Sunday, September 09, 2007

Bicycle Misinformation in Boston Globe

The Boston Globe's City Weekly section ran a story today about the bicycle pathway conditions along the Charles River (part of which is signed as the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bikepath).  The conditions are based on "a Globe staffer [who] recently cycled about 15 miles of it."  Nice story idea, mostly got the story right, but there are a number of mistakes -- and a truly dangerous suggestion that is just-plain wrong.

1.  The big mistake?  The accompanying graphic, based on the Globe staffer/cyclist's information, describes the location where the bikepath crosses the Eliot Bridge as:
Bad crossing, no matter what side you're coming from. You'll need to carry your bike over metal barrier that separates traffic lanes.
Ummm... NO.  There are tunnels underneath the Eliot Bridge on both sides of the river so that the bikepath continues, uninterrupted, past the bridge.  The text of the article (where it continues, six pages later) is accurate:
There are paths under the Eliot Bridge, but they're frequently muddy and wet from large puddles.
Yes, sort-of, but certainly not when the Globe staffer presumably took his/her ride -- because it has hardly rained in the last five weeks! Nonetheless, I can tell you as a commuter who has taken the path along there many times, these tunnels are mostly passable most of the year. You just need to have fenders over your bike wheels if you don't want to get mud splattered in the middle of the winter or the week after a significant rainfall.

The big problem is that the Globe's graphic suggested that cyclists should carry their bikes across the Fresh Pond Parkway / Soldiers Field Road at the location of the Eliot Bridge!  That is an extremely dangerous suggestion that the Globe should immediately retract.

2.  While the Globe's cyclist/graphic is correct to identify the Cambridge Street crossing at the River Street Bridge (Allston side) as in need of a pedestrian/cyclist crossing signal, he/she completely missed the similar lack of crossing signals at the Arsenal Street Bridge (both sides in Watertown and North Brighton) and North Beacon Street Bridge (both sides in Watertown and Brighton).  MassBike has identified all of them as top priorities for improvements to the bike path, since the latter two bridges connecting Watertown and Brighton are extremely dangerous intersections.

3.  The bikepath between the Eliot Bridge and the Larz Anderson Bridge, on the North Allston side, is misleadingly labelled as "Good" condition in the graphic.  There are actually two paths on the westernmost section:  a paved one next to Soldiers Field Road and a gravelly one along the riverside.  The graphic follows the path of the gravel path, which is not IMHO in "Good" condition.  (Note that the same kind of split path is not misleadingly labelled between Arsenal Street and North Beacon Street Bridges on the Watertown side.)

4.  The secluded section of the bikepath east of the Arsenal Street Bridge on the North Brighton side is not dangerous at night because it is secluded; it is dangerous at one section (immediately west of the Northeastern Boathouse) due to poor drainage, poor snow/ice removal, and uneven surfaces.

5.  There is an eastbound hazardous bump/step in the pavement on the Cambridge side east of the BU Bridge that is not identified in the Globe's graphic.  (I haven't ridden this little stretch in a while, so it might have been fixed...)

It is nice to see a story of its kind in the Globe, even though I think the Globe's reporter would've done better to have a MassBike expert ride along with them on the route.  Hopefully it will help MassBike expand their base to push for modest improvements in the bikepath.  

Oh, and the Boston Globe correctly labelled the "Weeks Footbridge", unlike me (I mistakenly called it the Weekes Memorial Footbridge).  I can verify from its sign that Weeks is the correct name deriving from the former Senator and Secretary of War:

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