Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Karla spurs discussion

A couple of weeks ago, Karla Hailer-Fidelman had a nice op-ed column in the TAB about the need for bike lanes on Walnut Street.

My letter in response was one of three the following week.

This week, there are another two letters, including one from John Bliss, the chairman of the Newton Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force.

A few thoughts:

  • That Ms. Hailer-Fidelman wrote and so many responded is a sign that Newton is due better bike accommodations. People want them.
  • We really need to find out what's going on with Walnut Street.
  • There's an inherent tension between the needs of pedestrians and cyclists. Jeff Hecht cites traffic calming (street narrowing) at Comm. Ave. and Lexington St as removing space for bicyclists. I like the rules of the sea, where rules favor the least powerful. As a rider, I recognize that my needs should yield to pedestrians' needs. What would really be nice is if there were a greater sacrifice by motorists to accommodate pedestrians' needs without impinging cyclists' needs (too much, anyway).
All in all, a very pleasant conversation to read over three issues of our favorite local weekly.

1 comment:

Charlie D. said...

You are correct that narrow lanes do not always calm traffic. A perfect example can actually be found partially in Newton. Nonantum Road has 4 narrow 10-foot lanes, two in each direction. However, despite narrow lanes, sharp curves, and a 30 mph speed limit, traffic often approaches 50 mph, and is the scene of many accidents.

In fact, most DCR parkways in the Metro Boston area have narrow 10 foot lanes and no shoulders. When they were built, the reason given for the narrow lanes was to calm traffic and maximize green space. Unfortunately, this type of road design ends up excluding all but the most die-hard bicyclists and does little to actually calm traffic.

It is very important that road design does not exclude bicyclists through narrow width. It is merely attempting to solve one problem by creating another.

In fact, the presence of bicyclists on the roadway actually has more of a calming effect on traffic than narrow lanes do. Look at Charles River Road in Watertown for a good example. Traffic does not usually stray very far from the 30 mph speed limit due to the presence of bicyclists in the on-road bike lanes and due to consistent enforcement by police.