I went to the first of the three connectivity study meetings, and was a little surprised by what it was. I thought that Mass DOT was going to be reporting on findings of a study. Instead the meetings this week and next week are to solicit public comments and recommendations for improving connectivity in the Charles River basin. The study team, which includes Halvorson design and Alta planning have done existing conditions analysis (including a "field trip" actually getting DOT and DCR staff out on bikes to ride through the entire area- which was evidently eye opening for them!).
They're now soliciting (your?) input and then will put together recommendations which they will present in a meeting in the spring. These are "unfunded" wish lists, but by having the research done now, they'll be more ready to respond when funding for improvements becomes available, and closer to "shovel ready" if more infrastructure money becomes available.
I won't get too much into the details, but if you have a particular pet peeve about getting to and from the river paths, or about connections parallel to the river, the next two meetings (this Thursday and next Tuesday) would be a fantastic time to bend the ear of the design team, who were writing down comments on giant maps as people made them.
My "hit list"
Hawthorne st crosswalk just west of Harvard sq. There's hope of putting a light there at some point as part of the reconfiguration of JFK/ Mem drive.
Connections between Allston/Brighton/ Newton and the river along Nonantum. The combination of a steep slope, industrial land and a significant grade change make crossing to get to the river pretty awful from North Harvard st to Watertown sq.
Crossing across Rt 2 near the Elliot bridge to get to BB&N, Watertown, or Mt Auburn street is really tough as a pedestrian or biker.
Connections parallel to the river around Western Ave- River Street on the Boston side which are godawful right now.
What would be your "hit list"?
Basically the designers and DOT/ DCR people were saying all the right things. What concerned me was that several people, including the longtime active transportation advocate Marty Walz were complaining about how much of a menace scofflaw bicyclists were, and how increased cyclist facilities and numbers (hubway) were making it more dangerous to be a pedestrian. The DCR guy (whose name I didn't catch- might have been Dan Driscoll) did mention that it goes a bit both ways and that a weaving texting headphone wearing pedestrian can be a menace as well. It's hyperbole for Marty to say that "stepping off the curb you're taking your life into your hands," (all the jaywalkers on Water street downtown didn't get that memo I guess) and she knows as well as we do the relative risks of being hit by a car vs a bike, but still, "we've" got to find some kind of way to stop alienating pedestrians.
Pedestrians and bicyclists should be natural allies in the quest for safer, more livable streets, which is why it's so disturbing to hear that rhetoric. I commented that as long as pedestrians and bicyclists are fighting for crumbs of the roadway, no one will be comfortable, and that adequate facilities were key in reducing conflicts. In the meantime though, "we" have a major PR problem. I think that even bikers who don't "blow" lights, tend to look for cars and then proceed, without much thought for pedestrians. Let's not even talk about sidewalk riding. Enforcement would be a good start, but self restraint would be an even better one. But it's a conundrum- how to discourage individual behavior that reflects badly on an entire class? I don't think anyone in the advocacy community has any ideas on how to solve this problem, and it's going to either be, or be perceived as, a bigger problem as bicycle ridership grows. It's complicated by the fact that the people most likely to display jerky behavior are the least likely to be accessible through an advocacy campaign, or to care about the public image of all cyclists as a class. They're just hell bent on getting where they're going, other road users be damned.
So what should "we" do to improve the image of bicyclists as respectable citizens who obey laws and are considerate of others? Assuming that all of you reading this are models of bicycling rectitude, what can be done about those we see menacing pedestrians, fueling cager talk show host rants by blowing lights, or endangering other bikers by riding as ninja salmon? Does shaming work? Should we encourage police crackdowns? Education? We gotta come up with something, because so far just trusting that better facilities will attract more civic minded cyclists isn't working.