Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Mayor Menino Unveils City's First, er... Fourth Bike Lanes

Mayor Thomas Menino held a press conference outside Boston University's College of Communication on Commonwealth Avenue to announce: the near-completion of Boston's first bike lanes; progress on the installation of 250 bicycle racks around the city; and that the city is now calling for a bike sharing program like the one in Paris, France.

"I'm proud to announce the first bike lane in Boston," said Mayor Menino. It is part of a "program to make Boston a world-class bicycling city," he continued.

Grumbling from city bike advocates said that the Comm Ave stripes are actually the city's third or fourth set of bike lanes, not their first. I'm not sure why they were grumbling, since the others, I believe, were also created during Menino's tenure as Mayor.

Grumbling from UniversalHub and the Boston Phoenix is that Councilor-At-Large John Connolly is being snubbed ("wifi-ed") on the bike sharing idea -- another example, according to David Bernstein, of Mayor Menino adopting other people's ideas as his own. Hats off to Bernstein who predicted on July 15th that Mayor Menino would do just that with the bike sharing concept.


New Bicycle Lanes

The new bike lanes are being rolled out ten months after Mayor Menino announced his new initiative to improve bicycling infrastructure in Boston. The Mayor had announced plans for these lanes in his State-of-the-City speech in February 2008. The lanes have been designed and laid out as part of the Comm Ave rebuild project, while painting of the lanes is incomplete but in progress.

At least a couple of bicyclists at the press conference took interest in the Mayor's wheels: he arrived on four, not two, in his black Chevy Tahoe hybrid suburban assault vehicle.

At right is a all-to-common image for those of us who use Cambridge's bike lanes: a car parked in them. (Look behind all the yellow bicycle police.) Only this time it's the Mayor's vehicle in the bike lane.

The other bike lanes in Boston are apparently (I haven't visited all of them):
  1. Ruggles Street near Northeastern University (see comments);
  2. Dorchester, near the South Bay Shopping Center (only around a half-block long!); and
  3. Perkins Street in Jamaica Plain [see Google Street View image at right].
According to one bike advocate, the Perkins Street lanes were installed on a state-owned street with city input into the design.

The latest lanes, however, are a significant and substantial addition to Commonwealth Avenue, a major thoroughfare, where it passes alongside Boston University.

Much credit was bestowed on the Livable Streets Alliance (nee Boston Bicycle Coalition) for their advocacy of this particular project. Phil Goff, a member of the Board of Directors, noted that this project came with a price. "The City of Boston did something unheard of: remove a lane of traffic" to make way for a bike lane. He looks forward to "one day seeing people of all kinds riding on the bike lanes" from Chestnut Hill to downtown.


More Lanes Coming Soon

Vineet Gupta, Director of Planning at the Boston Transportation Department, said that the city is currently working on several additional bike lane projects. Lanes on the American Legion Highway in Roslindale are likely to be rolled out next, and design work is underway for lanes on Boylston Street in the Fenway and Columbus Road in the South End. It sounds to me like a couple of miles per year might be the rate of bike lane rollout.

A reader comment at the "Boston Biker" blog said that a Northeastern University civil engineering student design has been created to extend bike lanes to continue from the public garden all the way to Allston. If those lanes would be installed, they would represent a major accomplishment.

Gupta further acknowledged that, in the past few years, there has been a "sea change in the way we think about roadway design" regarding bicycles, accompanied by a "cultural" shift in the way the public views the importance of such lanes. Mayor Menino told the assembled crowd that when he goes around the city, he hears about cycling issues more than most any other issue.


Bicycle Rack Installation In Progress

Mayor Menino also announced that the city was in the process of installing 250 new bicycle racks across the city. According the his office's press release: notes that the location of the racks were chosen "per resident recommendations" and by working with "several City departments and local business owners."

In Allston-Brighton there appears to be one that will be installed near the D-14 police station, two in Union Square in Allston, one in Allston Village, one near Boston University, one near the Weeks Memorial Footbridge, and two near the Brighton Mills shopping area. (I couldn't determine exact locations due to the limited resolution of the map.)


Overheard, Or Not

Last summer, the Mayor himself took up the sport of bicycling. He challenged today's crowd to see who was the first one to ride their bike this morning. Answer: he was, at 5:00 am, while everyone else was still trying to "get sand out of their ears."

Nicole Freedman, Director of Bicycle Programs for the City of Boston, took the oneupsmanship one step further, challenging the Boston Police Department bicycle cops assembled behind her to a bike race. Their stone faces told everyone they weren't about to accept the former Olympian's challenge.

No word on whether or not Brighton will get a bicycle lift installed on Parsons Street.

9 comments:

Market Martini said...

great blog

KSquaredR said...

Where did you find the map showing where bike racks will be installed? We submitted a list of potential rack locations to the City for Allston Village. It was compiled by a landscape architect who studied the area to determine best locations.

Thanks!
Katie Reed
Executive Director - AVMS

Michael Pahre said...

Hi Katie,

There was a visual display at the press conference which showed the locations of the bike racks, and I wrote down the A-B locations as best I could tell. (The locations were identified with large round stickers, which made their exact location on the map uncertain by a block or so.)

I couldn't find the visual on the city's website, so I submitted a request to the Mayor's press office for an electronic copy. They have not yet responded. I'll post it if and when I receive a response.

Eric Jay said...

Thanks for this recap. I was hoping to attend the event, but wasn't able to.

Rob said...

Agreed that there's no reason for the grumbling. The city may be late to the game but at least they're now involved and making progress. As a driver, I prefer bike lanes since it keeps bikes out of the car lanes and helps both avoid accidents.

JonT said...

As both a driver and a frequent bicycle commuter, I've often suspected that, as Rob says, the bike lanes are at least as much for the convenience of motorists as for the safety of cyclists. And I doubt that they really do make things safer for cyclists. Two of the most common types of cycling accidents, the Right Hook and the Door Prize (see http://bicyclesafe.com/ for definitions) are actually made MORE LIKELY with bike lanes than without. Bike lanes do make rear-end collisions less likely, but those are already very rare, even without bike lanes.

If a bike lane forces me to be within three feet of parallel-parked cars, or forces me to be to the right of right-turning traffic, then I say, thanks but NO THANKS!

shredbette said...

I'm posting this here for those who may be interested in knowing about this new Google group. Allston-Brighton bikes has created this BU bikes Google group to provide an online forum and convenient form of communication for those interested in working toward a more bicycle friendly and safe Boston University Campus.

Whether you are a supporter of the concept of bike lanes or not so much... the completion of the bike lanes on Commonwealth Avenue provides an opportunity to create dialogue, further awareness, educate cyclists, pedestrians and motorist about etiquette, laws and safety, and to work toward making Boston University a better place for cyclists and all members of the community.

On the initial membership list we have included:
- BU faculty, staff and students who have expressed interest in these issues
- the BU Community Relations Liaison, Dean of Students, Director of Parking and Transportation and Police Department
- representatives of Boston Bikes (City of Boston) and Mass Bike

If you are interested in participating, add yourself to the Google group and START POSTING!

Thanks,
Chris Ditunno
Allston-Brighton bikes

the BU bikes Google group is at:
http://groups.google.com/group/bu-bikes

Michael Pahre said...

A knowledgeable expert on bicycle transportation informed me of the particular details about these three previous sets of bike lanes:

Ruggles Street near Northeastern University: NU built these at request of City; on City street

Dorchester, near the South Bay Shopping Center: DCR built this; DCR roadway

Perkins Street in Jamaica Plain: designed and built by Boston Parks and Rec Dept; DCR roadway

Chris said...

Dear elected officials and other representatives of cyclists in Allston-Brighton and Boston:

Please see below FYI, and please subscribe to our "friends of BUbikes" Google Group if you haven't already so you can stay in the loop on these important issues (particularly those relating to the bikes lanes on Commonwealth Avenue). And please feel free to check out our blog/site at www.A-Bbikes.org if you want to learn more about our work and the issues important to cyclists in Allston-Brighton.

Travel safe (in your car, or on your bike and/or feet) and we hope to see you at a meeting or posting on our Google group(s) or blog sometime soon,

Chris Ditunno
Allston-Brighton bikes
friends of BUbikes
www.A-Bbikes.org
___________________________________________________________________________

Hello and happy fall to friends of BUbikes... well... looks like with all of the students back in town and lots of folks on bikes (in our mind, a GOOD THING), things are starting to heat up again at BU and in the new bike lanes... more bikers means more user conflict... and we're ALL starting to have our own less than ideal stories of life in those bike lanes...

BUbikes will be formally organizing and submitting an application as a student organization...

FRIENDS OF BUbikes is currently a larger organization that includes more than BU students... and we should start chatting about how to support BUbikes and what we can do to address these issues as well. I'd suggest friends of BU bikes continues to network and post online and maybe meet over coffee or whateva sometime soon... and then we can report back at the next meeting of A-Bbikes to the larger group who attends and via our blog/site. In the meantime, I'm gonna create a space on our blog/site to post stories of what's going on in the Comm Ave bikes lanes for all to see. I've also started taking digital pictures of license plates of those parked illegally in the bikes lanes. I'd like to start some formal discussions with BTD and BUPD about enforcement around bike lanes... anyone else interested in being involved should let me know.

Let's focus on how to get as many folks working together productively to make sure the Comm Ave bikes lanes DON'T become the scene of the next biker accident... the bikes lanes are intended to protect us, promote bike commuting and REDUCE user conflict... let's do our best to try to make that happen... and give those who SHOULD be helping us with the effort as part of their job a chance to do the right thing and re-prioritize (everyone has lots to do on their plate, we just need to remind them and help them understand that this is a daily life or death issue for some of us on bikes!)

I suggest we work hard to engage and work collaboratively with the BU administration (including the BUPD, Dean of Students, Parking and Transportation, etc.) to address these issues. We also have lots of resources to offer and provide to BU to help them address these issues and plan and implement attempts to improve. If BU fails to recognize the importance and urgency of these issues to our community and reprioritize their work load to accommodate these bike-related issues, then we'll have to strategize about alternate approaches to motivate them to do so. Let's work hard to get something good (or better) to happen!

Chris Ditunno
Allston-Brighton bikes

On Wed, Sep 17, 2008 at 10:54 PM, [BUbikes member] wrote:


Hey Everyone,

I think now may be the time to meet up and figure out what sorts of
goals we want to establish and the best way to go after them. Some
goals (like getting dedicated bike lanes) may be out of reach for now,
but others (like bike parking) are definitely something we could have
a firm impact on.

I'm not sure who's interested in meeting up and touching base, but I
have a few ideas that I'd like to toss around, and I think there's a
lot of leg work that we should divide up and get moving on. I'd be
happy to set up a meeting in the next week if interested parties want
to send me their schedules?

[], thanks for forwarding all of these e-mails. I never read the
Freep, so hearing about all this bicycle hubbub has got me all stirred
up! :-)



On Wed, Sep 17, 2008 at 6:12 PM, [BUbikes member] wrote:
>
> Hello again, Sorry to bug your inboxes, but I sent an online response
> to the Freep's articles and I wanted to send them on to the group. I
> hope you enjoy my directed ranting:
>
> First, thanks to the Freep for making this such a big issue. Four
> different articles in one paper really help get the point across. I'd
> like to add a bit, without trying to restate all the salient points
> made in today's paper:
>
> Frankly, I find it reprehensible that Vineet Gupta passes the buck by
> saying it's the city's responsibility to maintain the bike lanes. It
> is his campus and his student population that use the lanes, and it is
> his students who are put in harm's way by their misuse. If he cares
> about keeping his students safe, if he was at all concerned that
> students DIE while biking to class, then his reaction would have been
> different. You can't just put this issue in the bureaucratic basement
> when it involves life and death situations for students.
>
> What BU needs to do (and should have done) is build dedicated bike
> lanes on Comm Ave. That is, bike lanes separate from the road,
> divided by a curb, so that cars and bikes don't interact. Squeezing a
> lane in-between parked cars and moving cars just creates a death trap
> for bikers. I don't understand why this logic escaped the designers
> of the Comm Ave Beautification Project, it is common practice for most
> urban centers in Europe, especially bike-oriented ones such as
> Amsterdam and Paris. The city planners over there saw the concerns
> and dangers facing their bikers and built the streets to accommodate.
> Considering BU and the City of Boston just spent MILLIONS UPON
> MILLIONS OF DOLLARS on construction along the Comm Ave strip, they
> really should have done it better.
>
> But it seems BU doesn't really want to concern themselves with the
> plight of its biking population. I recall last May when they OK'd a
> plan for the construction crews to cut bike locks and steal bikes that
> were locked to parking meters and trees. Their claim was bikes should
> only be parked on official bike racks (yet it is stupendously obvious
> that our campus lacks the necessary number of racks - so, PUT MORE
> IN!) The crews did this to coincide with graduation ceremonies, and
> under the precept that the bikes interfered with the construction
> project, and the "beauty" of Comm Ave. BU claimed it was the city
> that orchestrated it, yet the bikes were sent to 15 Buick Street at
> BU's B&G facility. When pressured, the city or BU or the crews or
> whoever was responsible quickly stopped the practice (and rightly
> so!). Still, they thought they could just cut locks and steal bikes!
> What an insult to an entire community of students!
>
> I will leave this post with an anecdote that happened to me the other
> week. I saw a UPS truck parked in the bike lane right in front of the
> flower shop on Comm Ave. I walked up to the UPS guy and asked him if
> there was a way he could not park in the bike lanes because it caused
> a dangerous problem for bikers who had to swerve into traffic to go
> around the truck. He said he was busy and if I had an issue to take
> it up with the cops. He pointed just down the street to a squad car
> that was also parked in the bike lane, not more than 50 feet away, it
> held two officers sitting idle in the car. So, I walked up to the
> cops, and asked them if there was a way they could get the UPS trucks
> to not park in bike lanes. They said it wasn't their job, they don't
> enforce traffic laws. Fair enough. So then I asked them if they
> themselves could not park in the bike lanes, since it was creating a
> dangerous problem for bikers. Instead of answering, they asked me:
> "Are you a biker?" "Yes I am," I replied. "Then you're all set," was
> their response (cop talk for "this conversation is over, we don't care
> about you anymore"). So then I asked "Are you guys BU PD." "Yes,"
> they said. I thanked them for listening and I walked away, thinking
> I'd report them to their higher-ups.
> A minute later, as I was marveling in their impudence and audacity, I
> saw President Brown walking along Comm Ave, with a rolling suitcase
> and cell-phone call in hand. Feeling confident of my right as a
> student, I stopped the Prez mid-conversation and brought the UPS issue
> up with him. He said he couldn't have BU enforce traffic laws,
> especially with delivery vehicles. So then I pointed out to him that
> there was a cop car parked in the bike lane, and he asked me "Are they
> BU PD?" "Yes," I said. The conversation ended there, without any
> pleasantries, and Mr. Brown simply turned and walked away from me. I
> watched him walk past the cop car without saying a word.
>
> So, I ask, even when the problem is presented right to the highest
> administration, to the man who no one can question, what does BU do to
> help out its biking population? Simply walk away. Bikers get killed
> in this city all the time due to poor urban design. Animosity is bred
> by "sharing the road." I wish BU would pull their heads out from you-
> know-where and recognize this, and for the love of God, build some
> decent dedicated bike lanes!

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