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Old 09-02-05, 06:44 PM   #1
trackhub
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Boston Mayor announces that city will become "energy conscious"...

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was on the tube this evening, announcing that the city would become more energy conscious. He stated that from now on, all new city vehicles purchased would be hybrids. He further added that he would soon trading in his personal SUV, for something that delivers better fuel mileage.

All good and fine. But there was no mention of making Boston more bike friendly. For those not aware, Boston has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the most bicycle hostile cities in the country. (Logically, it should not be. Physically, it's not a large city. It is mostly flat, with some hills. Of course, Winters can be problematic, but I won't address that here.)
The street layout, the congestion (cars are packed into the street like sardines on weekdays), the horrible condition of some roads, and the attitude of Boston drivers all make for a nasty ride.

A lot of promises were made to cyclists, but all went down the tubes. (a bicycle coordinator was hired for the city, but was quickly layed off with no explanation.)

Question: Why is bicycling, as a legitimate means of transportation, being totally ignored by Boston city government?

Comments, opinions, and observations?
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Old 09-02-05, 08:49 PM   #2
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Boston Mayor Thomas Menino was on the tube this evening, announcing that the city would become more energy conscious.
Too bad he (or his predecessors) didn't have the epiphany before the "big dig".
Robert
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Old 09-06-05, 08:54 AM   #3
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Mayor Menino doesnt' do much besides try and get reelected. many bicyclists in boston have the reputation of being reckless punks who hold up traffic and many boston drivers see MUT's as bicyclists "priviledge" so they should stop complaining about the streets. My girlfriend is a bostonian driver and represents them very well each time she drives in the bike lane because the other lanes are taken. Bicycles aren't even allowed in the commons, theya re asked to ride around, on the streets with non-existent bike lanes.

theory: bicyclists dont' have a viable advocate in Boston area because half of the consituency that would support a bike friendly politician leave for 3 months of the year and aren't even registered to vote there.
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Old 09-06-05, 08:58 AM   #4
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Mayor Menino doesnt' do much besides try and get reelected.
I wonder how much was spent so that Menino could have his name plastered on every sign in the city?
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Old 09-06-05, 02:36 PM   #5
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Mayor Menino doesnt' do much besides try and get reelected. many bicyclists in boston have the reputation of being reckless punks who hold up traffic and many boston drivers see MUT's as bicyclists "priviledge" so they should stop complaining about the streets. My girlfriend is a bostonian driver and represents them very well each time she drives in the bike lane because the other lanes are taken. Bicycles aren't even allowed in the commons, theya re asked to ride around, on the streets with non-existent bike lanes.

theory: bicyclists dont' have a viable advocate in Boston area because half of the consituency that would support a bike friendly politician leave for 3 months of the year and aren't even registered to vote there.
We don't have *what*? Friend, check out the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition at http://www.massbike.org , and our Boston chapter, at http://www.massbikeboston.org/!

The Boston chapter is currently conducting a series of field surveys, locating road surface problems, difficult intersections, and so on, along routes we've already identified as primary bicycle traffic routes through the city. We've already picked a couple to focus on, which, incidentally, are on primary roads and bridges that are *not* under the control of the City of Boston, an entity that has been pretty obtuse when it comes to its "vibrant" bicycle community (as Bicycling magazine called us a few years ago). But there's been prositive movement within the State of Massachusetts, and since most arterial roads and all bridges are state controlled, they're the ones we're mostly working on.

Across the Charles River from Boston is Cambridge, a city with extensive bicycling facilities (for better or for worse, in some cases), and a very active city bicycle committee. We also have strong town and city bicycle committees in Somerville, Arlington, Watertown, Milton, Quincy, and other communities that ring the geographically-small (by big-city standards) City of Boston. It's a shame that our capitol seems to be the baby whose daddy threw her up twice and caught her once, of course, but that's hardly the end of the story.

If you're interested in what MassBike has accomplished in the last few years, check out my message to the Critical Mass group here, when that question was asked. You can read it at
http://bostoncriticalmass.org/piperm...ry/000372.html

I ride a 21 mile round trip commute each day, with 17 of those miles within the City of Boston, and I'm not unhappy that Boston doesn't have bike lanes shoehorned into our narrow, twisty streets. They're not a solution that fits well in our 1630-vintage community, in my opinion. We could do a lot better with road maintenance, improved signage and signals, intelligent snow and ice clearance, and we need *much* better motorist education and traffic law enforcement than we've got, so believe me, I have gripes aplenty with the Old Town, but a lack of bike lanes isn't one of them.

And by the way -- of course you can ride your bike in the Boston Common -- and that's singular, pallie! You can't ride in the Public Garden (singular also), but the paths in the Garden are narrow and meandering, with benches and trees alongside, and are often filled with moseying pedestrians, whereas Beacon, Arlington, Boylston and Charles Streets bordering the Garden are straight with good sight lines. It's a small park, too. You're better off not riding there. But riding in the Common is car-free (though not ped-free) and pretty good.

Finally ... punks, eh? Yeah, we're punks, we're the punks who won the World Series *and* the Super Bowl! How'd'ya like us now? Bwwaaaaa-haaaaa-haaaaa!

Tom Revay
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Old 09-06-05, 05:14 PM   #6
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Yeah, some bike lanes in Cambridge are done properly, and some are done badly. The bike lanes on Huron Ave. are well placed. You must remember that Huron ave is nice and wide, and it is rare to see anyone double parked there. Delivery trucks, sometimes.

But,,,, Who decided to put bike lanes on some narrow streets just off Harvard Square, in such a manner so that cyclists are directed to ride the wrong way on one way streets? (Hmmmm,, Cambridge. Must be some sort of protest.)

Really bad: The bike lanes on Mass ave, especially where they pass through Central square. 'Nuff said.

Was it Massbike's Tim Baldwin, or Paul Schimeck (sp?) who was the Boston bike coordinator for a short period of time?
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Old 09-06-05, 05:23 PM   #7
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Any city which represents itself as bicycle and/or pedestrian friendly needs to examine its free merges, diverges, and right turns carefully and to be open to traffic calming measures, even if they slow traffic. On several occasions, I have greatly enjoyed walking in Boston and Cambridge, but I would be selective about where I rode my bike.
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Old 09-07-05, 07:30 AM   #8
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Can we just clear up one small point here? Mayor Menino is mayor of the City of Boston. Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington, etc. are NOT part of the City of Boston, although they are part of "greater Boston".

I would say that Boston proper is not bad for a cyclist, and Menino has made some efforts to improve things. Some of the nearby communities are somewhat less friendly, but you can't blame Menino for that. What I _do_ blame Menino for is not being more supportive of first-class public transit, such as Arborway and Washington street corridor light rail restoration, within the city.

Note to Mayor Menino: Remember, only residents of Boston (not suburban commuters or business owners) get to vote in the mayoral election!!
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Old 09-08-05, 03:43 PM   #9
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What I _do_ blame Menino for is not being more supportive of first-class public transit, such as Arborway and Washington street corridor light rail restoration, within the city.
Light rail in Boston is a state issue, more than a city issue, since it's run and paid-for by the Mass. Bay Transit Authority. But lemmie tell you about light rail in Jamaica Plain --

I lived on South Street in Jamaica Plain the last time an Arborway trolley ran down the tracks that are still embedded in the middle of the road outside my old apartment. And when was that, kids? Yes, it was December 1985! That's EIGHTY FIVE, twenty years ago, so break-out your Flock of Seagulls records (what's a record?) and sing along!

The Arborway trolley was discontinued because it was obsolete. It was first installed in the 1880s -- so break out your wax cylinders! -- when there was no such concept as "on street parking" and "the door zone" because there were no automobiles.

By the nineteen-eighties the JP traffic jams that the trolleys participated in were terrible, because unlike a bus, a light rail vehicle can't move around a left-turner, a car pulling out, a stop and block manuever from a side street, and so on. While I favor the idea of a one-fare, no transfer trip into the Boston subway from Jamaica Plain, light rail just can't be done practically on Centre or South Streets unless you take out the on-street parking, and that won't happen because the local businesses and residents will scream bloody murder.

Since that time, all those remaining rails have done is create havoc for both motorists and cyclists. With the rail only four or five feet from the parked car doors, it's almost impossible to ride outside the door zone, because if your wheel drops into that rail groove, you're going down. I've fallen on those rails, and once been pitched into the oncoming traffic lane when I merged left, and the bike ... didn't! I've met people who've sprained and broken wrists from bicycle falls, and I've heard of collarbones and noses being bashed as well. They're awful for cyclists.

Worst of all, these rails can't be used with any light rail proposal because the Americans With Disabilities Act will require trolleys to swing to the curb to permit handicapped people to board and disembark. So bicyclists on Centre and South Streets would be prevented from moving up through traffic at all when there's an LRV waving side-to-side down the street.

Bottom line is -- the Arborway light rail can't be restored without major structural changes to the roadway that (face it) aren't going to happen. You can read more about this at the Better Transit Without Trolleys website, at http://www.btwt.org/ .

The Silver Line through Washington Street could accomodate light rail, though it's still impractical. But if it were restored, cyclists would lose the bike lane --

-- the what? Yes. The bike lane. Did you know that the dedicated bus lane on Washington is actually a shared bus/bike lane? It is!

The MBTA promised the City that they would install signs so-designating this sharing when they signed-off on the project in 1998, but when the signage was put up, the signs indicated that only buses could be in these lanes. MassBike has several times tried to press the T to live-up to its word, most recently in August when our Executive Director Dorie Clarke met with MBTA General Manager Dan Grabauskas. We're still waiting ... and hoping. (GM Graubauskas was receptive, and he's in the job about six months, so I'm willing to give them a chance before I start griping loudly again.)

HOWEVER --

Washington Street is still the property of the City of Boston, and they are ultimately responsible for putting up these signs, just as they're responsible for putting up all the other signs on the road. They're also responsible for pushing the T to live up to its promises. And that's where they've really fallen down for cyclists. The Boston Transportation Department (formerly the Department of Traffic and Parking, so you know right well where their emphasis is) has consistently neglected cyclists interests in this and other areas, and we've every right to be angry with them.

Did'ja know, for example, that during the short-lived tenure of the Boston Bicycle Advisory Committee, the other members and I approved a design for a "Share the Road" sign, and the then-Bicycle Program Manager Paul Schimek priced the signs at between $1000 - $1200 for the whole whack -- that's making the signs *and* installing them. The outcome? We were told it wasn't affordable due to budget cuts.

Meanwhile, when Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffet, and the Rolling Stones played successively over the last three summers at Fenway Park, the City did have the money to make custom funny no-parking signs just for these events that were only up for three days each before being scrapped. Stuff like, "IF YOU PARK HERE YOU WON'T GET NO SATISFACTION" and "NO PARKING OR YOU'LL MEET OUR BEAST OF BURDEN" (with an illustration of a car being towed). Very funny, ha-ha!

So there's plenty of things for cyclists to get angry at the City of Boston about. But light rail restoration isn't one of them.
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Old 09-08-05, 03:44 PM   #10
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Was it Massbike's Tim Baldwin, or Paul Schimeck (sp?) who was the Boston bike coordinator for a short period of time?
Paul Schimek. He's also a former president of MassBike.
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Old 09-08-05, 06:07 PM   #11
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While I favor the idea of a one-fare, no transfer trip into the Boston subway from Jamaica Plain, light rail just can't be done practically on Centre or South Streets unless you take out the on-street parking, and that won't happen because the local businesses and residents will scream bloody murder.

Since that time, all those remaining rails have done is create havoc for both motorists and cyclists. With the rail only four or five feet from the parked car doors, it's almost impossible to ride outside the door zone, because if your wheel drops into that rail groove, you're going down.
Gimme a break. There wouldn't BE a business district on Centre and South Streets in JP if it weren't for the streetcar. The MBTA has done several studies showing that most people who actually LIVE in JP want the streetcar back. And lots of cyclists ride those streets every day (me included), any competent cyclist can do it. Granted, you have to be careful making turns, but it's not any harder than any other aspect of riding in traffic.

The bottom line is, that cyclists should be supportive of transportation options that get people out of their cars and cars off of the roads. "Better Transit Without Trolleys" is a group founded by a few business owners on the affected streets who think that # of customers = # of cars, clearly false in a part of Boston with one of the highest rates of non-car-ownership in the city. Don't let them fool you, most of them don't live in JP or even in Boston. They aren't interested in "Better Transit", they just want to move and park more cars.

On another note, the JP streetcar is a very specific and local issue. We should probably take any further discussion of this offline or to the political forum. Feel free to send me a private message if you like.
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Old 09-08-05, 06:32 PM   #12
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Massbiker, remember the watertown trolley line? It took years (not sure how long, exactly) for the MBTA, and the cities (and town) of Boston, Newton, and Watertown to agree on how best to remove the trolley tracks, after trolley service ceased. I remember facing the problems you describe, when bike commuting to a job near watertown square on my Raleigh Record in the early 80's. The Trolley tracks were nasty, and the road surface on Washington St and Center St. was like something out of war torn Europe, circa 1945.

It finally got done, but it took far too much political mumbo-jumbo.

Sorry to be so cynical in my postings.

A better thought: I live in Waltham, and I frequently ride my fixie through Nipper Maher Park. Reason: 100 years ago, this was known as Waltham Bicycle Park, and a velodrome was there. I like to think that when I Ride through, the ghosts of the past are smiling. Just a thought.
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Old 09-08-05, 10:22 PM   #13
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While I favor the idea of a one-fare, no transfer trip into the Boston subway from Jamaica Plain,
Do you know a guy called Charlie?
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Old 09-09-05, 01:20 AM   #14
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