Comm Ave bike lanes, rough draft to final design

Holy Moley! We’ve got lanes leading from Allston!

Bike lanes have been painted from Packard’s Corner to BU Bridge! Another piece of the thermoplastic puzzle is down! Fresh 5-ft wide path down the street! That means, except for a few major intersections like Kenmore Sq, we can bike all the way from Allston to the Public Garden, through the entire Back Bay, following the little helmeted bike-dude on the pavement! So many exclamation marks can’t contain the excitement!!

A big shout out to Boston, Boston Bikes, BTD, Toole Design, BU, all the city workers and advocates and anyone and everyone involved in laying down more paint for the cause of bicycle transportation. Big props.

Headed to Boston in a 5-ft bike lane on Commonwealth Avenue

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Yesterday I got a photo-text from a friend calling the lanes a “rough draft.” He was referring to how the thermoplastic paint hadn’t yet been applied, how we had skinny painted lines to mark the coming lanes (oh Boston, you can be such a tease…):

rough draft for Commonwealth Avenue bike lane

The way in which he referred to these as a “rough draft” made me think of our standards for bike lanes in Boston. Thanks to the first lanes striped in 2008, we now have an expectation of the classic 5-footer, with little bike dude in helmet, as being the approved bike facility. It’s a bar that has been set in Boston thanks, in large part, to Nicole Freedman and Boston Bikes.

Now, and specifically here, this style may work in places where parking is scarce or prized, and places where taking away a travel lane isn’t a possibility — but there are a few serious drawbacks to this lane, especially when compared to physically separated facilities commonly known as “cycletracks,” which remove bike traffic from car lanes entirely by a curb, or bollards, or a wider shoulder (such as seen on Comm Ave as it dips under Mass Ave). In a short ride down the new strip, I’ve concisely documented a few issues below:

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To fit the lane, the designers tightened both travel lanes as well as the parking lane to squeeze in a lane for bikes. Too bad they couldn’t shrink down the cars as well. The result — cars oversized for the alotted lane.

encroaching SUV in the bike lane

If cars can’t fit IN the lanes, they’ll simply park ON them, creating a greater zone where us vulnerable bikers can be “doored.” Check out this image below from BostonBiker regarding how to envision riding in a bike lane. Now look at the above image to see just how much of that 5-ft lane will be taken by a swinging door of the SUV. Ouch! Better to ride on the far side of the left line, than in the middle of the door zone….

Watch Out for doors!

If you watch this video below taken of the rough draft (yes, we’re multimedia), you’ll see how tight the lines are. Count how many parked cars, mostly normal-sized sedans, either don’t fit or don’t try to fit within the parking lane. Their driver-side wheels encroach into the bike lane, making an already tight 5-ft squeeze even smaller for bikers.

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And check out how commercial trucks, which Comm Ave sees all day every day, fit in the new parking lane. This entire left wheel and overhang is out into the bike lane.

FedEx truck "trying" to fit in the parking lane

Now imagine you’re a student at BU, a relatively novice biker, heading down Comm Ave, trying to get to your 9 am class, with rush-hour traffic rushing by you at 35-40 mph. How would you feel about the stripe on the ground, leading you into a FedEx truck?

Take that lane, pass that truck

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Another question: Would you rather bike on a street with a bike lane that may squeeze you between too-closely parked cars and quickly moving traffic, OR ride on a street with no lanes, forcing you to merge and share space based on the situation and your own confident volition?

Here’s a video of the same stretch of road with no lanes, taken the day before, as a comparison:

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Something the City has done here, which is not seen in every new lane put down, is to dash the bike lane through the intersection (see image below). At the particular intersection shown, by Agganis Areana, it is a smart concept, since heavy volumes of left-turning traffic are not expecting to navigate with a bike lane. Notice the car turning onto Comm Ave while giving the cyclist a good breadth.

I also present to you a video of a biker navigating the rough draft near Packard’s Corner. She should have ample space on the pavement, yet she’s weaving to the right when she can — seemingly to put more space between her and any passing cars:

Although these lanes do not provide any physical protection for bikers, they do provide an important psychological service for helping keep riders on a predictable straight path, and making drivers aware of bikers on the road. And these lanes are also important to demonstrate the right to the road space — the City says so through its thermoplastic stenciling.

Still, one must be reminded that a strip of paint will not keep you from getting hit by a car. This comes from someone who has been struck only while riding in a bike lane. What WILL help keep you from getting hit is a constant state of awareness, preparation, and caution by both bikers and drivers.

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I am curious to see if the statistics will change on this stretch of road, now that we have bike lanes. (are there statistics being taken…?) Will there be more doorings, since parked cars are so close to the edge of the bike lane (Police take notice, it’s a $100 fine for whomever opens the door)? Will moving violations and accidents decrease with biker-awareness? Will we see a style of bikers who stay in the bike lane now that we have them, or riders who still take the lane while keeping the thermoplastic stripe just to the right?

All these questions will be answered, or not, in time. What we DO know now is to expect a drastic increase in ridership, especially as the BU students return to campus.

And for now, we can still champion the efforts of a City trying to fit a bike network into arguably the most frustrating transportation layout of any city in this country. Keep going, you fine public servants! I applaud your efforts as much as I ride your streets.
You keep up the good work, and we’ll keep riding!

Posted in advocacy, bike lanes, BU, infrastructure, transportation (bike, intermodal, etc.) | 5 Comments

Comm Ave to get lanes from BU Bridge to Packard’s Corner… SOON

I was riding home last night and saw the crews grinding down the arrows at Packard’s Corner. Here’s the proof:

I talked with one of the supervisors. We can expect the paint to go down this week if the rain holds off. They are slightly shifting the travel lanes to the left and squeezing them a bit to make room for a 5-ft bike lane, which will go between the right lane and the parked cars. The car parking will remain, as will all the left turns. This should look similar to what was done on Comm Ave from Kenmore Sq to BU Bridge. I do not know what will happen once the lanes hit Packard’s Corner, which may be tricky since going outbound there’s a big left turn onto Comm Ave and the carriage lane, and a straight lane onto Brighton Ave. Also there’s the B-Line train tracks and a semblance of the old A-Line train tracks which could (and do) make for hazardous road conditions…. I hope there will be some notification for cars, t-drivers, and bikers about the dangers of merging.

This is a big connection that will help put together our bike-lane network. Lanes on Comm Ave from the Public Garden all the way to Packard’s Corner. There is a slight gap outbound on both Comm Ave and Brighton Ave if you’re traveling to the lanes on Harvard Ave, but still — Way to go Boston! Keep up the good work!

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Marlene “Marly” Pineda

The biker killed Monday on Comm Ave is Marlene “Marly” Pineda. Heartfelt condolences to her family and friends. This is a piece from Smith College, where she is an alumna: http://www.smith.edu/news/2009-10/pineda-216.php

The Smith community is mourning the sudden loss of alumna, record-setting athlete and former swim instructor Marlene “Marly” Pineda who died in an accident in Boston Monday, Aug. 9, according to her family.

A native of Bosque Farms, N.M., Pineda graduated in 2008 with a bachelor of arts in education and child study and, two years later, earned her master’s in exercise and sport studies.

Marly Pineda ’08 BA ’10 MS
She was in Boston working as the interim head coach at the Cambridge Master’s Swim Club and serving as a volunteer coach on the swim team at Harvard University.

“This is clearly a great loss for us all,” said Kim Bierwert, coach of the Smith swimming and diving team. “Marly was a great force in our lives and lived life to its fullest, giving much more than most people give in a lifetime let alone in 20-some-odd years. We will miss her, and she will live on in us all. Her contributions and ability to give were unmatched.”

At Smith, Pineda was a four-year member of the swimming and diving team and served as team captain during her junior and senior seasons. She was named to the New England Women’s & Men’s Athletic Conference All-Conference first team in 2007-08 and led the Pioneers to an appearance at the NCAA championships in 2008.

At Opening Convocation in 2006, President Christ mentioned the fact that Pineda had broken two Seven Sisters swimming records at the Seven Sisters Championship. Pineda remains the Dalton Pool record holder in the 1,000- and 1,650-meter freestyle.

“She was someone who really gave back to Smith College,” said Lynn Oberbillig, director of athletics. “Swimming was always her passion, and she used that passion once her days in the pool were done to help out the swim and dive program.”

During the spring semester, Pineda taught swim conditioning while enrolled in the exercise and sport science program.

“Today we are all suffering the loss of a remarkable young woman, struck down in the prime of her life,” said Jim Johnson, a professor in the Exercise and Sport Science program. “ESS has lost a wonderful student and we mourn her loss. I want to remember her positive outlook, her smile.”

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Possible Fatal Accident at Kelton and Comm Ave

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Edit: the BPD has reported the woman, 24, died
of her injuries. http://www.bpdnews.com/2010/08/10/fatal-bicycle-accident-in-brighton/
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keep check on www.bostonbiker.org
Shane is posting updates, with photos and witness accounts

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I’ve been hearing reports of a bad bike accident, yesterday evening at the intersection of Kelton St and Comm Ave. There is nothing official yet, but you can read reports/tweets here: http://www.universalhub.com/2010/bicyclist-hit-car-brighton

From what I’ve heard, she was a 24 years old, no helmet, wearing headphones, who may have run a red light. The driver apparently had the right of way. Again, the reports are unverified.

I’ll repost with details when facts are known, but regardless of fault, this is terrible and tragic, and a reminder to ride SAFELY and remain ALERT and please pay attention to the right of way. So many cyclists don’t slow down at intersections, so many cyclists ride distracted, so many cyclists feel they are invincible — when all it can take is one incident of bad timing to take a life.

Remember Andy von Guerard who died in Newton in May zooming down a hill and running a red light.

Please be careful out there!

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Rock Roll and Ride, this Saturday

Hi ABbikers,

Looking for something to do this Saturday? Come down to Heter Park along the Charles River in North Allston, and join your fellow neighbors for FREE rental bikes, games, food, music, and fun.

from 10am to 2pm, Boston Bikes is going to bring their Rock Roll and Ride to our side of town, with bike maintenance, obstacle courses, guided rides along the pathways, and more. It will be a great time, and fun for all ages.

I hope to see you there!
Galen
ABbiker

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Bikelanes and Bike Boxes on Comm Ave!

The Rumors are true!  They are paiting bike boxes at the intersections down the brand-spakin’ new Comm Ave bike lane.  I caught them in the act.  Check this out:

and

The deal is bikers can pull up at the stoplight and get in front of cars.  Then when the light turns green, bikers get a head start to get themselves up to speed, and the ones that need to turn right across traffic now have a lane to do so.

Here’s an image of the Bike Box:

Bike Box on Comm Ave in Boston

Bike Box on Commonwealth Ave in Boston

And here’s some description from the Public Works guy on his thoughts of the new Boxes:

This is a novel and creative approach for Boston and Bikelanes.  Will the cars stop at the first line?  Will the bikers stop at all? In time, we’ll see how Boston handles this new design concept.

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JamBike for a friendlier Boston

Here’s a feature on myself and the JamBike from today’s Sunday Globe Magazine:

Got the beat

On his drum-equipped bike, Galen Mook, 25, will be riding Boston’s streets every day in May for National Bike Month.

By Sandra A. Miller May 2, 2010

You call it a jam bike. What is its purpose? It’s a joyful nuance of the bike advocacy movement. Whereas a lot of bike advocacy comes in the form of “these are our streets,” I feel like, yes, these are our streets, but they’re also everybody’s streets. I want drivers to notice I’m riding and pay attention to bikers, but I don’t want them to feel antagonistic toward us.

Do biking and drumming really go together? Definitely. It’s the rhythm of the movement. I did marching band for six years in middle school and high school, and we got it drilled into our heads that you walk and play in time. So switching to a bike was a natural progression. They are similar, steady movements – the rotation of the pedals and the movement of the legs.

Do you drum with one hand? When it’s safe, I’ll ride no hands and go at it. But, typically, I play with my right hand and my left hand will tap.

Where did you get the bike? It was passed down to me by a former jam biker named Noah. He was a Berklee musician, but when he moved to Chicago he decided to keep the jam bike in the streets of Boston.

In the passing of the torch – well, bike – did you feel some responsibility? Certainly. One of the first things I did was organize group rides with it. I’d get 10 to 20 people together and we’d go on a Sunday afternoon ride. I’d feel like the Pied Piper leading this big band of bikers.

How do drivers react to your playing? They smile, dance, or give a thumbs up. Some people will honk in time with my drumming.

Favorite place to bike in Boston? The seaport is really nice, with wide avenues, and the echo from the drum is great there. But for a midnight ride, I love the financial district. It’s dead empty, and you get three lanes of one-way traffic, but there is no traffic. You feel like you’re in a ghost town with these towering buildings around you.

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Bike Month Kick-Off – Sunday in the North End

Our friends at Urban AdvenTours are hosting a Bike Month Kickoff party, this Sunday, 11-3, at Christopher Columbus Park in the North End.  Check the details here, but come join us for coffee and conversation, and of course bikes.

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Tues, 6-8: Meeting and Discussion for River St/Western Ave Bridges Reconstruction

Meeting and Discussion on Tuesday, April 27, 6-8pm

Please join the Allston Brighton North Neighbors Forum, Massachusetts
Department of Transportation, Boston Transportation Department,
LivableStreets, Charles River Conservancy, and your neighbors to
discuss the upcoming reconstruction of the Western Ave and River
Street bridges.

The reconstruction of these bridges is a once-in-a-lifetime
opportunity to get the major changes that are needed for these bridges
and the area around them to be safe and welcoming for people riding
bikes. Help us make sure this project is as great as it can be!

Tuesday, April 27
6:00 – 8:00
Gardner School Auditorium, 30 Athol Street, Allston


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Bike Lanes down Harvard Ave (video)!

Hello Bikers,

About a week and a half ago, the City got to striping Allston Village up and down Harvard Ave.  We now have a nice, fresh bike lane, that stretches from the southern end of Harvard Ave in Brookline (by that Staples that used to be a run-down Kung-Fu movie theater (damn you Staples…)) past Comm Ave and Brighton Ave, up to Cambridge Street. Or, just about to Cambridge Street…  I’ve taken video of the lane, which you can see below.

The lanes are great, and right in the business district of a major thoroughfare in A/B, thus they bring a great amount of bicycle awareness so drivers will expect and hopefully respect bikers in the street.  To me, that’s the big success of this style of bike lanes, making bikers feel welcome — regardless of the dangers of door zones, kamikaze pedestrians, double parkers, and cars that pull out suddenly.  Still, it brings a warm feeling to my tummy to see that white stripe with the little painted bike dude in his little painted helmet.  It makes me feel welcome on the streets, even if it doesn’t make me feel safer.  And though these lanes may not get a noticeable amount of new bikers out (Allston is seemingly already at near bike-capacity), they do show that the City is providing for a neighborhood that has an obvious need for biking infrastructure.

Well, for those who haven’t gotten to ride it yet, I attached a little camera to my stem and rode the lanes so you could get an idea of the design. And there are few interesting aspects to these lanes.  The City apparently did not want to tackle that intersection of Harvard and Cambridge, opting to have the lanes peter out at the approaches.  They’ll have to keep that spot on the map marked as a big red X until they get their acts together and figure out how to make that crossing safe.  And there are some Sharrows (arrows combined with bike-dude) when going north on Harvard Ave between Brighton Ave and Cambridge St.  And there are several places where the lines are dashed, to allow buses to pull in, and turning cars.  I guess they fit the lanes however they could, given the constraints of the street.

Check out these videos.  There are the typical problems of merging cars and potholes, but you can see for yourselves. Let me know what you think of the new lanes:

Boston puts down bike lane in Allston Village (1)

Boston puts down bike lane in Allston Village (2)

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