Removing on-street parking for bike lanes

Jackson Square Bike Lane Concept
Jackson Square Bike Lane Concept

A proposal for bike lanes on Centre Street between Lamartine St and Sunnyside St (near Jackson Square) was floated at the March 23 meeting of the Centre South Transportation Action Plan Citizens’ Advisory Committee. The 42-ft curb-to-curb width is just a bit too narrow for the bare minimum bike lanes proposed for Centre Street between Elliot St and Lakeview St. The necessary width would be obtained by eliminating parking on one side of the street only. (See the presentation, pages 56 – 61.) Currently there is about 21 ft (travel lane + parking lane) on each side of the street. The suggested new configuration is an 11 ft travel lane and 4 ft parking lane on one side and an 11 ft travel lane with a 5 ft bike lane, 8 ft parking lane on the other side. The remaining 3 ft would be used to widen the existing 8 ft sidewalk on one side. The proposal would leave on-street parking in front of most businesses that do not have on-street parking. This would be accomplished by switching the side without parking from the south side near Mozart Park to the north side near Bromley-Heath. Nevertheless, at least 37 on-street spaces would have to go.

The proposal would remove the door-zone threat on the side of the street where parking is newly prohibited. And the remaining parking lane + bike lane on the other side would be 13 ft wide instead of the 12 ft proposed for central Jamaica Plain, meaning that 1 to 2 ft of the nominally 5 ft bike lane would be safe for riding, rather than 0 to 1 ft. A slightly wider sidewalk would be nice, although the 3 ft could be used instead as a marked buffer area so the bike lane could be out of the door zone (more on that concept in a later post).

Two alternate proposals would use the space from eliminating a parking lane to widen the sidewalks, and would also narrow the travel lanes to 11 ft (with no bike lanes). In other words, safe cyclists would frequently have to ride in the middle of the lane, because there would be insufficient room for motorists to pass safely, particularly on the side next to on-street parking. These alternate proposals are clearly a dis-improvement from the point of view of bicycling.

But will it be possible to remove any parking? Michael Halle, a member of the CAC, is quoted in the JP Gazette. “Halle noted that the area is right next to a T station and a huge parking lot at Stop & Shop that he described as ‘underused.’  .  .   .  He said if on-street parking can’t be cut here in favor of bikes or pedestrians, ‘it can’t be done anywhere.'”

I know of three places in the Boston area where on-street parking has been removed, in part to improve bicycling conditions:

* Huntington Avenue between Opera Place and Longwood Avenue (adjacent to Northeastern, MassArt, the MFA, and Wentworth).

* Mass Ave, Cambridge, adjacent to MIT.

* North Harvard St, Allston, adjacent to the Harvard Business School (just last year).

(I can’t think of any other examples in Cambridge–anybody else know of any?) What do all of these examples have in common? Parking was removed immediately adjacent to institutions only, not where there were businesses or residents abutting the street. All these institutions have large off-street parking facilities. While the Jackson Square proposal attempts to avoid businesses, it is not really analogous to the three successful removals. We will see if this proposal is implemented.

Meanwhile, one important consideration for bicyclists in this area is that there is a significant downhill grade from Stop and Shop to Lamartine Street. Perhaps parking can be removed just in front of Bromley-Heath, on the uphill side, where bicyclists go slowly. If not, the centerline could be moved two feet so that the downhill side would have a narrow (11 ft) travel lane, which could be outfitted with a Shared Lane Marking in its middle, and the uphill side could have a wide (15’) travel lane (and an optional Shared Lane Marking 12 ft from the curb).  (A door-zone bike lane could be used instead on that side only, although this is not preferable to a shared lane, for reasons I’ve previously described.)

Meanwhile, we’re hoping that the (separate) Jackson Square project will fix the basic problem that the drop-off area needs to be adjacent to the station, not on the other side of the street. Who was the genius who designed that? It’s created delay and danger for probably 23 years now.


  1. Thanks for the correction. I made the change.

    Actually I once looked at the original SW Corridor bikeway plans. It called for two parallel crosswalks at intersections, one for the sidewalk, and one for the bikeway. This was modified–presumably by the City of Boston — to have a single crosswalk. But at several intersections, they did not line the crosswalk up to the ramps, meaning that cars stopped at the stop line prevented cyclists (and wheelchairs) from crossing the street. I finally got this fixed in 2002 (a sad story) for Heath St & Cedar St.

    So, maybe something similar happened at Jackson Square station — someone at the city modified the original design for some reason. That’s just a speculation. Anyway, it’s been defective for a long, long time and, apparently, will finally be fixed.

  2. That’s interesting about the Southwest Corridor crosswalks. I’ve always wondered why they don’t line up properly. The Minuteman and Somerville Community Path have nice wide crosswalks that directly line up with the paths. I really do hope the Southwest Corridor crossings will be improved!

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