Speak up for a Safer Powder House Blvd.!

The interim design for Powder House Blvd, which includes an unprotected, painted bike lane in one direction and sharrows in the other. (Image via SomervilleMa.gov)

Since 2017, the City of Somerville has undergone a process to determine a new design for Powder House Blvd. to coincide with repaving this past spring. Although Somerville initially said they had not heard enough demand for separated bike facilities, after a woman was killed while walking there in February the city agreed to revisit the design to improve safety for people who bike — in line with their Vision Zero commitment.

However, despite strong support over the past six months in favor of adding protected bike lanes (PBLs) to Powder House Blvd. as soon as possible, Somerville announced last Friday that it would forgo PBLs for the near future while continuing to study the road and the potential impacts of changing its configuration. 

We are disappointed and frustrated by this decision, but we are not done fighting — and next week you can join us in urging Somerville to do more to protect people who bike.

Powder House Blvd. Update Meeting
Wednesday, July 31 // 6 p.m.
West Somerville Community School
177 Powder House Blvd, Somerville, MA 02144

At this meeting, city officials will present a project update and answer questions from the public. This is your chance to voice your displeasure with the interim design — a single painted bike lane in only one direction, with a sharrow in the other — and press for a safer solution that includes physical protection for cyclists traveling in both directions. (If you can’t make Wednesday’s meeting, you can email  transportation@somervillema.gov, citycouncil@somervillema.gov, and mayor@somervillema.gov, CC’ing info@bostoncyclistsunion.org.) You can follow the city’s process on this project page on their website. 

Although the interim design falls short, we know we can win an ideal long-term solution if we continue to speak out en masse. Somerville has not come out against PBLs altogether, but rather asked for more time to study specific designs for Powder House Blvd. (Due to repaving this July, the city had to implement some lane markings now for public safety.) The city has also shown it understands the need to prioritize people over parking, and said it may pilot PBLs configurations to test long-term designs. Vocal opposition to PBLs at the last meeting from pro-parking attendees scared Somerville away from taking bolder action now, but through our persistence and strength in numbers we will win a better long-term solution.

With Somerville opting to extend the redesign process, we must remain steadfast in demanding that PBLs be included in the final design. In the interim, we must also insist that Somerville pilot PBLs to prove their efficacy. Recent counts showed that the area has an excess of parking, and pilots would bolster that data while providing cyclists with necessary protection right now.

We shouldn’t have to wait for life-saving improvements to our streets. Though last weekend’s fatal crash in Somerville — which killed a pedestrian using a crosswalk on Mystic Ave. — took place on a state-managed road, it served as a tragic reminder of the urgent need to take action on all our unsafe streets. Powder House Blvd. was also the site of a fatal crash this year, and as a city-managed road Somerville has the power to improve it immediately.

Please join us Wednesday, or write to Somerville’s elected officials, and help us send the message: Protected bike lanes save lives.