Boston moves toward cycletracks on Commonwealth

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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.

5 comments to Boston moves toward cycletracks on Commonwealth

  • Robert Miller

    Great! Please keep me posted.

    Thanks,
    Bob

  • marc springer

    This is an excellent development. It seems to me this stretch of Commonwealth Avenue is the most important street in the City of Boston to put separate and protected bike lanes. I applaud the Mayor and the City for working towards this goal.

  • […] Boston moves to install a cycle track on one of the most heavily-travelled streets in the city. Boston moves toward cycletracks on Commonwealth […]

  • […] is “heading toward” a firm plan for protected lanes on the crucial Commonwealth Avenue artery between Boston University Bridge and Brighton, Deputy Transportation Commissioner Jim Gillooly said […]

  • Jes

    Given the snow and the lack of T service during the winter of 2015, I hope that this is truly being rethought.

    A few months ago, my understanding was that BU didn’t want to give up any sidewalk, even though they’re overly wide. Advocates and design architects were trying to convince the city and college that it would be to their advantage, and time was running out on getting federal funding.

    If Boston has an opportunity to reconsider public transportation generally, then it should consider walking and biking as part of that infrastructure. Snow removal should be part of the city sweep for walking and biking as well. Citizens shouldn’t be penalized for being responsible and eco-minded. Cars could be limited in the city allowing for a more pedestrian friendly environment that would encourage health and community.

    Improved cycle tracks would be a boon along the Northeast corridor into JP as well.

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