Mayor Walsh said today the dedicated bike lanes planned for Comm. Ave. between the BU Bridge and Packards Corner are only part of a long-term "Vision 0" plan to curb crashes and traffic-related deaths through a combination of street reconfiguration and tougher enforcement.
At a City Hall press conference today, Walsh said he will start a nationwide search for a city "active transportation director" to spearhead efforts over the next few years to make Boston streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. Boston's bicycle director, Nicole Freedman, is leaving to take on that very job in Seattle, which Walsh pointed to as an example of a city that is trying to make streets safer.
The new director will be in charge of a citywide master plan, he said. He added this will include not just major thoroughfares but neighborhood side streets. He said that as a state rep, he tried to get speed limits lowered on such streets and said the BPD flashing speed signs might get even greater use in those areas.
Walsh said the Comm. Ave. project is a perfect example of how to make streets safer, on a road that has high concentrations of pedestrians, bicyclists, drivers and trolleys - but that is currently "one of the highest crash areas" in the city.
BTD Director Gina Fiandaca said the project could go out to bid this fall and take six to eight months to complete. DPW Director Mike Dennehy said he is already looking for specialized equipment to plow the lanes after snowstorms.
Walsh predicted the city will follow up with even more "cycle track" lanes elsewhere.
"For bicyclists, [the state of Boston roads] is pretty dangerous," he said, adding they have the same rights to use the roads as motorists.
At the same time, he acknowledged bicyclists and pedestrians need more education to follow traffic laws as well. "People aren't darting across 45th Street" in Manahattan, and they shouldn't be doing that on Boston thoroughfares, either, he said.
Walsh downplayed at-large Councilor Michael Flaherty's contention that the loss of 73 parking spaces along that stretch of Comm. Ave. will harm businesses there. Walsh said experience in New York, which already has several dedicated bike lanes, is that business actually increases, because it turns out bicyclists buy as much from small shops as motorists.
He said he doubted all of the 73 people parking in those spaces were really shopping, anyway - many probably use the spaces for long-term parking.