Boston Bike Network Plan to Bring Bike Paths to City
City to Gain 365 Miles of Bike Path to Improve Safety
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 23:09
When Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino launched the New Balance Hubway two years ago, he declared, “The car is no longer king in Boston.” Initially, the New Balance Hubway provided the city with 600 bikes distributed around 60 stations. Since then, 400 bikes have been added to the network, and the culture of biking in Boston has grown, with the number of people choosing cycling as their method of transportation—to work or elsewhere—increasing by double-digit figures annually. Menino and Nicole Freedman, director of bicycle programs in Boston, believe that Boston stands to benefit from the growth of bicycle use: it will improve the health of the citizens, reduce congestion in the streets, and play a role in the sustainability goals laid out by the Climate Action Plan of 2011, which sets a 2020 target of a 10 percent increase in commutes by bicycle.
To meet the desire for increased bicycle usage, Menino proposed the Boston Bike Network Plan on Saturday, which was developed over the past three years and will provide 356 miles of bike paths in Boston over the next three decades, with the introduction of the first 75 in the next five years. While these initial paths will not serve the entire city of Boston, Menino and Freedman hope that they will help people gain a vision for what the bike network will look and feel like upon completion.
The network of bike paths is founded on two basic principles: it must provide direct connectivity to places such as work, and it must provide safe and comfortable bike paths for both new and existing cyclists. The safety of the citizens is always a major concern, and unfortunately, cycling can be quite dangerous unless proper protection from traffic is offered. This past weekend, two Massachusetts cyclists, Pamela Wells and Elise Bouchard, were killed in New Hampshire in a crash with a motorist while participating in a the 40th annual Granite State Wheelmen Tri-State Seacoast Century event. The two cyclists were riding along the two-lane Underwood Bridge in Hampton, N.H., which offers no partition to separate bikers from traffic.
In the network designed for Boston, all bike paths on major roadways and bridges will provide maximum separation between cyclists and traffic, with a raised curb as a partition so that cars cannot drift into the bike lane. The designers of the plan hope this will ensure that there are no more tragic cases like that of Wells and Bouchard.
All paths of the system will be divided into two categories: primary and secondary routes. The primary routes will connect major destinations, utilizing existing major roadways and bridges to form bike paths between neighborhood centers, transit hubs, and major employment centers. Secondary routes, however, will snake through neighborhoods into more remote locations, such as local businesses, parks, and schools. Because the bike lane network in each neighborhood will be shaped by community input, it is impossible to say exactly how they will look right now, and each one will likely be different.
The plan calls for five types of lanes: shared lanes, shared roads, protected lanes, exclusive lanes, and off-road paths. Each type of lane accommodates various obstacles or urban factors that come into play for cyclists attempting to make their way around the city, including motor traffic, parked vehicles and pedestrians, among others.
Additionally, intersections will be equipped with safety measures to protect cyclists such as painted markings warning motorists of cyclist crossing, or traffic signal lights which give bikers priority to cross independent of all other traffic.
The planning phase of the Boston Bike Network Plan is now complete—the question that now remains is how it will be implemented. The design, community review, and funding for the network called for by the plan will all be carried out through existing projects, because it is more cost effective than launching a brand new project, and in this case, will promote complete, rather than fragmented, paths.
The buildout of the program will come directly from the City of Boston as well as many other organizations and private institutions invested in the infrastructure of Boston.
It is, however, not set in stone—it may be rejected and halted at any time before its completion, either by the mayor who fills Menino’s vacancy or by members of the community that feels infringed upon by the new paths. In order to prevent such dissent, Menino and Freedman reached out to as many people and groups as they could during the development of the plan, including residents of Boston, a citizens working group, an interdepartmental committee comprised of representatives from eight city departments, and neighboring community and state agencies.
Regardless of how far the plan goes, Menino hopes to raise awareness and promote a simple message: “Bostonians young and old, get out and ride.”