment. On the positive side, the current plan is still in the conceptual stage, and input will still be gathered when funding is found and the 100 percent design process begins.
Though progress on the short term plan for the crossing appeared to be universally supported, not all bicycle advocates were entirely pleased with longer term ideas expressed in the concept, which seemed to rule out two ideas that advocates had hoped would stitch together the dismembered park: A proposed closure of Netherlands Road to through traffic, and a proposed narrowing of River Road to create more parkland and a wide shared use path.
“This plan shows a lack of vision,” said Jamaica Plain’s Jeffrey Ferris, a well known advocate and bike shop owner. “I recommend voting yes on the Route 9 crossing part of the plan, but no on the rest.”
In the case of Netherlands Road’s connection to the Riverway (also known as Parkway Road on some maps), the Town of Brookline’s consultants used projections of future traffic increases to predict a need to install a new right-hand turn lane on Riverway for motorists turning onto Brookline Avenue. But the creation of this new turning lane would require taking land from the Emerald Necklace, an idea that park advocates roundly objected to.
In an attempt to question the need for a right-hand turn lane at the location, the Boston Cyclists Union submitted a letter questioning the consultant’s traffic projections and requesting a second opinion from the state’s Central Transportation Planning Staff—-a service offered free to towns and cities in the Commonwealth–but the Town of Brookline never acknowledged the letter.
On River Road, the traffic increase projections also spurred a recommendation that the street remain two-way, and maintaining parking in the plan was explained as necessary because local businesses “expressed the need” for it, though no parking study was conducted to measure its capacity or the nature of its use.
On the positive side of the ledger for cyclists, the new plan did call for eliminating the off-ramp from the Riverway onto River Road, thus lowering the chance of conflict and crashes there. Netherlands Road would also become one-way southbound under the plan.
After several advocates spoke in favor of the crossing, but disapproved of the rest of the plan, the committee unanimously voted to approve it but added the qualification that it could be revised in the future.
“This is about a study done at a certain time with a complete understanding that changes happen over time,” said Selectwoman Jesse Mermell, head of the committee.
The request for funding for the reconstruction of the Route 9 crossing will now be sent into the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) process. If funding is approved, a more detailed planning process will begin and many observers predict between three and five years before construction on the Route 9 signalization project begins.
By Phi Tran, Union board member
This past week my friend Chris Finlay and I embarked on a bike tour from Boston to New York City on a quest to raise money for my two favorite organizations, the Boston Cyclists Union and Viet-AID in Dorchester. This was the first multi-day tour either of us had ever taken and it was definitely a true “character builder.”
On the very first day it rained on us as we climbed the steep, endless Connecticut hills. The story of Sisyphus, forever cursed to push his rock up the hills of Hades, frequently came to mind. We knew that as soon as we finished a hill, there would surely be another one waiting for us, yet we pedaled through to the crests. This routine of hill climbing on country roads lasted for the first two days.
The halfway point was marked by the city of Hartford, Conn. From there on, the country roads gave way to sprawling suburban housing developments and roads lined with strip malls. Hills were the main challenge on the first days of the tour, but on this second half of the trip the challenges were dangerously fast traffic and an endless supply of broken glass to dodge.
On day four, the final day of the tour, serious mental fatigue and muscular failure prematurely ended the ride only 30 miles outside of Manhattan in the town of Greenwich, CT. While we initially wanted to find a place to sleep and finish the last leg of the tour the following day, it quickly became clear that would be a serious logistical challenge.
So, rather than crashing on the roadside for the evening, we took a train to Grand Central Terminal in New York City. From there we rode through the city to our friend’s warm and cozy Brooklyn apartment.
Riding in New York City was exhilarating—in the most adrenaline-pumping sense—to say the least. We plan to experience it once again at the end of the summer when we return to Greenwich and finish the last 30-mile stretch into the city. We don’t like to leave things undone, and we want to respect the support of everyone who donated to our cause.
The experience of our first tour annealed both our legs and our resolve. It was those small victories that got us through the tough times and self doubt while on the road. Making it to the top of the next hill, rain clouds yielding to a most beautiful display of light in the sky, a successful tire change in the rain, a quarter-mile of downhill coasting, finding a convenience store on a road in the middle of nowhere, the list goes on and on. These simple things got us through the exhaustion, the pain, and desire to be done that struck even when the ride was only halfway over.
Bicycle tours, like any endurance activity, can be difficult, particularly for beginners. We did it for the sense of accomplishment that comes with being able to move unthinkable distances under your own power, and for the simple, undeniable joy that is riding a bike.