Brookline goes big for Route 9 cycletrack designComm Ave cycletrack campaign heats upWalsh proposes first of its kind truck safety ordinanceCommute BostonSign the petition for Commonwealth Ave cycletracksDCR takes step back, two steps forwardRoxbury’s Hampden Street repaved, added to bike lane work planCollaborative releases new police crash map, dataJoin the Climate Ride’s Boston Cyclists Union teamBoston selected for national project to create cycletracks

DCR takes step back, two steps forward

After receiving a letter from the Bike Union, the Department of Conservation and Recreation removed the bicycle symbols along the shoulder of the Arborway in Jamaica Plain last week, admitting that their premature addition to what was designed as a shoulder for the street was “a miscommunication between headquarters and our field engineering staff.”

Design flaws in the new Arborway bike lane include poor transitions in and out of the bike lane, untreated intersections, and lanes narrower than the four foot minimum. Many of these problems would likely have been resolved if the Bike Union had been able to review plans as requested on May 5.

Design flaws in the new Arborway bike lane include poor transitions in and out of the bike lane, untreated intersections, and lanes narrower than the four foot minimum.

An article in the last issue of the Union Rider newsletter pointed out several errors in the Arborway design that could be dangerous to cyclists, and decried a lack of public review of any kind.

On the positive side, in a response letter Commissioner Jack Murray committed to hiring a traffic analyst to help create an “initial study concept” for bikeways on the street in the late fall and, as a result of the increased attention from the Bike Union and other advocates, took stronger steps toward creating a bicycle advisory board specifically for urban areas in the state.

The Union requested that the future Arborway concept include protected bike lanes (cycletracks), and recently received plans for the street that engineers working with the Union can pour over for possible solutions.

Many sections of the Arborway measured by Bike Union volunteers are wide enough allow a cycletrack with the kind of flexibility needed to allow residential services such as trash pick up and oil delivery. The challenges DCR and Bike Union engineers will face will be the traffic circles; how to traverse them or avoid them altogether.

Roxbury’s Hampden Street repaved, added to bike lane work plan

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New pavement on Hampden St.

As Boston’s Public Works Department fired up its paving machines this Spring, the Bike Union asked to add a couple particularly bumpy streets to the mix. The repaving section of the Public Works Department deserves a big thank you. Up until last week, riding Hampden Street in Roxbury felt a little like traversing the surface of the moon or a giant washboard. Today it is smooth sailing.

To celebrate, the Union asked Boston Bikes to add it to their work plan. It may take a while, as the city is focused on cycletrack work with the Green Lanes Project, but it’s nice to know it’s coming. Hampden helps connect the end of Blue Hill Avenue and the Mount Pleasant neighborhood down to the bike lanes on Albany St and on Mass Ave.

A request is also in to repave Ritchie Street in Roxbury next to Marcella Playground, where nervous cyclists are forced to dodge potholes and cars at the same time.

PWD to do Seaver St with cycletracks on one side only

A rendering of Seaver Street with one way cycletracks on both sides of the street.

A rendering of Seaver Street with one way cycletracks on both sides of the street. The Public Works Department has said it will not add cycletracks on the north (left) side of the street.


Interim Commissioner of the Public Works Department’s Michael Dennehy is a promising promotion within the Martin Walsh Administration in many regards, but the new commish did not see fit to help community members agree on one solution for Seaver Street.

In response to a letter signed by 48 community members and the Bike Union’s Organizing Group asking to keep bicycles away from moving traffic and out of the door zone with a cycle track on both sides of the street, he responded that, “The project is going to go forward as is… there are safety concerns on that stretch of Seaver Street for people exiting cars into such a narrow travel lane.”

Despite the setback, efforts were not all for naught. On Seaver Street, working with the Roxbury Bicycle Brigade, members of Bikes Not Bombs and others, the Bike Union did win a cycletrack on the other Eastbound side of the street, and the critical area around the cliffs in Franklin Park where speeds are high and visibility is low.

In the meantime, the bodies of cyclists riding in the Public Work Department’s (PWD) bike lane on the Westbound side of the street may end up serving as a buffer to protect the “people exiting cars” that Mr. Dennehy describes.

Seaver Street is another in what has been a pattern of community outreach from the Public Works Department that tends to divide communities rather than bring them together. The other example we’re aware of was on Mass Ave from the Boston Medical Center to Symphony Hall. The neighborhood’s goals there were similar, calmer traffic, safer for pedestrians and bikes, but because the department didn’t work with the LivableStreets Alliance to bring their ambitious plan in accord with residents—and instead played the two off of each other, we ended up with narrow, door-zone bike lanes. Anything was better than nothing it was said at the time, and we can say that again now.

Collaborative releases new police crash map, data

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The new interactive crash map with information about the time, weather conditions, persons involved and more about each individual crash.

Since the Bike Union began, getting accurate bike crash data that indicates cause has been part of the struggle to eliminate death and injuries among cyclists in the city. Now, that step toward “Vision Zero” has finally been taken. Not only do we now have a database that begins to tell the story of how crashes happen, we also have a baseline measure that can be used to measure the success of future efforts to reduce death and injury.

The Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI), the Boston Cyclists Union, the Boston Police Department and other partners, led by Rappaport Fellow Dahianna Lopez, have released two new tools for bike advocates everywhere. One is an interactive online crash map  that allows people to identify crash clusters and see potential patterns. Two is a public release of the raw data that helped create that map. The raw data however contains much more data than the map—including narrative police reports that are our best indication of cause and a number of facts derived from them.

The release of the data opens the door for researchers around the world and allows Boston to join just a handful of cities in the country that provide public access to police crash data, and a very select few that include narrative police reports with that data. Accessing the data requires a LinkedIn profile and approval by BARI.

The work on Boston’s crash data resources will continue for years to come as the Bike Union chases a few important goals:

·      Adopting Vision Zero in the City of Boston

·      Adding regular updates to the existing police data

·      Correlating the police data with ambulance and emergency room data to illuminate facts such as which kinds of crashes are causing the most serious crashes, and how much bike crashes are costing the city on the whole.

If you are interested in supporting our continuing work on crash data, you can join or donate, call us at 617-516-8877, or email info@bostoncyclistsunion.org for more info. If you’d like to volunteer on this project or other research email Jessie Partridge, the Union’s Research lead.

 

Grand Junction Path’s star is rising

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Rendering of proposed Grand Junction Path. Image courtesy of Friends of Grand Junction Path

Rosenblum also identified four distinct areas where advocates and the city can focus their energy to make the path a reality: The BU bridge crossing, MIT’s backside which has some “dirty” uses such as storage and truck deliveries, individual landowners on the north side of the path, and the tricky connection engineering-wise with the Somerville Community Path at the Northern end. All of these, he indicated, seemed to have good potential for solutions.

Tom Evans, Executive Director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority detailed his agency’s work on the first section of the path scheduled for construction: a small stretch along Galileo Way that doesn’t suffer from any competing use or other barrier. The plan calls for a path along Galileo that is well situated to connect to future paths on either end. It could be completed as early as this year, said Evans.

MIT spoke next. Currently embroiled in their own feasibility study, officials from the venerable institute spoke encouragingly of the path.

“We believe the [Grand Junction] Path has the ability to improve and enhance this area,” said Ken Williams, a senior real estate officer from MIT. Apart from their cautious support of the path however, MIT gave no clear indication of whether they thought the path was truly feasibility or not, saying the problem still needed to be studied further.

As part of their feasibility study, MIT will be holding an open house for the Grand Junction in which options for the path would be presented for the public to review. The Grand Junction Rail Corridor Open House will be Tues., June 24, 5pm-8pm at MIT’s Stata Center, 32 Vassar Street, Room 32-124, 1st floor.

After MIT finished answering questions from the city councilors present, Ned Codd spoke up. Codd is Assistant Secretary for GreenDOT at MassDOT. The GreenDOT plan he stewards aims to triple mode share of transit, biking and walking by 2030.

Codd was nominally supportive of the bike path but most of his testimony seemed to be obstructive to it, as he seemed to press for the preservation of two tracks for a future transit option. MassDOT and others, he said, have envisioned running Diesel Multiple Unit trains on these tracks, much like they have on the Fairmount “Indigo” Line and a recently envisioned Back Bay-Seaport connection.

His testimony triggered a line of hard questioning by City Councilors, primarily by Dennis Benzan and Nadeem Mazen, who seemed put off by the brush off. Asked if the state was funding or even starting to study the feasibility any addition of transit to the line, Codd responded no, but “conceptually there’s funding… It’s a long-term idea.”

Codd’s kibosh was the focus of public testimony later in the program, where many implored the council to not let “the perfect be the enemy of the good.” And cautioned Codd to consider the shorter-term benefits of increasing bicycle mode share. Any transit project would likely take at least 15 to 20 years to bring to fruition from an “idea” to a completed project.

Councilor Benzan asked pointedly “if [West] Station isn’t going to happen, why should we believe [transit on the Grand Junction] will?” Referring to the controversial MassDOT decision to decouple the I-90 straightening project in Allston from the addition of a new Commuter Rail station. Codd responded that the Governor is working with fewer transportation funds than he had asked for, and when that situation improves, more transit expansion can begin.

The Friends of the Grand Junction Path made the biggest splash of the day when their Rachel Burckardt, PE, put the kibosh on Ned Codd’s kibosh by explaining in detail how she devised a way to show that even at 15 minute intervals, trains could travel both ways on the current track configuration (which is partly single and partly double track).

“Basically, you just schedule the trains so they pass on the double tracks,” Burckardt told the Union after the hearing. “They do this on the commuter rail on the Newburyport and Rockport lines after Beverly, on the Haverhill line between Reading and just before Haverhill, and on parts of the Old Colony, Stoughton, and Needham lines. In other words, much of the commuter rail system is scheduled this way!”

“Wow,” remarked Councilor Dennis Carlone after Burckardt’s testimony.

Later that day, across town at a meeting of the advisory group for Allston’s I-90 Interchange straightening project or “People’s Pike,” Allston advocates kept their end of the path high up on the list of priorities. The MassDOT team was explaining the tight corridor they have to work in for one part of the highway’s replacement, suggesting a process that would include knocking two lanes off I-90’s viaduct which starts just west of the BU bridge at a time to build two new lanes and eventually replace the bridge. But to do so would include moving the bridge closer to Storrow Drive, which sits ironically upon the Storrow reservation, managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

During the hullaballoo that ensued, Bill Diegnan of Cambridge asked how the Grand Junction fit in to the new configuration and was assured that the path was still viable under this alternative. And, when the room of nearly 40 advisory group members unanimously rejected the idea of encroaching on DCR land, the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s Kairos Shen inserted himself in the proceedings and asked the group to support the idea of the BRA helping MassDOT create a few new alternatives. In the current MassDOT team, he argued, urban planning professionals are notably absent and this would help MassDOT address some community requests. The group unanimously supported this idea.

DCR lays down unusual, unsafe bike lanes on Arborway

A recently painted bike lane on the Arborway was done without any public review of plans. This picture clearly shows the additional space that could have been used to create a more comfortable protected bike lane.

A recently painted bike lane on the Arborway was done without any public review of plans.

Design flaws in the new Arborway bike lane include poor transitions in and out of the bike lane, untreated intersections, and lanes narrower than the four foot minimum. Many of these problems would likely have been resolved if the Bike Union had been able to review plans as requested on May 5.

Design flaws in the new Arborway bike lane include poor transitions in and out of the bike lane, untreated intersections, and lanes narrower than the four foot minimum. Many of these problems would likely have been resolved if the Bike Union had been able to review plans as requested on May 5.

The Department of Conservation has made significant progress this year on becoming more bike-friendly, but has not been open and transparent with the process of adding new bikeways on the Arborway in the short span between Kelley Circle (at Jamaica Pond) and Murray Circle (the Arboretum).

The Bike Union officially requested the any plans for Arborway bikeways in a letter on May 5, but was told plans did not exist, and that there would be a longer planning process for the Arborway in the fall. When bike lanes were painted this week, it became clear that the plan requested may have, in fact, existed, and in any case a short-term plan for bike infrastructure was carried out but not shared with the Union.

The slip up has DCR on damage control duty, and the Bike Union scrambling to finish a more polished proposal for a protected bike lane (cycletrack). The proposal was originally being developed to be an aid to the DCR in the fall, when facilities on the Arborway were slated for discussion and study. Early findings are that the side roads along this particular stretch of the Arborway are 30 feet wide, with two car travel lanes and no parking. With two standard travel lanes at 11-feet wide each, there is still ample room for a six-foot wide cycletrack and a two foot physical buffer, such as plastic flexposts or planters that would be removable in winter to allow for snow storage. Conveniently, DCR is well equipped to plow cycletracks using vehicles now devoted to bike path maintenance.

The remaining challenge in the plan for the Arborway will be finding safe and comfortable ways to navigate around the Kelley and Murray traffic circles. Because both of these circles are adjacent to parkland, there may be short-term solutions to be had, and in the past there have been more drastic long-term reconstruction proposals   to calm them and give more access to the parks in the area.

An early draft of the cross section the Bike Union was preparing to recommend to the DCR, based on the understanding that planning was ongoing.

An early draft of the cross section the Bike Union was preparing to recommend to the DCR, based on the understanding that planning was ongoing

The bike lane painted this week is not acceptable bike accommodation, and may put cyclists in danger by encouraging them to ride too close to traffic, or by not providing clear options to navigate the traffic circles. The Arborway has Average Daily Traffic (ADT) of over 30,000 vehicles per day making this bike lane a high-stress facility that does very little if anything to encourage more bicycling.

By signing this petition you are encouraging the DCR to implement safe, comfortable cycletracks (protected bike lanes) on the Arborway in the short term.

Join the Climate Ride's Boston Cyclists Union team

ClimateDC222Each year the Climate Ride from NYC to DC brings together hundreds of cyclists to inspire and empower citizens to work toward a new energy future——and bicycles are a big part of that. For Bike Union members, the Climate Ride has proven an excellent way to raise money and enjoy a magnificent ride trough the Mid-Atlantic states. (And you can also choose other rides on the West Coast and in the Midwest!)

Register now.

This year board member and cyclo-cross enthusiast Phil Stango is captaining the Bike Union team and leading them to fundraising victory. From the exciting departure by ferry in Manhattan to the hero’s welcome and rally at the steps of the US Capitol, the east-coast version of Climate Ride is more than a bike trip – it’s an inspiring journey with 200 like-minded people who are united by their passion for sustainability, renewable energy, and bicycles – the ultimate carbon-free form of transportation.

You’ll find out why they call New Jersey “The Garden State” as you cycle through the lush landscape. You’ll explore the historic Delaware River Valley, discover Pennsylvania’s Amish country, and pedal through horse country in Maryland before arriving at the Capitol in Washington DC. Evening programs and dynamic speakers combine with world-class riding to make this charitable event exciting, informative, and fun.

Climate Ride takes care of all the details, so you can focus on riding the 45-70 miles per day of carefully planned routes on back roads that meander through the countryside. It’s challenging yet doable, and you have all day to make it to the next rest stop. The ride has followed the same route between the two cities since the first Climate Ride in 2008, although portions change from year to year. The Climate Ride support team is always nearby to assist you, keep you happy and healthy, and make your ride worry-free and memorable.

Ride with us!

Join the Bike Union team by registering for this year’s Climate Ride, then clicking on the ‘Join this Team’ button and looking for “Boston Cyclists Union.” Once you’re signed up, you’ll be able to customize your own personal fundraising webpage and get started.

And if you can’t spare the time to go, you can always live vicariously through the team by fueling their fundraising dreams at the Boston Cyclists Union Team fundraising page.

WinterBiker campaign to bear fruit in summer & fall

DCR Commissioner Jack Murray met with representatives from several bike groups and WalkBoston last month, and welcomed new ideas for improving bicycling conditions on major bike routes.
The frenzy of social media posting that was the #WinterBiker campaign in February is setting the stage for some big improvements for cyclists come fall. Last month the Bike Union and other advocates were invited to meet with a phalanx of DCR staffers including representatives from path maintenance, community relations, planning, recreation, and DCR Commissioner Jack Murray.

The hats, mittens and scarfs of the photo campaign gave way to ties and jackets at the meeting, and Boston’s advocacy groups went in armed with a list of desired outcomes from grassroots participants in the campaign. Input came from the Union’s Organizing Group and another meeting of the minds hosted by MassBike and the Bike Union.

It was people using social media that triggered the meeting, but it was clear the Dept. of Conservation seemed to have been waiting for an excuse to recalculate their priorities in the light of the increase in bike ridership in the state’s larger cities. In fact, many of the DCR staffers around the table are avid riders themselves, including director of external affairs Conrad Crawford, senior planner Dan Driscoll, and director of recreation Gary Briere.

It’s the Bike Union’s hope that the new process to review policy will address not just the snow & ice removal that tripped this all off but a host of other items affected by the new acknowledgment of the DCR’s important role in bicycle transportation.

“The meeting was very positive and productive, with DCR acknowledging its important role in bicycle transportation and sharing agency plans to update its snow removal policy to meet current needs,” said Crawford in an official statement. “DCR committed to a transparent and public process to address these issues this year.”

It’s possible that a public process will be coupled with a community advisory group to help frame the wider discussion beforehand, but this detail is yet to be hammered out.

Want to be involved in the discussion? Join the Union’s Organizing Group. We meet monthly and talk about a wide variety of campaigns from the most local to state and even nationwide. Call 617-516-8877 or info@bostoncyclistsunion.org.

A chance for transformation in Allston


First public meeting next week

The area to be reconfigured. The Pike will be straightened into the Beacon Park Rail Yard (bottom) and its on- and off- ramps reconfigured, opening up more than 60 acres to development and offering opportunities for cycletracks on Cambridge Street and a new bike path connecting three major college campuses.

The area to be reconfigured. The Pike will be straightened into the Beacon Park Rail Yard (bottom) and its on- and off- ramps reconfigured, opening up more than 60 acres to development and offering opportunities for cycletracks on Cambridge Street and a new bike path connecting three major college campuses.

Will the future Lower Allston be a place that invites people to walk, bike or stay in? Or will it be primarily a place where cars zip through to get somewhere else? Those are the questions Allston’s neighborhood activists are hoping you will help answer next Thursday, April 10 at the first meeting of MassDOT’s massive I-90 straightening project.

By its official name, the “Allston I-90 Interchange Improvement Project Public Meeting,” one would not be able to tell how important this meeting is for people. To highlight the massive opportunities for changing Boston’s future, local activists have given a new name to the project: the “People’s Pike.”

What they’re excited about is the opportunity to connect Allston Village and Lower Allston to Central and Kendall squares via an off-road bike path, the opportunity to rebuild Cambridge Street in Allston with cycletracks and strong pedestrian amenities, and to set the stage for development along the Charles that enhances the city for everyone—not just for Harvard University.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to bring back together Allston north and south of the pike and to completely change how we use the pike in Boston,” said Alana Olsen, director of Allston Village Main Streets. “At this point the piece of land [that will become available] is a 100-acre blank slate. The potential is amazing for what it could be.”

MassDOT comes to the project out of a need to replace aging infrastructure in a way that will mean less maintenance costs in the future, to implement All Electronic Tolling instead of tollbooths, and to straighten the turnpike to occupy the now defunct Beacon Park railway yard—thus opening up a large parcel of land that will end up in Harvard’s ownership.

Back in the days before the railroad took over, the area next to the Charles at this location was a horse track. What it will become next depends on you.

Back in the days before the railroad took over, the area next to the Charles at this location was a horse track. What it will become next depends on you.

MassDOT has estimated it will save $45m a year in operating expenses going with cashless tolls throughout the state, and the pike is the biggest toll road the state operates. Because the new system will also simplify toll collection rates, many say it’s also likely to increase the annual toll revenue of $329 million. Suffice to say, there’s a lot of money at stake. The project itself will cost between $260 and $500 million, according to various estimates, and spark massive development in the neighborhood, including a small network of new streets.

As it stands, the City of Boston and MassDOT are planning to add cycletracks to the sections of Cambridge Street to be rebuilt—-but have yet to incorporate the more ambitious plans to build a Boston-side landing for the Grand Junction Path that could directly connect the campuses of Harvard, Boston University and MIT.

“What we’d like to do is continue the Grand Junction Path across the railroad bridge that’s under the BU Bridge and parallel the tracks and rail yard all the way to Cambridge Street,” explained John Sanzone, who leads the Friends of the Grand Junction Path. “The main thing is the design of the rail yard. However they resolve that, it would have to accommodate the space for the path. And right now the current push for design and feasibility ends at the BU Bridge on the Cambridge side. To get across the river, we have to start working with the City of Boston.”

The City of Cambridge has conducted a favorable feasibility study on its part of the Grand Junction Path (from the Charles River to the McGrath Highway) and may be convinced to add design money to the coming year’s budget. MIT is commencing its own feasibility study this month, and the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority also included a small piece of it in a public design charrette last month. If people speak up and get it included in the I-90 straightening project as an air quality mitigation measure for the pike’s daily pollute, it would mark the first time the project was taken seriously on the southern shore of the Charles River.

“The meeting on April 10th is a crucial moment to set the tone for this entire project,” said Allston neighborhood activist Jessica Robertson. “If we have a huge turnout, MassDOT will know people care about this project, and they’ll be more motivated to work with us to make sure the end result is designed with people in mind, not just cars.”

Public Meeting for the People’s Pike
(Invite your friends on Facebook)
Thurs. April 10, 6:30pm
Jackson Mann Community Center
500 Cambridge St.
Allston

Boston selected for national project to create cycletracks

A Bike Union volunteer's rendering of what a two-way cycletrack might look like on Arlington Street, next to the Public Garden. This is just one of the proposed cycletrack projects in the city of Boston that might benefit from PeopleforBikes support.

A rendering of what a two-way cycletrack might look like on Arlington Street, next to the Public Garden.

The PeopleForBikes Green Lane Project has selected Boston as one of six new U.S. cities to join its intensive two-year program to build protected bike lanes. Boston will receive financial, strategic and technical assistance to create protected bike lanes, also known as cycletracks. The Boston Cyclists Union helped support the city’s application this year, and also helped the city apply for the first year of the program in 2012. Boston, Atlanta, GA, Denver, CO, Indianapolis, IN, Pittsburgh, PA and Seattle, WA.,were chosen from more than 100 U.S. cities that submitted letters of interest for the program.

Cycletracks are separated from traffic by curbs, planters, parked cars or posts to make riding a bike an appealing option for more people.

“It was extremely difficult to narrow down our selection to just six cities; we are seeing an upsurge of interest in accommodating bikes on busy city streets,” said Martha Roskowski, PeopleForBikes Vice President of Local Innovation. “Boston has ambitious goals and a strong vision supported by the elected officials and the community. They are poised to get projects on the ground quickly and will serve as an excellent example for other interested cities.”

“Over the next six years, I want to take Boston from one of the best bicycling cities in the country to one of the best in the world. Investing in protected bike lanes is a critical path to that success,” Boston’s Mayor Martin Walsh said.

Since 2007, Boston went from the worst bicycling city in the country, according to Bicycling Magazine, to one of the best. Boston launched one of the first bike share systems in the country, the New Balance Hubway system, which has since grown to 130 stations and more than 1100 bicycles. Boston has added 82 miles of bike lanes and1500 bike racks and created one of the most successful community bike programs in the country, donating 1,000 bikes to low income residents and training 5,000 youth in 2013.

Under Mayor Walsh’s leadership, Boston will begin investing in protected bike lanes consistent with the recently completed Bike Network Plan, implement a women’s cycling program and expand Hubway into the neighborhoods. “With Connect Historic Boston planning underway, we are on track to see some incredible improvements over the next few years, not just for people on bikes, but for all road users, “said Boston Director of Bicycle Programs, Nicole Freedman.

In the first two years of the program (2012 and 2013), the Green Lane Project worked closely with other major U.S. cities – Austin, TX, Chicago, IL, Memphis, TN, Portland, OR, San Francisco, CA and Washington, DC – to build protected bike lanes. Since then, the number of protected bike lanes on city streets nationwide has nearly doubled from 80 to 142 – with more than half of all growth coming from the Project’s six focus cities. The founding cities will continue as mentors to the new class while continuing to build their bicycling networks with the momentum driven by the Project.

Boston leaders will join the Green Lane Project at an official kickoff event in Indianapolis in late April.