Charlestown turns out huge to support bike lane

Image courtesy of Kristi Ceccarossi and Charlestown Patch.

Around 40 souls packed the Knights of Columbus Hall in Charlestown last night for one of the best-attended Charlestown Neighborhood Council Transportation Committee meetings in recent memory. Every one of the 30 or so who stood up to speak were in support of getting a bike lane back onto what may be the oldest ‘Main Street’ in the country, and all but three of those speakers were Charlestown residents. It is a resounding confirmation of one of the Boston Cyclists Union’s main tenets: cyclists are everywhere in this city.

As the chair of the committee Bill Galvin went around the room taking public comments from some he recognized and some he didn’t, a cross section of Charlestown stood up and spoke their minds.

“We had a bike lane on Main Street. Then it got taken out. Why did that happen? What was the cost? I had a bike lane and now I don’t,” said Patrick Murphy, a longtime resident of Charlestown.

“We’re in the middle of an obesity crisis in this country. We want to get people riding their bikes,” said Katrina Plummer, also of Charlestown, adding: “I love the bike lane because I feel safer in the bike lane.”

“They’re going to ride on Main Street because that’s where the businesses are and that’s where people go,” said comedian and local celeb Tony Viveiros, a.k.a. Tony V.

There were also calls to examine the process that led to the bike lane’s removal, including the reasons for the council’s initial complaint to the city and the city’s independent decision to remove the lane. Others complained about the fact that the Charlestown Business Association, which reportedly took a vote against the lane and was the chief opposition to it late last year when it was first painted, opted not to send a representative to the meeting.

But despite whatever corrections to the community process a review of the facts may or may not facilitate, the take away for cyclists in all parts of the city is this: Staying engaged with your local civic and neighborhood associations does make a difference. A big one.

“We were concerned bike lanes were strictly for commuters traveling through Charlestown,” said chair Bill Galvin in a key moment. “I think this meeting dispels that concept. I think support in community is much broader than the Neighborhood Council anticipated.”

In this case, getting a high turnout to the meeting was a combination of cyclists who were already savvy to the council proceedings reacting and firing up their networks, Boston Cyclists Union members from Charlestown organizing support on the street and publicizing last night’s meeting, and emails from the union and the city notifying Charlestown residents about the meeting. Normally, Charlestown Neighborhood Council meetings are announced only in the Charlestown Patriot Bridge newspaper and a few neighborhood websites.

Though conversations with the business community are still on the horizon, the future of a bike lane on Main Street looks promising, and the future of cycling in Charlestown is now brighter than ever.

The council appointed avid cyclist and Charlestown resident Jennifer Johnson to represent the neighborhood in an upcoming effort to create a master plan for all bikeways in the city. Johnson, the union, and other Charlestown residents also plan to convene a local Charlestown bike group for the first time—a step that could lead to a number of major advocacy wins in the neighborhood! The union is proud to serve as a resource in making this group a reality. And we congratulate Charlestown cyclists for coming out in force and taking part in creating their neighborhood’s future.

To read more on last night’s meeting, check out this excellent coverage from Charlestown Patch.

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