My comment letter may be found at this URL. It is a PDF file.
I agree with many of the suggestions made by other commenters, though not all, and I made some additional suggestions.
My comment letter may be found at this URL. It is a PDF file.
I agree with many of the suggestions made by other commenters, though not all, and I made some additional suggestions.
I’m commenting here on the November 20, 2013 Boston Globe/boston.com article about “shared lane markings on steroids” on Brighton Avenue in the Allston section of Boston, as shown in this Boston Globe photo:
I have known Brighton Avenue for decades now as a cyclist, motorist and pedestrian. Also, I am a member of the Bicycle Technical Committee of the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which reviewed and approved the experiment being conducted on Brighton Avenue. The opinions I state here are my own.
There’s a backstory to this installation. Brighton Avenue had wide roadways and a narrow median till approximately 1999. It was possible for motorists safely to overtake bicyclists in the right-hand lane. Then the old Green Line Watertown Square branch tracks were removed and a wider, landscaped median was installed. Details are here:
The boston.com article states:
In coming months, Boston Bikes staff will take a census of how many cyclists use that stretch of road to determine whether the “sharrows on steroids” increase ridership. Next spring, they will paint the area between the dashed lines lime green, and conduct another ridership survey.
Freedman’s office will report their findings to the federal government.
Those sentences convey only one goal of the experiment which is being conducted. Its main purpose is much broader, to determine the effect of the markings on cyclists’ and motorists’ behavior. Will it induce cyclists to ride in the middle of the right lane, safely away from car-door openings and other road-edge hazards? Will it induce motorists to merge left and overtake correctly in the next lane? More detail about the project may be found here, from BostonBikes:
Money quote from that article:
“It was determined that to install a standard bicycle lane would require the removal of the median, a project estimated to cost upwards of $4 millon, and would take years to implement.”
I’ve posted extensive comments about the proposed design for the Arlington Center gap in the Minuteman Commuter bikeway on my personal blog. In my opinion, the proposed design fails for bicyclists of all ages and levels of experience. I suggest designs which, in my opinion, would succeed.
There will be a public meeting about the design at the Senior Center behind the Robbins Library in Arlington at 7 PM tonight (November 6, 2013). I hope to see you there. Click here to open my comments in a separate browser window or tab..
Bob Zeeb was a teacher in the Newton Public Schools, a colleague of my wife’s. I feel compelled to set the record straight about his unfortunate death in a bicycle crash.
From an e-mail message sent out today by Livable Streets:
Bike4Life was founded by the Zeeb family in memory of Bob Zeeb who died in an avoidable bicycle incident in 2009 caused by poor signage and road conditions. Sponsor the Zeeb family (photos below) or another rider to help improve our roads and keep our loved ones safe.
The most detailed news report I’ve seen of this crash, with a photo, is from the Arlington Advocate.
Robert Zeeb of Newtonville was cycling from Alewife Brook Parkway toward Lake Street, when it appears his bike struck a hole containing a submerged electrical box that was missing its metal top, said State Police spokesman David Procopio.
Shortly after the accident, the stretch of sidewalk was partially covered in leaves and an orange safety cone stuck out of the concrete hole. It is not clear at this point if the safety cone was there before the accident. A metal MassHighway lid for the electrical box lay a foot or so away.
The crash occurred on the sidewalk along the north side of Route 2 shown in this Google satellite view — in the section where there is a guardrail, and directly under a streetlight pole.
The crash had nothing at all to do with signage, or bad road conditions — it happened on a sidewalk — or for that matter, with any ordinary bad sidewalk conditions. The crash most likely resulted from a criminal act, sabotage. The orange safety cone raises some unanswered questions, though it is hard to imagine why anyone working on an electrical box in a sidewalk wouldn’t simply put the cover back when finished.
Oddly enough, Livable Streets has a different, more nearly accurate explanation for the crash on a Web page:
Bob was regularly cycling 50 miles a day and hoped to make a cross-country trip in the summer of 2011. He died November 10, 2009, as the result of a bicycle accident due to a missing electrical utility vault access plate.
Yes, signage and road conditions could be improved, and so could sidewalk and path conditions, but I find today’s e-mail certainly inaccurate, and a distraction from the true story which might bring the culprit to justice, even at this late date. The e-mail also would lead uninformed readers to the conclusion that the fatality resulted from a collision with a motor vehicle, promoting fear of riding on the roads where, instead, it should serve as a lesson to avoid riding through leaves, a puddle, mud, snow etc. where the riding surface is not visible.
This Google Street View includes the large tree trunk and odd, angled sapling in the Arlington Advocate photo and pinpoints the location.
In case Google updates its Street View, here is the one from January, 2012:
Here’s the Advocate photo. (There’s a larger version of it in the article).
A few more thoughts have occurred to me:
In the Advocate photo, the wheels of the bicycle appear intact, suggesting that Zeeb crashed not from the front wheel’s going into the hole, but from its being deflected by the cover plate. If the orange safety cone was in the hole before the crash, it is unlikely that Zeeb rode into the hole. He would have ridden far enough to one side or the other for a pedal to clear the safety cone.
One end of the sidewalk is opposite Whittemore Avenue in North Cambridge, and the other end is at a pedestrian overpass over Route 2. There are no connections in between. The sidewalk apparently served to connect West Cambridge with a business district on the south side of Route 2, before the Alewife MBTA station project made other connections in the early 1980s. The sidewalk is in rough condition except where it was rebuilt on the new bridge over the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway in 2001-2004.
Also, as is very common in Massachusetts, the sidewalk is between the guardrail and the roadway. Though no motor vehicle was directly involved in Zeeb’s crash, the guardrail placement may have allowed a motor vehicle to dislodge the cover plate.
Where was Zeeb coming from? Where did he intend to go? In which direction was he traveling?
It is striking just how difficult this stretch of sidewalk is to reach.
At its east end, there is no traffic signal, crosswalk or wheelchair ramp to ease the crossing of Alewife Brook Parkway. A cyclist could possibly also reach the east end in the parkland between Alewife Brook and the Parkway, or on the Parkway, or from the intersection of Route 2 and the Parkway. The last two options involve riding on busy multi-lane arterials and are not very consistent with continuing the ride on a sidewalk or with discretionary, pleasure riding. (See Google satellite view. Alewife Brook is under the trees at the left, and past it, the new greenway is shown, under construction as of the date this image was captured. I’ve copied the image below because Google renews its imaging from time to time.)
To enter the west end of the sidewalk, a cyclist would have to ride along Route 2, then take the bicycle up and down the stairways at the deteriorating pedestrian overpass, or else know how to reach and follow an unmarked path in the woods. (See Google Street View. I’ve copied the Street View image, below, as it will be replaced in time).
In the Arlington Advocate photo, the bicycle has been moved since the crash, but it is facing east. Was Zeeb riding westwards, as news reports suggest? Witness statements might provide an answer.
If Zeeb wanted to go to the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway, then perhaps he did not know that this sidewalk did not connect to it. Zeeb was retired; he had time on his hands; he rode 50 miles per day. Wouldn’t he already know of the numerous other ways to reach the Minuteman? Perhaps he was just exploring?
The problem, however, is not one of signage, because it is not usual to post signs indicating where a route does not go.
The new Alewife Brook Greenway, installed since Zeeb’s crash, improves the connection from Massachusetts Avenue to the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway on the north side of Alewife Brook, but it does not connect to the sidewalk. I’ve advocated in the past for a more direct connection between the Linear Park in Cambridge and the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway.
It would be very interesting to see the report on the investigation, which might shed some light on questions about this crash.
[Arlington Advocate and Google content are included under fair use provisions of US copyright law.]
I attended the Longfellow Bridge public meeting on July 10.
The meeting started with an overview of the project by representatives of the consultants, then a description of Phase One of the project. Detour of outbound motor traffic is via Leverett Circle, where there will be signal timing and ped safety improvements. The route will continue on Land Boulevard and Binney Street. The reason for this westbound route is that it is one trucks can take.
Motorists (but not trucks) may take Memorial Drive to the ramp from the downstream side of the Longfellow Bridge, where traffic will go either inbound or outbound – but motor traffic across the bridge is only inbound (into Boston). The Red line will run except for 25 weekends during the project. Also there will be an inbound detour route when the Red line is out of service. MBTA buses will then run from Park Street, around the Common and past the State House, and via Leverett Circle to Kendall-MIT.
Comment on this during comment period: could the MBTA use a different pickup point for a shorter route? Answer: this is the route they always use.
During Phase One, bicyclists will have bike lanes in both directions on the downstream side of the bridge. The one headed toward Cambridge will be a contraflow lane with a 5-foot buffer. At some times during construction, bicyclists will have to use sidewalks; the consultant suggested walking bicycles then. During the comment period, someone stated that it is unlikely that bicyclists will walk.
Traffic management plan: the consultant stressed that there will be a lot of public outreach — e-mail advisories, Red Line alerts, a hotline for phone messages. Many meetings. Lots of changeable message boards and static signs farther from the bridge. 23 pan-tilt-zoom cameras will be added. Boston already has 300 but there will be none in Cambridge, which doesn’t want them and doesn’t have the communications infrastructure.
Charles Circle is reconfigured for Phase 1 so inbound traffic on the downstream (normally outbound) side of the bridge crosses under the Red line tracks to continue on the upstream side of Cambridge Street. This poses difficulties for bicyclists
One change from the project which may result in a permanent improvement for bicyclists is widening of Charles River Dam Road.
A length of the median on Main Street in Cambridge is being taken out so that Boston-bound traffic can cross over to the downstream side of the bridge. Cambridge insisted that traffic headed from Main Street to Memorial Drive westbound cross over the bike lane leading to the bridge rather than merging across it.
Boston will install 23 pan-tilt-zoom cameras to monitor traffic. The city already has 300. Why none in Cambridge? That city doesn’t want them and doesn’t have the communications infrastructure. The project team will be watching for congestion during initial traffic analysis, 2 weeks. Prediction is for good levels of service on Mass Ave but poorer in Leverett Circle area. All traffic signals are hooked up to Boston’s Traffic Management Center; the goal is to learn, and change signal timing and message boards based on what is learned. There will be an incident action plans, police deployment plan; police will be deployed at 40 locations. coordination with other projects.
David Watson of Massbike was first to comment. He was concerned that only the design for Phase One for the Cambridge end of the bridge had been put online. Would more plans and the traffic management plans be made public? Reply: they will be available online soon, with the state’s OK. Are there other plans relating to bicycles that might be put online? Watson would like to hear mroe about Charles Circle. Is there anything you can do to navigate through all the right-turning traffic? Less confident cyclists are to the right of two right-turning lanes, sometimes three.
Watson’s written comments are online at http://massbike.org/blog/2013/07/13/longfellow-bridge-construction-begins-amid-traffic-concerns/ How would restriping on the Charles River Dam impact bicycle traffic? Bike facilities as part of the final design?
I commented next and endorsed Watson’s comments. I emphasized a point he also made: the “Kendall crossover” where cars would turn right across bikes going straight.. This would require motorists to look back into their right rear blindspot, rather than taking advantage of available road space to merge across the bike lane. I commented that such conflicts account for the majority of fatalities to bicyclists in the Boston area. This manufactured conflic also requires motorists to stop and wait for bicyclists to overtake on the right, where a merge would allow everyone to keep moving.
I expressed concern aobut westbound bicyclists in Charles Circle having to cross four lanes of turning traffic (headed for Leverett Circle and Storrow Drive westbound, and suggested that bicyclists should be approaching Charles Circle on Cambridge Street adjacent to the median, so as not to cross all this traffic.
I endorsed the widening of the Charles River Dam road.
There were a number of other comments from individual citizens, civic groups and representatives of businesses. I report here on some of them, not all. A stenographer was present at the meeting, in case you want to review every word.
One commenter wondered whether two-way bus traffic would be possible on the bridges – two 14 foot 9 inch lanes for buses? Shared bus-bike lanes? Answer: 14’9″ is at wider part of the bridge, but there’s a pinch point at the Boston end due to the extended Charles Street Station platforms. (And also, two-way motor traffic o nthe bridge would mean no bike lanes.
A Better City, a business organization wants more information. Hospitals are concerned about access for ambulances. TD Garden events, etc. Robust transit mitigation plan is essential, to relieve pressure on the Red Line. ABC has discussed partial 2-way use of bridge in stage 1.
Paul McDonough, representing a Cambridge business: Binney and Land isn’t done. Reid overpass reconstruction at the BUS bridge adds to the congestion. He looks out his window and the bridge is backed up east toward Memorial Drive and under the bridge.
Reid reopens July 19? (Don’t know).
Steven Smith, representing the Boston Marriott Is the map of diversions to be made available – the hotel would like to give guests the best info available. Answer: all will be posted on Web site. People will be able to take the bus from Kendall.
Jim Healy, Boston Duck Tours — gridlock at Museum Way (at the Charles River Cam bridge). What to do about this?
A comment, which brought some laughter: “On Saturday, the first day this kicks in, you’re gonna have the Yankees playing the Red Sox and you’re gonna have a Justin Bieber concert at the Garden.”
Jim Gascoigne, Charles river Transportation Management Association — Unless you enforce do not block the box, we’re sunk. You have to do what you can to make the buses move. If they can’t get out of Museum way we have to run buses up and down McGrath Highway, with bus stops there.
A Mr. McNally, representing A Better City — one way would be to have two-way traffic is from North Station.
Mass General Hospital representative: When do we get a complete transportation management plan? Get 2-way traffic on the bridge. (My whispered comment to Watson: widening the landing would allow 2-way traffic but no bike lanes.)
Jon Adams, commuter cyclist. bus/bike lanes? Answer: detour only weekends.
Representative of transitmatters.info. reinforced the idea idea of bus lanes on CRD road. How tight is turn radius for buses? Plans for Red line?
Another commenter: manage expectations. Think about using changeable signs to give an idea of travel times.
MIT planning: alternate bus out of Kendall?
A Mr. Zamor, Cambridge resident and air quality expert: air quality will be horrible in Kendall Square when buses replace the Red Line. Monitor this? Oxygen cardiovascular crises occur when there are bus diversions. There’s a well-established association of heart-attack timing and intense mobile exposure. He appreciates the efficiency of bicyclists getting across but it is not a healthy place. Better if bicyclists are not on the same road. (Then what?)
I left the meeting to catch a train home while comments were still continuing. On the way out, I suggested, not entirely in jest, to a couple of other people who were leaving that ferryboats might be one answer to some of the problems.
Also, seriously, the whole traffic mess could have been avoided by building a new bridge alongside the old one and then tearing down the old one, but this is a historic structure, and we just don’t do things the easy way here!
Another fatal turnng truck-bicycle collision, in Amherst, Massachusetts. The bicyclist, Livingston Pangburn, age 22, was a former student of my wife, who teaches math at Newton (Massachusetts) North High School.
This was a left cross collision. The cyclist was going downhill and the truck, uphill. I don’t know details of this particular crash, but here’s a link to a video which gives a good object lesson in avoiding left crosses: don’t overtake on the right into a gap in traffic from concealment.
I am sick at heart.
Last December we lost Chris Weigl, graduate student in journalism at Boston University, a young man of great promise, killed when a semitrailer truck ran over him on Commonwealth Avenue near the BU campus. The green arrow approximates Weigl’s line of travel; the red arrow, the truck’s. (Also see larger Bing map.)
I’ve already posted more extended comments about Weigl’s crash on this blog, and there have been a number of thoughtful responses to that post.
On Sunday, May 19, we have had another major loss to society: Kanako Miura, visiting scientist at MIT and Japanese astronaut candidate finalist. She had to be very special to rise that far. Here, where Bay State Road splits off to the right of Beacon Street (also, see reconfigurable Google map):
Where Beacon Street comes out from under the Bowker overpass at the top of the picture, there is an unmarked shoulder (red arrow in picture) to the right of the bike lane, and motorists are expected to bear right across the bike lane to enter Bay State Road. It’s a messy intersection, with expanses of pavement that allow turning without slowing — but also, the dashes next to the bike lane extend way past where a driver would normally initiate a right turn onto Bay State Road.
I haven’t seen a report yet, but the crash is described as having occurred on Beacon Street — and yet video coverage shows police markings in the striped triangle (no-drive zone) between Beacon Street and Bay State Road; also, police lines and Miura’s smashed bicycle on Bay State Road. Probably, the truck and Miura were both headed west (toward the bottom of the picture) on Beacon street, and the truck turned right across Miura’s path to enter Bay State Road.
The truck driver claims never to have seen Miura, suggesting that the truck was initially going slowly, or stopped, and Miura was passing it on the right. The trucker may have initiated his right turn late, unexpectedly crossing the bike lane and the triangle. That could be tempting, for example, if traffic was congested a block ahead in Kenmore Square: it is possible to drive a couple of blocks on Bay State Road and turn left, then right to continue on Commonwealth Avenue.
The Miura and Weigl crashes are only the most recent among what is shaping up as an epidemic of serious and fatal truck-bicycle collisions in the Boston area.
In an attempt to avoid more such tragedies, let’s look at some specifics of right-turning truck crashes.
Humans have clear vision in only one direction at a time, but a trucker about to negotiate a turn has to look into several different mirrors, and also must scan ahead. Trucks have huge blindspots, and a bicyclist riding next to a truck may not always be visible in any mirror.
To the sign on the back of trucks, “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you,” I would add: “if you can see my mirrors, I still might not see you.”
The trucker in the Miura crash clearly was breaking the law, and confounded expectations about right of way if he turned into an area where driving is prohibited. But, regardless of the legalities, does it make sense for a bicyclist to hand over all responsibility for his or her own safety to the trucker?
A right-turn conflict is almost always foreseeable — and, having anticipated it, a bicyclist can prevent the collision. That Weigl and Miura were brilliant academics does not translate to their having had any instruction in how to look out for their safety on a bicycle.
Instruction exists. The City of London, England, has detailed advice including this graphic:
CommuteOrlando in Florida has the page, What Bicyclists Need to know About Trucks, including the graphic at the right. On that page, Keri Caffrey describes how she easily avoided the same situation which killed Weigl — truck turning right from the left lane.
The advice is clear and simple: don’t overtake into the danger zone next to a truck.
The two drawings below convey the same message. You may have seen them already.
Just in case you might discount the London and Orlando advice as Not From Here, those drawings are copied from pages 100 and 101 of the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual (pages 22 and 23 in the PDF of Chapter 4).
The second drawing portrays the exact situation which led to Chris Weigl’s crash, only showing a car instead of Weigl.
If the information in the Driver’s Manual is important for motorists, isn’t it even more important for cyclists, who are more vulnerable?
On the other hand: here is the pitch which advocacy organizations and bicycle program managers are making to the public: You fear motor vehicles, so we will provide a bike lane for you. Bike lanes make people feel safe and encourage them to to start riding. Then thanks to a “safety in numbers” effect, safety will increase because drivers will look more carefully. Oh, and also: bicycling’s health benefits far outweigh the risks.
All true, but it didn’t do anything for Chris Weigl or Kanako Miura and it doesn’t assure your safety either. It isn’t reasonable to overtake into the area next to the truck where the wheels will offtrack over you if it turns, and place your complete trust in the driver not to turn across your path. A statistical improvement and a feelgood promise are no substitute for the specific, on-the-spot choices which keep you out of danger.
There’s a sharp divide in the bicycling community.
On the one hand, some bicyclists — I’m one — practice defensive driving, and apply the rules of the road to make ourselves visible and predictable.
This behavior is self-reinforcing. As soon as a bicyclist takes it up, the rate of close calls and unpleasant encounters plummets. A bicyclist gets the satisfaction of being a good citizen using the public roads responsibly and legally. This extends to validation in maneuvering in ways which the striping does not suggest — for example, passing a truck on the left with plenty of clearance. It is legal to ride outside a bike lane, after all. There’s no law against waiting behind the truck either. Notice that, please. This isn’t about riding fast, as many detractors would like to insist. It is about riding smart.
On the other hand, there is the mentality which equates cyclists’ vulnerability with defenselessness. The many close calls which result from naively following the edge of the road, or the painted stripe –”letting the paint think for you” — suggest that any other choice would be more dangerous — a vicious cycle which traps cyclists in this behavior. As this translates into advocacy, I suppose that if you believe that cyclists are defenseless anyway, enticing them to ride into the danger zone doesn’t feel any less ethical than encouraging them to ride anywhere else. Maybe you believe that it’s all for the greater good, though there will be a few sacrifices along the way.
On the third hand, many cyclists opportunistically violate the rules which make travel predictable. And so do many motorists. And pedestrians. But that’s a topic for another article.
Now the City of Boston and Boston University, on whose doorstep both the Weigl and Miura fatalities occurred, propose to take their infrastructure approach to safety one step further. A painted bike lane isn’t enough: now it will have reflectorized markers. These will probably make drivers somewhat more attentive, but they cannot eliminate blindspots and will reinforce the impression that the bike lane assures safety. Most kinds of reflectorized markers are a trip-and-fall hazard for bicyclists, too, see the video here and comments here.
And yes, some cyclists — children — are defenseless. Their parents need to understand the risks and make choices about where they may ride. In any case, the cyclists who have been dying are adults.
Let me also make it clear that I have no general opposition to bike lanes, no matter what some people say about me. Bike lanes can make for a real improvement in appropriate locations and with appropriate design. For example, you may read my comments about Charles River Road in Watertown. The issue I have is with unsafe design, airy promises and failure to distribute life-saving information.
I have made specific suggestions, on this blog, for some low-cost and effective infrastructure improvements in and around the Boston University campus. These would serve less confident cyclists — even children – much better than the bike lanes do, and offer an alternative to the very nasty intersection at Commonwealth Avenue and the BU bridge.
We need to do better. There have been too many sacrificial lambs in this campaign.
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.