Bike Friendly Waterfront

The current plan for the South Boston Waterfront is weak on biking. Our city planners are not doing enough to ensure the safety of cyclists along the Seaport / Innovation District’s exceedingly wide roadways, and their new draft plan to expand development & improve roadways misses the mark for people who want to choose a healthy & environmentally friendly mode of transportation.

Please take a moment to comment on the South Boston Waterfront Sustainable Transportation Plan. Comments are due on December 31st, 2014 and it’s important to the future of cycling in Boston that our voices be heard.

Below is our reaction to their recommendations. Please feel free to include some of our sentiments with your own unique comments.

We need a protected bikeway the length of Summer Street
Standard bike lanes are not enough on this high-speed truck route (see rendering below). There is ample space to separate bikers from moving traffic without other road users making any sacrifices. Boston Bikes, the City’s agency for biking, shows a protected bikeway along Summer Street as part of the Bike Network Master Plan.  So what is the holdup? Apparently the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center has plans to build a new hotel on Summer Street, and for some reason the BCEC believes that will create a conflict for hotel pickup / drop-off functions.  That’s right, a single hotel, that hasn’t even been designed yet, which may or may not have a pickup / drop-off conflict with the protected bikeway is going to prevent the safe travel of Bostonian cyclists along the entire length of Summer Street.

Rendering of two-way protected bikeway on Summer Street, image courtesy of Boston Cyclist’s Union
In Chicago, a two-way protected bikeway was installed on N. Dearborn Street. This bike facility goes directly in front of the Westin Hotel’s pickup / drop-off space without any conflicts… and it looks exactly like the one we could have on Summer Street.
We need a protected bikeway needed on D Street 
D Street is the link between residential Southie & the Seaport, and it’s undergoing dramatic change. In the past year two new dense residential buildings, two new hotels, and a parking garage all broke ground on this street, and soon the BCEC will expand by about 30% with new addition facing the D Street side. These new buildings include all sorts of amenities like retail, restaurant, commercial spaces that will attract people from all of the city and all over the world. We expect this “new” street will bring new traffic conflicts such as double parking, pickup/drop-off, & valet services to the existing bike lane. Why not avoid these problems before they start by including a protected bikeway as part of the plan?  There is ample space for the gold standard in biking here.
Construction of new hotels on D Street (image source: Google Street View)
Protected bikeway needed on Seaport Blvd / Northern Ave
Anyone who has had the displeasure of biking along Seaport Blvd / Northern Ave has likely encountered conflicts in the bike lane.  To start, its incomplete. The bike lane disappears in certain locations along the route.  The new plan shows a continuous bike lane, which is an upgrade, but really it only solves the smallest of the problems. The bigger problem is the complete disregard that a bike lane even exists. Currently, the bike lane is utilized for all sorts of non-bike activities, such as pickup / drop-off, overflow parking for valet services, taxi stands, and even parking for our state troopers & Massport police. We understand that these functions need to occur, and we also believe that these functions can be designed into the new plan while also providing separated space for cyclists.  Seaport Blvd has a wide median in the center (for portions of it anyway) which could be removed to narrow the roadway and provide enough space for a separated bikeway.  This also helps pedestrians have a shorter crossing distance and avoid getting trapped on the median.Seaport Blvd / Northern Ave is a truck route. Trucks & large vehicles account for 11 of the last 12 cyclist fatalities in the Boston area, which is why we must separate cyclists from truck routes. In the image below it is easy to see the problem.  Drivers pull into the bike lane to drop off their car to the valet crew.  There is a recessed drop-off space for the valet, but they are nearly always filled with cars and drivers often overlook the drop-off spaces.  So bikers need to swerve into the travel lane to get around the vehicle that is blocking the bike lane. Meanwhile a large truck is travelling right behind the cyclist, which is a very unsafe situation. Made worse by a car door that could open at any moment.

The Seaport Blvd Bridge & Northern Ave Bridge both tie into the Connect Historic Bike Trail which is an interconnected protected bikeway that is already funded and slated to break ground next year. By creating a protected bikeway on these roads, we would be inviting cyclists (tourists & commuters) to come into the Seaport without a car.

Northern Ave bike/ped bridge be restored
Walking across a bridge congested with honking cars is no pleasant experience. People go out of their way to use the Northern Avenue bridge because it is pedestrian & bike only, and a much more lovely experience for humans.  On a regular basis, you see couples posing in the scenic beauty that is the Northern Ave bridge.  When was the last time you saw someone taking wedding photos on the Summer Street Bridge? Replacing the bridge with one that includes car lanes will ruin the character we have come to love.

The estimated 4% of trips being made by bike is woefully low
We expect much higher numbers even without protected bikeways. With the addition of good bike infrastructure, the percentage of bike trips would likely reach double digits, which would provide the much needed relief on the over burdened Silver Line.

The tech industry has a high percentage of cyclists
In order to compete with Kendall Square in Cambridge, Boston’s tech heavy Seaport / Innovation District needs to accommodate cycling if we hope to attract top talent.

 Cyclists waiting at the light on Hampshire Street near Kendall Sq (image courtesy of CycleStyle Boston)

Please don’t forget to provide your valuable feedback to the City by using the comment form.  Without your comments we will be stuck with a bike infrastructure plan that is less than ideal, and in some cases downright dangerous.

Southie Bikes

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