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Boston University bike lane/bad cyclist rant

Old 09-04-08, 07:54 PM
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Boston University bike lane/bad cyclist rant

It has been brought up a few times here on BF that there is a new bike lane in Boston, as far as I know, the only bike lane in the entire city (someone can correct me on that if I'm wrong). I feel like it's mostly superfluous, though I haven't really had too many problems with it so far. The bike lane runs along Commonwealth Avenue by Boston University.

Tens of thousands of students came back to the neighborhood this past weekend, and there's been a huge surge in cyclists on the street so far. I feel like it's even more than what there was in the Spring before the students left for the summer.

The biggest problem I have with the bike lane is at University Rd., where you get onto Storrow drive. Here's a picture below (excuse the crudeness of my drawing):



The red line is the bike lane. It hugs the curb (there is no on street parking there). Those barriers you see blocking the right turn only lane are not there anymore.

During rush hour, the cross traffic blocks Comm Ave well after the light on Comm has turned green. The whole intersection is a bloody mess, but I don't know if there's much that can be done about it. The next picture shows what the intersection typically looks line once you get the green light on Comm Ave (traveling left to right in the picture). Cars have been added through the magic of modern computer technology:



I really don't like how the bike lane takes you right into that mess. I've always lined up at one of the two green arrows (depending on volume) so I can easily skirt around the backed up traffic along the green line in the picture. (And I continue to position myself there, bike lane be damned.)

What I've found happening the past three days is that groups of about 5 to 10 cyclists line up at the area with the purple dots. This is past the traffic lights, so anyone positioned there cannot tell whether the light has turned green or is still red. It might not even matter though, because every day with week, that group of cyclists has exploited holes in the cross traffic (which is inching forward at a very slow pace), thus backing up the intersection even further. They'll squeeze themselves in, forcing the motorists to stop. It's totally exasperating the level of selfishness and lack of courtesy that these cyclists have.

Another irritating thing: I line up where I do because it gets me through the intersection quicker, and it leaves me getting in the way of as few cars as possible. But that's only if everyone's acting in a rational manner, letting the cross traffic clear before proceeding. The cyclists in the bike lane, the ones weaving through the cross traffic however, can get to the next light before I do. After that point, it can be difficult to pass them due to traffic conditions, and I'm left stuck behind a parade of MTB's with brown, squeaking chains, going 12 to 15 mph.

And just as a bonus, today I stopped at a red light at Buick street a little further down the road. This is the only prudent thing to do since there are about bazillion peds, and sight lines are not good at the crosswalk. I had managed to get past the bulk of the rusty chain contingent, which was good, but when I stopped at the red light, the guy behind me grazed me as he passed. I don't think he anticipated that someone might actually stop for a red light. As he was going through the cross walk, he nearly hit a pedestrian, and skidded his rear wheel as he braked. He continued on, and the rest of the rusty chains, five or six of them, blew through the red light as well. The peds had stopped in their tracks, a bit startled by it all.

Things have never been this bad on Comm Ave. I don't know if it'll continue, or if people will either wise up or get tired of cycling, but if it does continue, I think I'm just about done with Comm Ave.

At least I have the cold weather to look forward to. It'll drive some of the dumber cyclists onto public transportation.
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Old 09-04-08, 08:33 PM
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What are you gonna do? The kids are back, and they're taking up space: on the sidewalk, on the T, in cars, on bicycles. That bike lane is a lose anyway.
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Old 09-04-08, 08:35 PM
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If you're too fast for the lane, use the road.
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Old 09-04-08, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by uke View Post
If you're too fast for the lane, use the road.
The bike lane ends maybe 100 feet after the location in the photo. People tend to ride where a bike lane would be, and it can get dicey at times merging left into traffic. I do it when I can, but it's not always easy. Drivers are very aggressive and don't often let you in.
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Old 09-04-08, 09:06 PM
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kick in their quarter panels as you shove your way through.

actually those drivers should all get a ticket for blocking the intersection. Call police on their local line (not 911), have enough people complain about it and the police should do a crack down on that sort of bad mannered driving.

we actually have the middle of the intersections painted with yellow crosses in the downtown area and anyone caught blocking in there can and will be fined for just that.
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Old 09-04-08, 11:05 PM
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The green arrows are really the only reasonable way to proceed through there. It would have been nice if they had actually put some thought into the placement of the bike lanes. As they are now, they simply serve as a parking lane.

Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
Things have never been this bad on Comm Ave. I don't know if it'll continue, or if people will either wise up or get tired of cycling, but if it does continue, I think I'm just about done with Comm Ave.
For some reason, I always seem to forget just how insane it gets for the first couple weeks when the students are back. I'm not sure it is necessarily worse than it ever has been (at least there is the consolation that it is repaved through there). Besides, what is your other reasonable option other than Comm Ave going in that general direction? Beacon? Screw that ... Beacon is its own cluster**** and I find it way more unpredictable and ******** than Comm Ave ... and it even has bike lanes going outbound.

Originally Posted by AEO View Post
actually those drivers should all get a ticket for blocking the intersection. Call police on their local line (not 911), have enough people complain about it and the police should do a crack down on that sort of bad mannered driving.
Problem is, cops simply don't give a crap about this sort of thing here. They aren't going to do anything about it, because it would actually make it worse to start pulling these people over. Bad mannered driving is a birth right for Bostonians.
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Old 09-05-08, 05:44 AM
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Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
The bike lane ends maybe 100 feet after the location in the photo. People tend to ride where a bike lane would be, and it can get dicey at times merging left into traffic. I do it when I can, but it's not always easy. Drivers are very aggressive and don't often let you in.
Well, that's Boston -- and it's not, as another poster suggested, that people are especially antisocial here, it's a matter of too many people/vehicles in not enough space. Put that population density in Dallas or Anaheim or Podunk and you'll get the same behavior, once they wise up enough to figure out that it's the best way to get from point A to point B. So, yes, riding in Boston means riding in very crowded conditions, and "taking the lane" means mastering the head-turn-and-check, moving with less space around you than you might ideally like, being very clear and unambiguous about your intentions, and doing whatever you're going to do quickly (because there are windows of opportunity and people do "let you in", they just don't come to a halt and smile and wave you on to do it). The upside, as in many densely populated areas, is that the speeds aren't as fast as they are out in the 'burbs, which makes it easier to blend with the traffic. Also, sight lines are really good on Comm Ave, and in most places it's very easy to spot any entering traffic.

BTW, if you are finding that the students are really nutty-making, you might try adjusting your commute time. I'm generally riding along that stretch sometime between 7 and 8 am, and the kids are generally not up and at 'em at that hour unless they really have to be.
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Old 09-05-08, 07:17 AM
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Ah, college. It could be worse - I went to a school that served a fairly rural area, and every year we got freshmen from the country who had never seen one-way streets. Which was a problem in a college town that had a lot of them. Traffic related hilarity inevitably ensued.

First month of every year, I stayed the hell away from the roads. And it taught me a valuable lesson - check both ways before crossing, even if it's a one-way street.

Basically, September is a cluster**** in any college town, only thing to do is either A) pick another route for a while, or B) grin and bear it.
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Old 09-05-08, 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by dr_bovine View Post
For some reason, I always seem to forget just how insane it gets for the first couple weeks when the students are back. I'm not sure it is necessarily worse than it ever has been (at least there is the consolation that it is repaved through there). Besides, what is your other reasonable option other than Comm Ave going in that general direction? Beacon? Screw that ... Beacon is its own cluster**** and I find it way more unpredictable and ******** than Comm Ave ... and it even has bike lanes going outbound.
I actually have the opposite opinion of Beacon St. I think it's easier to ride there than Comm Ave. The only place it gets a little hairy (IMO) is around Coolidge Corner.

Well, Kenmore Sq. pretty much sucks during the afternoon rush hour too, but that's both Comm and Beacon (though Bay State Rd. provides a good alternative if you are getting on Comm Ave).
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Old 09-05-08, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by AEO View Post
kick in their quarter panels as you shove your way through.

actually those drivers should all get a ticket for blocking the intersection. Call police on their local line (not 911), have enough people complain about it and the police should do a crack down on that sort of bad mannered driving.

we actually have the middle of the intersections painted with yellow crosses in the downtown area and anyone caught blocking in there can and will be fined for just that.
I normally would be very irritated by people consistently blocking the intersection like this, but I think this intersection is sort of an exception. The light for the cross traffic is pretty far from where the blockage actually occurs, and it would be pretty hard to judge whether it is safe to proceed without blocking Comm Ave. I can give the motorists a pass one this one. I think the real problem is too many people getting onto Storrow Drive all at once, and poor traffic design.
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Old 09-05-08, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
I normally would be very irritated by people consistently blocking the intersection like this, but I think this intersection is sort of an exception. The light for the cross traffic is pretty far from where the blockage actually occurs, and it would be pretty hard to judge whether it is safe to proceed without blocking Comm Ave. I can give the motorists a pass one this one. I think the real problem is too many people getting onto Storrow Drive all at once, and poor traffic design.
It's more the people getting off Storrow and/or getting onto the BU bridge, less the ones getting onto Storrow. But yeah, it's an exceptionally messed up intersection -- in fact, it isn't really an intersection, it's actually two busy four-way intersections placed quite close together. The big problem is the people who are northbound on intersection 1 who need to (technically) take a left and then a right to go northbound at intersection 2 -- the backup from intersection 2 frequently leaves them stopped at a point where they've got a couple lanes still to cross over, so they're at angles, and if you're through traffic on that stupid bike lane...well, you can't be. There's literally no way through except to weave around the cars. Going the other way (the original complaint) is the one part of the whole shebang where I think the bike lane actually does help a little.
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Old 09-05-08, 07:41 AM
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Originally Posted by lil brown bat View Post
Well, that's Boston -- and it's not, as another poster suggested, that people are especially antisocial here, it's a matter of too many people/vehicles in not enough space. Put that population density in Dallas or Anaheim or Podunk and you'll get the same behavior, once they wise up enough to figure out that it's the best way to get from point A to point B. So, yes, riding in Boston means riding in very crowded conditions, and "taking the lane" means mastering the head-turn-and-check, moving with less space around you than you might ideally like, being very clear and unambiguous about your intentions, and doing whatever you're going to do quickly (because there are windows of opportunity and people do "let you in", they just don't come to a halt and smile and wave you on to do it). The upside, as in many densely populated areas, is that the speeds aren't as fast as they are out in the 'burbs, which makes it easier to blend with the traffic. Also, sight lines are really good on Comm Ave, and in most places it's very easy to spot any entering traffic.

BTW, if you are finding that the students are really nutty-making, you might try adjusting your commute time. I'm generally riding along that stretch sometime between 7 and 8 am, and the kids are generally not up and at 'em at that hour unless they really have to be.
On that section just after the photo, there's a small downhill, then a more gradual uphill. On the uphill, I'm happy if I can maintain around 20 mph to the top, and that's with a little bit of effort. I do take the lane here when I can (that's how I was able to pass most of the rusty chain gang), but sometimes I just don't feel comfortable doing it on this stretch. The cars are going 25 to 30 mph usually, and there's often not a gap big enough where I feel confident taking the lane. A big enough gap for me, with this speed differential, would be about 30 feet maybe (guesstimate). (And here "taking" is the right word. I know that if I just stick my left arm out, no one's gonna slow down to let me in.)

My experience riding around the city is that many motorists aren't shy about trying to intimidate you when you ride your bike assertively. I feel like I have to pick my battles. Yeah, the guy behind me probably isn't going to hit me, but if he's reckless enough to get real close to me just to be an ass, he's reckless enough to cause an accident.

Of course you also might just be stronger and more confident than me.

In the morning on Comm Ave, I've never had a problem. If I'm on Comm Ave in the morning, it's usually around the same time as you, 7 AM to 8 AM. In the evening though, I have less control over when I get to go home, so I sometimes hit the peak rush hour traffic. I can handle that too, I'm just annoyed by the cyclists acting like idiots. Occasionally I get to leave work around 4 PM, and it's beautiful. Hardly any traffic at all.

What I'm probably going to do is take some of my longer routes home more regularly. Sometimes I go way out of my way just for the fun of it. This will be good motivation to do it more often.
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Old 09-05-08, 07:46 AM
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BTW, when I'm riding outbound, as in the photo, it's in the PM. I'm riding inbound in the morning.
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Old 09-05-08, 08:47 AM
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id probably be at the purple dots too.

theres no reason that people should be in the intersection after the light has turned red.

in new york, at intersections that are prone to gridlock they have the whole intersection marked with crosscrossing lines, and signs that say "dont block the box - $200 fine"

that, plus the fact that they actually do enforce it at times, definitely helps the problem, not that it has been completely eliminated.
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Old 09-05-08, 08:49 AM
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If you are worried about the rusty chain gang being in front of you once you get passed the BU bridge just pass them on the left side of the right-most lane. Most of the time when I'm coming home from MIT area, I'll cross over on the Mass Ave bridge and head home on Comm the whole way. Because of all the double-parked cars, you can pretty much take the entire right lane without worry of pissing off motorists.

That intersection definite does suck as the bike lane goes from the right side and veers out into the middle to allow cars to turn right onto the BU bridge. I've always hated that area both on the bike and in the car.
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Old 09-05-08, 08:51 AM
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Originally Posted by BBnet3000 View Post
theres no reason that people should be in the intersection after the light has turned red.
As I explained above, most of the area where problems occur is not actually an intersection.
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Old 09-05-08, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
But that's only if everyone's acting in a rational manner...
In Boston??? Hahahahahhahahahahahaaaaaaa......
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Old 09-05-08, 09:07 AM
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Originally Posted by BBnet3000 View Post
id probably be at the purple dots too.

theres no reason that people should be in the intersection after the light has turned red.

in new york, at intersections that are prone to gridlock they have the whole intersection marked with crosscrossing lines, and signs that say "dont block the box - $200 fine"

that, plus the fact that they actually do enforce it at times, definitely helps the problem, not that it has been completely eliminated.
This is an exceptional location. Has to be seen to be appreciated. lil brown bat is right; I used the word intersection only for lack of a better term. I didn't mention it in the OP, but there's also a bridge a little further down the road that people are jockeying for position to get onto too. It's just chaos.

I really do believe that most of the fault lies in the layout of the roads, and not with the motorists blocking the road.
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Old 09-05-08, 09:19 AM
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Yes, "intersection" is a misnomer. Complete and total clusterf*ck would be more accurate.
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Old 09-05-08, 11:05 AM
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But it's our complete and total clusterf*ck.
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Old 09-05-08, 11:11 AM
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Since every car and bike is at a standstill at that intersection anyway, you may as well just (1) pull your bike onto the sidewalk and (2) walk it through the intersection (cross as a pedestrian). That way you'll get a crossing light to give you the right of way. Then (3) re-mount your bike and continue.
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Old 09-05-08, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Boston Commuter View Post
Since every car and bike is at a standstill at that intersection anyway, you may as well just (1) pull your bike onto the sidewalk and (2) walk it through the intersection (cross as a pedestrian). That way you'll get a crossing light to give you the right of way. Then (3) re-mount your bike and continue.
But then your still preventing the cross traffic from clearing the intersection as quickly as possible. If I were forced to stay in that bike lane, I would wait until the cross traffic had passed, even though I had the green light and the right of way. Likewise, I would wait as a ped rather than cross in front of the waiting cars at the cross walk.

Well, I would the above unless it was truly a standstill, which it rarely is. The traffic does move, just very slowly.
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Old 09-05-08, 01:35 PM
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I haven't been through there since they put in the bike lane but that whole area is a complete mess. The only way they're going to make it not a complete mess would be by completely restructuring the intersection. I doubt that'll happen.

Regarding Beacon vs. Comm. I'd rather ride Comm most of the time (depends though on time of day, time of year, day of week, game day vs. non etc... etc...) Beacon is OK until Coolidge but outbound from Coolidge it gets downright ugly. Very narrow lanes and on street parking with drivers gunning it to get past you so they can stop at the light behind a big line of traffic in Washington Square absolutely as quickly as possible. Not a fan.
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Old 09-05-08, 01:49 PM
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Even before Coolidge, Beacon can be a bit much -- parking on both sides, drivers using turn lanes (and the space behind the slant-parked cars, eek) to pass other cars, etc. Going from downtown to Brighton, if it's a game night, often I'll just skip the agida and swing all the way around the other side of the Fens, cut across Longwood and up to Coolidge Corner, and then up whoosywhatsis street that becomes Warren Street to St. E's.
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Old 09-05-08, 04:38 PM
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I guess I should have expanded on my original Comm Ave vs Beacon comment ... I find Comm Ave to predictably ******** in that people do the same stupid crap in the same place all the time without fail. That I can live with because I know it is coming and, while frustrating, I can take measures to avoid it. Beacon, on the other hand, is unpredictably ******** in that it that you never know where the danger is going to come from. You get lulled into a false sense of tranquility then all of a sudden a jogger with a dog jumps out into the bike lane or a biker will be cruising down the bike lane in the wrong direction or someone sideswipes you while attempting to double park at speed, etc. In addition to the dangers that BikEthan and lil brown bat mentioned, I find the drivers on Beacon to be generally way more self-absorbed and more reckless. And on Beacon you just swap the rusty chain brigade for the slow Lance wannabe brigade.

Off to fight my way across the bridge ...
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