By Pete Stidman
Charlestown cyclists were shocked when the neighborhood’s first bike lanes were promptly erased last fall, but they received some better news earlier this month when the Charlestown Neighborhood Council made a rare reversal and voted for re-installing them! The city took note of this decision, and before the end of the year bike lanes will again grace Main Street and possibly one other Charlestown arterial.
From beginning to end this was a great example of how the union can help neighborhood residents organize to create a safer environment for cycling. Just a handful of Charlestown-based volunteers began petitioning last December, just after the original bike lane on Main Street was erased. Over time they built a network of over 150 bike-friendly community members who came out 50 at a time to a pair of community meetings called by the neighborhood council, putting pressure on council members to do the right thing.
Incidentally, it was only at the second of those well-attended committee meetings on May 2 that anti-bike lane sentiment whatsoever was heard.
“Unless there’s a license plate on the bicycle, there should not be any cyclists on that street at all,” said one woman, who asked that her name not be included in this newsletter. She and one other resident said they had either had close calls with or had been hit by cyclists in the past.
Take note of her words, however outlandish they may sound to our ears. Not only is it just good etiquette to give pedestrians a wide berth when passing them on the street, it’s good politics. Safety around pedestrians should be as important to the cycling community as is wearing a helmet, because be being courteous on the street will likely lead to less opposition in public meetings concerning safer bike facilities.
Committee chair Bill Galvin, however, appeared to be getting used to May 2nd’s bike-friendly Charlestown crowd by asking things like how to spell “sharrow,” and learning the differences between bike lanes and bike paths. After dozens of pro-bike lane comments, his committee unanimously recommended the bike lanes be returned. The next night the full council voted on the matter and it was carried with only a few votes against.
So if you’re part of the Charlestown community, keep your eyes peeled for an invite to a bike lane party! We’ll likely try to time it with the actual installation of the bike lane sometime this spring or summer.