Friday, April 15, 2011

Pro bike crowd

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.


  1. excellent report and news of the turnout...

    There really needs to be a better option than painting the bike lanes, as they suggested. While laves do need to be more obvious to everyone, paint concerns me. I (and many other riders/commuters... yourself included ;) ride all-weather, and the painted lanes become a hazard when wet, making an already nerve wracking commute more-so for fears of slipping, or not being able to stop in an emergency.

  2. Good point.
    I like the idea of the flexible 4" bollard things, every 40' or so to emphasize the separateness of the lane, while still allowing bikes in and out. I suppose it wouldn't work on the parking side.

  3. Nice report- thank you!

    I have been doing a lot of driving ( boo hiss) to the longwood area lately and looking at the shared road sharrows and thinking that this is great for fast people- but for myself it would be a nightmare as I am not fast, will never be fast- and I personally don't WANT to have cars behind me in line like that.... for a long stretch... but that spot really can't have anything else.

  4. It's been about 20 years since I rode regularly in Cambridge and Boston; from about 85-92 I found the traffic in Mass (Boston, Cambridge, Somerville) and PA (Philadelphia) to be low speed chaos. While bicyclists may have run some red lights, drivers did routinely and I never saw any motorist ticked for a moving violation, so I am not sympathetic to motorist complaints about bicyclists. However, riding in the lane was fairly simple - as a bicyclist my intention was clear, I had room to react to careless motorists.

    As Philadelphia has installed bike lanes now, I find they are poorly designed (start and end abruptly, parked cars, debris), but motorists now expect bicyclists to stay in them regardless of these problems, and to yield at intersections(the lanes create right hooks).

    I question your comment that "nothing stops faster, more adventurous riders to ride in one of the two traffic lanes" - motorists and police in Philadelphia have become more hostile to bicyclists in the "car lanes" than they used to be. Have Boston drivers become more polite or tolerant than Philadelphia's?


  5. Funny that you would say that, MamaVee, I feel like Longwood westbound would be an AMAZING candidate for removal of on-street parking to allow to a true bike lane. I don't know what the options are for the people who live along there, but from the way cars ROAR past me as soon as there's a chance, I think there would be a lot of public support by drivers for a separate bike lane.

  6. Mass Ave's proposed design is

    8'-0" Parking
    5'-0" Bike Lane
    11'-0" Travel Lane
    10'-0" Travel Lane

    71 removed parking spaces
    5'-0" Bike Lane
    11'-0" Travel Lane
    10'-0" Travel Lane

    Preferable the two 11'-0" travel lanes would be reduced to 10'-6" to allow for a 6'-0" bike lane adjacent to the parked cars on the southbound side.

  7. "The police captain pretty much guaranteed that there will be first be warnings, and then tickets on the new facilities, and maybe before."

    Does that mean that there will be actual enforcement of existing rules now? In Cambridge, it seems that every year or two, the Cambridge PD goes through a spasm of enforcement that lasts for a couple of weeks, the it goes back to normal. I once told a Cambridge cop that if there were just two rules enforced--stopping at red lights and not riding the wrong way--they'd probably have greatly improved bike safety. He agreed, but it seems like they aren't going to make even that much effort. If there's no enforcement, the rule might as well not exist.