Bike Week Challenge

The City of Boston is co-sponsoring a “Commuter Challenge” as part of Bay State Bike Week. Well, I have a Bike Week Challenge for the City of Boston. Here are some critical policy changes–and a few fixes–that we desperately need. Will we see them this week? Bike Week 2009?

Bikes Belong
The Mayor needs to state clearly (ok, “clearly” is asking a lot) that bicyclists have the same right to use every road in Boston has people in cars, and that includes all of the road (when necessary). City and state law already says as much, but most people don’t know this or don’t believe it. Also, have the Police Commissioner issue a directive to all officers explaining that bicyclists have the same rights as motorists (last month Boston police officers told me, on two occasions, that bicyclists don’t belong on the road).

Road Surface Quality
Require permanent repairs after utility work, rather than accepting payments and then never completing the work. Do a better job at taking complaints about road surface quality (especially on the web) and also survey street conditions pro-actively. We know now that they don’t do any of this. Where needed, replace whole sections of defective pavement, rather than merely filling holes by hand.

Street Design
Issue a directive, signed by the Transportation Commissioner, that henceforth all street reconstruction projects will be reviewed for bicycle-friendliness, and will meet minimum standards. Announce a study to consider “road diets” for certain wider streets — remove travel lanes and replace them with turn lanes (usually left turn) and a wider parking or right travel lane so that cyclists can stay out of the door zone. Here are some candidates to start with: Columbus/Tremont along the Southwest Corridor, Hyde Park Ave, Centre St in West Roxbury, Seaver St, and Blue Hill Ave (especially where it is three lanes in each direction). On main roads where the right lane is too narrow for a cyclist and motorist to share side-by-side, post signs: “NARROW LANE: CHANGE LANES TO PASS CYCLISTS.”

Drain Grates
Ask the Boston Water and Sewer Commission to issue a directive that all drain grates shall be installed (and re-installed) so that their slots are perpendicular to the flow of traffic. Remove and replace (or at least re-oriented) the illegal, wheel-catching drain grates installed on Frontage Road as part of the Central Artery project.

Bicycle Fund
Announce the creation of a bicycle fund with an annual allocation of, say, $50,000. This will be used to respond to complaints from the public about path (and maybe road) defects, missing signs, and other small projects. For starters, it would be nice to move some of the boulders on Circuit Drive in Franklin Park near the ranger station so that you could ride the complete circuit without dismounting. Also, some signs showing the connection between the various pieces of the Emerald Necklace paths would make them much more accessible.

Washington Street Bus Lane
Change the signs to permit bicycles, as was promised in the design adopted by the city in 1999.

Southwest Corridor Path
It’s now over 20 years old and needs to be replaced in places, since tree routes have caused heaves. But at least fix the walk light at Ruggles Street, which has failed to display the walk light (inbound) since at least October 2007, and which has a countdown display that is installed but not functioning (in either direction).


  1. Hi Paul,

    We have all those problems in my city (Portland, Oregon) and more – like bike boxes. Fortunately, even our local newspaper recognizes that not all cyclists go bonkers for boxes:

    Why should cyclists use bus lanes if motorists can’t? That will only serve to differentiate the two classes of drivers. If we want equal treatment, we need to advocate the same rules across the board. Cyclists are drivers of vehicles, even if a state does not define bicycles as vehicles (which directly effects the volume of permits required for rural cycle racing).

    Good post, Paul. What are your thoughts on lane splitting?


  2. “The color is intended to increase awareness on the part of both motorist and cyclist.”
    Roger Geller – Bicycle Coordinator

    Umm… it’s an intersection with traffic controls.
    Isn’t that enough to inform road users to increase their awareness to potential users and conflicts?

    Perhaps klaxons that sound when the bike box is occupied by a cyclist are in order? Or at least flashing lights.

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