The meeting last night was probably 100% bikers, so it wasn't exactly a tough crowd. The smallish room was packed, and I estimated about 150 people there.
I missed the first couple of minutes, but I doubt I missed much.
The section of the right of way is too tight for bike lanes and 4 traffic lanes and 2 parking lanes.
They did an analysis of removing a traffic lane (one model with a northbound lane removed and one model with a southbound lane removed, and both were disastrous. So they studied parking and noticed that parking was actually only something between 55% and 65% utilized here (which sounds surprising to me). So they're committed to removing the parking on one side in order to get in two 5' bike lanes.
Enforcement of double parking/ bike lane parking violations is obviously a big issue here. The police captain of this precinct and Vineet Gupta from Boston DOT said that they would work on enforcement.
A couple of suggestions that the crowd made that I thought were good:
Painting entire lanes green (or celeste) for more impact in a chaotic visual environment.
Making the lane that abuts the parking 6' wide and the lane not next to the cars 4' wide to adjust for the door zone. They're currently suggesting that bikers make box turns at the several places where there are tough left turns.
Removable plastic pylon type things every 40' between the bike lane and the travel lane, (summer only).
There was a suggestion to make the parking lane time dependent, with no parking during evening rush to create another lane of access to the mass pike.
Several people asked about protected lanes inbound of the parked cars. Nicole said that that wasn't possible because there would be no space for a buffer. While I agree that a buffer for car doors opening would be nice, I think there's a disconnect. We don't provide a buffer for doors when the lane abuts on the traffic side, after all. The argument is that you would get trapped between the opening door and the curb, but to me, what's really scary about dooring is being pushed into moving traffic. Hitting the door, or going over the door would hurt really badly. Getting run over by the bus when you fall into the lane in front of it will kill you. I understand that there are "design guidelines" governing these layouts, but I think we need to flexibly re-think them in constrained situations like this.
After the event, Mark, a reader of the blog came up and introduced himself, and we discussed dynamo headlights, and the Longfellow bridge meeting. He said that he's been sitting near John S Allen, and when I spoke in favor of the cycle track option, he looked like he was in pain.
I agree that the cycle track option (bikes on the wider sidewalk) is not ideal for fast commuters. Obviously I prefer the 14' sidewalk, the wide on-road bike lane, and a single lane of cars, but realistically I don't think that we're going to get that in 2011, the culture just hasn't gotten to that point yet. Having the 14' sidewalk though, allows slower or less confident riders to go on the cycle track, but nothing stops faster, more adventurous riders to ride in one of the two traffic lanes. And in 15 years if the bike share is 35%, we can argue that it's time to take that other car lane and restripe it for bikes.
One of the things that Nicole Freedman and the police captain emphasized several times, is that it's a bold move politically to remove parking. Not quite third rail, but close. They said that the best thing that bikers can do to advocate for the lanes and this taking of parking is to follow traffic laws and be good traffic citizens. There's been a lengthy process before this meeting- meetings with community groups and merchants. The number one pushback that they get is, "Why should we encourage biking and bikers- none of them obey the rules, and they endanger pedestrians" The feeling is that bikers are not behaving as good citizens, so why should we extend them privileges and "give" them a slice of valuable real estate.
I know all the arguments about the relative dangerousness of a car not obeying the law vs bikes, relative frequency of law breaking, and the arguments about why car rules are a bad fit for bikes in some cases. It's not fair that we should have to "earn" facilities, but this is reality. The police captain pretty much guaranteed that there will be first be warnings, and then tickets on the new facilities, and maybe before.
I know that there's a big controversy about stupid ticketing in NYC right now, but tickets for blowing lights, or endangering pedestrians who have the right of way , or not using lights at night I'm 100% for.