DotBike helps take Franklin Park bike ban off the books

An early sketch of Franklin Park's trails

An early sketch of Franklin Park's trails.

At the Boston Parks Commission on Monday, commissioners accepted and approved a proposal from the Franklin Park Coalition, DotBike and other community groups to officially allow bicycling in 527-acre Franklin Park. It hasn’t been properly researched as of yet, but it we’re taking a wild guess that the ban on bikes that was in place could date back to the bike craze days that hit in the decades after Frederick Law Olmsted designed and supervised the construction of the park in the 1880s.

Turn-of-the-century newspaper accounts in the Jamaica Plain News, the Dorchester Beacon, the Boston Traveller and other papers of the era document cyclists racing in the park and cyclists complaining about a regulation that required bikers carry kerosene lanterns when riding anywhere on the Emerald Necklace at night. One story celebrated an estimated 50,000 cyclists warming through the city and particularly through Franklin Park on one warm Sunday. Today’s cyclists however, were not marveling at history when they noticed the old regulation.

“Even though it hasn’t been enforced, keeping the bike ban on the books seemed, to me, like it might be a barrier at some point to things like inviting novice riders into the park, or installing bike racks or signage,” wrote Debbie Munson of DotBike in an email to the BCU. “Measuring path widths was a fun group effort with volunteers from Dot Bike, Rozzie Bike, and JP Bikes along with children from The Neighborhood School.”

According to Christine Poff, director of the Franklin Park Coalition (FPC), federal guidelines for parks show that a width of 10 feet is appropriate for shared use paths, or 8 feet wide on paths that are not used much. DotBike organized a massive measuring effort and found that the Circuit Drive loop and another loop around White Stadium were plenty wide for shared use. Now the two groups are collaborating to find appropriate signage and stencils to label the bike-able routes.

“It’s really exciting,” said Poff. “DotBike really propelled us and made it happen.”

Sheep in Franklin Park

A group of park enthusiasts, circa 1890s.

Franklin Park has also been the site of several bike festivals in recent years as interest in bicycling has increased, such as the city’s Hub On Wheels and Rock Roll and Ride festivals. The thinking among DotBikers and the other neighborhood bike groups involved is that officially allowing bikes in the park could pave the way for cyclists to become stewards of the park, helping to maintain and improve it as another helping hand within the Franklin Park Coalition.

“The cooperation of the Parks Department on this is very much appreciated,” wrote Munson. “And I can’t thank the Franklin Park Coalition enough for their incredible efforts on behalf of bicyclists and everyone who enjoys and appreciates the park.”


  1. Phil Lindsay on May 28, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Yahoo! I’m finally legal! I just hope they kept the Park Staff to do the Tier 2 Plowing of Glenn/Pierpont Road! Parks Department is getting it for sure. Thanks Toni & Bernie! Oh yeah and Mayor Menino too!

  2. matt on May 28, 2010 at 11:00 am

    congrats!! next it would be great to lift the biking ban on certain sections of the Harborwalk (esp. the land bridge from the south to Castle Island, which would be a beautiful ride if not for the NO BIKE RIDING signs)

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