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.

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