Can the DCR Make Mass the Netherlands of America?

Sweeping Proposal Would Overhaul Bike Facilities on Parkways Throughout Metro Area

By RICHARD FRIES, Executive Director

The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, the state's largest landowner, will soon conduct a “comprehensive conditional assessment” of most of its parkways in the Boston metro area.

The DCR is dedicating $500,000 to analyze the changes needed to bring area parkways up to current standards to “provide multimodal accommodations for all users of the parkway” including cyclists. The analysis would include many of the marquee parkways in 17 DCR reservations, ranging from Lynn to Quincy, Boston to Newton. For too long these “park”-ways have been used – and engineered – as freeways for motorists, thus diminishing the safety of those users for whom the parks were created.
“DCR desires a detailed report that clearly outlines the feasible, optimal cross-section, multimodal connectivity through crossing streets and configuration of its parkways that provides multimodal accommodations,” is in the statement of the scope of services.

This is bike advocacy – at the local, state, and federal level – working at its best. Several organizations simultaneously pulling on several ropes managed to pull this ship to the dock of reason. For starters, such national groups as People for Bikes, the Alliance for Biking and Walking, and the League of American Bicyclists have successfully pushed at the federal level to re-define the standards for roadway design.

But the DCR, learning first hand about the robust nature of local advocacy through such issues as snow removal on the Southwest Corridor or the Arborway design, recently created the Urban Path and Parkway Committee (UPPC) that granted seats to such groups as WalkBoston, the Boston Cyclists Union, Livable Streets Alliance, MassBike and other regional bike advocacy groups. Most impressive is that the DCR leadership is actually riding many of the areas to be studied.

The UPPC reviewed this proposal on April 22.

The DCR Reservations to be studied include:

  • Blue Hills

  • Breakheart

  • Charles River

  • Chestnut Hill

  • Furnace Brook

  • Hammond Pond

  • Lynn Shore

  • Middlesex Fells

  • Muddy River

  • Mystic River

  • Nahant Beach

  • Nantasket Beach

  • Neponset River

  • Old Harbor

  • Quincy Shore

  • Revere Beach

  • Stony Brook


A number of parkways – including Alewife Brook and Storrow Drive – will not be included in the study. But in many of those circumstances, parallel cycling facilities either exist presently or in development.

The formal request for proposal will be completed pending input from the UPPC.

The range of facilities considered with be both short term and long term projects that may require considerable re-engineering. In short, the DCR will consider everything from bike lanes to cycle-tracks.

The impact of this project, when completed, could nearly double the mileage of cycling facilities in the Bay State.

 

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