Narrow-Gauge Rail Trail, Bedford: safer to walk across the street?

The photo below, from summaer 2011, is a cylindrical panorama: Hillside Road, at the right, is at a right angle to Route 4-225 (the Great Road) at the left. The Narrow Gauge Rail Trail runs from front to rear in the photo, alongside Hillside Road and (at the rear) Bacon Street. (Google map of the location) You can click on the photo to enlarge it and get a better view.

Route 4-225 and Spring Street, Bedford, Massachusetts, USA

Panorama — Trail at Route 4-225 and Hillside Road, Bedford, Massachusetts, USA

There are heavy, steel gates across the trail at either side of Route 4-225, so bicyclists must thread through narrow openings. Someone has posted a sign, “Walk bikes in crosswalk for your own safety.”

Is walking really safer? My take is that it depends on who you are. If your bike-handling skills are lacking, it probably is safer, because you will be able to pay more attention to the traffic in the cross street.

If your bike-handling skills are good, that is, if you can slow nearly to a stop without losing your balance, look around for traffic and accelerate smartly, riding will be safer, because you get across the street sooner, and you are more maneuverable riding the bicycle than walking next to it.

In either case, the bicycle will be broadside to the traffic as you cross in the crosswalk, a much wider target for an errant motorist to avoid than a pedestrian without a bicycle.

My own preference is to avoid using the path here entirely, entering the intersection as a bicycle driver on the street, so I do not have to look behind myself for turning traffic. Car-bike collisions are common when motorists turn in front of bicyclists on paths which run alongside roads.

As to those steel gates: well, they’ll slow down most people, only causing a crash occasionally if someone fails to see a gate, or collides with a post threading through a narrow gap. There are better ways to slow bicycle traffic where a path approaches a street: for example, see the third photo from the top on this page.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Boston Police tactics at the December 13, 2014 protest

I express my appreciation to the Boston Police for crowd control without excessive force at December 13’s protest march. Anything less would have been very unfortunate, particularly in connection with a peaceful march protesting use of force and police immunity from prosecution.

But there’s a different issue with police conduct at the march. A Boston Globe news story  includes the report that “[t]here was also a brief altercation on Tremont Street near Boston Common, when a protester was pushed into an officer on a bicycle. The protester appeared to become angry and kicked the bicycle’s rear tire, causing the officer to fall. The officer rose and tackled the protester to the ground, but did not detain or arrest him.” The caption to the photo below, which ran with the story, reads “A Boston officer grabbed a protester who had knocked him off his bike on Tremont Street; the officer later let him go without charges.”

Police and protester scuffle on Tremont Street, December 14, 2014

Police and protester scuffle on Tremont Street, December 14, 2014 (John Tlumacki photo for the Boston Globe)

Where this happened: (Google Street View)

Good police practice? If you’re around suspects or people you don’t know/trust, you don’t straddle the bike unless you are riding it. The officer in the back in the photo is also astride his bicycle.

Here’s another photo taken a few minutes earlier:

Boston police bicycle patrol lines up astride bicycle at start of protext march.

Boston police bicycle patrol lines up astride bicycles at start of protest march (John Tlumacki photo for the Boston Globe).

This photo was taken when the march had just started from Boston Common (Google Street View). The police officers were straddling their bicycles, at risk of being pushed over, as one in fact was.

The officers should have been walking alongside the bicycles, keeping the bicycles between themselves and the protestors and using the bicycles as a shield. These officers need to get to an IPMBA Bicycle Rapid Response class.

IPMBA is the International Police Mountain Bike Association, which trains police, paramedics and security guards in effective use of the bicycle.

The IPMBA blog offers an example of crowd control in Seattle. Quoting from the blog post:  “On Monday night, when violence broke out during what had been peaceful protests, police officers, behind a wall of bikes, pushed protesters back in what some say is becoming the cutting edge of crowd control.” There is also a video showing these tactics. The Seatlle protest was not peaceful, and the police response wasn’t pretty either, but on the other hand, it’s quite clear that the Seattle police tactics prevented injuries and property damage.

Police in some Massachusetts communities are trained by an outfit called COBWEB — Cops on Bikes with Education for Bicyclists — which has a very meager online presence. An officer from another city says this about training of Boston police:

“COBWEB has no connection to IPMBA at all. Boston EMS IS IPMBA trained and their Deputy Director Neal Blackington is also past Vice President of IPMBA and a really good guy. I’m not sure if BPD even uses COBWEB, they probably do their own thing. But I’m not sure. I know that Cambridge was using IPMBA years ago, but I have no idea now.”

A deeper examination of bicycling and police practice would have led the Globe to cite poor police tactics as contributing to the incident on Tremont Street, as I have done. Further examination might tell us more about training of Boston police and about COBWEB.

(I have used Boston Globe photos and text in this article as commentary, under fair-use provisions of copyright law.)

Posted in Boston, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commonwealth Avenue project: Public meeting of December 10, 2014

I attended the meeting at Boston University about Commonwealth Avenue in the evening of December 10, 2014. It was a day of unusually heavy rain. I got to the meeting about 1/2 hour late because of delays on the MBTA Riverside light rail line. Buses were running between Fenway and Kenmore stations while a barrier was being constructed to prevent the Muddy River from flooding the tunnel, causing millions of dollars in damage as happened 18 years ago in October 1996. (Better late than never…) The train stopped three times and waited for several minutes each time, between stations so I could not get off.

When I arrived at the meeting, Jeff Rosenblum from the Cambridge Community Development Department had already spoken. Pete Stidman of the Boston Cyclists Union was speaking. Stidman used Paul Schimek’s study of crashes on Commonwealth Avenue to promote sidepaths for crash reduction. This was opposite Schimek’s conclusion.

Stidman showed a street cross section with 8-foot parking lanes, 11-foot curb right-hand travel lanes; the other travel lanes would be 10 feet wide. In the image below, bicycle sidepaths (not “cycle tracks” — they are at sidewalk level) are in green. Bicyclists would cross streets in crossbikes adjacent to crosswalks.

If you look carefully at the drawing, you might also notice some odd things about it.

  • For westbound motor traffic, there is what I call a “musical chairs” intersection. Three travel lanes go in, but only two go out. So, motorists would have to merge from three to two lanes inside the intersection, looking back for overtaking traffic while also checking for crossing bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • Cars are shown parked on the median waiting area for the T station, and in one of the sidepaths.
  • Bicycle symbols are strewn around at odd locations.

Charlie Denison (see his comment) has pointed out that the left lane westbound is a turn lane and that the issues with misplaced vehicles and symbols appear to have resulted from an error in formatting the drawing.
(You can click on the drawing to enlarge it, if you like).

Street cross section as described  by Pete Stidman

Street cross section as described by Pete Stidman

By narrowing the roadway to place the sidepaths at sidewalk level, as on Vassar Street in Cambridge, this designs would literally be set in stone.

Stidman praised an intersection design which would set back the sidepaths from the side of the roadway so one turning car would have room to wait and yield to a bicyclist. If a second car or a longer vehicle had to wait, it would block through traffic on the roadway. This already happens with pedestrians, but bicyclists add to the delay, and are at greater risk because they approach the intersection at higher speeds, so they are hidden from turning motorists by other bicyclists and pedestrians waiting to cross in crosswalks. As I’ll discuss later, the temptation to ride opposite the direction of traffic will be irresistible — and entering an intersection opposite the direction of traffic is highly hazardous.

Pete Stidman shows a plan for right-turning traffic to yield to through-traveling bicyclists.

Pete Stidman shows a plan for right-turning traffic to yield to through-traveling bicyclists.

Stidman also cited a New York City report of a 40% reduction in crashes when a cycle track was installed (not saying what kinds of crashes or which cycle track); also data claiming an increase in business on 9th Avenue in Manhattan.

Stidman cites new York report

Stidman cites New York report

The devil is in the details. I’ve said nice things about the 9th Avenue bikeway, especially  its ample width and signalization at all intersections — though it does have flaws. There are other New York City on-street separated bikeways which are thoroughly unsuccessful. I have comments, photo galleries and videos of several New York bikeways online, in case you wish to explore that topic further.

Robert Sloane from WalkBoston spoke next and expressed support on grounds that cycle tracks would make things better for pedestrians. He suggested the MIT campus as a counterexample to the BU campus: both are along the Charles River and with a major highway between the campus and the river, but the MIT campus has internal routes for bicycling, wide sidewalks and sidepaths, on Vassar Street. (Actually, the BU west campus is completely cut off from the riverfront by the Turnpike. East of the BU bridge there are only two overpasses over Soldiers Field Road, one of which has ramps, the other, stairs. The MIT campus connects to the riverfront with several crosswalks.) Sloane said nothing about the potential for internal routes on and near the BU campus, which I think hold great promise and which I have discussed at length on this blog.

A young woman from Massbike spoke, extolling the purported economic benefits of increased bicycle mode share.

A representative of BU spoke, and Traffic Commissioner Gillooly from the City of Boston also spoke. Of note, they both praised the efforts of BU Bikes, the regional advocacy organizations and the commenters, but they made no design commitment. The BU presenter described BU’s efforts to date, consisting of the construction of bike lanes and the reinforcement of their message (motor vehicles keep out, bicyclists stay in) with retroreflective pavement markers.

Followign the presentations, the first commenter came on stage with her 5 year old daughter and supported the sidepaths because they would supposedly make Commonwealth Avenue a safe place for her 5 year old to ride. She described an incident with a close pass from a trucker when she was riding with her daughter.

The first commenter

The first commenter

Most commenters expressed that the sidepaths would improve conditions on Commonwealth Avenue. There were several who described the sidepaths as a solution to the problems with doorings, and having to merge out to overtake vehicles which had stopped in the bike lane.

There were a few commenters who expressed various light criticisms. Nobody spoke up in outright opposition to the sidepaths or described alternatives to them. Bicyclist Rebecca Albrecht was the most negative, expressing that the proposed sidepaths were too narrow at 5 feet and that faster bicyclists would not be able safely to overtake slower ones: sidepaths the Netherlands are 6 1/2 feet, and are being widened to 8 feet. One commenter who lives near the west end of the project objected to the longer walking distances which would be required to cross from Naples Road to Shaw’s Supermarket with the installation of a 1000-foot median barrier.

I had signed up to comment, but having arrived late, I was one of several people unable to comment because the meeting time ran out.

I attended the post-meeting party at Landry’s bicycle shop and talked at length with Jeff Ferris, owner of Ferris Wheels bicycle shop, who also had arrived at the meeting (later than I did — in the rain and by bicycle). Jackie Douglas of Livable Streets was in on the discussion of parallel routes and expressed that “that’s huge” — though Livable Streets was one of the organizations supporting the sidepaths.

I made an audio recording of the part of the meeting I attended and I’d be happy to share it. A video was recorded by Brilliant Gem Productions: contact person is Alex Nenopoulos, reachable at nenopoulos.com.

My opinions remain as expressed in my letter of October 11. Last night’s meeting revealed design detailes which highlighted the following issues for me, which I’m sure are troubling to the City:

      • Narrow lanes proposed by the advocates and promoted as a way to reduce travel speed will increase friction and the risk of collisions. The lane widths proposed by Pete Stidman are not wide enough safely to accommodate a bus or truck with protruding mirrors. In the images below the truck and bus are nearly kissing mirrors.
      • Also rather than there being a bike lane in the door zone, motorists in the right-hand travel lane will be driving in the door zone. Motorists who have parked will be unable to open a door or safely to walk around their vehicles if there is traffic in the next lane. I’ve modified the illustrations below from ones by Keri Caffrey. The vehicles in the travel lanes are a transit bus and and large truck. In the first drawing, the parked vehicle is a Toyota Camry. Its driver’s side door would strike the side of the bus if opened. In the second drawing, the vehicle is a Ford F150 pickup truck — for better or worse, the highest-selling motor vehicle. Its width is typical of larger vehicles which park on Commonwealth Avenue.
The Toyota Camry's door would strike the side of the bus if opened.

The Toyota Camry’s door would strike the side of the bus if opened.

The driver could not open the door far enough to exit the Ford f150 .

The driver could not open the door far enough to exit the Ford F150 .

        • Reducing the traveled width of Commonwealth Avenue to two narrow lanes eastbound will result in a reduction to one lane whenever a trucker has to stop to make a delivery, or anyone double-parks or has a breakdown, or there is a crash, or as I have already indicated, when more than one vehicle is waiting to turn right.
        • Commonwealth Avenue is a major bus route. How are buses to stop without, again, blocking a travel lane? The sidepath promoters repeatedly mentioned the need to get more people to use public transportation, but they never mentioned how to accommodate bus stops.
        • As Rebecca Albrecht stated, the proposed 5-foot sidepaths would be too narrow by Dutch standards, and certainly too narrow to accommodate bicyclists traveling at different speeds.
        • The claim that the narrow sidepaths would keep bicyclists off the sidewalks is unrealistic, also because the sidepaths are intended for one-way travel. Many cyclists will ride opposite traffic on the sidewalk rather than to cross 5 travel lanes and the Green Line median to use the cycle track on the far side of Commonwealth Avenue. The alternative would be to ride away from their destination, make a U-turn to the opposite cycle track, ride past their destination and make another U turn before finally reaching their destination.
        • Safety claims fall apart due to the unavoidable temptation to ride opposite traffic on sidewalks to avoid crossing cross the avenue twice for many trips. The image below, from  an August, 2009 Google Street View, illustrates the temptation. A light service vehicle, probably one rom Boston University, is traveling eastbound in the newly-installed westbound bike lane.
Light electric vehicle in bike lane on Commonwealth Avenue

Light electric vehicle in bike lane on Commonwealth Avenue

      • The temptation could be removed by providing a parallel route under the Boston University Bridge, as I have suggested. All in all, safe and low-stress bicycling in this corridor could be accommodated on parallel streets, not Commonwealth Avenue. The cycle track proposal, as is common with bicycling advocacy as of late, reflects not vision, looking toward optimal solutions, but opportunism, stuffing compromised and inadequate measures into a funded project.

There is to be another meeting, an actual design public hearing, probably in January.

See also:

Paul Schimek’s Facebook post about Commonwealth Avenue

BU Today story about the meeting

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

People’s Pike or People’s Pillar to Post?

How would I like to think of the People’s Pike? I want to see a bicycle path and an adjacent footpath which avoid crossing and turning conflicts, passing under the ramps to the Turnpike and to the proposed West Station, with connections up to the overpasses to get to West Station and beyond, to Packard’s Corner and the Boston University campus.

Early proposals for the People’s Pike all showed it running parallel to the Turnpike where it could go under the ramps, but at the October 15 Task Force meeting, I saw three proposals for a bikeway through the project area. One proposal was for a route near the Turnpike. It would provide a direct connection between North Allston, West Station and the Paul Dudley White path, and it would have grade-separated crossings of least two– maybe all– of the four streets which lead to the Turnpike and West Station.

People's Pike direct route

Option 3J-1: direct route

The MassDOT presenters somehow thought that this would be a bad idea: the path would be next to a retaining wall, and there would be noise from the Turnpike.

I don’t understand why noise would be a major problem.  The retaining wall would reduce the noise, as the Turnpike would be up on an elevated structure for much of the route. Also, there’s been a lot of discussion of noise barriers, and I don’t see why the path couldn’t be pulled a bit farther from the Turnpike. For purposes of comparison, you might take your bicycle out onto Lincoln Street in North Allston. It runs alongside the Turnpike. There’s a noise barrier along part of Lincoln Street too , in case you would like to check out how that works.

Two other proposals were for paths alongside a new Cambridge Street South.

Option 3J-2: path alongside Cambridge Street

Option 3J-2: path alongside Cambridge Street

Another similar option

Another similar option

Somehow, the presenter at the meeting seemed to think that if there is a Cambridge Street South, then the bikeway has to run alongside it. But why, and what sense does it make for the bikeway to take that route — granted, that bicyclists making local trips will still have to use Cambridge Street. But is this a People’s Pike?

As shown in the overhead views, the route would follow the new Cambridge Street South down to Soldiers Field Road, turn more than 90 degrees, and go alongside Soldiers Field Road for a quarter-mile before crossing over to the Paul Dudley White paths. This is a 40% longer route, and need I say that Soldiers Field Road also is noisy? Also, there would have to be spurs to connect to West Station and Packard’s Corner. Trips between North Allston and those locations would be longer. (If you look carefully, you can see an additional Turnpike overpass in the drawings, to shorten the trip from the PDW path to West Station).

There are also other serious issues with travel time, and with safety.

All of the traffic to and from the the Turnpike and West Station, including heavy trucks and buses, would cross or turn at Cambridge Street South.

So, let’s consider: what is a cycle track? Simply stated, it is a bicycle path next to a busy street. Traffic in the cross streets crosses it. Traffic turns across it at every intersection and driveway. Signals at the intersections delay bicyclists. The delay makes the trip more inconvenient for people who are careful, but it makes for trouble for people who are less cautious or who don’t understand the hazards. At the driveways, there are no signals, and turning motorists must be extra-careful to avoid colliding with through-traveling bicyclists. Sometimes sight lines are blocked and it in only safe to inch forward. Not everyone does that.

In urban areas, turning and crossing collisions are the largest cause of serious and fatal bicycle crashes. The same issue can occur with a bike lane, or with a cycle track. If you think that a bikeway alongside a roadway rather than on it solves this problem, you might consider the many bicycle-motor vehicle collisions at street crossings on the Southwest Corridor path where it runs alongside Washington Street.

The Cambridge Street South proposals appear to be for a two-way bikeway on one side of  the street. This design poses the greatest dangers, because bicyclists arrive from more, and more unusual, directions.

There’s a noise and air quality issue too. Where there is a cycle track, there is an adjacent sidewalk, but the cycle track is always closer to the street traffic, and it’s at street level.

On the other hand, the parallel path proposal which would take the People’s Pike under the ramps would work for bicyclists at all skill levels, even children. The path need not be chock-a-block with the  Turnpike, either, because a bicycle underpass only has to be 10 feet high, while a Turnpike underpass has to be 17 feet high.

The MassDOT proposals with a path alongside the Turnpike would still have it cross two streets at ground level — as opposed to the four crossings (plus who knows how many  driveways) for the Cambridge Street proposals, and the one crossing in the Boston Society of Architects proposal at peoplespike.com/BeaconYards3F.kmz,

One of the Boston Society of Architects proposals

One of the Boston Society of Architects proposals

But let’s think big here: let’s think underpasses at all cross streets. The blank slate for new construction in the Beacon Yards area offers unparalleled flexibility in planning and design, and let’s take advantage of that.

Let me just put the question in the boldest terms: What do you want: a direct route between North Allston, West Station and the Charles River on a path with no street crossings, somewhere near a busy Turnpike frontage road and with the possibility of a noise barrier; or an indirect route alongside busy Cambridge Street and Soldiers Field Road, crossing four or five intersections with heavy motor traffic including bus and truck traffic, and who knows how many driveways?

Call it what you will, but only the one which avoids the cross traffic is a People’s Pike. The other proposals are People’s Pillar to Post, as far as I’m concerned.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Honked at again

I was bicycling home from church on a Sunday afternoon recently.

The church I attend, First Parish in Waltham, has a parking lot on either side, but also the public school parking lot across the street doesn’t get much use on a Sunday, and handles any overflow.

As I rode home, I headed south on Eddy Street and turned right on a green light onto Weston Street, a two-lane main street with a moderate uphill grade and single-family residences on either side.

Weston Street is wide enough for easy bicycle-motor vehicle side-by-side lane sharing if there is no parking. If vehicles park along Weston Street, it becomes too narrow for safe travel at the 35 mph speed limit even with motor traffic only: parked vehicles block sight lines for residents pulling out of their driveways.

So, parking is prohibited at all times along Weston Street, mostly.

A Lutheran church stands on the corner of Eddy and Weston Streets, and it has only a small parking lot. The special exception, indicated by signs which are faded by now almost to illegibility, allows parking in the block in front of this church on weekends. Many people attending its services park on the street. Some of the faithful park in the next block too.

The Google Maps satellite view below was taken on a Sunday. The marker in the image is at the intersection of Weston Street and Eddy Street. Cars are parked  in the church parking lot, and front of the church, and in the next block. You might also go directly to Google Maps to look around, though the satellite view you see then might be from a different day.

Weston and Eddy streets, and hte Lutheran church

Weston and Eddy streets, and the Lutheran church

I turned right from Eddy Street onto Weston Street. A few seconds later, the traffic signal changed and traffic started up Weston street behind me.

Here was my choice as I saw it:

  • Ride in the door zone and risk being flung out in front of overtaking traffic by a car door opening in front of me or a person walking out from between cars –
  • or control the travel lane and be safe.

There was oncoming traffic too, so the drivers behind me couldn’t pull out partway across the double yellow line to pass me.

I chose to ride outside the door zone and walk-out zone of the parked cars, not wanting to collide with any good Christians, or be flung out into the path of an overtaking car.

The first driver in line behind me honked the car horn at me.

After I’d passed the parked cars and merged over to the right, the second driver honked while passing me.

I was going about ten miles per hour. That is as fast as I could go. I might have delayed the people in the cars behind me by 15 seconds.

The safe choice is becoming more difficult. Boston used to have an “every man for himself” sort of traffic culture. Drivers were used to other drivers who bent the law to get ahead. (It was always, of course the other driver…) This was somewhat of an ego thing, I think, with origins in the Bluebloods vs. Irish cultural and political struggles of a century ago — but also, drivers often had to edge out into narrow and congested Boston-area streets, failing to yield right of way, sometimes blindly, to avoid waiting interminably for a gap in traffic. In a somewhat perverse way, this was an egalitarian culture, and it worked well for assertive, law-abiding bicyclists. Yielding to a visible, predictable, law-abiding bicyclist was less of an annoyance than yielding a motorist who was butting into line in traffic.

That is changing. More and more drivers have been trained that bicyclists belong in the door zone, by the dozens of miles of door zone bike lanes which cities and towns in the Boston area have been installing. And, every year there is a new crop of students at our colleges and universities, who don’t know any better than to fall into the trap which the cities and towns have set for them.

Oh, and now, rethinking the situation, there was a third possible choice: I could have waited at the green light on Eddy Street, then through the red light so I could start up Weston Street on a new green. I’d then get past the parked cars before the traffic behind me on Weston Street started to move. I wouldn’t be delaying anyone except myself — unless, of coruse, there was other traffic entering from Eddy Street — and there often is.

What would you choose?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Commonwealth Avenue and the BU campus

The Boston cyclists Union and Livable Streets are promoting cycle tracks for Commonwealth Avenue.

The bicycle industry’s Astroturf advocacy organization, Peoplefor Bikes, is asking people to sign a petition in support of them.

Not a good idea. Cycle tracks on Commonwealth Avenue won’t prevent the most common car-bike crashes (crossing and turning collisions, doorings — though some doorings will be replaced by walk-outs and other types of collisions). No treatment of any kind on Commonwealth Avenue can provide convenient and attractive bicycle routes through the Boston University campus. Paul Schimek has a different proposal for Commonwealth Avenue, and I have extended that to look at the more general issue of bicycle mobility around the campus.

For details:

Paul Schimek’s study of crashes on Commonwealth Avenue is published here: https://www.scribd.com/doc/240561402/Comma-Ve-Report-Sept-22

My comments on Commonwealth Avenue and the BU cmapus are online here: http://john-s-allen.com/pdfs/Allen_2014-10-11_comments.pdf

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Bike Lane Goes Under

A new version of Google Street View allows views of the same location at different times, very helpful in tracing the history of road projects.

The view below of Massachusetts Avenue eastbound, just east of Harrison Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts is from August of 2009. Through lanes shift from left to right following a bus stop and before the start of a left-turn lane.

Massachusetts Avenue eastbound east of Harrison Avenue, 2009

Massachusetts Avenue eastbound east of Harrison Avenue, 2009

The Google Street View in the image below is from July, 2011, showing a a recently-installed bike lane. The travel lanes now go straight. To allow a third lane to start earlier, bike lane stripes duplicate the taper of the previous gore (no-drive zone) into the curb. A very similar photo was posted by DotBikes (bicycling advocacy organization for the Dorchester section of Boston).

Vanishing bike lane at Massachusetts Avenue east of Harrison Avenue

Vanishing bike lane at Massachusetts Avenue east of Harrison Avenue

The Street View photo below is from a little farther along the street and was taken in November, 2011, several months after the installation.  The sign on the second lamppost reads “left lane must turn left” but for the Google camera and for drivers who sit high in the cabs of their vehicles, a solar panel for a Hubway kiosk obscures the sign.

Signage following installation

Signage following installation

The next year, the Hubway installation had been pulled a few feet farther from the sign, and in 2013 it had been moved somewhere else entirely.

The tapered bike lane is still there three years later in this view from May, 2014. This view shows the intent of the design, with the dashed line as the bike lane tapers out: motorists merge right into the right-hand lane, pushing bicyclists to the curb. Bicyclists are encouraged to ride along next to the curb, though the curb lane is not wide enough for side-by-side lane sharing.

Bike lane as of 2014.

Bike lane as of 2014.

A little farther along as of May 2014, there is a “share the road” sign, followed by a shared-lane marking placed close to the right side of the lane.

Share-the-road sign and SLM near right side of travel lane

Share-the-road sign and SLM near right side of travel lane

The design intent is quite clear here: where the bike lane ends, bicyclists are supposed to move over to the curb so motorists can overtake them in a lane which is too narrow for safe overtaking. This installation promotes unsafe edge riding, ironically through use of the shared-lane marking and share-the-road sign which are meant to promote bicyclists’ riding centered in the lane.

A better installation here would simply terminate the bike lane and place shared-lane markings in the  center of the right-hand lane after the bike lane ends. It’s also fair to ask why the sidewalks here have to be so unnecessarily wide.  If you look back through the photos, you’ll see vehicles parked on the sidewalk including one large truck unloading. The sidewalk is so wide that these are no impediment to pedestrians. If not for those wide sidewalks, there would be room for side-by-side lane sharing here. I suppose that it’s fair to ask where the trucks would unload, but actually there’s enough room for off-street loading zones too, the sidewalks are so wide.

Posted in Boston | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I-90 Interchange project announcement

Governor Patrick makes the announcement

Governor Patrick makes the announcement

Governor Deval Patrick announces commitment to a major expansion in the I-90 Interchange project, 2:40 PM, September 18, 2014, Beacon Yards, Allston section of Boston, Massachusetts. The abandoned rail yards are now a 22-acre wasteland in the middle of the City of Boston. Funding, 1/3 from the Commonwealth, 1/3 from Harvard University and 1/3 from an unnamed third party will expand the project beyond repacement of an aging Turnpike viaduct, to construct West Station, providing rail access to the Boston University campus; improved rail service; bicycle and pedestrian connections including crossings of the barrier which the rail yards have imposed for many decades; This is the biggest development project in Boston since the filling of Back Bay over 100 years ago. I bicycled 7 miles each way in the rain to be there for the announcement, and I don’t regret it one bit!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Massachusetts low-speed motor vehicle law

It is legal to operate a farm tractor, horsedrawn carriage, construction equipment, bicycle or motorized bicycle (moped) on any public way in the Commonwealth except for limited-access and express state highways. The rules for low-speed motor vehicles are far, far more restrictive, making these unusable for many trips even including short trips. The law is written so as to indicate that the low-speed vehicles, rather than higher-speed vehicles, are hazardous.

Following are the rules on vehicle operation in Chapter 90. Section 1F of the General Laws. The highlighted restrictions do not exist for bicycles:

Every person lawfully operating a low-speed motor vehicle shall have the right to use all public ways in the commonwealth except limited access or express state highways or any public way with a speed limit of more than 30 miles per hour, and shall be subject to the traffic laws and regulations of the commonwealth and the provisions of this section. This shall not prohibit a low-speed motor vehicle from crossing a public way at an intersection where the public way to be crossed has a posted speed limit between 30 and 45 miles per hour, provided the public way the low-speed vehicle is traveling on and the public way the low-speed vehicle is crossing the intersection to both have a speed limit no higher than 30 miles per hour and the intersection is controlled by traffic signals or stop signs. A municipality may, by ordinance, prohibit the operation of low-speed vehicles on a way or a portion of a way within its jurisdiction and under its control, regardless of posted speeds, where it finds that use of the way or a particular portion of the way by low-speed motor vehicles would represent an unreasonable risk of death or serious injury to occupants of low-speed vehicles because of general traffic conditions which shall include, but not be limited to, excessive speeds of other vehicles, traffic volumes, use of the way by heavy trucks or other large vehicles or if the established speed limit on the way increases above 30 miles per hour beyond the point where a low-speed vehicle could safely exit the way. The municipality shall post signs where necessary to provide notice to the public of such prohibited access.

This is Section 1H of the General Laws:

In addition to the types of vehicles that may be registered under chapter 90, the registrar of motor vehicles may issue a registration for a motor vehicle meeting Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards for that particular class of vehicle, other than a low-speed motor vehicle, if the vehicle is designed by its manufacturer to be operated on public ways and its speed on a paved level surface can exceed 30 miles per hour but is not capable of exceeding 40 miles per hour, as may be determined by the registrar. The registrar may adopt reasonable rules and regulations concerning requirements for registration, equipment, inspections and insurance for such vehicles. Every person authorized and registered to operate such a vehicle upon a way shall not operate the vehicle in excess of 40 miles per hour and shall have the right to use all public ways in the commonwealth except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibit bicycles, mopeds or low-speed vehicles have been posted and shall not operate the vehicle on a portion of a way where the speed limit increases beyond 40 miles per hour. This shall not prohibit a vehicle described in this section from crossing a public way at an intersection where the public way to be crossed has a posted speed limit between 40 and 55 miles per hour, provided the public way the vehicle is traveling on and the public way the vehicle is crossing the intersection to, both have a speed limit no higher than 40 miles per hour and the intersection is controlled by traffic signals or stop signs. Such limitations as to the vehicle’s limited use of public ways may be conspicuously printed on the registration certificate of the vehicle by the registrar. The registrar may issue a distinctive registration plate for such vehicle indicating its speed restrictions.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A British study clarifies the problem with trucks

I thank Bob Shanteau, California traffic engineer and cyclist, for this link.

The paper, from the U.K., puts numbers on the problem with bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities in collisions with large trucks.

A quote:

Lorries are involved in around 4,200 fatal accidents in Europe every year, according to the European Transport Safety Council. In Belgium, 43% of cycling fatalities involve lorries, while in the Netherlands it’s 38% and 33% in the UK. Lorries cause more than 50% of cyclist deaths in some cities, like London.

And another:

The analysis highlighted the time lapse between drivers checking mirrors, making observations through a window, and then pulling away. ‘If this time period is four seconds, this is enough time for a cyclist to undertake the HGV, with the driver being unaware of his or her presence,’ the paper says.

Bob posted the link on facebook, and a discussion is underway.

The study recommends that trucks be designed for better visibility.

That would help if the bicyclist is next to the cab, or in front of the truck, but a bicyclist who has not yet advanced as far as the cab is only going to be visible in a mirror, or not at all.

Knowledgeable bicyclists avoid riding into this trap, but the cities of Boston and Cambridge — now increasingly, other communities, invite bicyclists into it with bike lanes striped up to intersections and past driveways where trucks turn right.

The cities’ actions place all the responsibility for preventing the collisions on the truckers’ seeing and avoiding bicyclists whom, as the study shows, they often cannot see.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment