Dedicated bike lanes part of major redo of Comm. Ave. between Packards Corner and BU Bridge

State transportation officials signed off today on a $20.4-million reconstruction project along a bicycle-unfriendly stretch of Commonwealth Avenue that will include dedicated bicycle lanes on both sides of the road and wider sidewalks on both sides.

Although only 0.63 miles long, the avenue between Alcorn Street and the BU Bridge is used by an estimated 30,000 pedestrians, 3,000 bicyclists, 27,000 Green Line riders who get off and on at the four stops along the way and 35,000 motorists.

State Highway Administrator Thomas Tinlin - who formerly served in a similar role for the city of Boston - sad in a statement:

This project is an opportunity to make major multi-modal improvements to one of the main arteries into Boston. The reconstruction will make traveling to and from work every day safer and easier for all types of commuters.

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Yes

By on

A cycle track actually. I saw some prelim designs months ago.

I'm not a biker but this is a neat concept and will really help bikers. I'd almost get a bike just to use it.

Of course, not sure if it was kept as a cycle track but it certainly looked it.

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Nice in theory, sucks in practice

As a long time bike commuter, I do not want this at all. It might feel good but it will make things worse.

The lanes won't be plowed in the winter and will be unrideable. When the rest of the road is clear due to salt, these sections will still be icy.

They are too narrow to allow safe passing of other cyclists.

They will get used by pedestrians and delivery people. Just look at the seperate bike lanes in Manhattan - completely unusable for cycling as intended.

Worse, the road will be narrower and harder to use for cycling even though the dedicated lane is impassable.

The intersections are just as dangerous if not worse since a rider going straight can't take the lane and a driver turning left won't see riders as well.

These lanes look nice to non riders. But without dutch level maintenance they are a huge step backwards and a waste of money. They won't make make anyone safer. I sincerely hope they are removed soon and not added elsewhere in New England.

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sooo

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As a biker, what do you suggest we do? Bike lanes in a shared roadway aren't working either.

I think you are in the minority on this one.. this plan was heavily supported and pushed thru by many bikers.

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Also

I think you are in the minority on this one.. this plan was heavily supported and pushed thru by many bikers.

Yeah, I met many of these people. Nice kids. I would ask if they ride in the winter and the answer was no. I would ask if they had been to Manhattan to see the protected lanes or even tried using the 4 block long section on Vassar st. Again, the answer was no.

The wisdom of the crowds isn't always right. These lanes won't work in Boston. I wish they would but I'm not nearly as naive as others.

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Right hook risk

With the high number of turns on Commonwealth you aren't fixing one (except where bicycle signals are install) on of the major car-bicycle conflicts - the right hook (and the related left hook). Actually it can make it worse as the protected lane can make the drivers less aware of bicyclists.

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People constantly talk about

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People constantly talk about right hooks and cycle tracks as if it isn't a solved problem. Hell, Boston has even used the correct solution in previously implemented separated bike lane on Western Ave.

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Where, may I ask, on Western

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Where, may I ask, on Western Ave has Boston solved right hooks?

As someone who designs this stuff I'd love to know what the 'correct solution' is!

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So again, your suggestion would be...?

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Pretty easy to knock the "naïveté" of others without offering your own alternative. And there were plenty of meetings to do so--were you there, speaking up?

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He's offered several

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He's offered several alternatives. You just can't be arsed to read them.

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Not these

The left hand bike lanes further down comm ave are great. No parked or double parked cars.

I like the lane in a lane used in Allston.

But mostly I want vigorous enforcement of existing laws. Keep people under 25mph and everyone is safer. Ticket double parking jerks and remove parking spaces so delivery people don't need to double park.

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Riiiight

By on

But mostly I want vigorous enfenforcement of existing laws. Keep people under 25mph and everyone is safer. Ticket double parking jerks and remove parking spaces so delivery ppeople don't need to double park.

And I want a Porsche too. but I'm not getting one any time soon. I like to dream tho.

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Sure, I like to dream

The "protected lanes" as proposed aren't a dream, they are a nightmare. They are "dreamed" up by people who only ride in nice weather and haven't ridden in the city very long. I give these people credit for wanting to do something but these lanes aren't the solution.

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Gee I don't know

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They are "dreamed" up by people who only ride in nice weather and haven't ridden in the city very long.

I know several of these guys who support these cycle track who are all season riders and are city riders. One of which replied to you below.

Complainers are going to complain...

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civil debate anyone?

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Complainers are going to complain...

And intelligent people sometimes disagree on the issues.

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Civil

To cybah's credit, he is asking questions instead of just blasting the person with a different opinion.

In general this (the top level) post is a bit remarkable in the level of civil discourse.

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I'm a year-round bike

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I'm a year-round bike commuter, have been for a couple years now (including through the entirety of the Winter From Hell™!), and am a huge fan of protected cycle tracks.

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Me too! I only missed two

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Me too! I only missed two days of biking to work last winter due to snow. And I'm very excited about these new protected bike lanes!

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I guess it remains to be seen

If you will actually will be able to use them during the winter. The city did step up two winters ago, but it was a huge amount of snow.

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As an all season bike rider

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As an all season bike rider who supports protected bike lanes, I will say that my experience with regular bike lanes (non protected) is in Boston they often serve as places where the city puts snow, or they put snow in the parking lane and allow people to park in the bike lane. So protected wont be worse (they will at least not be as easy for the city to dump snow when they are plowing), so we only need to wait for the snow that fell to melt, instead of all the plowed in snow. If you dont like cycletracks and feel that aren't as good as biking in the roadway, dont use them, its easy.

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Uhhh

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The lanes won't be plowed in the winter and will be unrideable. When the rest of the road is clear due to salt, these sections will still be icy.

We have these on Western Ave in Cambridge. They get plowed.

The lanes won't be plowed in the winter and will be unrideable. When the rest of the road is clear due to salt, these sections will still be icy.

And salted.

They will get used by pedestrians and delivery people. Just look at the seperate bike lanes in Manhattan - completely unusable for cycling as intended.

They're so dangerous and unusable that cycling in New York City has only tripled in the past decade.

Worse, the road will be narrower and harder to use for cycling even though the dedicated lane is impassable.

But what if it is passable, like the similar lanes in Cambridge?

The intersections are just as dangerous if not worse since a rider going straight can't take the lane and a driver turning left won't see riders as well.

The cyclist can take the lane because the cyclist is in the lane. Plus there's nothing to keep a cyclist from riding in traffic although on a street like this, with parked cars and buses and all, it's kind of daft. And the roadway is designed to increase visibility of cyclists for turning vehicles. Again, make the trip over to Western Ave and check that out.

These lanes look nice to non riders. But without dutch level maintenance they are a huge step backwards and a waste of money. They won't make make anyone safer. I sincerely hope they are removed soon and not added elsewhere in New England.

These lanes look nice to riders, too. There are studies which show that they are safer. They have been added elsewhere in New England (Cambridge has had them for years) and elsewhere in the country, and uh, the work.

If you don't want to use them, by all means, don't.

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Cambridge

The ones on Vassar street suck for the reasons I mentioned previously. Go sit on a side of the road and watch the college kids walk in the bike area. This is well documented. I will admit they are fun to ride late at night when no one is around.

Cambridge has lanes which are separated by paint, not curbs. These allow the road to be plowed as normal. If Boston was considering ones separated only by paint I wouldn't be objecting as much.

I'm not opposed to bike lanes, I'm opposed to curb separated dedicated cycling tracks which are too narrow too plow and become sidewalk extensions. In mid-town NYC most riders just use the road. Again, this is well documented. In NYC (and Boston, etc) cycling has risen irrespective of these dedicated paths, not because of them.

I plan to ride in the road as these curb separated lanes will be too congested with BU kids walking to be usable for riding. Only the road will now be narrower and drivers will be that much more aggressive when passing bikes. So it's a lose-lose except for the fact the sidewalk is getting wider which is nice for pedestrians.

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In mid-town NYC most riders

In mid-town NYC most riders just use the road. Again, this is well documented. In NYC (and Boston, etc) cycling has risen irrespective of these dedicated paths, not because of them.

I'm with you on finding protect bike lanes are frequently unusable, but do you have pointers to this documentation?

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One more comment

By on

The Vassar cycletrack was a earlier iteration piece of infrastructure and the city has learned a lot since then. The main issue is that the cross-section goes cars-parking-trees-bike-pedestrian, meaning there is no separation between cyclists and pedestrians. Per a NACTO case study, this will be changed for future iterations.

Note that I referenced the Western lanes. Here the sequence is cars-parking-bike-trees-pedestrian. By swapping the trees and the bike lane, there is enough separation that pedestrians don't use the lanes. And Comm Ave is far wider than either (especially Vassar) so there is plenty of room on the sidewalks for pedestrian movement.

tl;dr: pedestrian interference is an easily-debunked straw man.

The ones on Vassar street suck for the reasons I mentioned previously. Go sit on a side of the road and watch the college kids walk in the bike area. This is well documented. I will admit they are fun to ride late at night when no one is around.

I referenced Western Ave.

Cambridge has lanes which are separated by paint, not curbs. These allow the road to be plowed as normal. If Boston was considering ones separated only by paint I wouldn't be objecting as much.

Pls cite examples.

I'm not opposed to bike lanes, I'm opposed to curb separated dedicated cycling tracks which are too narrow too plow and become sidewalk extensions. In mid-town NYC most riders just use the road. Again, this is well documented. In NYC (and Boston, etc) cycling has risen irrespective of these dedicated paths, not because of them.

Pls cite source for data. Cycling rates in Boston have risen more slowly than NYC.

I plan to ride in the road as these curb separated lanes will be too congested with BU kids walking to be usable for riding. Only the road will now be narrower and drivers will be that much more aggressive when passing bikes. So it's a lose-lose except for the fact the sidewalk is getting wider which is nice for pedestrians.

Fine, ride in the road. Most cyclists will be more comfortable not vying for space with double-parked cars and buses. And with 25'-wide sidewalks, there will be far fewer students (ooh, scary students) crowding the bike lanes than you expect.

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hah!

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Note that I referenced the Western lanes. Here the sequence is cars-parking-bike-trees-pedestrian. By swapping the trees and the bike lane, there is enough separation that pedestrians don't use the lanes. And Comm Ave is far wider than either (especially Vassar) so there is plenty of room on the sidewalks for pedestrian movement.

false. The Western Ave cycle track always has joggers, people waiting for the bus, or--on trash day--trash barrels and recycling carts.

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The Vassar St. tracks aren't

The Vassar St. tracks aren't nearly as bad as when they first got put in, I think people have mostly figured it out. I walk and ride them somewhat often and rarely have issues, you just have to ride a little slower- if you're in a hurry it's easy enough to use the street.

We'll see about the plowing- the track on Western in Cambridge is sidewalk level which makes it easy to clear as part of the sidewalk, whereas this one will be more difficult.

But really that section of Comm Ave is terrible for cycling and I do think this will help.

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The Vassar St. tracks aren't

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The Vassar St. tracks aren't nearly as bad as when they first got put in, I think people have mostly figured it out.

Agreed, they recently became part of one of my regular rides, and only once have I encountered a pedestrian actively blocking the cycle track. Generally they stick to the regular sidewalk, and if they do end up walking in the cycle track, the vast majority of them move over as soon as they see a bike coming.

The pedestrians are far less of a problem than the cars you have to deal with when the cycle track merges back into the road at each end - I think drivers are less likely to expect cyclists when they don't have to interact with them until the intersection, as I've had more near-right hooks here than anywhere else combined, I think.

I'm glad Boston is going with protected intersections on Comm Ave to prevent this. It is clear that we as a community are learning with each iteration how to do this better.

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I think

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I think with the combined pedestrian/cycle paths or adjacent paths, there is a learning curve. No one can expect them to be used perfectly by everyone right away.

This is true of any implementation of new traffic patterns.

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Most transportation is iterative

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I'm glad Boston is going with protected intersections on Comm Ave to prevent this. It is clear that we as a community are learning with each iteration how to do this better.

This has happened many times. Take highways. The first highways built were pre-war roads like Route 9, or post-war roads like the original 128 (see north of Peabody) or Route 6 on the Cape. Tight ramps, minimal breakdown lanes, poor sight lines. We pretty quickly figured out that the idea was good, but the execution poor, and built roads to a higher standard (sometimes to a fault, particularly through downtown where they had no place).

Or take transit. We started with surface transit and pretty quickly built the Tremont Street subway for surface cars (Green Line). Seeing that it was inadequate, the next iteration, begun less than a decade later, was the Washington Street/Main Line Elevated tunnel (Orange Line), which allowed for much longer cars with higher capacity. When it came time to build the Cambridge-Dorchester Tunnel (Red Line), it was spec'ed for longer, wider vehicles with a higher capacity still. (The Blue Line was originally a streetcar tunnel and thus has sharp curves and a narrow width precluding larger equipment.)

That's what we're doing with bicycling. Learning from our mistakes, and learning from infrastructure elsewhere. It's not *that* hard.

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Yup

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It's not *that* hard.

It's not rocket surgery.

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Thanks

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Thanks Ari.. you were who I was thinking of when I said "bikers do support this". Because I know you're avid biker and are active in this process (maybe not this one but others). Plus you know your stuff on the subject and can back up your argument.

Thanks for chiming in.

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No worries

By on

What vehicular cyclists (and people who just don't understand these sorts of bicycle facilities) don't seem to understand is that we aren't just building bicycle facilities for them, but rather for the 99% of people who are uncomfortable blasting by buses and semis and dodging parked cars, but might be more comfortable in a separated lane.

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As one of them

And what you don't understand is that these lanes just mask a more serious problem. I'm not opposed to cycling lanes and I'd like to see more novice cyclists get on the road. But there are better ways of designing bike lanes that help the novice cyclists which also make them suitable for people who commute year-round.

Make the dedicated lane wider so that normal plows can plow and one cyclist can pass an obstacle safely. OR make them separated by wide painted lines (like Cambridge) so that people aren't as inclined to park in them.

But mostly, instead of trying to separate bikes why not address the real problem? For $2 million you could hire 2 cops for 8 years whose sole responsibility is to write traffic violation tickets on Comm Ave. If people learn they will be ticked if they double park, speed, etc then the road will be safer for everyone -- drivers included. That is a better use of money.

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The reason separation is so

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The reason separation is so awesome, which you don't seem to grasp, is that any bike facility that is not PHYSICALLY separated from cars, will become an extra parking space. 100% of the time. I guarantee it. Even in the People's Republic of Camberville.

Non-separated bike lanes leave cyclists vulnerable to motorists swerving into the lane without looking, and allow the lane to be blocked by double-parked cars. Motorists have demonstrated over the years that they will not respect road markings unless physically forced to, thus separation.

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Can we ticket cyclist too?

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Every single day I see cyclists blowing through red lights...

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We already are. I've gotten a

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We already are. I've gotten a red light ticket on my bike in Cambridge.

(And I even stopped and waited for the ped phase, then proceeded carefully with the walk signal at <5 mph).

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Let's worry about that

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When people riding bikes are out killing people walking and driving cars. Until then, that's pretty low priority.

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No worries?

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When did "no worries" and "no problem" become appropriate responses to "thanks". It doesn't even make sense. It seems to be those in their 20s and 30s who use this illogical way of responding. Why?

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Yes, though it will not meet

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Yes, though it will not meet the state's protected intersection standards, there will be bike signals to facilitate this. It will blend into the protected lanes on Comm Ave Part 2 and then blend into regular lanes as it moves past BU East. Seeing as they had to redo the plans completely last year and likely planning funds were spent before the protected lane guide was finished it is likely the best we will get with the process. If the state actually cared, like really cared, they would have gone back and provided more planning/design funding to engineer the intersections to match the DOT guidelines in the guide that was released in December.

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$2M over projection too

Richard Fries from Mass Bike posted the following this afternoon: "MassDOT board OKs Comm Ave project despite bid coming in $2m above initial budget! Unanimous!"

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So how do right turns work?

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Is there a separate right turn light for cars or do bikes, cars, and pedestrians all get green at the same time?

This diagram is kid of like the intersections I saw when in China, where all of the three modes of travel were completely deconflicted by the lights. I hope (but doubt) the same thing would be done here too.

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See #1 above

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"The deflection island reduces motorist speeds and improves visibility between drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians."

Basically, you build the road to force the driver to slow down and turn at an angle where they are forced to look for other users. On Western Ave, the bike lane actually bends towards the road to accomplish this in a similar manner. This ain't rocket science.

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Not reality

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This diagram of "design features" shows a lot of things that are not reality based.

Using the numbers of the features as shown in the diagram.
2) Bicycles yield to pedestrians....
5) Bicycles wait in queue for left hand turn...
6) Bicycle traffic signals indicate when it is safe....
7) Bicycles yield to bus passengers...

The fact is that the vast majority of bicyclists in Boston don't yield and don't wait. If an obstacle is in their way such as a person or a vehicle, they simply swerve around them. If there is a red light, they ignore it and chose to cross when they think it's safe, frequently weaving around traffic that has a green light. Honestly, when is the last time you saw a bicyclist wait for a green light, unless the volume and speed of oncoming traffic is overwhelming?

Those of us that walk and drive in this city see this behavior every day. Why will this magic bicycle lane change this behavior? And yes, drivers of vehicles and pedestrians often violate similar rules meant for them, but my observation is that bicyclists are the worst.

I know I will be attacked for this posting, but you all know I'm right.

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An answer

The lack of good cycling facilities in this city (meaning places that are protected and safe, and feel safe, and form a large grid connecting people to where they want to go) means that the only people who cycle are those who are the most reckless to begin with. (A generalization, obviously.) When it's safe for everyone to cycle, people who are less reckless, and therefore less likely to swerve, run red lights, etc etc) will be more likely cycle. Better infrastructure does change behavior, but the biggest benefit is that it attracts better behaved people.

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Sad in a statement?

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Imagining him presenting the project in an Eeyore voice....

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What's needed is slower speeds

What's needed is for cars to slow down and cyclists to ride in shared lanes and for reasonable enforcement. The proposed seperate lanes won't be usable in the winter when icy nor when BU is in session and they are treated as an extension of the sidewalk by students on foot.

We are not in Holland were people know not to walk in bike lanes and the cities ensure they are plowed and passable.

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HAHAAHA

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What's needed is for cars to slow down and cyclists to ride in shared lanes and for reasonable enforcement.

hahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

You're a funny guy BostonDog. Right.. enforcement in MA? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. And pigs will fly out of Mitt Romney's butt too.

They can't even do this NOW with the lanes we have. It won't be done. The bike folks have been BEGGING for this for years and it is not done. I see lots of tweets all the time about parked cars in bike lanes and what not.. it will NEVER happen if it hasn't happened already.

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Whatever

Do you actually think the city is going to plow these lanes? That's the real joke. Do you actually think people are NOT going to walk in them and that delivery people won't leave their boxes in them when unloaded? That's the real joke.

Sure, the city isn't going to start enforcing traffic laws but they aren't going to start doing anything which is going to make these lanes preferable to what we currently have either. So go ahead and laugh while you're riding at 3mph behind some stupid BU girl walking in the "protected bike lane" talking on her phone and ignoring you. Or the guy riding at 7mph that you can't pass as there's only 18" on either side of him.

I want better bike facilities too but these lanes are not the solution -- at least not for people who intend bike to work year-around.

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Complaining

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You're just complaining for the sake of complaining now.

I'm not trying to give you shit BostonDog but you really expect the city to enforce traffic rules now? right? After the fatalities that bikers have had in the past year, you'd think they would start enforcing the stuff. But they haven't. And yeah, you may be right about the winter too, considering how the city doesn't even plow the current lanes they have. But not everyone rides in the winter, just remember that.

However.. you're complaining just for the sake complaining now and it's funny because..

Originally there were no bike lanes at all, you had to ride in traffic and people complained.. So the city painted some bike lanes. But that wasn't good enough so people complained again, so they made a wider lane with some buffer to give the bikers more room from cars. But that wasn't enough either and people complained again. Now you're getting what SHOULD be done, a protected bike lane, and you're STILL complaining?

Come on man, you're complaining for the sake of complaining now. Even if the city enforced or plowed or whatever you're complaining about, you'd still find something to complain about. Complainers are going to complain, no matter what. Nothing is ever good enough.

Maybe you should stop complaining and be grateful the city is doing anything at all considering that most cities won't even consider stuff like this or even give it the time of day.

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complaining

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Originally there were no bike lanes at all, you had to ride in traffic and people complained...... But that wasn't good enough so people complained again....

Maybe it's not the same people complaining each time. The people who complain about this are likely not the same people who complained about there not being any bike lanes. You can't please everybody, but in a democracy, people should be encouraged to voice their concerns, not silenced because you disagree with them.

I'm an experienced commuting cyclist myself, and I'm somewhat skeptical about this, though I'm willing to suspend judgment to see if maybe they actually have done enough to mitigate turning conflicts, etc. But I will probably still continue to avoid Comm Ave, as Beacon St is just fine for cycling.

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Says who?

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You're just complaining for the sake of complaining now.

Says who? You? BD raised objections that make a lot of sense to me, but which you have not addressed; all you've done is hand-waved, and when that didn't magically make the objections go away, started name-calling. Keep it up, you're convincing everybody.

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No, I'm bringing up valid points

cybah, I'm not complaining for the sake of complaining. I'm asking some basic questions which I have not seen answered:

  • Does the city have a plan to plow these given that normal plows won't fit?
  • Will the snow banks from the main road which end up in these lanes get removed?
  • What is to keep these from becoming extensions of the sidewalk and cluttered with people walking, deliveries being unloaded, etc?
  • Is it possible for a faster cyclist to pass a slower cyclist safely in the lane?
  • Is it going to be harder to cycle in the main roadway if/when these lanes are blocked?
  • Is there a better way to add a bike lane which alleviates the concerns in the above questions?

You (cybah) have said you don't currently bike in the city and I think that's important to note. These look great for non-cyclists and in the summer when there isn't much foot traffic I'm sure they will be a vast improvement. However, I'm concerned about "real-world" usage in the middle of the BU semester and during Boston's long winters. If these lanes make things worse for 7 months of the year they are not an improvement.

You and a few others keep telling me to ignore the negatives and only consider the positive aspect. I just can't do that.

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Does the city have a plan to

By on

Does the city have a plan to plow these given that normal plows won't fit?
Yes, they have smaller plows they plan to use.

Will the snow banks from the main road which end up in these lanes get removed?
The city has said they plan to clear the snow from the bike lanes.

What is to keep these from becoming extensions of the sidewalk and cluttered with people walking, deliveries being unloaded, etc?
Hopefully enough people biking that standing in these lanes would be very uncomfortable!

Is it possible for a faster cyclist to pass a slower cyclist safely in the lane?
Yes, they are wide enough for two bicyclists side by side.

Is it going to be harder to cycle in the main roadway if/when these lanes are blocked?
There is a greater chance you will be harassed by motorists, but it is still 100% in your legal right to ride in the main travel lanes.

Is there a better way to add a bike lane which alleviates the concerns in the above questions?
In general, no. They could add sharrows or "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signage for the main travel lanes, for bicyclists who choose not to use the new bike lanes. But that may confuse other bicyclists.

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Does the city have a plan to

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Does the city have a plan to plow these given that normal plows won't fit?

You keep suggesting these can't be plowed. Have you never seen the bobcats the city already uses to plow sidewalks, paths, etc.?
They use them to plow the buffered bike lane on Mass Ave at Beacon. It was clear all this past winter.

Will the snow banks from the main road which end up in these lanes get removed?

Given that the city managed to keep the buffered bike lane on Mass Ave at Beacon clear last winter, I assume they can manage on Comm Ave too.

What is to keep these from becoming extensions of the sidewalk and cluttered with people walking, deliveries being unloaded, etc?

Design elements. There's a reason there are trees and street furniture between the sidewalk and the cycle track. It's also a very deliberate decision to use a different pavement material and edging to make it feel different than the sidewalk to walk on. Whether they realize it or not, most people should feel 'weird' walking on it, because it's not the familiar cement concrete sidewalk.

Is it possible for a faster cyclist to pass a slower cyclist safely in the lane?

Yes. While I haven't seen the plans for this specific location, I have designed similar facilities elsewhere, and they are typically wide enough for two cyclists side-by-side based on typical bicycle dimensions and a comfort envelope.

Is it going to be harder to cycle in the main roadway if/when these lanes are blocked?

Not any harder than cycling anywhere else without bike lanes.

Is there a better way to add a bike lane which alleviates the concerns in the above questions?

There have been decades at this point of research and development which suggest that protected cycle tracks like these are the ideal facility. Particularly the Dutch have put a lot of R&D into what we call homogeneity - separating different modes onto discrete facilities, i.e. cars here, bikes here, peds here. This tends to be the safest and most comfortable setup for the greatest number of users.

As a civil engineer with experience designing bicycle facilities, who is also a year-round bike commuter, I'd be happy to answer any more questions you might have about these cycle tracks.

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You haven't addressed my problems

Last winter there was barely any snow and it hardly got below freezing. In other winters the city was not plowing their own sidewalks in traffic island and generally doing a horrible job of snow removal except for on the major roads. If they can't clear the traffic islands in Kenmore Sq what makes you think they will clear these bike tracks? Their words do not match their actions.

You basically keep saying, "Trust me, man" when I bring up plowing in the city of Boston. These words are empty based on previous experience. (And I'm talking about Boston, not Cambridge which tends to be better.) If we get a bad winter and they plow I'll buy you the drink of your choice. But historically, pedestrians and cyclists are forgotten by the city of Boston when it snows.

I'd be inclined to support these lanes slightly more if I saw designs in which the cycle track was separated from the rest of the sidewalk with bushes, trees, etc. None of the designs for Comm Ave that I've seen show that.

In best parts of Europe they consider bike facilities as important if not more important then auto roads and thus they are well maintained and cleaned quickly. People know not to walk on them. I've ridden in these places and it's great. But there is no indication these sort of attitude will cross the pond irrespective of however many cycle tracks Boston installs.

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I used last winter because

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I used last winter because the only comparable facility in Boston didn't exist before then. And the winter before that was abnormal so I would forgive them anyway. I don't know how good of a job the city is going to do at plowing these, but evidence suggests that during the average winter, they will be plowed. You asked if they had a plan to plow these since regular plows won't fit, and I responded that the city already has a fleet of bobcats that will.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised if BU actually plows them. I know Northeastern usually plowed sidewalks on streets surrounding its campus before the city could get to it for the benefit of students, so I wouldn't be surprised if BU does the same.

I also envision the city putting significant effort into clearing these since they'll be wanting to show them off.

And I'm talking about Boston, not Cambridge

Then why did you just use Kendall Square as an example? That's not in Boston.

You basically keep saying, "Trust me, man" when I bring up plowing in the city of Boston.

That's not at all what I'm saying. I just think you're being overly pessimistic about it and am trying to present you with facts, which you seem to be ignoring. I factually addressed almost all of your complaints in my comment above, and am happy to answer any more questions. If your only concern is plowing though, I can't speak for the city about whether they'll be plowed or not, but my experience and logic shows that they likely will be.

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Interesting

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So go ahead and laugh while you're riding at 3mph behind some stupid BU girl walking in the "protected bike lane" talking on her phone and ignoring you.

Huh - kind of like being in a car stuck behind another motorist putting on makeup while driving, or shaving while driving ... ignoring the world around them because they're special snowflakes.

Or the guy riding at 7mph that you can't pass as there's only 18" on either side of him.

Huh again! Like being on the highway stuck behind someone slow in the passing lane (not passing) and not moving over so you can pass. Also ignoring the world around them because they're special snowflakes.

Listen, I get that you're used to being able to speed around when you want because you're on a bicycle, but your traffic patterns are now going to be regulated more and more, just like cars. Get used to it - especially now that there are more and more of you.

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Ah, yes, missing the point

The nice thing about bikes is that they are small and you can fit many of them in the space of one car. Notice how I keep saying safely pass. I will sit behind someone slow until it's safe to move, unlike many drivers in this city. But without the protected bike lanes it's possible to wait until there's an opening in traffic and pass someone, just as someone can in a car.

If the protected bike lanes make it impractical for people to bike to work they are not an improvement if the goal is to get more people onto the road.

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If true

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Notice how I keep saying safely pass. I will sit behind someone slow until it's safe to move, unlike many drivers in this city.

If true, you are unique amongst bicycle riders.

An no, I didn't miss the point. I just found it to be similar to concerns for vehicle drivers.

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Between these two fantastic options...

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A. That they will plow the lanes and people will learn not to walk in them, and B. That Boston drivers will learn how to f'ing drove slowly and safely, I'd put my money on A. There's a leap of faith required for both options and they both require something of s shift in culture and mindset but Option B seems very, very unlikely to happen.

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Good and Bad

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On one hand I really like this, as Boston could use much more dedicated, separated bike lanes. But, like Boston Dog, I am fairly cynical about them not being misused, though not so much by walking pedestrians or boxes as by dudebros on longboards and joggers. And do wonder what the snow removal plan is. Most European cities use Bobcat type plows on them, I believe. Has Boston provisioned such for the new lanes?

But, what is being done about the speeding on Commonwealth Ave?
Right now you are taking your life in hand, not just biking on Commonwealth, but even standing on those jokey B line stops that are just a curbs width from disaster.

Yes, losing a lane might make it seem a bit less highway-like to drivers. But give drivers a straight road and it will be abused. There needs to be a combination of speed humps and chicanes every several feet to keep cars from being able to drive over 15-25mph. Or alternatively, constant police presence that enforces speeding violations.

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Another consideration

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Granted that you can't simply roll something like this out city-wide, I'm not sure how you introduce a different kind of infrastructure for a few blocks on one street and expect things to go smoothly. You arrive at Packard's Corner or the BU Bridge and all of a sudden the rules of the road are different. I sense carnage potential.

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Now That You Mention It

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The obvious train tracks don't keep people from repeatedly driving down them at Packard's Corner. How are they planning on keeping cars out of the dedicated bike lanes?

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They'll Make it Fit

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People have managed to get nigh as far up the tracks as WingIt despite the bumpity bumpity and visual cues. I doubt anything short of a WW2 tank trap will keep them out. Also they need to ensure people on motorized scooters and such are kept out. I see people using them in bike lanes and even on sidewalks. There needs to be some kind of motor detecting warhead you can attach to a land torpedo.

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