How biking to Montreal changed my view of Boston’s bike infrastructure

By Alex Frieden

This past Spring, I signed up for Bostreal, a fundraising trip for the Boston Cyclists Union where 30 Bostonians bike 400 miles at the end of May from Boston to Montreal, both to support the work of the Bike Union and to experience Montreal’s excellent bike infrastructure.

During the day, I work in Cancer Diagnostics on the Longwood Medical Campus at a joint appointment for Dana Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Most nights you can find me doing advocacy for bikes, walkable streets, and places for people in the trifecta that is Boston/Cambridge/Somerville. I currently lead the Somerville Bike Committee Evaluation and Planning Group which helps me think about what mix of infrastructure should exist on a street for all road users on a regular basis.

Basically, I’m a Batman bicycle vigilante saving and protecting the streets… one public meeting at a time. That is to say, I’m no stranger to bike advocacy,  so it was quite a surprise to me that my experience biking in Montreal would be so powerful.

Continue reading How biking to Montreal changed my view of Boston’s bike infrastructure

Victory in Cambridge!

20622063_1891701444192836_765679847826396053_n The Brattle Street 2-way protected bike lane. Photo courtesy of Cambridge Bike Safety.

Earlier this month, Cambridge installed a new 2-way protected bike lane on Brattle Street in Harvard Square that was proposed during participatory budgeting. The new design has dramatically transformed Brattle Street into a slower, safer street for all users, especially people biking and walking.

Unfortunately, due to opposition to the Brattle Street lane from the Harvard Square Business Association, three Cambridge City Councilors sponsored a policy order that could have stopped all work on all new “pop-up” protected bike lanes, until City staff met with every single Business Association in Cambridge.

Passage of this order could have dramatically delayed installation of all planned protected bike lanes and threatened the City’s ability to install the protected bike lanes that are planned for Cambridge Street west of Inman Square.

In response to the policy order and a potential moratorium on new protected bike lanes, the Bike Union and Cambridge Bike Safety mobilized hundreds of people to write letters to the City Council and speak at the Council meeting on Monday, August 7th, the day the order would be voted on.

At that meeting, Cambridge residents, bike advocates and patrons of Harvard Square businesses passionately voiced their support for protected bike lanes and their opposition to the Policy Order, for nearly 3 hours!

Thanks to the overwhelming opposition to the policy order, the City Council amended the order, striking the paragraph that included the moratorium language and replacing it with a paragraph calling for a roundtable event with a broad range of constituencies to discuss how to most effectively communicate with the public about these projects and their implementation.

The new policy order was passed unanimously by the Council.

We’d like to thank Cambridge Bike Safety and everyone who wrote emails, tweeted, came to Monday night’s meeting, and testified about the importance of moving forward with the rapid implementation of a connected network of protected bike lanes! Had we not responded so overwhelmingly, the Council likely would have passed the original policy order, and Cambridge could have instituted a moratorium on new “pop-up” protected bike lanes.

Harvard Square Business owners are trying to kill protected bike lanes in Cambridge. We need your help to defend them!

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Update: We did it! Click here to read about the Cambridge City Council meeting.

This Monday, August 7th, the Cambridge City Council will vote on a policy order which could put a moratorium on all new “pop-up” protected bike lanes. 

Earlier this month, Cambridge installed a new 2-way protected bike lane on Brattle Street in Harvard Square that was proposed during participatory budgeting. The new design has dramatically transformed Brattle Street into a slower, safer street for all users, especially people biking and walking. For the first time there is now a safe route in and out of Harvard Square for people of all ages and abilities to ride a bike, allowing them to avoid the other streets where they’d have to ride in motor vehicle traffic.

Unfortunately, the Harvard Square Business Association has begun an active and unfounded opposition campaign to try and get the protected bike lanes on Brattle St removed, and are now taking their fight to the city council.

Three councilors (Simmons, Toomey, and Maher) have sponsored a policy order for Monday’s agenda that would stop all work on all new “pop-up” protected bike lanes, until City staff have met with every single Business Association in Cambridge.

Passage of this order could dramatically delay installation of all planned protected bike lanes and threatens the City’s ability to install and construct new lanes like the ones recently installed on Mass Ave, and in planning on Cambridge Street west of Inman Square.

We need to show up and speak up in favor of safer streets! The Cambridge City Council needs to see that an overwhelming number of people support protected bike lanes, and they shouldn’t cave to the pressure of one group.

Comm Ave Bridge Replacement: What you need to know

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Starting last week and going until August 14th, the BU Bridge and parts of Comm Ave are closed to motor vehicle traffic while MassDOT replaces the Comm Ave Bridge over the Mass Pike. The good news is that bikes will still have access to the BU Bridge and Comm Ave for the duration of the project! In fact, some people have already made the most of the car-free BU Bridge by having a picnic on it.

For those who bike over the BU Bridge on a regular basis, you’ll remember the condition that Comm Ave was in, with pot holes the size of wheels that would sometimes allow you to see down to the Mass Pike. Thankfully those days are behind us, and the future looks smooth!

The next two weeks will be particularly interesting as the shutdown of such a major intersection (and crossing of the Charles River), brought predictions of carmageddon. However, the start of the project has been rather uneventful.

In fact, the project has already created some benefits for people biking. In an effort to get more people to ride, Hubway is stocking the stations along Comm Ave with extra bikes, and between now and August 14th, Hubway users can take advantage of a $1 fare special by downloading the new Hubway app! 

St. Mary’s Street has also been made 2-way, allowing people on bikes to legally ride northbound from Mountfort Street to Comm Ave. Before this project began, St. Mary’s Street was one-way going southbound, but many people on bikes rode against traffic in order to avoid the chaotic and often dangerous Carlton Street. Just be careful going northbound on St. Mary’s, as there is one blind driveway mid-block. To address this, MassDOT has installed a mirror that allows people biking to see vehicles coming out of the driveway.

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For updates on the project, check MassDOT’s website here, or follow #CommAveBridge on social media. You can also check out a live webcam and amazing time-lapses of the project!

Below is a detour map for people walking and biking through this area.

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In related news, the protected bike lanes scheduled for installation between Packard’s Corner and the BU Bridge along Comm Ave (as part of a separate project) are now under construction! Ride down to Packard’s Corner while enjoying a car-free Comm Ave and check it out!