Another Look at the Bicycle Track

November 25, 2013
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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.”

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