And this picture was printed on the envelope. How sweet? I don’t think so. Read this, please.
And this picture was printed on the envelope. How sweet? I don’t think so. Read this, please.
I attended the Longfellow Bridge meeting last night. There was good attendance from cycling and public transportation advocates and others concerned about the project — mostly, neighbors — although there were complaints about lack of publicity of the meeting — people who were on e-mail lists but not e-mailed. This was almost entirely a meeting about construction phasing and the design of the bridge itself. The only presenters were three from the design contractor, and one from MassDOT, who didn’t do much of the talking. There was a representative of the City of Boston in the audience, who spoke, but there was nobody from the MBTA, the DCR or the City of Cambridge. People in the audience raised a lot of questions about connections at the end of the bridge — which were not covered in the presentation but mostly could be addressed later on; about diversions (detours) when the bridge would be one-way during construction; about reducing noise from the Red Line trains; and about bus service which would replace the Red line trains during construction on weekends. One thing learned at the meeting: two-way on-road bicycle access will be maintained throughout the time of construction, except on some weekends (? — not sure, someone has claimed that it will never be restricted.) A sidewalk will be open at all times. Construction is to start this summer and finish in 2016. MassDOT documentation is at http://www.massdot.state.ma.us/charlesriverbridges/LongfellowBridge.aspx but the documentation from last night’s meeting is not yet online, at least not here. Boston Globe story describing the project: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/02/28/longfellow-bridge-construction-begin-this-summer-with-major-traffic-diversions/gPqPYiWt2KmmWpxB5vmOaM/story.html
I am writing in response to Alex Epstein’s letter, published as an article in the Somerville Patch, concerning the proposed cycle track treatment on Beacon Street.
I write as one of the cyclists who suggested an alternative design at community meetings and a public hearing, and as a cycling advocate of 35 years’ standing at the regional, state and national level.
You might think that the chair of the Somerville Bicycle Committee would seek support from all cyclists — after all, we are already a minority group among road users — but instead he indulges in this hateful, wildly inaccurate and grotesque stereotype:
…’vehicular cyclists,’ who sincerely believe that bicycles are cars and should not be ‘driven’ slower than 25 mph. They say if there’s a new separate place on the street for bikes that is 15 mph, more protected, and comfortable for the majority of the non-spandexed population, bicyclists will die. Pedestrians will be hit. The sky will fall.
Who, me? I rode my little folding bicycle to the meeting about Beacon Street on Tuesday evening, on Beacon Street, in street clothes. 25 miles per hour? Ha! I could dream. It was a bumpy ride, but it could get much worse.
The proposed eastbound cycle track would have a clear width of 4 feet between the door zone of parked cars and a 3-inch “reveal” curb — too narrow for one cyclist to overtake another safely. The proponents claim of a 15 mph (and substandard) design speed doesn’t reflect bicycle stopping distances, once the hood of a car blindly pokes its way across a driveway — the driver and the cyclist unable to see one another due to parked cars next to the driveway.
The proposed westbound cycle track would really be a bike lane with an added trip-and-fall hazard for cyclists – -a supposedly mountable curb on its street side. The gutter next to this curb would collect sand, debris, water and ice. The curb would make plowing the street a guessing game — “where is it under the snow? Oops — tore up some bricks.”
For a detailed discussion of design issues, please turn to the comment letter I wrote following the February 4 meeting.
Here is a drawing provided by the city, purporting to show how the street would look following the reconstruction. Note the unplowable brick mountable curb, but above all, note the radically low traffic volume. Where are all the people — bicyclists, motorists, pedestrians, people just hanging out? No people, no conflicts! Well, actually, there is one shown…that pickup truck.
Now let’s add some more typical road traffic and show some typical conflicts:
The traffic islands force all motorists to turn right from one lane to the left — and that’s how Chris Weigl died on Commonwealth Avenue. A proper design would have the bike lane to the left of a parking lane, and motorists merging across it to turn right.
The lack of parking on the far side of the street leads motorists to stop in the cycle track, as shown. The cyclist in the red shirt has just emerged out of a blind conflict and is at risk if the car next to him turns right into a driveway.
Will the project as proposed improve cycling conditions? Will it actually be “protected”? Will it make cycling safe for children? No. There is no specific detail about the design of the project in Mr. Epstein’s statement, because he has no facts to support it.
And as others have noted, the cycle tracks are only proposed for part of Beacon Street. The remainder would have door-zone bike lanes, just as it has now.
Let me also comment on the Boston Cyclists’ Union petition about this project. For a large percentage of the cycling population, “cycle track” is a buzz phrase. Sounds good! Gets me out of the way of those dangerous cars! Unfortunately, it takes time to describe whether a design will work in a particular location, and besides, the proponents avoid discussing the details.
The real goal of promotion of this project has nothing to do with convenience or safety of bicycle travel, and even less to do with equitably serving all of the populations which use Beacon Street. The bicycling advocates’ goal is to smash state and Federal bikeway design standards — to set a precedent so it becomes possible to get away with anything at all, just as is being proposed here. The Somerville mayor’s goal is evidently to advance his political ambitions. If he, other city officials or the design consultant understood the first thing about safe design for cyclists, they would steer clear of the proposed design. But at Tuesday’s meeting, they showed new drawings with new hazards.
Along with the other cyclists who opposed the project, I support David Olmsted’s proposal, discussed at the meetings, which would provide for bike lanes that are safely outside the door zone of parked cars over the entire length of the project, and would serve the majority of the cycling population, other road users, residents and businesses admirably well. No, not little children on bicycles, but you can’t have everything, and it is deeply unethical to claim safety while actually producing the opposite result.
The Boston University campus is, let’s face it, a strip mall with classrooms. Commonwealth Avenue is the only way to get from one end of the campus to the other.
Following the tragic death last December of Boston University student Chris Weigl, various suggestions have been made for how to improve Commonwealth Avenue. Here is one, in a quote from a news report:
Biking has been growing rapidly, but most people in Boston are still too scared to bike,” said Jessica Robertson, Transportation Coordinator for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. “The city must install more cycle tracks and bike lanes with physical separation from traffic.”
Not! Weigl was riding downhill, reportedly at a high speed, eastbound toward St. Paul Street. There is already a bike lane — in the door zone — leading to the location of his crash. If Weigl was riding in the bike lane (I don’t know), that was highly hazardous because of the car doors — but also would put him out of view of the mirrors of the trucker who killed him with a wide right turn, and would decrease his maneuvering room to swerve out of the way.
Now, just imagine a cyclist riding down that same hill, at that same speed, except in a separated bikeway, trapped behind a barrier or hidden behind a row of parked cars. That would improve safety? Or, oh, cyclists should slow down. I’ve heard that one lately. This reminds me of the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears somehow: it used to be that the complaints were that cyclists are too slow…so, get us off the street, build a third-rate bikeway for us, and then we are too fast. Problem is, slow cycling shrinks cyclists’ horizons, doesn’t cut it as physical exercise, and is No Fun At All for cyclists who ride regularly and are physically fit. Cyclists just won’t do it. Except uphill, of course, but rides can’t be entirely uphill.
If cyclists are going to ride on Commonwealth Avenue, the safest option is to follow the normal rules of the road. If riding at motorcycle speed, like Weigl, take the advice given to motorcyclists — claim the full lane. That’s what I do, and I’ve been riding Commonwealth Avenue problem-free, for decades.
Now, please don’t accuse me of catering only to the supposed 1% of cyclists who are described as “strong and fearless” by facilities advocates. Actually, the number was pulled out of a hat. In reality, it varies among different populations.
Besides, a cyclist doesn’t have to be strong to go fast down a hill. And fearlessness can grow like a weed with bicycle facilities which create the illusion of safety without actually creating safety.
And, neither are all the fearless strong, nor the strong, fearless. Fearlessness typically reflects skill, rather than daring. But I digress.
Timid and inexperienced cyclists, and pedestrians, really ought not have to use Commonwealth Avenue to get around the BU campus.
Let me make a few suggestions for some improvements:
The locations are shown on this map. You may click on it to enlarge it and get a clearer view.
Here are some photos illustrating these possibilities:
Path under the BU Bridge embankment next to Soldiers Field Road. With some improvements — widening, repaving a barrier between it and the roadwy, lighting — this path could be an attractive bicycle and pedestrian route. (photo from Google Street View).
The bridge in the background is a two-track railroad bridge, but only one track is in use. The unused half of the bridge could make an attractive path connection to the Paul Dudley White path on both sides of the Charles River, and under Memorial Drive into Cambridgeport. I’ve been campaigning for that since before 1980 — see this Web page. Hope springs eternal.
Path paralleling Soldiers Field Road leads only to stairs and a fenced enclosure at the upstream side of the BU Bridge (photo from Google Street View)
East end of underpass under the Turnpike as seen from the BU Bridge. Note the fenced enclosure (mowed area in the foreground) (photo from Google Street View)
West end of underpass under the Turnpike. Note that it is possible to see all the way across under the Turnpike. (photo from Google Street View)
Essex Street one-way at Dummer Street. How much, well, Dummer than this is it possible to get? (photo from Google Street View)
St. Mary Street bridge over the Turnpike, looking north toward Commonwealth Avenue. The BU chapel is visible in the background. The cyclist is entering the bridge in the contraflow direction. This ought to be legal, with a designated contraflow bike lane. (photo from Google Street View)
Babbitt Street, seen from Cummington Mall — BU’s gated community. How often is the gate open? I don’t know. The building at the far end is on St. Mary’s Street. (photo from Google Street View).
Also see the Claire Saltonstall Bikeway map on the masspaths.org site. The tricky northbound routing on Mountfort Street would be unnecessary with a contraflow lane on St. Mary Street, and reopening of Babbitt Street.
Entrance to Bay State Road from Beacon Street. Bay State Road runs one block north of Commonwealth Avenue. Many BU dormitories are along Bay State Road, which carries very light traffic. Instead of being one-way, it should be configured as a two-way bicycle boulevard, allowing only local access by motorists. (photo from Google Street View)
Yet more such possibilities might suggest themselves if attention is focused in this direction.
For decades, Boston University has neglected the problems with its strip-mall campus. Now with Hubway kiosks and the bike lanes along Commonwealth Avenue, and the BU Bridge improvements, perhaps the BU administration thinks, problem solved. Not so. Let’s get on with it.
I have cycled and motored through the crash location many times, and I’ve seen the photos — the trucker was making a wide right turn, necessarily slowly. The cyclist was traveling downhill, fast according to an eyewitness; likely as fast as motor vehicles go, and probably out of the field of view of the truck’s mirrors before the truck crossed his path. The trucker could be held at fault, but an alert cyclist with good brakes could have avoided the crash. Most motor-vehicle/bicycle crashes occur when paths cross, as they must, and as they did here. The bike lane here, or for that matter, the sidewalk-like bikeways increasingly seen in Cambridge, only lend a false sense of security. Cyclist education is what can prevent more tragedies like this from happening. The City Council wants to solve the problem with infrastructure?
I listened to the news story about the crash and City Council hearing on WBUR-FM this afternoon, with a number of sound bites of cyclists speaking at the hearing. I found one particularly striking: a woman said that she never once more wanted to hear cyclists being held at fault. Sorry, that is off the mark. Assigning blame is useful in law enforcement and in recovering compensation following a crash, but it is a distraction from the need to develop skills, and keep equipment in good condition, to avoid a crash. It appears to me that in this morning’s crash, both the trucker and the cyclist made mistakes, but the cyclist had the better opportunity to prevent the crash.
I strongly recommend the article from Commute Orlando, What cyclists Need to Know About Trucks.
Please see my extended comments here: http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=4862
I’ve been looking at a blog called “Bike Safe Boston”.
I wrote the following as a comment in response to a post in which the blogger expressed enthusiasm about the Massachusetts law which prevents a left-turning driver from holding a bicyclist at fault in a collision when the bicyclist was overtaking on the right.
Good traffic law respects human abilities and the performance limitations of vehicles. Humans do not have X-ray vision, or instant reaction time, and vehicles cannot stop on a dime. The law of most states says that it is legal to overtake on the right if that can be done in safety, and I consider that sensible.
But you think it’s a great law to hold a motorist — or by the way, another bicyclist — crossing from the left at fault when you speed out into an intersection from concealment to the right of a truck, bus, SUV?
Even in Massachusetts, the bicyclist would be held at fault for colliding with a pedestrian who was walking across from left to right in the crosswalk. So, if you are going to shoot out into the intersection from concealment, consider that you might collide with a motor vehicle, and then it’s the driver’s fault under the law, and the driver’s insurance is more likely to pay for your medical bills or funeral. Isn’t that great! Or you might collide with another bicyclist, who you hope has insurance, and you both could get hurt badly too. Or, you might hit a pedestrian, and then it’s your fault under the law…
Now here’s the kicker: going to the home page of the blog, I find that the blogger is a lawyer who specializes in bicycle cases!
Hey, I have nothing against his promoting his practice and there’s some good stuff on the site, like the Bicyclist’s Accident Report form and the advice against running red lights. But still.
This is a detailed report on the 25% design phase public hearing about reconstruction of Causeway Street, held at TD BankNorth Garden, August 8, 2012
The meeting was a bit hard to find — entry was just inside the doors at the O’Neill Federal building side of North Station. A number of people were already standing around when the doors opened at 6:30 PM and a security guard walked us up three flights of stairs—past lifelike statues of Boston Celtics, Bruins, Patriots and Red Sox greats in action poses, wearing their playing attire, reminiscent of Tussaud’s waxworks. The meeting was held in the Legends Room, which is a restaurant attached to one of the longest wet bars I have ever seen. The bar was not open for business.
There is no report on the meeting in this morning’s (August 9) Boston Herald or Boston Globe newspaper, and there was nobody I could identify as a representative of the media other than one North End citizen blogger, Matt Conti of NorthEndWaterfront.com, who videotaped the meeting. His description of the project is here,
Mr. Conti told me that he will be posting video.
(Update, 5 PM August 9: Mr. Conti’s report on the meeting, with link to his video and project documents:
Representatives of neighborhood advocacy groups and of the Boston Cyclists’ Union, Walkboston and Livable Streets attended, but nobody spoke up for Massbike.
A verbatim transcript of the meeting is being prepared. Additional information, as it becomes available, can be found by searching on the MassDOT project file number, 606320.
Al Miller, project manager from MassDOT, introduced Jonathan Greeley from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, who expressed that he was excited to have this hearing. “Everyone has been heard from.”
Miller explained that the Federal Highway Administration would fund 80% of project, MassDOT the remainder. It must be in the Transportation Improvement Plan in some year to get funding. The project would cost $12M not including right-of-way acquisition. Permanent and temporary easements will be required, by donation, purchase and if necessary, eminent domain.
A presentation by Dave Madden and Rick Lantini, from consultant Howard, Stein and Hudson, followed.
Madden: The project runs from the back side of the parking garage on Lomasney Way to Causeway Street and then along Causeway Street, to just past North Washington Street.
Lowell Square (Lomasney Way/Staniford Street/Causeway Street) is confusing, difficult to navigate. The overhead Green Line was torn down but some of the footings remain and this also explains some of why the road was set up as it was.
At Washington Street, the crosswalks are long. There are more pedestrians than vehicles out here now.
The project would widen the sidewalks, clean up the intersections, accommodate bicyclists with bike lanes. Landscaping and planters along the edge of roads would channelize pedestrians to crossings. Flush medians would be installed in Lomasney Way/Staniford Street. Traffic flow on Causeway Street would be defined better. There would be a bike lane to left of a right-turn lane for the left turn from Causeway Street to Staniford Street, and a one-lane entry to Causeway Street from Lowell Square. Lanes would be narrowed to 10 ½ feet, design exception required to accommodate bike lanes and widened sidewalks. There would be speed tables at a couple of pedestrian crossings, with artistic patterns in the pavement including one resembling a rail yard. “Vertical elements” would prevent pedestrians from crossing in mid-block.
Near North Station, bike lanes would be next to commercial parking, taxi and shuttle bus stops. East of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, bike lanes would be adjacent to the curbs. Shared-lane markings would be used around Keany Square (N. Washington Street and Causeway Street), where the median and stepped crossing would be eliminated; pedestrian crossings would be concurrent, and lane widths would be changed. There would be no more left turn from N. Washington Street to Causeway Street; drivers would have to go to Haverhill Street instead.
Lantini: This is a Complete Streets approach with better design for pedestrians, less steep grades. Islands are being reorganized. The west end of the Causeway Street sidewalk in front of the O’Neill Federal Building can’t be widened; the rest of it will be between 18 and 26 feet wide. There will be pedestrian-level lights at 15 feet rather than 25 and possibly, specialty pavement. The plans are not yet complete.
Miller asked for comments, first calling on Federal, State and local officials. None responded. Then he asked for comments from others.
Jim Zacca, resident, described the realities of duck boats, buses and taxis: it would be hard to envision how that would be improved with narrow lanes.
Dorothea Hass, Walkboston: this is an improved design, elimination of LT from N. Washington to Causeway. Would it be possible to put yield to bicycles, rumble strip that wouldn’t put bicyclists at risk?
I spoke, describing the problem with bike lanes adjacent to commercial parking, and pointing out that Central Square, Cambridge and Kenmore Square, Boston, are examples of where this doesn’t work. I said that I didn’t expect that there is any way Causeway Street could be made bicycle-friendly, what with the heavy pedestrian cross traffic and frequent parking turnover, and mentioned the proposed bicycle-pedestrian overpass behind North Station as an alternative and preferable east-wet route for bicyclists. I acknowledged that this is not part of the project.
Jane Forrestal, a resident of West End Place, complained that there would be nowhere to enter and exit. Nearly 200 children live in West End Place. Children need to be picked up and dropped off on the corner where there is currently landscaping. There is no room for school buses.
Chris Mahar spoke representing North Companies, owners of the TD BankNorth Garden. There is a proposed ramp for a parking garage which doesn’t show in the plans. He has concerns about the proposed median.
Anne Lusk from the Harvard School of Public Health gave an impassioned speech about the need to accommodate women and children bicyclists by means of cycle tracks. She complained that there are many pedestrians, but not many bicyclists in he North Station area because it isn’t favorable to bicycling. “If you put in bike lanes, you will find as John Pucher found that the levels of male bicyclists go up, women and children go down.” She said that Montreal cycle tracks are 28% safer than street without them, citing her own recent study (but about this study, please see http://john-s-allen.com/reports/montreal-kary.htm). Recent research in NYC shows more bicyclists as a result of cycle tracks. They are going in in NYC, Washington, DC, San Francisco and we would be backwards if we didn’t put in cycle tracks, keep up with rest of country. “We” would look at the plan with you. Please look into this.
Christine Savage, neighborhood resident: There’s trouble with traffic in and out of the neighborhood, and she highlighted the Veteran’s Services office as a special concern, also the difficulty of getting to Beverly Street Extension.
Anna Frattaroli, who owns property at N Washington and Causeway, and operates restaurants there, does not support making Endicott Street end in a speed table. Speeding across intersection is a problem, people running for their lives is a problem. She has had to call an ambulance many times. Response: improvements are being made including Endicott Street’s getting its own signal interval.
Duane Lucia, Executive Director of the West End Museum on Staniford St.: Does federal aid mandate some be spent on culture. How is that bidded out? What measures along Lomasney Way. Support bicycling. Originally mentioned bicycle lanes along the median, he is all for that. Mitigating construction impacts.
Dick Bauer, works on Friend Street, inadequacy of bike lanes adjacent to parked cars. Causeway Street is very wide, perfect place for cycle tracks. Response from Madden: we cannot get a cycle track due to volume of pedestrians.
Louise Thomas, West End resident: concerned with local traffic issues, like Jane Forrestal.
Jonathan Greeley, Boston Redevelopment Authority responded: All traffic modes are being taken into account including he new parking garage on the Boston Garden site.
Lusk: how did you do modeling of bicycles: Women, children, parents with children or did you just model on a bicyclists who is a male bicyclist.
Madden: we assume that some bicyclists feel safer on the sidewalk—we don’t encourage that but we accommodate bicycles in the street. Putting in a cycle track in the sidewalk wouldn’t be safe.
Pete Stidman, Boston Cyclists’ Union: in some places you could just raise the lane above street level. Peter Furth and he met with people from the project. This is a place where lots of families come. You see tons of bikes parked outside North Station. Hubway is growing way beyond expectations. Have heard from several workers who think this street needs a stronger facility. He conceded that the Vassar Street cycle tracks in Cambridge are unpopular, but he suggested one for Causeway Street. “Work with us”.
Steve Miller of Livable Streets started by complementing the project designers: “you have done a lot of thinking, BUT push as far as you can, It’S good but should get great. There are the 15-20 minutes when the game lets out. Give it to the pedestrians then. Work with the City to make this a ped priority location. It’s one way to not have to design to deal with that without having to design for it. This is a gateway from the Rose Kennedy Greenway to the river and to Charlestown. We are about to have cycle tracks in Charlestown.. We don’t want to have bicycle jams here. There’s lots of space for landscaping. He is in favor of cycle tracks, which can have many forms, let’s not have a narrow view.
He is also concerned that bicycle and ped facilities aren’t being carried all the way to North Washington street. Also think of continuation of bicycles and pedestrians through the intersections with separate traffic lights, dotted lines, colored lines. Step up on that one a little bit more. Finally, remember that North Station is a major Hubway station. Hubway has reached 300,000 trips and this is going to grow. You come in on the train and go to work. You will have a lot of people on bikes who are not experienced bicyclists.
Mark Tedrow, sitting with Steve miller: Bicycle facilities from one end of Causeway to the other are possible, it would only be necessary to eliminate one travel lane. You would have to be an “aggressive cyclist” to make some moves through this area. Ped crossings at Friend and Canal street?
Scott Guerra, Causeway Street resident and property owner: Design does not represent the reality — curb utilization is wrong — no taxi stand in front of the station. At Dunkin Donuts, police, ambulances, etc. stop. More room in the street is needed instead of ridiculously wide sidewalks. Results: bicyclist problems, double parking, traffic jams. There was no traffic study during Garden events (Reply from Madden: not true.)
Gary Hammer, local resident: Adequate pick-up and drop-off zones are needed. He hopes that the plan includes improved wayfinding for vehicular and pedestrians.
Sarah Freeman, works in public health, fan of bike network project and sitting at the table with Miller and Tedrow: call this project a reconstruction, encourage seizing the opportunity. She described herself as a timid, female, senior cyclist. “If I see a blue line that comes and goes I’m not biking there. When did you write the proposal?” Madden: “About 6 years ago.” Freeman: It’s a different climate. Boston has done a 180. If you build it, it will get used. Madden: Nicole Freedman worked with us to come to this design. We are here to listen to you.
David Lyons, West End resident, takes Hubway from South station but stops at North Station. Without a dedicated area that a taxi isn’t going to cross, it isn’t going to be safe. Work with very knowledgeable advocates. He wants to park his Hubway bicycle in front of Whole Foods, have a cup of coffee and then go home.
Jane Forrestal (again) – what about taking of property? Response: at West End Place it will only be for a curb cut.
Joanne Fantasia, North End resident. Many crashes occur with people turning from N. Washington to Medford. Her main concern is Keany Square. She wants an exclusive ped phase.
Tom Bertulis, freelance traffic engineer. The theme here is people talking about bicycles. He has been designing European style cycle tracks. Median bikeway designs are common in Latin America. There’s lots you can do, let’s not take it off the table. He would work pro bono.
Dorothea Hass spoke again. She likes the greenery. WalkBoston works closely with bicyclists but this is a hard-edged urban environment, greenery would soften it a bit. She concurs with what said about Causeway and North Washington. There may be some urban design solutions. It feels like a highway. Maybe the BRA and others can become involved. Maybe there is some way to slow vehicles.
Malik Alcati, West End resident. Spoke mainly about the need for more wayfinding signs, especially for pedestrians. He pointed out some alternate routes pedestrians might use.
At 8:30 PM, Project Manager Al Miller asked only for comments that weren’t repetitive of ones already made. I had to leave to catch an 8:45 PM train home, and so I missed the end of the meeting as it was winding down.
The discussion about bicycling at last night’s public hearing about Causeway Street reconstruction quickly devolved into a debate between the consultant and various advocates over whether there should be a “cycle track” on Causeway Street. Advocates for the cycle track included Steve Miller from Livable Streets, and two friends who sat at the same table with him; Pete Stidman of the Boston Cyclists’ Union; and free-lance traffic engineer Tom Bertulis. They maintained that there is a way to build a cycle track, or it could be found. Anne Lusk gave her usual impassioned plea, citing the 28% lower crash rate claimed for her study of Montreal’s two-way cycle track, a study which has been thoroughly demolished – and the author of the critique has informed her of this. One criticism was that the Montreal study ignores injuries bicyclists cause to pedestrians, a very serious concern on Causeway Street with the hordes of pedestrians swarming into and out of North Station and across the street.
The consultant, on the other hand, maintained unswervingly that there isn’t room for a cycle track, conceding at one point that some cyclists would ride on the sidewalk, although that wouldn’t be encouraged.
My own opinion is that the project planners and the advocates all take a narrow view, in different ways. The project planners concern themselves mostly with how to move motor traffic between the two busy intersections at North Washington Street and Lomasney Way/Staniford Street while accommodating pedestrians, and with pick-up and drop-off locations. Bicycling gets lost in the mix: while the plan shows a number of improvements to pedestrian crossings, intersections and lane allocations, the bike lanes are perfunctory and dysfunctional. A 5-foot wide bike lane sandwiched between a 10½-foot travel lane on one side and taxis, buses and duck boats constantly loading and unloading, pulling in and out on the other side, is a door-zone bike lane with an extra kick. To be safe, a bicyclist would have to ride outside the bike lane.
The advocates expressed similar concerns about the bike lanes, but I think that the advocates’ focus on a cycle track on Causeway Street as a solution turns a blind eye to some very serious problems. A cycle track can reduce conflicts with parallel traffic, but it only worsens problems with crossing traffic, which is the major concern in this location. Adding a separate channel in the roadway reduces space for everyone due to to “shy distance”, and there isn’t space to spare here. Adding extra signal phases delays everyone and leads to disrespect for the signals. Not adding signal phases results in conflicts, and with streams of motor traffic turning across a cycle track, these can be hard to avoid, and deadly. Cycle tracks are hard to keep free of ice in winter. But the worst problem of all in this location is with the hordes of pedestrians who would be crossing a cycle track. Expect bicycle-pedestrian collisions here if bicyclists are placed in a channel separate from the main roadway.
Then there is the issue of diversification of vehicle types. As fuel prices rise, expect more motor scooters as well as cargo tricycles that are a tight fit on a typical separated cycle track. Problems with such a segregated system are manifest in Amsterdam, where motorcyclists commonly use the cycle tracks and squeeze past bicyclists a high speed. There is also reduced opportunity for faster bicyclists to overtake slower ones. Under crowded conditions, all bicyclists are reduced to the speed of the slowest. A conventional traffic lane offers much more room, and flexibility.
There is promise in simply slowing down the traffic. The speed tables in the middle of the project area are intended to achieve this, but the project plans show little attention to speed control at the ends, and especially not at the Keany Square (North Washington Street) end. I am reminded of the 15 mph speed limit on the terminal roadways in Logan Airport. I have ridden my bicycle there, without any problem, on an organized group ride back before bicycle access shifted over to the roadway to the central garage. How is Causeway Street different in any important way?
Still, Causeway Street would be no picnic. Opportunities should be sought to provide alternate routes for bicyclists so they don’t have to ride on Causeway Street. One alternative has already been proposed, as an Artery-Tunnel mitigation measure — a bicycle-pedestrian overpass over the tracks behind North Station. Steve Miller of Livable Streets told me that he expects that this indeed will be built one day. It would provide an alternative to Causeway Street for east-west travel. Another possibility is a path alongside the tracks on the railway bridge, as an alternative to the Charlestown Bridge and to the pathway across the New Charles River Dam locks, which is often interrupted as boats pass through the locks. (The railroad bridge is a lift bridge, but it lifts rarely except on weekends.) These paths could connect to the doors of North Station and to bicycle parking and the Hubway installation. My suggestion for south of the station is to designate and improve a couple of streets that T into Causeway Street, so bicyclists can get Causeway Street behind them by simply crossing it, and at intersections which already must be signalized for pedestrians. I already use such a route when arriving at North Station, or leaving it, on my bicycle.
So, I stand with the project planners in excluding cycle tracks, but I think that there are things which could be done which would serve bicyclists better. The wider problems that lead to the deficit in planning vision are, as I see it, on both sides, the lack of area-wide planning due to the focus on a single project which is slated for funding; on the project side, a lack of imagination, and working to meet design standards which defy engineering judgment here; on the advocates’ side, a tunnel-vision focus on bicycling to the exclusion of other travel modes, and on cycle tracks, which are the current bicycle-facility design fad and buzzword.
I have another post reporting on he
August 9, 2012 public hearing: http://streetsmarts.bostonbiker.org/2012/08/09/report-on-public-hearing-of-causeway-street-project/
I apologize for not posting these earlier…got tied up with other things after I submitted the comments.
I have an earlier post about these bridges, here:
You will find the 25% plans for the River Street-Western Avenue bridge project here:
Summary: The proposed pillar-to-post bicycle routes not only require bicyclists repeatedly to cross streams of motor traffic, incurring long delays, but will be blocked much if not most of the time by queued motor vehicles at this very overstressed intersection. Success of the proposed design rests on the assumption that motor traffic entering from the Turnpike will somehow be replaced by bicyclists traveling a mile or two between Allston and Cambridge. Perhaps a large percentage of Turnpike users are to move to Allston and become bicyclists? Perhaps bicyclists are to shoo motorists away by increasing congestion even further? It doesn’t happen: bicyclists get only a tiny fraction of the signal cycle, and won’t put up with the delays. A bolder and more imaginative approach is needed, as I suggest in my comments, to reduce rather than increase conflicts.
I travel to cities all around the USA and ride bicycles there as part of my work. I have seen none where design for bicycling is as mindless as it is in these projects. How do we get planning for bicycling out of the fantasy world which it currently inhabits?
The drawing in this letter from Livable Streets is better than what I saw at the March meeting:
but there is still unnecessary merging, and there would be more with Livable Streets’s call for a “cycle track” — which would have to be at the edge of the roadway, and so would conflict repeatedly with right-turning traffic.