Boston's big op

Huge turnout at a public meeting for Cambridge St. improvements in Allston.

Your support of the Bike Union, Boston Bikes and similar efforts in Greater Boston have given our city the seventh fastest growing mode share for bike commuters, according to a new USPIRG report. Boston’s Bike to work mode share is growing faster than in Seattle, and is within a hair of matching the growth rate of Minneapolis, one of the country’s top biking cities. Portland Oregon is still far outpacing the pack, but a number of new opportunities for cycletracks and bike paths in Boston could completely change the game.

In a fall season filled with public meetings for cycletrack projects, one in particular stands out as an indicator of what the near future could be like. In Allston last month hordes of people crowded into the Jackson Mann School in Allston for a public hearing on the Cambridge Street bridge reconstruction project, and showed overwhelming support for a physically separated cycletrack. The tenor of the meeting was far different than others in the city, where cycletracks are still unfamiliar futuristic ideas. But perhaps because residents there have experienced the protection of the city’s first cycletrack on Western Avenue since 2010 (which resulted from a Bike Union ask), vocal opposition was largely absent.

The short stretch of cycletrack the neighborhood seems likely to for its two-wheeled residents could also stretch all the way to the Charles River some day relatively soon. In addition to a pending short term project from the city, a new I-90 Interchange reconstruction project is getting underway that could reconfigure the on and off ramps to the pike and turn the highway-like Cambridge St. into a separated facility safe enough for children. There is also a dreamy idea to use the rail beds underneath the Cambridge St. Bridge into a bike path that would connect to the Grand Junction path bike activists in Cambridge have been asking for–ultimately creating an off-road connection from Allston Village to Kendall Square.

Perhaps even more inspirational is the fabulous Connect Historic Boston project, which the Bike Union helped inform along with other community members as part of a design advisory group. The project has been fast-tracked with a $15 million federal TIGER grant. What it means for bikes, essentially, is cycletracks along Atlantic Avenue, Commercial Street, Causeway Street, and Staniford Street appearing sometime in the next three years, replete with bike signals and strong wayfinding signage. 

This group of streets is phase one of a larger project that will form a figure-8 low-stress bike loop that will also include Cambridge Street, Tremont Street, Summer Street, and State Street.

With the addition of other pending projects such as the Public Garden Cycletrack, the Neponset Greenway Extension, the Rutherford St. Greenway, the Casey Arborway and the future Morton Street Cyclectrack’s extension of the existing SW Corridor, and the Community Path being planned as part of Somerville’s Green Line Extension one can see a very solid network of safe cycling options developing in the city at a fairly rapid pace.

Safe access to cycling is a key indicator of quality of life used to judge any city, and with young people driving far less and biking more in Boston-this new network can be expected to help retain far more of the college and university graduates so sought after by high tech companies, increasing Boston’s competitive edge in the innovation fields, not to mention helping to trim waists citywide and give affordable access to jobs for all residents. Add all this to a new mayoral administration in Boston and it’s a very exciting time to be a Bostonian.

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