A Discussion of Massachusetts Rules on Crosswalks

This appeared on the BostonAReaCycling e-mail list. It deserves repeating.

On Jun 29, 2014, at 10:13 PM, David Wean  wrote:

Vehicle operators are required to stop once pedestrians enter the crosswalk (or when they are, IIRC, within 10 feet of the lane the vehicle is in). A concern I have is that treating cyclists the same way we do pedestrians would obligate a vehicle operator (including another cyclist who is riding on the road, I suppose) to stop with very little notice, since cyclists on the path can travel at upwards of 5x the speed of pedestrians.

Under the proposed law would the operator of a vehicle in the road be liable or culpable if they hit a cyclist who was traveling at 20 mph and crossed the road without stopping or looking (in essence creating an implied Yield sign at every crosswalk)?

Under normal circumstances, it seems to me that the current right of way rules (e.g. the general principle that the operator on the more minor road yields to the one in the more major road, and the rules related to stop or yield signs) could handle this.

Can someone provide an example where the proposed law would be necessary?

David


At 08:17 AM 7/1/2014, Andrew Fischer wrote:
David, et al

To answer your question, under the proposed law, the operator of the motor vehicle would be presumed at fault if he struck a cyclist in a crosswalk. The motor vehicle operator could rebut that presumption by proving that the cyclist was more negligent because he came out into the crosswalk at 20 MPH, without stopping or looking.

This would not give the bicyclist the right to ride negligently or recklessly. It would merely reverse the present situation where the motorist gets a free pass for hitting a cyclist in a crosswalk.

Here’s how the law presently works: there are stop signs or yield signs for bicyclists approaching the bike path crossings. These signs were put there by the design engineers to warn cyclists of the approaching intersection and not because these engineers or anyone else ever thought through the legal consequences of the signs. Since the law presently requires motorists to yield only to pedestrians but not cyclists, this creates a presumption at law that the cyclist is at fault when the car, going 20 MPH and never slowing, hits the cyclist in the crosswalk. The notion that the painted white lines afford any protection to the cyclist is illusory.

The proposed legislation would reverse that presumption, affording bicyclists the protection of the white lines marking a bike path crossing, ­ lines that have no legal impact and create a false sense of protection.

This would not give a cyclist speeding through the intersection at 20 MPH without a free pass ­ the motorist could offer evidence to rebut the presumption. But the proposed law would give the painted lines that appear to provide some protection to the cyclist some legal meaning. Besides, some preliminary counts by the BCU show that there aren’t many cyclists who dart from bike paths into roadway crossings at high speeds. It just doesn’t happen much because cyclists aren’t that stupid and suicidal.
I hope I have clarified your question. If not, I hope we can continue this discussion, as I think the proposed change to the law is a vulnerable user protection, the kind Massbike has otherwise pressed as important. This is because between bike and car, the cyclist is far more vulnerable than the motorist and should have some protection, as is the case in the Netherlands and most other European countries where cycling is protected.

Andrew M. Fischer


I responded:

I see one thing missing from the discussion: requirements for yielding right of way. With pedestrians they are clear: a driver (bicyclist too) on the road is required to yield once a pedestrian has set a foot in the crosswalk. That is the traditional law in the USA though, better, other countries, particularly the UK, have established waiting areas just outside the roadway where a pedestrian can stand and the driver is required to yield. Yielding doesn’t always mean stopping, for example if the pedestrian has already crossed to the far side of the roadway.

Bicyclists approach the crosswalk faster and don’t want to lose momentum or have to restart. Often it is not only more convenient for everyone but also safer for the bicyclist not to stop, and to cross quickly, especially when traffic on the road is heavy and gaps are short.

Posting a stop sign for bicyclists on the trail exempts motorists from yielding, as Andrew says, because a stop sign also requires under the law that the bicyclist yield. Then we get the “you go first, no you go first” scenario when both yield, or a crash when neither yields, and the law doesn’t properly cover either case.

I think that stop signs should be reserved for when stops are really necessary and that a different sign for the trail – a warning sign indicating a safe speed at which a bicyclist can keep moving — is appropriate if the sight lines are good enough to allow this. And, also we need a speed limit on the road consistent with yielding and signage to make it clear that drivers must yield.

There is already law that a driver can’t be held responsible if someone runs out into the street and there is not time to stop, but a presumption of negligence would hold the driver in the street (bicyclist in the street too!) guilty until proved innocent. Under our system of law, vulnerability isn’t an excuse for carelessness. Equity would require only that the yielding rules and signage be consistent and clear.

On the other hand, when driving in a parking lot or playground, or school zone or anywhere pedestrians roam, then it is appropriate for drivers to go very slowly and take extreme care. If we extend this requirement to every crosswalk, or beyond that to anywhere a child may possibly chase a ball out into the street, it has very serious effects not only on the concept of justice but also on the efficiency of travel. The ability to maintain speeds on the road above those at which sharing is safe with people who don’t follow rules of travel is unfortunately necessary to the existence of modern society. The alternative is the so-called “shared space” approach to roadway use, we have a de facto example of that in Massachusetts and I have blog posts and a video about it.

 

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My letter to the FHWA about Connect Historic Boston

My letter is online.

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A longer response to Egan

This is a more extended response to the letter from Boston’s Chief Civil Engineer responding to my comments about the Connect Historic Boston project.

My comments are at http://john-s-allen.com/pdfs/CHB_Comments.pdf and http://john-s-allen.com/pdfs/CHB_2014-03_comments.pdf

Mr. Egan’s reply to my letter is at http://john-s-allen.com/pdfs/egan_response.pdf. My shorter response to his letter is at http://streetsmarts.bostonbiker.org/2014/05/15/boston-chief-civil-engineers-reply-to-my-comments-on-connect-historic-boston/

Egan’s response is a non-response. I gave detailed comments, criticisms and recommendations. He did not reply to them.

In particular, Mr. Egan did not respond to my concerns that the project

• fails as a transportation project, because it degrades rather than improves access to the North Station transportation hub;

• addresses the downtown Boston urban area as a tourist attraction, rather than an urban hub, and does not provide direct and convenient routes for bicycle travel;

• nonetheless, the project, despite its name, fails to connect with some of the most important historic sites near its route;

• incorporates known hazardous designs: in particular, a narrow two-way sidepath on a sloping street (Staniford Street), which crosses a wide driveway; a bizarre, curved segment inside an intersection connecting the Causeway Street segment with the Staniford Street Segment; and bike lanes and “bike boxes” which encourage bicyclists to ride in the unsafe position to the right of right-turning motor traffic.. In the Boston area, the majority of fatal motor vehicle-bicycle collisions in recent years have been of this type.

• results in slow travel, delays and temptation to violate the traffic law for bicyclists as well as other travelers;

• Establishes a fixed pattern of segregated space, literally set in stone, which precludes modification to reflect future changes in traffic volume and modes;

• Could be redesigned to provide much better options.

All of these issues are addressed in my comment letters, so I won’t address them at length here.

Having attended the February 26, 2014 public hearing and May 15. 2014 public information meeting about the project, and based on my review of the Connect Historic Boston Web site and extensive Web searches, I can add:

• The project proponents claim that the project will increase bicycle use, but they have not offered any projections.

• Nor have they placed before the public any study showing the effects of the project on traffic volume and level of service for other travel modes. This is a major omission, because the lane reductions, more complicated movements at intersections, and increased signalization due to the project will result in very significant impacts.

• The project proponents have not placed alternative designs or routes before the public for review. There have been some design changes but only one design was presented at each public meeting.

• Though a stenographic record was being taken at the February 26, 2014 25% design public hearing, which I attended and at which I spoke, I cannot find the transcript online.

• As the February 26 design public hearing, no plans, but only conceptual drawings, were presented.

• Other comments besides mine were submitted following the February 26 public hearing, but I cannot find any online unless they were posted by commenters.

• At the May 15 meeting, which was sparsely attended, Mr. Egan asserted that the project had been subjected to extensive public review. Indeed, the project proponents have held a number of public meetings. However, publicity for the meetings was directed to local neighborhood groups and to advocacy groups which were likely to favor the project, lacking outreach to citizens and businesses in Boston and throughout the region whose interests stand to be affected by the project.

• Though detailed design drawings were on display at the May 15 meeting, the 25% design public hearing had passed, and this was not the design public hearing. Though a promise was made that the drawings would be placed online, I cannot find them online.

• A search on the Web sites of the Boston Globe and Boston Herald newspapers finds not one single article about the project – a news blackout. This is astonishing considering that the Globe has a reporter, Martine Powers, whose beat is to address transportation issues, and that the Herald has published incisive articles about the related development project at North Station. There was a single article on the Boston Magazine blog, following my suggestion to the reporter, but it only briefly describes the project without addressing any of the issues it presents.

• I have found no input from the MBTA or MassDOT into the design or review of the project, though it will have very serious consequences for travel on roadways, including for public transit, and as noted, for access to North Station.

• Boston Chief Civil Engineer William Egan cites and footnotes only sources support the case he wants to make.

Let’s look at this situation more closely. Mr. Egan dismisses classic studies as “outdated.” These classic studies examine specifics of design and of crash causation. Their results have been confirmed by newer ones. He dismisses the research record while citing and footnoting documents which have been demolished as deeply flawed and biased, and misrepresenting others. The overall case he is trying to make is for facilities which can be called cycle tracks, without addressing the specifics of what is safe or unsafe about any particular design.

Let’s now go go through Mr. Egan’s footnotes one by one:

In his footnote #1, Mr. Egan cites the Kittleson & Associates Report (Washington DC),
http://ddot.dc.gov/page/bicycle-facility-evaluation, pointing out increased bicycle traffic volume on the 15th St NW left side cycle track. He does not mention the safety issue which the study raises. After installation, crashes increased from 20 in 4 years to 13 crashes in 14 months – over twice as many crashes per month. Taking into account the doubling of cyclist volumes, this represents an increase in crashes of 10% — contrary to his claim of safety in numbers. He also emphasizes the greater increase in bicycle traffic on this street in the evening rush hour – cherry-picking. Videos of actual riding conditions on this path are available at https://vimeo.com/album/1632204. These videos show numerous hazards, chaotic conditions at intersections, and that conflicts at intersections due to the separated bikeway lead to very slow travel unless bicyclists ignore traffic signals. Most did.

In his footnote #2, Mr. Egan cites the study Lusk, A. C., Furth, P. G., Morency, P., Miranda-Moreno, L. F., Willett, W. C., & Dennerlein, J. T. (2011). Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street, to the effect that there were 2.5 times as many bicyclists on cycle track streets as on streets without. This finding reflects not only the presence of cycle tracks, and cyclists’ belief that these were preferable, but also reflects the unfair selection of comparison streets (see comments on footnote #5) and the cycle track streets in many cases the made direct connections for through travel, while comparison streets did not.

In his footnote #3, Mr. Egan cites the work of Prof. John Pucher to the effect that bicycle crash rates decrease as bicycle use increases. It is well known that as the volume of traffic increases, risk per mile of travel decreases. This is an example of Smeed’s law, which has been known for decades, but is no justification for construction of facilities which fail to optimize safety: the proper safety comparison among facilities is for the same population on different types of facilities, and the safety in numbers effect has not been demonstrated with bicycle facilities (see comments on footnote #1). Pucher ranges widely in his citations, but he reveals himself as an enthusiastic promoter of separate bicycle facilities, gullible and unqualified to evaluate research, by his quoting Jacobsen’s study which includes Jacobsen’s infamous descending hyperbolic curve due to faulty math, which gives the same results when fed totally random data, and a series of photos showing various types of vehicles parked in the street and describing the space they occupy as the space needed for travel, among other gaffes. These gaffes are in the document http://www.cts.pdx.edu/pdf/Pucher_PSU_talk_9-28-07.pdf, pages 24 and 30 and I have commented on the Muenster drawing: http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=7. More exensive critiques of Pucher’s work are found here: http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/facilities.htm

In his footnote #4, Mr. Egan cites a study referenced by Pucher, to the effect that a larger percentage of female cyclists is associated with a larger bicycle mode share. This does not make a case for constructing the project as designed; it only makes one for increasing mode share. The underlying assumption that women are a disabled population is degrading, and increasing the mode share does not make it ethical to provide facilities which are inherently unsafe.

In his footnote #5, Egan again cites the study Lusk, A. C., Furth, P. G., Morency, P., Miranda-Moreno, L. F., Willett, W. C., & Dennerlein, J. T. (2011). Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street. Injury prevention, 17(2), 131-135 as demonstrating a 28% lower crash rate for cycle tracks in Montreal, relative to comparison streets. Do the people at Harvard School of Public Health know what they are doing? If so, they are intentionally biasing their work. Flaws of the study include describing stretches of paths in parks and away from streets as cycle tracks, including stretches which had not been built yet in the reported mileage, selecting a multi-lane comparison street 10 blocks away with heavy, faster traffic for comparison with a cycle track street which is small and has light, slow traffic, examining short stretches which end just short of busy intersections, giving the length of one of the paths as twice as long as it is, halving its reported crash rate, and neglecting injuries to pedestrians. A detailed rebuttal and a link to the study online may be found at http://john-s-allen.com/reports/montreal-kary.htm. Another review reaching similar conclusions is at http://bicyclingmatters.wordpress.com/critiques/montreal-cycle-tracks/

Other opinions of the Montreal paths have come from Montreal cyclists and public officials. Here is a quote from an article which appeared in a Canadian newspaper, http://www.fpinfomart.ca/news/ar_results.php?q=6375221&sort=pubd&spell=1 :

Growing pains for downtown lanes; Although Montreal has 400 kilometres of bike lanes, there was and still is resistance to the recent segregated downtown one, Kate Jaimet [https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kate-jaimet/43/b12/7b1] reports.
Though cyclists say that biking in the dedicated bike lane is more pleasant, and makes them feel safer, than biking in traffic, [City of Montreal spokesman Jacques Alain] Lavallée [https://www.linkedin.com/pub/jacques-alain-lavall%C3%A9e/14/26b/b21] said there has been little change in the number of accidents since the path on de Maisonneuve was built.

Drivers making left turns on the street which is one-way for cars but two-way for bikes often complain that they have to look everywhere to make sure a cyclist isn’t coming. And recently a cyclist was killed by a bus while running a series of red lights.

Also see:

https://web.archive.org/web/20100630084707/http://communities.canada.com/montrealgazette/blogs/ontwowheels/archive/2010/06/26/dangerous-de-maisonneuve.aspx

During my nearly four decades behind the wheel, I learned the importance of defensive driving – always be aware of the positions of the cars around you, anticipate everyone’s next move before they make it, and even make sure a driver who’s stopped on a cross-street is looking your way before you pass by. When I drive, especially in urban areas, I’m at a heightened sense of alert. Call it a constant state of yellow.

Never did I imagine the absolute code red required for cycling. After years in the relative quiet and safety of a car, I wasn’t prepared for the skill, the reflexes, the 360-degree sensory awareness and slaloming abilities needed to navigate my way by bike between Atwater Ave and The Gazette offices on Peel St. I was no longer simply watching out for traffic or an occasionally inattentive fellow driver. I was now embedded in a circus. Pedestrians moving at one speed, cyclists at another and cars at still another, and each of the performers moving to a different set of rules and in different directions.

Not that I didn’t enjoy some of the thrill. But sometimes I just want to get from Point A to Point B without the high drama. That means without riding on the de Maisonneuve bike path downtown. One of my colleagues was hit by a car last year while cycling on The Path. The inherent danger, or inherent extra danger, on The Path is that the two cycling lanes in the centre of the city are headed in opposite directions, she pointed out. So a driver turning left from de Maisonneuve has to watch out for cyclists coming from the west and from the east. And watch out for pedestrians, of course, and other cars.

I’m happy to say that now, I’ve found my own enlightened path to work. I live in N.D.G. My morning commute gets into high gear along the pitted and cracked portion of the de Maisonneuve path out there, but once I reach Clarke Ave. in Westmount, I strike out on my own. I make a right on Clarke and take that down to Dorchester and to René Lévesque. It’s not only less congested, but it’s a quicker way to reach Peel St. The right-hand lane of René Lévesque is wide enough for a parked car and for me and my bicycle, even with both paniers filled, so I stay out of the lanes of moving traffic. My travel time from central N.D.G. to Peel St. is about 22 minutes, about the same time it takes to drive. And it’s a fun 22 minutes, with an elevated but not racing heartbeat.

Has anyone else quit The Path in favour of another route?

In his footnote #6, Egan cites Lusk, A. C., Morency, P., Miranda-Moreno, L. F., Willett, W. C., & Dennerlein, J. T. (2013). Bicycle Guidelines and Crash Rates on Cycle Tracks in the United States. American journal of public health, 103(7), 1240-1248 to the effect that bicycling on cycle tracks is safer than bicycling on roads. This study dilutes the data for cycle tracks like the ones proposed for Connect Historic Boston by including paths which have few or no intersections or driveway crossings. Using the authors’ figures, these have less than 1/10 the crash rate of the facilities which meet the definition of cycle tracks, but those which do have twice the average rate for bicycle travel. Links to the study, a careful rebuttal by Boston’s former bicycle coordinator, Paul Schimek, Ph.D and the authors’ reply may be found online at http://bicycledriving.org/sidepaths/bicycle-guidelines-and-crash-rates-on-cycle-tracks-in-the-united-states . Schimek has commented on the exchange: “Read my published letter about Lusk et al.’s latest paper claiming increased safety due to cycle tracks, and marvel at their response.”

In his footnote #7, Egan cites Teschke, K., Harris, M.A., Reynolds, C.C., Winters, M., Babul, S., Chipman, M., Cusimano, M.D., Brubacher, J.R., Hunte, G., Friedman, S.M., Monro, M., Shen, H., Vernich, L., & Cripton, P.A. (2012). Route infrastructure and the risk of injuries to bicyclists: A case-crossover study. American journal of public health, 102(12), 2336-2343. This study has been reviewed and debunked by John Forester,
http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/Facilities/Infrastructure%20&%20Injuries.pdf. The central problem is that the one facility described in the study as a cycle track is a bikeway on a long bridge separated by a Jersey barrier, with no cross traffic.

The authors of the study which Egan cites in his footnote #7 gave a presentation at the 2012 Velo-City conference in Toronto. I have posted comments on this presentation at http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?s=Teschke. The graphics for the presentation display the preposterous result that bicycle crashes were 2000% as high on streets without cycle tracks as on streets with them, although the study also reports that more than half of all the crashes did not involve a motor vehicle. There are other absurdities. Also, it is clear from the authors’ presentation at a conference that they do not understand the definition of a collision, or intentionally skewed their data by describing single-bike crashes as collisions.

Mr. Egan does not make his case. He does not answer pressing questions about the project, and none of the works he cites are credible.

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Boston Chief Civil Engineer’s reply to my comments on Connect Historic Boston

I have discussed my comments on the Connect historic Boston project in an earlier post.

No Boston’s Chief Civil Engineer, Bill Egan, has replied — but actually, his reply is a non-reply. He doesn’t address the issues I raised about messing up — rather than improving — bus and taxi access to North Station. Or that the proposed bikeways, despite their name, make a large loop avoiding the historic sites in the North End. Or the faulty and hazardous proposed designs. Or…there’s more.

He quotes only research studies which are all highly biased and have been debunked, and dismisses studies linked from one of my Web sites, giving only one explanation: they are “outdated”. That is just what the people who produce bunkum studies would like to say, so people won’t read carefully-conducted older studies. Not all are so old either.

My comments are described and linked here.

Mr. Egan’s letter is here.

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Comments on the Charles River Basin Connectivity Study

I have prepared extensive comments on the Charles River Basin Connectivity Study and submitted them for review.

I strongly support many aspects of the study, but there are some details I would change, and there are some opportunities which the study does not address — just for example, making the large “no man’s land” inside the rotary south of the North Beacon Street Bridge accessible as parkland.

My comments are available online at http://john-s-allen.com/pdfs/John_Allen-Charles_River_Basin_Connectivity_study_comments.pdf

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Is This Street Wide Enough?

I have posted a video of a group of avid recreational cyclists riding on Hampshire Street in Cambridge, in the middle of the day.

Ah, once again, bostonbiker.org won’t let me embed a video, but you may view it in glorious full-screen high definition at the link below:

Is This Two-Lane Street Wide Enough? from John Allen on Vimeo.

The cyclists in this video are riding on a stretch of Hampshire Street which was the subject of a study of the effect of various lane stripings on cyclist behavior, a study which I have reviewed. The study concluded that bike lane striping led bicyclists to ride safely, farther from parked cars. My review showed that statement to be inaccurate, due to misrepresentation of bicyclists’ distance from the parked cars. Another reviewer, Wayne Pein, has reached the same conclusion.

My video shows behavior consistent with the study once the numbers have been corrected, all the more distressingly because most of the cyclists in the video are middle-aged or older and have years of experience. For the most part, however, that experience has been in rural areas and outer suburbs rather than in the city.

My video also bears on the proposed reconstruction of Beacon street, in Somerville. Beacon street is the extension of Hampshire street, and has the same profile and character. An earlier post on this blog offers my comments on Beacon street.

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Comments on Connect Historic Boston

I’ve posted extensive comments on the Connect Historic Boston project. I am concerned about: safety issues; increase in bicycle travel times and congestion of motor traffic; the project’s degrading rather than improving access to North Station; its being designed as if Boston were a tourist attraction rather than an urban center, while on the other hand it bypasses some of the most obvious tourist destinations in order instead to construct “cycle tracks” — barrier-separated bikeways behind curbs.

Let me make it clear: I approach infrastructure projects with an open mind. There are in fact some cycle tracks that I have said nice things about. These, however,  require a much more ample and careful design, and are a preferred and practical option only under a limited number of conditions. Two examples are on 9th Avenue in Manhattan, and on University Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin. For Concord Avenue in Cambridge, I expressed support for a separate bikeway — a two-way bikeway on the south side. The westbound bikeway which Cambridge constructed crosses 24 driveways and 8 streets into an industrial area in 3000 feet. The design goal is quite obviously to construct something which can be called a cycle track, rather than to build functional infrastructure.

The design of the Connect Historic Boston project is being rushed to completion. (Compare with the Longfellow Bridge project, one which will have equally large impacts and had a public process that went on for a couple of years). Input on the CHB project from advocacy groups occurred without public involvement for over a year, and since then there has been very little media coverage. There have been community meetings to sell the idea, where attendees have almost all been bicycling advocates who are not aware of the design issues. Most were recruited by the Boston Cyclists Union.

What was called a 25% design hearing lacked the detail which would allow a meaningful evaluation. There was nothing about signal timing, capacity, travel times etc., only a description of the proposed bikeways. One thing I’ve learned since attending the public hearing is that the level of service at Lowell Square is predicted to be F in the morning and evening rush hours. How are bicyclists supposed to get through on the very odd route proposed for them?

I have additional comments online, prepared following the public hearing.

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Close Encounter on Washington Street

Hmm, Bostonbike stripped out the video I intended to embed here, but you can still click on the link below.

A Close Encounter on Washington Street from John Allen on Vimeo.

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Report on Belmont Community Path Public Meeting, January 22, 2014

The Selectmen of the Town of Belmont appointed a Community Path Advisory Committee about a year ago, and held a public meeting about the Community Path, which I attended last night. The Community path would go east-west through Belmont, and would be a segment of the Mass Central Rail Trail, which when complete, would run from Alewife Station in Cambridge all the way to Northampton.

Google map of the project area, for reference is http://goo.gl/maps/oHEjl

The Community Path table of contents Web page is at http://www.belmont-ma.gov/Public_Documents/BelmontMA_BComm/CPAC/

Maps of potential routes are at http://www.belmont-ma.gov/Public_Documents/BelmontMA_BComm/CPAC/belmont-community-path_potential-routes_20131129ir.pdf

I have photos of Channing Road and the rail line at http://john-s-allen.com/galleries/Belmont%20Bikeway/index.html

I have older comments and documents about the Belmont Bikeway under the Belmont heading at http://bikexprt.com/massfacil/belmont/belpath.htm. My opinions have warmed in favor of an off-road path west of Belmont Center since I wrote those comments, because of Belmont’s willingness to consider (and spend money on) other path alternatives besides the circuitous and hilly McLean option. I still support Pleasant Street/Alexander Avenue as an additional through route which avoids the difficult intersections around the railroad bridge in the middle of town. This route is much more promising following recent improvements to Pleasant Street. The block of Alexander Avenue west of Leonard Street is still one-way. It cries out for a contraflow bike lane.

I can report following the meeting:

  • Support for the Community Path was nearly universal at the meeting. A few people who commented expressed reservations about one issue or another, (usually privacy) but even abutters spoke in favor of the trail. Residents understood, based on the example of the Minuteman bikeway, that crime, noise and property values were non-issues.
  • Through Belmont Center and to its east, the preferred option, by far, is on the unused width of the rail corridor between the Belmont railroad station and Brighton Avenue.
  • Plans were shown for that route including various safety and privacy/screening options.
  • An underpass under the rail line at Alexander Avenue between the  Winn Brook neighborhood north of the tracks and the High School south of the tracks also was mentioned, and clearly, most residents support this. .
  • Another possible route through and to the east of Belmont Center would be on Concord Avenue and around Claypit Pond (past the High School) to Hittinger Street. This would, however, not be consistent with the trail elsewhere, and would be longer. (I currently ride Waverly Street to School Street Cottage Street to Concord Avenue and onward to Hittinger Street to make this connection, but it is not consistent with the connecting trail segments. I would hope though that a contraflow bike lane is installed in the segment of School Street which was recently made one way during morning and afternoon school bus unloading/loading times.)
  • A third option would be on lightly-traveled Channing Road, but this also poses challenges at intersections, particularly at Cross Street and Leonard Avenue at the west end, and also at the east end with a connections through private property.
  • Several options were shown west of Belmont Center: mostly north of Pleasant Street, over the hill on the McLean Hospital property; or along the Fitchburg branch rail line; or mostly south of the rail line using lightly-traveled streets and passing through the Belmont DPW yard. These options are less well-defined. See the document iwht maps of potential routes for details.
  • Several residents spoke up for a flat route and for neighborhood access all along the trail — in other words, not the McLean route — but the flatter routes have some issues with making good connections and with privacy of abutters.
  • I found some of the details of the Concord Avenue and Channing Road options troublesome, involving intersections with delays and hazards. The most glaring example was a proposal to make Channing Road one way except for the last block at the east, which is a dead end, and construct a two-way, one side of the street raised cycle track. Channing Road is a residential street with very light traffic east of Cross Street. The cycle track is proposed to be 12 feet wide in the one-way segment and  a totally inadequate 7 feet wide in the two-way segment, and it would cross numerous driveways. Its effect would be to legitimize wrong-way and sidewalk cycling, which have been proven hazardous. The appropriate treatment on such a street is a low speed limit and traffic calming.
  • Several commenters said that they were terrified to ride on roads. Certainly, this is an issue for children and novice cyclists, and some of the main streets in Belmont are no picnic for bicyclists, but on the other hand, improvements to local streets are needed to make connections to the trail. One commenter spoke up about inexpensive “bicycle boulevard” treatments — “all you have to install is flowerpots.” There is already a treatment much like this in Belmont, shown in http://bikexprt.com/massfacil/belmont/belpath.htm (second from last photo on the page, with accompanying text) and in fact, bicycle boulevards should be practical to create connected routes on man residential streets in Belmont. Riding on streets, and pedestrian improvements outside the trail corridor, do need to be addressed if for no other reason than that construction of the trail will also increase cycling and walking elsewhere. There is nothing about this in the project documents.
  • Everything which has been proposed is conceptual as of now. There is no decision about which route will be improved, and there are no final designs.
  • As the Selectmen readily admitted, there also is no money allocated to build any of this. I expect that eventually there will be, but in the mean time, low-cost and no-cost measures such as educational campaigns and bicycle boulevard treatments could improve cycling conditions in Belmont, and set the stage for access to the trail once it is constructed.
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My Comments on the Cambridge Street Bridge project

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.

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