Allston’s First Bike Lane(s)!

Just under two weeks ago, the construction crews finished their repaving and re-striping of North Harvard Street in North Allston, from Western Ave to Soldier’s Field Road.  With the new pavement (which was oh so necessary), they managed to fit two bike lanes on the road — at the expense of some on-street parking.

Besides the fact that I commute through this stretch multiple times every day (direct route from North Allston-Brighton to Harvard Sq/Cambridge), this is actually Allston’s first bike lane, so I figured we’re due for a perspective look via before/after photos of the road.

* This is a shot of the OLD road surface before repaving:

Before - crumbling asphalt

and NOW we have this:
After - fresh paint, fresh asphalt

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* This was the OLD intersection facing south down N Harvard:
Before - looking south towards Allston

Now it has a NEW design (notice the lack of parking along the southbound lane):
After - intersection of N Harvard and Storrow Drive, looking south

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* This was the OLD intersection facing North up N Harvard:
Before - looking north towards cambridge

NOW it’s this (notice the shift in bike lane so it’s between turning traffic):
After - intersection of Western Ave

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* BEFORE bikers took to the middle of the lane to avoid doors:
Before - riding down N Harvard

NOW they can zoom by safely:
After - zoom

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* The lanes also have great “Bike Lane Begins” and “Bike Lane Ends” signs. These are effective to get drivers to know what the lanes are, and to inform bikers about the extent of the lane. I haven’t measured yet, but GoogleMaps says the lane runs for about .7 miles, at best:
After - bike lane begins

After - Western Ave intersection

And as the lanes enter the intersection, I found bikers actually stop at the traffic light. Perhaps due to the fact that they are given a bike lane, with distinct demarcations on the pavement.
After - at the stop light

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BEFORE, bikes had to contend with parked cars, moving cars, and MBTA buses:
Before - riding along with the MBTA

NOW, the MBTA buses are still a problem. Notice the cars swerving across the yellow line into oncoming traffic. Imagine if a biker gets trapped in that mess. This is a flaw in the design of the lanes, and is unavoidable when trying to mix all forms of transportation with only a strip of paint to separate. If the lanes were dedicated, and separated by curbs, this wouldn’t be an issue. Of course, that isn’t always possible, and the construction and striping was done without changing the width of the street.
After - MBTA stop

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Parking in the bike lane will be an issue, but with the new city ordinance where the fine is $100, hopefully the enforcement will keep the lanes clear.
After - not enough parking
and:
After - being squeezed into the street
and:
After - No Stopping Anytime
but there is hope for enforcement!:
After - Start the enforcement
They started ticketing last week, and ever since, I have yet to see a car parked in the lane for an extended period of time.

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So, what we get is a new, smooth, clean bike lane right through Harvard’s stretch of North Allston. Politicking and Editorializing aside, I do like how the city stepped up to fix one of the worst stretches of road, and one with a high amount bike traffic, I have seen in the city. Now, if only they can continue the lanes through the rest of Allston, and maybe even into the surrounding neighborhoods, to help calm traffic and keep parking violations in check. Maybe continue the lanes across the bridge and into Cambridge, while also having it stretch south down to Cambridge Street.

In my ideal world, that “Bike Lane Ends” sign would read “Bike Lane Continues”

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4 Responses to Allston’s First Bike Lane(s)!

  1. Chris D. says:

    Thanks Galen – this is GREAT!

  2. teeheehee says:

    Great shots! I would note that I have seen people parking in the no-park zone still, but much more rarely. (No, they were not ticketed when I went bye.)

    Because of the improvements I have even been able to entice one or two coworkers to join me for lunch in Harvard Square by bike (we work in Allston.) This is a very good thing…

  3. Charlotte A. Burger says:

    Great article Galen.

    I agree this is a “win” for bikers in Allston. Harvard was actually a huge proponent of the facility- and removing parking– which made all the difference to the City’s ability to make this a reality.

    Though a “win” with respect to bikers that sorely needed some reprieve from parked cars, buses, and awful pavement on this major thoroughfare — my happiness about the facility is tempered a little by one design flaw– and a construction oversight:

    1. The painted median that creates a left turn pocket into the Harvard Stadium is way too wide! I estimate it at 10-12 feet at its widest point (could be way off). What this effectively does is “push” cars closer to the bike lane on both sides of the street. So when the 66 comes barreling down the road behind you- there is literally less than a foot between you and that bus- in the painted median section. Some people will only “draw in the lines” and they apply that behavior to driving as well- even when it is unsafe. There is no need to have delineated that much space to create a turn pocket- it is simply what the design engineers manual states– and does not regard actual use of the road.

    2. The storm grates on some sections of this road run in the same “grain” as a bikes tires. I can avoid them now because I can see them– once the snow falls… who knows– maybe so will I!?

    Still, I suppose sometimes a flawed facility is better than no facility at all. Also this facility and hopefully others that will be forthcoming represent an opportunity for the City of Boston to start making holistic considerations of their street design process- and how to really accommodate us all.

  4. Pingback: Franklin Street in N. Allston gets the sharrow treatment | Allston-Brighton bikes

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