Link site

Deference to car traffic jeopardizes key missing link in Boston’s bike network – StreetsblogMASS

The City of Boston has 8 years to roughly halve the volume of car traffic across the city by replacing millions of car trips with walks, bikes or public transit to meet its goals. climatic.

But when it comes to designing safer streets to make that future a reality, the city pledges to assume that it won’t actually achieve that goal and sacrifices public space that might otherwise be dedicated to people. bus lanes or protected bike lanes to meet pre-pandemic motor vehicle traffic volumes.

Map of downtown Boston and Beacon Hill highlighting how Cambridge and Charles streets are gaps in the downtown Boston protected bike path network (which surrounds the Boston Common and Public Garden, bounded by green lines) and the Longfellow Bridge to Kendall Square in Cambridge (top left).
Cambridge and Charles streets are gaps in Boston’s downtown protected bike lane network (in green) and the Longfellow Bridge leading to Kendall Square in Cambridge (top left).

The tension between accommodating 20th century vehicular traffic volumes and creating a city that has a chance of meeting its climate goals is evident in many public works projects, but is particularly salient on Cambridge Street, an essential bike route between downtown Boston and the Longfellow Bridge at Kendall Square in Cambridge.

Even in its current state, with no dedicated bike lanes, between 14 and 17 percent of all vehicles on Cambridge Street are bicycles during morning and evening rush hours, according to the City of Boston’s Bike Count.

The GoBoston 2030 Transportation Plan identifies Cambridge Street as a high priority corridor for better cycling facilities, and the street was also included in the city’s pre-pandemic planning for the “Connect Downtown” bicycle network.

The city also designates Cambridge Street, in its present form, as a serious safety hazard; he ranks among the the 3% of the city’s streets are the most affected by accidents causing injuries involving cyclists. On May 29 of this year, a driver hit and killed a pedestrian on Cambridge Street near Blossom Streetaccording to the MassDOT crash database.

Despite these emergencies, earlier this year, the city has published a detailed website which described a variety of design constraints that would allegedly prevent them from reducing the number of motor vehicle lanes and installing continuous protected cycle lanes on both sides of Cambridge Street.

Some of these constraints are technical, such as a code requirement to maintain at least 20 feet of “clear width” between curbs or bollards for emergency vehicle access; others are self-imposed, such as the desire to avoid moving curbs on the wide mid-islands of Cambridge Street, and the desire to retain loading areas in front of businesses on certain blocks.

But some of the city’s design constraints are a mix of policy and technical: namely, the decision to accommodate pre-pandemic car traffic volumes on Cambridge Street, at odds with GoBoston’s 2030 mode change targets of the city.

“Most Cambridge Street intersections have lots of left-turning vehicles. This means we have to give them their own time to move around. And we can’t make them move at the same time as an oncoming protected bike path. Some Cambridge Street intersections also have too many right-turning vehicles to allow them to move along with a protected cycle lane,” according to the city’s website.

“Due to these space constraints and the need to maintain vehicle capacity at certain intersections, certain types of cycling facilities may not be possible currently,” the city concludes.

On the Cambridge side of the Longfellow Bridge, where Cambridge Street becomes the main street, the City of Cambridge has eliminated two motor vehicle lanes in recent years and replaced them with new protected cycle lanes to help cope with the booming growth of new labs and office buildings in the surrounding Kendall Square neighborhood.

StreetsblogMASS asked the City of Boston Department of Transportation why it would design a future of sustained pre-pandemic traffic congestion on Cambridge Street, when this assumption clearly contradicts the city’s climate and transportation goals.

“The reason we are looking at existing traffic volumes is to design an appropriate and safe connection for people on bicycles, not to use predicted volumes to dictate our design choices,” a transportation department official replied. from Boston. “For example, we use NACTO and MassDOT advice on the maximum number of turns of conflicting vehicles on a separate cycle track. This is a real number, not a theoretical future number. We don’t design unsafe cycling facilities from day one, but rather study the conditions to ensure optimal safety and efficiency. street pattern.”

However, advocates fear the city is asking cyclists and pedestrians to put up with an even less safe status quo.

“At least 8 people on foot or on bikes have been seriously injured on Cambridge Street in the past four years. It’s not a theoretical number either,” said Becca Wolfson, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, in a phone call last week (Disclosure: Wolfson also sits on the board of StreetsblogMASS). “Vulnerable road users are hurt, and this street is dangerous right now.”

City-recommended ‘quick-build’ design for Cambridge Street offers a single bike lane protected by flexible poles on the west side only. A block near the West End Library would feature a paint-only cycle lane, and approaching the Staniford Street intersection, right-turning bicycles and motor vehicles would have to share a lane.

The proposal does not provide for a cycle lane on the east side of Cambridge Street, where there are more competing demands for curbside uses like outdoor dining and loading areas.

This eastbound deviation could be mitigated by a new protected bike lane on Charles Street, which is not a parallel road but would provide an attractive bike route from the Longfellow Bridge to downtown Boston via the new bike lanes around the Boston Common and Public Garden.

However, proposals to add safe cycling facilities on Charles Street via Beacon Hill, where nearly one in three vehicles on Charles Street is a bicycle, according to official city traffic counts, have languished through objections from ‘a small group of wealthy Beacon Hill home and business owners, as we reported last year.

Brahmin Bikelash: the inside story of why there are still no bike lanes through Beacon Hill

On Tuesday morning, the Boston Cyclists’ Union will stage a protected bike path on Charles Street “to demonstrate that space on our roads can and should be redistributed so that people of all walks of life have access to the street”.

“We know the city is committed to closing the gap between the downtown cycling network and the Longfellow Bridge. City leaders said the downtown network doesn’t work without a connection to Charles Circle,” said Wolfson of the Boston Cyclist’s Union. “We are therefore asking the city to follow the exit route on Cambridge Street this year, as well as a rapid construction cycleway on Charles Street this year, as soon as possible.