Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mark your Calendars

There are some important public meetings coming up this week for people interested in bicycle infrastructure in the Boston area.

Firstly on the 28th at the Boston Public Library,  Livable streets alliance will be hosting the fourth annual "State of the city"  bike report by Nicole Freedman, Boston's "Bike Czar".   Everyone who bikes in Boston has observed the huge uptick in new bike infrastructure.  Show up early at 5:45 for a "transportation community showcase"  or just be there by 6:15 for the opening remarks from Mayor Menino.  I find it significant that the mayor is showing up to this-he's really put a lot of emphasis on this in the last couple of years.  It will be interesting to hear what's planned for the next year/ years.

Secondly, Mass DOT is having a meeting to review the "selected" design that they've submitted to the Feds as part of the Environmental Assessment package.  The meeting will be at 7PM March 1st at the Transportation building, 10 Park Plaza  There was a committee of stakeholders who came up with a set of preferred alternatives,  which were commented on by the public a year ago.   Then the State was fairly secretive and very slow in selecting one of those for submittal to the federal government for review.  It was just released to the public two weeks ago, and, well, it has its ups and downs.
Some history here, and here

The great news is that Mass Dot's original plan was just to rebuild it exactly as it was, with no improvements for either bicyclists or pedestrians.   The current proposal makes significant improvements to the Cambridge bound side, with one car lane, a wide and buffered bike lane,  and a 13' sidewalk.  There are  improvements on the much more used Boston bound side, with a 2' wider sidewalk, and a 6" wider bike lane, but it's not everything that we hoped it would be. There is also a commitment to provide a better pedestrian bridge over Storrow, which will connect to the bridge in a more logical way, and a commitment to widen the bridge once it passes the historic part of the structure (the last 50' which is just a standard highway crash barrier.     There will definitely be some pushback on the part of advocates to try to get a wider sidewalk and a narrower roadway.  At the moment, Mass DOT seems to be rejecting a single car lane option,  and wanting to keep a wider overall pavement surface.

The idea that I support,  is to set the sidewalk as wide as possible, since the crash barrier is not moveable until the next time they rebuild the bridge in 75 years.  If 2 lanes for cars are currently necessary, then it would be possible to put cyclists on a cycletrack on the sidewalk,  and then someday (after peak oil?)  convert one lane of car traffic to bike traffic.   Currently the idea is to separate the cycletrack with flexible bollards every 20' or so from the pedestrian side.  The trick is at the pinch point at the last granite tower, where the shared space would be about 10'8"   That's wider than a lot of the Charles River paths,  so I don't think it's an untenable proposition,  but it will require bikes and peds to courteously share the space, which makes a lot of pedestrians and cyclists nervous.
Faster cyclists than me, would be welcome to take the lane (possibly with sharrows painted in it) if they want to go faster than conditions permit on the cycletrack.  At least in the mornings when I'm crossing that way, there is rarely more than 1 lane's worth of cars headed to Boston, so I don't think that taking the lane would be a ridiculous proposition, although I'm not personally comfortable doing it.   The problem is that at night there is often backup on the bridge going towards Boston.  There's a possibility that this might be improved by a better traffic flow at Charles Circle, but there may only be so much that can be done.   I think a more logical way to solve that problem is to create better ways for people to get onto Memorial drive and hence to 93, avoiding the Longfellow and Charles Circle altogether, but that's not really in the scope of this project :)

What do you think of the options?  Would you be willing to share a 14' sidewalk/ cycletrack,  or would you be more comfortable sharing the road with cars in a 5'6" unbuffered bike lane?

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