Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Time to do the right thing on Walnut Street

Click through to the TAB's disturbing picture of a bicycle run over by U-Haul van. According to the TAB report, a woman cyclist was hit by the van as she pulled onto Walnut Street from Lakewood Ave. Fortunately, it doesn't sound like the woman was seriously injured.

The driver told the TAB that he "didn't see her." While there are plenty of aggressive, bike-hostile drivers out there, this is what I fear day-in and day-out: the driver who's just not paying attention. The driver who isn't looking out for bikes and pedestrians.

Would bike accommodations have prevented this accident? Tough to say. But it seems unlikely that it would have hurt. And, on Walnut Street, it's not an academic question.

Reconstruction of Walnut Street has been held up for years by the city's request for a waiver of its obligations under state law to provide bike accommodations as part of the state-funded project. For years, the Newton Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force has been lobbying the city and state for a bike lane or striped shoulder on Walnut Street. The city has, instead, sought to preserve on-street parking, which studies show is primarily used by T commuters. We're still waiting for the state's review of the latest city application.

It's tempting to say that such an accident should not be used as an opportunity for political commentary. But, politicians will determine the extent of bike accommodations on Walnut Street. Ruth Balser has encouraged a meaningful compromise that would have preserved some parking while making meaningful provisions for bicyclists. Ken Parker has been a strong advocate of preserving ... and even extending ... parking on Walnut Street. See this post about his vision for Walnut Street.

Perhaps this incident will serve as a wake-up call on the need for meaningful bike accommodations on Walnut Street.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with the need for bicycle accomodations on Walnut Street and throughout the City, I think that this story is not going to help your case. As you know (from the Tab blog) there is a large contingent of Newton Residents who are anti-bike because of their belief that all bicyclists ignore Traffic Rules & Regs that apply to them. Reading what little information is available on this accident it looks like the bicyclist failed to stop before entering Walnut Street and should have yielded the right of way to the van. Bicycle accomodations would not have helped to avoid this collision.

Anonymous said...

Parker has mentioned to Walnut St residents (I'm paraphrasing) that he feels that bike lens and no parking spots would make the speeds driven by users on Walnut St higher. Of course, he does parks his car overnight on Walnut and some of the side streets for most of the year.

It would be nice to see the city properly maintain the trees and sidewalks on Walnut St. It's really a disgrace the shape they are in. There are stretches between Beacon and Homer that are unpaved and the quick blacktop job they did last year between the aqueduct and Lincoln street on the eastbound side is falling apart.