Some of you might have read our director Pete Stidman’s “predictions of the future” in the Boston Phoenix this week, including a brief reference in the text to a “car-free path parallel to Blue Hill Avenue, akin to the Southwest Corridor.” It’s the first time the press has mentioned this idea that is oft discussed with people from the community at our farmer’s market stands and at community meetings, and as put, the concept needs explaining.
The Blue Hill/Warren corridor is one of the major arterial ‘spokes’ that radiate out of downtown Boston to the rest of the city and beyond. It carries tens of thousands of commuters each day, and stretches through vast neighborhoods that need more options for physical activity and better health, but is a nearly insurmountable barrier to hundreds if not thousands of potential cyclists, simply because vehicle speeds are far too high. Save where bike lanes were recently installed on the southern half of the street, riders most often use the sidewalks, even the experienced ones.
Now imagine if that street, avoided today, suddenly became one of the safest to ride a bike on, nearly as comfortable as the Southwest Corridor. The Blue Hills Reservation, several parks and schools, and downtown Boston would suddenly feel closer by bike for thousands of Bostonians. A street once dominated by speeding cars would be calmed, and pedestrians would feel safer and become more numerous with an extra buffer between them and the moving traffic, which would improve foot traffic for hundreds of small businesses.
It seems like a dream, and there would be engineering challenges on its narrower lengths. But the majority of the street is wide enough for physically separated bike lanes or “Copenhagen-style” cycletracks with split-level sidewalks. And though making this dream into something real requires a long-term outlook, opportunities to move in this direction do exist, if the neighborhoods support them.
The first would be getting Blue Hill and Warren back on the city’s priority list for reconstruction. The corridor fell off the list when the state proposed the 28x high-speed bus line along it, which would have meant a state-run reconstruction. But now that the bus line plan has been scrapped due to neighborhood opposition, the way is clear to put the street back on the city’s list. An MBTA community process happening now in Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester for improving bus service along the 28 route does not include road reconstruction as part of its scope.
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If you live in Roxbury, Dorchester or Mattapan and want to help organize, let us know.