Another Look at the Bicycle Track

November 25, 2013
By

Neighborhood residents got another look at the city’s preliminary plans to install a two-way bicycle track around the Public Garden last week at a meeting sponsored by the Beacon Hill Civic Association (BHCA).

Nick Jackson of Toole Design Group, a national planning, engineering and landscape architecture firm, said the concept proposes eliminating one traffic lane each on Arlington, Beacon, Boylston and Charles streets to create dedicated space for bicyclists on roadways adjacent to the sidewalk. Parked cars would be relocated 13 feet from the curb to serve as barriers between the track and moving vehicles. Improvements are also planned for intersections and crosswalks.

The city is currently considering two alternatives for the plan – the first of which would require no construction or traffic modifications, instead using pavement markings and signage to establish the track. A second alternative would entail construction and proposes modifying traffic islands to create separate crossings for bicyclist and pedestrians. In both alternatives, Jackson said expected impacts of the project include a loss of around 33 of 209 existing parking spaces around the park.

One meeting attendee asserted that this anticipated loss of parking would have an adverse effect on neighborhood residents who regularly use the spaces. “It’s a pretty important asset we don’t want to see go away,” he said.

Mary Fran Townsend of Chestnut Street suggested if bicyclists were willing to travel a slightly further distance, it would eliminate the need for the track altogether. “There are other ways to get places on the bicyclists’ part without a two-way bicycle track,” Townsend said.

Longtime Hill resident Peter Thompson was among those in attendance who suggested that the city has shown preference to bicyclists at the expense of others.

“I believe the city has given enormous priority to bicycles and nothing else,” said Thompson, age 86, who added he is also a bicyclist. “It’s not good sense to completely destroy the infrastructure of the city by what you’re proposing.”

Ben Starr, meeting moderator and chair of the BHCA Traffic and Parking Committee, said many in the community had difficulty accepting the proposal, since bicyclists accounted for such a small percentage of neighborhood residents.

Nicole Freedman, director of the Boston Bikes program, responded that the city’s goal is to make all modes of transportation accessible to residents.

“We need to promote the ability to live outside our cars,” Freedman said. “Cyclists understand that pedestrians are number one in the city. It’s a walking city, and it will always be a walking city.”

Eve Waterfall a West Cedar Street resident who said she regularly travels by car, bike and foot, was supportive of the plan in theory.

“I’m looking forward to some sort of a resolution,” Waterfall said. “I hope they’re would be some benefits for pedestrians, as well.”

  • Bob on Beacon Hill

    I think this is a horrible idea. Why can’t they build a bike path inside the Public Garden. The traffic impact alone of removing lanes would be total gridlock. The city already has bike lanes on roads and now they want to take out traffic lanes for this project. Why don’t they just ban cars from Boston altogether.

    • beenwiser

      really? we should make structural changes to one of the oldest public gardens in the nation so you can drive faster? dude i can’t even

    • http://www.longlivehw.com Josh/HW

      removing/adding traffic lanes won’t solve traffic congestion. If the trends continue and bike lanes are added to the area driving in that area will be safer, smoother and more enjoyable as well as traveling by any other method be it bikes, foot, public trans, etc. the world is getting bigger and adding needed infrastructure to help facilitate other methods of travel that allow more people to move through a smaller space is good. Don’t be such a space hog. Try leaving your car home.

  • Dave Bermi

    The city has already given “enormous priority” to auautomobiles. Time to invest in safer, cleaner infrastructure. Beacon Hill is a terrible and unsafe place to cycle. The adverse effects of cycling improvements are better access to local businesses and better air quality. Remember when Beacon Hill was actually a neighborhood and not a three lane cut through to Cambridge and Storrow Dr? More bikes!

  • Jon Ramos

    I agree with Bob that they should just ban cars from Boston altogether. lol. But in all seriousness, the roads around the public garden are more like highways than they are like city streets. I work in the immediate area, and I am horrified daily on my bike ride to/from work when I use Charles Street (the 4 lane portion). Currently it is against the law to ride in the Public Garden & In the Common, tho many cyclists do because it is so unsafe on the roads. So unless drivers want to step up and help us get the law changed for the parks & gardens, then drivers need to make a little space for cyclists on the roads. All of the streets around the garden are overdue for a road diet. Losing a travel lane will make it much safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and also other drivers. We need to keep in mind that only 43% of households (not individuals, HOUSEHOLDS) in Beacon Hill own cars. That means that 57% do not own cars and are pedestrians, cyclists, & public transit users. Most people who ride bikes don’t even consider themselves “cyclists” they just sometimes use a bike to get around. A cycletrack around the Common would encourage all sorts of non-cyclists to use a bike to get around…. a cycletrack would benefit far more people than a handful of parking spaces, not to mention the economic benefit of tourism increases, and the safety improvement for cyclists & pedestrians. I mean, is someone really going to look me in the eye and say that their free-on-street-car-storage is more valuable than the life of a person who chooses to live a low carbon footprint lifestyle?. Nobody is saying that cars are bad, but we are saying that bikes are good. Bikes are here, bikes are legal vehicles, and bikes belong. City streets need to be made safe for all road users, and that should always trump on-street parking.

  • Laura

    and more bike parking!

  • Phil Lindsay

    After 100 years of neglect, perhaps it’s time to make it up to cyclists? Statistically the # of cars is going down, so if we extended that trend forward we’ll need a lot fewer spots. Besides, isn’t there a complete parking garage underneath Boston Common? Besides, if you don’t increase access of course there won’t be any cyclists. Build it and they will come the data shows. Thinking not adding space because there isn’t anyone riding is sort of like when my church wanted to add a handicapped access ramp and one of the members asked, “Why should we spend that kind of money, we don’t have any handicapped members?” Well D’UH!

  • Eric Herot

    One of the attendees at the Cambridge Street bridge meeting put it best: You don’t assess the need for a bridge by measuring the number of people swimming across the river.

    It is exactly our lack of infrastructure that makes bicyclists so rare in Boston. City officials have to have a long term vision here and look to the success of other cities (where opposition was equally strong at first) to see that when it comes to bicycle infrastructure, “if you build it, they will come.”

    If you ask most young Bostonians right now why they don’t bike, they’ll tell you it’s because they don’t feel safe riding in the city. Thus I have to believe that changes like this (if done systematically throughout the city) have the power to put more new bicyclists on the street than the number of parking spaces they’ll remove. Just look at NYC, where bicycling basically doubled with the addition of just a few cycle tracks…

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