Wednesday, April 28, 2010

To villages, not between

Updated to cure some imprecision pointed out by a commenter.

In about every discussion of bike lane priorities, there seems to be consensus about one point: wouldn't it be nice if we had bike routes connecting one village center to another. I must confess I don't understand this sentiment. It's a nice goal, but it doesn't represent the highest priority.

Among the first priorities we have to solve is how to get to the village centers. What good is a route between village center A and village center B if people can't bike to village center A in the first place (except, I guess, those who live along the proposed inter-village route)? Are people going to put their bikes on the back of their cars, drive to one village center and then bike to the next?

If we want to encourage people to bike to do some of the errands they currently drive to do, it needs to be a high priority to provide multiple routes to get to each village center from the surrounding neighborhoods. It has to be possible to get to the Newton Centre commercial district comfortably, for instance, from the residential areas of the village: from Beacon Street east and west, from Langley Road, from Parker/Cypress, Centre, &c. Once you get there, it has to be safe to bike within the commercial district. And, there needs to be adequate bike parking.

Once we make biking a safe and attractive alternative for getting from homes in the village to that village's center, then we can focus on getting from village to village. The good news is that the second order problem will probably be relatively easy to solve. The paths to each village will likely connect up to create paths between them.


Traffic Council clears way for Beacon Street bike lanes

Yesterday, Traffic Council approved changes to the parking regulations along Beacon Street east of Hammond Street, which changes will provide sufficient room to install bicycle lanes in both directions. Obviously, this represents an important moment for biking proponents. Soon we will have the first striped bike lanes in the city. And, parking is going to be re-arranged to make it so.

But, what struck me was the nature of the debate. The objections to the proposal were, surprisingly, not about preserving parking proposed to be eliminated, but about whether new parking proposed as an offset made sense. Alderman Lisle Baker argued against adding parking spots west of the bus shelter. (I said that I thought that there might be enough room for parking, bike lane, and travel, but on reflection his point about the buses coming out around parked cars and then pulling back to turn right at College Road is compelling and justifies the decision not to add those spaces.) Traffic Council member Sergeant Jim Norcross argued that preserving some spaces along the south side and extending the hours created an unnecessary hazard.

Not what I would have expected.

Again, kudos to Jim Danila and Clint Schuckel for their thorough analysis of the situation and creative solution to the parking problem, to the Ward 7 aldermen Schnipper, Baker, and Fuller for their effort to work with DPW staff to come up with a solution that ensured bike lanes, and to BC, which as an abutter and a consumer of parking could have been a real obstacle, but was instead an enthusiastic supporter.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why partial bike lanes matter

Before Boston striped under a half-mile of Beacon Street, I never heard a single person complain that there weren't bike lanes in front of Boston College. Now that Boston's bike lane stops abruptly at the Newton border, it's a glaring omission, soon to be remedied.

Obviously, the more complete bike routes that can be striped, the better. But, small sections beget longer sections.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Rethinking Beacon Street parking to allow for bike lanes

Tomorrow afternoon at 3, there will be a Traffic Council meeting to consider an item sponsored by Aldermen Baker, Fuller, and Schnipper to reconfigure parking between Hammond Street and the Boston city line. The purpose of the parking reconfiguration is to create some room at the pinch point(s) in the stretch that aren't wide enough for travel lanes, parking, and bike lanes.

It's a really thoughtful approach to the problem. And, of course, the resolution promises to continue Boston's bike lanes from the city line to Cleveland Circle.

The following design diagrams work their way down from Hammond Street towards Boston (west to east). Click for bigger versions.


Bike Commuting Workshop

If you're thinking about commuting by bike, and you should, you can get some helpful advice on how to get going at a workshop hosted by Watertown's Bicycle-Pedestrian Committee.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010 at 7:00 PM
Watertown Public Library
123 Main St., Watertown

Topics to be covered:

  • What bike and gear to use
  • How to pick a route
  • How to feel safe on Boston’s road
  • Riding safely and legally
  • How to care for your bike and your body
  • Resources to support your choice

This in preparation for Bay State Bike Week, May 17-21.


How to handle bike parking

The lack of racks in Newton and elsewhere is a real problem, but, on a lighter note, if you have training wheels ...