Boston's first cycletrack comes to Allston!

A new parking-protected and buffered bike lane on Western Avenue, a Boston first. (You can see the beginning of the parking area in the distance there!)

Aren’t you glad there’s a bike union? Without the Boston Cyclists Union influence, you’d be looking at a picture of just another bike lane right now. Actually you wouldn’t even be reading this, or getting these emails. But you are, the Union exists and there it is, one of the most progressive bikeways the city has engineered so far.

Now we’re not trying to take credit for doing the hard work designing and painting this thing, those plaudits go to Harvard University and the City of Boston. What we did is very simple—we asked the Boston Transportation Department to look at the possibility of a cycletrack instead of a bike lane on this street, they asked Harvard to design it as part of their campus expansion plan, and the rest is history. Not much effort at all really, but hey, if we hadn’t been there to spark the idea… well, you get the idea.

This facility isn’t perfect, and we aren’t Europe just yet, but it will make riding far safer for folks heading toward Cambridge, and if a cycletrack planned for Western Avenue on the Cambridge side is built, that and a bike lane on the Boston inbound side will help bring them safely home again. To see a video of this cycletrack, check out our Facebook page. (We’re forwarding it to the city to address the errant car issue!)

To be clear, this is not a Copenhagen style cycletrack, nor a Montreal or Cambridge style one, but it is, at least for part of its length, a cycletrack by definition (due to the physical separation provided by parked cars). But given that the city had only paint to work with, not a full reconstruction of the street, this is a great leap forward from what we’ve seen before. There are also a handful of design challenges for cycletracks the city had to contend with — such as allowing enough clearance for the city’s snow plows — that will have to be overcome as we move toward full separation in future designs.

The opportunity to ask for full Copenhagen-style, curb separated cycletracks only comes when a street and its sidewalks are being fully reconstructed. The reason is cost. To build a Copenhagen-style cycletrack without reconstruction happening concurrently would cost in the neighborhood of $1 million per mile. With reconstruction, it’s simply a change in the plans.

New York City has rebuilt their streets to include several cycletracks in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as have several other cities around the world. They have a wide range of designs. Some are parking separated, such as 1st Avenue in Manhattan and Kent Street in Brooklyn, others include curbs and other features, such as 9th Avenue in Manhattan. New York City keeps improving their designs as they learn how traffic reacts to these facilities, as we hope Boston will too.

The thing we feel is worth celebrating here is that the ice has been broken. Now, when cycletracks are proposed in other parts of the city, there will be an example that we and the Boston Transportation Department itself can point to and say: “See? It works.”

If you appreciate having a safer place to ride as you go to work or play each day, please, support our advocacy by joining the union online, right now, or by volunteering. Only with your help can we transform Boston into the America’s Cycling City.

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