In 2013, Boston’s Bike Network plan under Mayor Menino promised protected bike lanes on Mass Ave. from Melnea Cass to Columbia (“Mass Ave. South”) within five years. Then in 2017, Mayor Walsh’s Go Boston 2030 Plan identified the entirety of Mass Ave. as a Vision Zero priority project. Yet today, there remain zero bike lanes, protected or otherwise, on this stretch.
We want to change that.
This week, we’re kicking off a campaign to get protected bike lanes on Mass. Ave. South, not in another five years, but now.
What’s the issue?
“I stopped biking because of Mass Ave”
— Uphams Corner resident who works off of Mass Ave.
Mass Ave. has one of the highest crash rates of any road in Boston. In 2017, there were 57 crashes involving drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists that required an EMS response — or more than one per week — on the single-mile length of Mass Ave. South alone.
The City of Boston has added some protected bike lanes on Mass Ave. in the Back Bay alongside other bike facilities like green paint and bike boxes — but none extend to, let alone through, Mass Ave. South.
Why Mass Ave. South?
Accessible transportation is vital to a neighborhood’s economic and public health. Yet in Boston, not everyone enjoys the same access.
Residents in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan — the communities primarily served by Mass Ave. South — have some of the longest commutes in the city and have poor access to existing and emerging job centers. The MBTA #1 bus, which runs the length of Mass Ave., performs worst in terms of speed and reliability of any bus in the entire regional network, according to a study by LivableStreets. The absence of bike facilities on Mass Ave. South is just one more example of transit inequity in the area.
Why protected bike lanes?
Protected bike lanes would dramatically improve the safety of existing cyclists while tapping into strong latent demand in the area.
Bike ridership is on the rise throughout Boston, and Mass Ave. South is no exception. Average bike counts on Mass Ave at Newmarket Square increased by nearly 12% from 2016 to 2017, while the commute share for cycling increased by almost 25%. Since then, Boston has announced plans to add up to 20 new BlueBikes stations in the city’s southern neighborhoods, which will only further fuel ridership.
Without protected bike lanes, riders are forced to contend with traffic or navigate sidewalks. (In one survey, 20-30% of riders at various points along Mass Ave. South opted for the sidewalk.) Neither is a viable option and creates unnecessary conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, with cyclists rather than road design being blamed for this problem.
Over the past six months, we met with area residents, businesses, neighborhood associations and, of course, cyclists to discuss their concerns about Mass Ave South. The main takeaway: People don’t feel safe on this road. In our canvassing, 65% of people said they felt unsafe/uncomfortable biking on Mass Ave. South, while 38% said the same for walking.
Boston has yet to make meaningful improvements to Mass Ave. South despite labeling it as a priority corridor nearly two years ago. If the City hopes to realize the vision outlined in Go Boston 2030, it must make swifter progress toward its own stated goals. With this campaign, we hope to expedite that process so we can finally see protected lanes on Mass Ave South, and not just in planning guides as a perennial, unfulfilled promise.
What can you do?
- If you bike along Mass Ave South, come to our campaign launch on December 8 to tell your story of why making this road safer is important to you.
- Sign the petition and share it with people who want to make sure that you can travel safely along Mass Ave
- Contact Eliza at email@example.com to join a Mass Ave South team that will be starting in January 2019 to help organize and build out a strong campaign.