New Arborway cycletrack could transform Boston

Send your comments to DCR to make it real

A new plan for the Arborway would transform dangerous rotaries into roundabouts with safe crossings and bike paths.

A new plan for the Arborway would transform dangerous rotaries into roundabouts with safe crossings and bike paths.

Last Thursday the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) took a dramatic new step forward for people who bike, for Jamaica Plain and Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace park system, and possibly for creating safer designs for all the parkways in the Commonwealth.

“For us to be able to successfully implement these changes would mean a lot for the wider network because it shows what’s feasible,” said DCR’s Director of Partnerships Conrad Crawford. “And we have to thank the advocacy community for clarifying our thinking on this. Knowing that we have the demand and the support in the human-centered advocacy community means that we feel a lot more supported in being creative. If people weren’t able to attend the meeting we urge them to share their opinions on this project.”

A cross-section how the proposed Arborway cycletracks would look as they left Forest Hills in the direction of Jamaica Pond.

A cross-section how the proposed Arborway cycletracks would look as they left Forest Hills in the direction of Jamaica Pond.

Fulfilling an official Bike Union request made in May 2014, the plan includes cycletracks between Forest Hills and Jamaica Pond that–along with work soon to get underway in Brookline’s Route 9 crossing–will someday mean an uninterrupted Bikeway for Everybody between Franklin Park in Dorchester all the way to Landmark Center in the Fenway neighborhood.

Notably, the Longwood Medical Area, with over 30,000 jobs on site, is on the route.

Another effort to get cycletracks on Morton Street to Mattapan will likely gain momentum from the new connection, as will other aspects of the Parkway Plan now getting underway at the DCR, including Centre Street and West Roxbury Parkway. It also provides a very exciting model for how the DCR can make its many traffic rotaries safer for pedestrians and people on bikes.

Instead of the Kelly and Murray traffic rotaries that exist today on the Arborway——in which traffic in the circle must yield to incoming high-speed traffic——the new plan proposes three “modern roundabouts.” Two of the roundabouts form a “dumbbell” pair that helps traffic merge from Centre Street and the Arborway at Murray.

Unlike rotaries, incoming traffic in modern roundabouts enters at a perpendicular angle and must yield to traffic already in the circle. This has the effect of slowing motorists down, calming traffic and creating awareness of pedestrians, bikes and other vehicles. Roundabouts also help optimize efficient traffic flow and prevent gridlock for motorists. The plan would remove four traffic signals. Because they take up far less space, there is more room for Bikeways for Everybody to skirt around them.

With these roundabouts, raised pedestrian crossings, and protected bike lanes, the new concept would encourage drivers to drive at slower speeds but also help move through the area more efficiently with fewer stops. All of this, said Ian Lockwood, a consultant with Toole Design Group who spoke at Thursday’s meeting, would help greatly reduce the number of injuries and deaths on the street. Over 130 crashes occurred on this stretch of the parkway between 2009 and 2012, according to Toole’s analysis.

The crowd of around 40 neighborhood residents, and at least one motorist/cyclist from Dorchester, were overwhelmingly positive about the plan. Asked if anyone didn’t like it, the crowd didn’t produce a single naysayer, though some urged the DCR to make sure to explain it well to people who drive.

Roundabouts were controversial when they were first introduced to the U.S. in the early 1990s, but a 1998 study concluded that though public opinion was often sour before installation at the time, 73 percent of the public supported roundabout installation after the fact.

A map showing just some of the DCR Parkways that could benefit from the example of safe comfortable bike infrastructure the Bike Union is working to support on the Arborway. The Bike Union is part the Urban Paths and Parkways Committee that is overseeing the plan.

A map showing just some of the DCR Parkways that could benefit from the example of safe comfortable bike infrastructure the Bike Union is supporting on the Arborway. The Bike Union is part of the Urban Paths and Parkways Committee that is overseeing a new $500,000 Parkway Study that will explore adding bike infrastructure to all of the systems parkways.

The introduction of the roundabout to the DCR’s parkway system could not come at a better time. The DCR’s $500,000 study of their entire parkway system, also triggered by the #WinterBiker and Arborway Cycletrack campaigns, will provide an opportunity to talk about replacing dozens of rotaries in Metro Boston to make conditions safer for all people who bike, as well as pedestrians and motorists.

It’s in the bike community’s interest to keep supporting the DCR so our state park system can be as awesome as every staffer working there believes it should be.

Please check out more of the plan and send in your supportive comments and suggestions to dcr.updates@state.ma.us. Please note “Arborway Bicycle Facilities” in the subject line, though this project is so much more! Deadline for comments is Friday, March 6.

You can also send comments to:
DCR Office of Public Outreach
251 Causeway St. Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114

2 comments to New Arborway cycletrack could transform Boston

  • Melanie Fossinger

    As a long time resident of Jamaica Plain – I support the creation of bike lanes on the arborway to ensure that our most vulnerable commuters are protected. We need more bikers in Boston to alleviate some of the strain on our MBTA system and congested roads, however the current roads are not safe for bikers, especially the arborway.

  • Kevin ONeall

    As a Jamaica Plain resident, the Arborway has long served as more of a raceway for car traffic. This proposed redesign could make this a much safer place to bike and encourage more cyclist to take this route. Boston has a long way to go before it’s up to it’s full potential, but this is a strong step in the right direction!

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