In the last few weeks, we have seen a lot of news focused on Boston-area public transit. In addition to the West Station announcement, reports about weekend Commuter Rail options, a new Silver Line route, and updated Green Line Extension dates have all come out.
Here's the roundup:
- Weekend Commuter Rail service is returning on three lines. The Kingston/Plymouth and Greenbush lines will all be available on Saturdays and Sundays, while the Needham line will become available on Saturdays starting on December 27. In his statement about the increased Commuter Rail service, MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey indicated that the added trains were a result of transit users wanting more options.
- A contract for the Silver Line Extension was approved. The extended Silver Line will link East Boston and Chelsea with three new stations. All stations will have bike racks, and a Shared Use Path is planned from Eastern Avenue into downtown Chelsea.
- The dates for the Green Line Extension project have moved out, but Phase 2 design is almost done. The completion dates are now delayed by a year, but Lechmere, Washington St, and Union Square station designs are "approved to proceed." You may remember when we reported on the successful campaign for the Somerville Community Path Extension as part of this project. To learn about how you can be involved, visit the Green Line Extension website.
- Allston will get West Station as part of the I-90 Interchange Improvement Project. As with the Somerville Community Path Extension, this is a project that MassBike supported.
You’ve probably heard a lot about the Question 1 ballot measure in the upcoming election. We want to tell you about what Question 1 would do, what that would mean for you, and why we are supporting a NO vote on Question 1.
Question 1 would eliminate the gas tax indexing law and put at least $1 billion in transportation investments in jeopardy over the next decade. Indexing the gas tax helps this dedicated transportation revenue source maintain its value and was a vital part of the 2013 law that reversed years of under-investment in transportation.
Question 1 is bad news for cyclists and pedestrians. Safe biking and walking require good planning and investments, and Massachusetts has a long way to go to design and build streets, bikeways, trails, and walkways that are safe for everyone.
After years of neglect, roads and bridges in Massachusetts are now a major public safety crisis. This is something we can no longer ignore. Passage of Question 1 would mean our roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate, threatening the safety of Massachusetts cyclists and all residents.
For all of these reasons, MassBike supports a NO on Question 1 vote on November 4.
Say NO to sacrificing new infrastructure.
- Question 1 threatens to cut $1 billion in transportation investments over the next decade.
- Question 1 would reduce or eliminate new walking and biking paths.
- Question 1 would reduce or eliminate road / bridge projects with new bike facilities.
Say NO to unsafe bridges.
- Today there are 28 bridges in Massachusetts that have been closed because they are unsafe and another 447 that can only carry reduced traffic loads.
- The ten busiest structurally deficient bridges in the state carry more than 1 million cars every day.
Say NO to traffic fatalities.
- Massachusetts roads are unsafe for too many cyclists.
- Roadways conditions are a significant factor in one-third of all traffic fatalities in Massachusetts.
- Motor vehicle crashes cost Massachusetts $6.3 billion a year in medical and other costs.
Say NO to cutting public transit improvements.
- Indexing the gas tax helps to improve our public transit system.
- Question 1 risks investments in aging subways, rail, and buses.
- Question 1 risks improvements in the MBTA and Regional Transit Authorities.
Say NO to risking environmental benefits.
- Question 1 will hurt our ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Question 1 will limit our ability to invest in low- and non-polluting transportation projects such as biking, walking, and public transit.
Say NO to Question 1.
If you are eager to help stop Question 1, please spread the word and follow the campaign on Twitter or like it on Facebook.
Click here to read the full ballot question.
Today Governor Deval Patrick, MassDOT Secretary Richard Davey, and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that West Station construction will be part of the Allston I-90 Interchange Improvement Project. This new Commuter Rail station in Allston will be partially funded by Harvard, which owns the surrounding land.
Also at the announcement were Senator William Brownsberger, sponsor of the recent bicycle-friendly Act to Protect Vulnerable Road Users and Act to Protect Bicyclists in Bicycle Lanes, and Representative Kevin Honan. Both spoke about the planned West Station.
If you've been following (and supporting!) the People's Pike campaign, you'll know that construction of this new Commuter Rail station was a topic of concern that many local groups, including MassBike, cited in the letter to Patricia Leavenworth of MassDOT.
MassBike's David Watson, who attended the announcement, called the plan to build West Station an "important step forward for this project and the neighborhood." Of course there is more work to be done. "Now," Watson added, "we just need to ensure that the bicyclist and pedestrian aspects of the project will be top notch!"
But one of the best reasons to help more school-aged children ride is that we are building the next generation of cyclists. Every single kid who rides to school at age ten won't be a road racer or a mountain biker, but he or she is more likely to use a bike to get somewhere nearby. By showing children that bicycles are a great (fun and fit!) method of transportation, we increase the odds that their generation will, as adults, ride a bike to run an errand or get to work or have fun.
Cyclists can relate to these reasons for encouraging young bicyclists. Caregivers for young children, however, often have safety concerns when it comes to riding bikes. That’s where Safe Routes to School comes in. Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is a federally-funded program that provides children safety training and information about biking and walking to school. In Massachusetts, MassDOT manages MassRIDES, the state Safe Routes to School program. MassBike offers the bicycling education component here, while WalkBoston works with the walking side. MassBike has educated over 11,000 kids about bike safety and using bikes for transportation. This year, MassBike will increase that number by educating kids at 100 schools through Safe Routes to School.
The SRTS partner schools come in all shapes, sizes, and locations throughout the state. Communities from Worcester to Brockton to Easthampton participate in this program. Urban, suburban, and rural schools can all benefit from SRTS. In a typical Safe Routes to School class focused on biking, kids spend 45 minutes with one of our instructors learning
• Why to ride: Fun, health, and the environment
• Helmet safety: How and why to wear a helmet
• Proper attire: The right clothes for safe, comfortable biking
• Basic maintenance: Age-appropriate bike care, such as putting air in tires
• Road rules: The right way to ride in their neighborhood
Recently, Kali Paine, one of MassBike's Safe Routes to School instructors, taught fourth and fifth graders at the Marion E. Zeh School in Northborough. There she found that although only a few kids told her they currently bike to school, they became increasingly excited about riding for transportation during her classes. She was encouraged because, as opposed to her usual 60 to 70 percent, "When asked how many liked to bike at the beginning of each class, nearly every student rose [his or her] hand." At the Zeh school the students also had an especially enthusiastic response to safety elements in the class. According to Paine, they even became interested in wearing helmets after she spoke about helmet safety and proper fit.
Paine was especially thrilled that "The teachers at [the Zeh] school were also pretty engaged in the content." She added that it will be helpful if "the parents...take a good look at the handouts that were sent home and encourage their kids to bike more!"
Laura Smeaton, another Safe Routes to School instructor with MassBike, agrees that "Parent and teacher engagement is key, because these are the adults kids look up to every day." Smeaton also found recently that an emphasis on fun is important in her classes. At her visit last week to the fifth graders of Claypit Hill School in Wayland, kids told her that they enjoy riding, which helped Smeaton to show them that this fun activity could be used to get places. Once introduced to the idea, the fifth graders especially liked that they could achieve increased independence on their bikes.
The challenge in a community like Wayland is the lack of sidewalks. Smeaton noted that safety concerns on big roads with no bike paths or sidewalks make parents less likely to allow their kids to ride to school on their own. In fact, only one student had ridden to school the day she was there, although many of them already loved and knew a lot about their bikes. When the opportunity for riding for transportation is a bigger leap, as in Wayland, Smeaton recommends a bikepool. "You can have eight to ten kids with one or two adults," she said, "and you help the kids ride safely." Having a bikepool also shows a need for infrastructure improvements in communities without good bicycling and pedestrian options.
As seen in Northborough and Wayland, the opportunities and challenges are different in every community. Kids in urban areas might need help learning how to deal with heavy traffic, while those in rural or suburban communities might need, as in Wayland, to start a bikepool for safe riding.
Any SRTS partner school can request this free class about bicycling safety. To become a Safe Routes to School partner school, or to help your child’s school become one, apply on the MassRIDES website here (pdf).
If your school is already a Safe Routes to School partner and you want to request a class, contact Erin Reed with MassDOT. You can find a list of partner schools on the MassRIDES site as well.
If you are a parent looking for more information on helping your child safely ride his or her bike, see the Safe Routes to School resources on our website.
- Infrastructure built with cyclists of all ages and abilities in mind
- Construction (not just design) of a new "West Station" with rapid rail connections to downtown and Kendall Square
- A (safe) replacement for the Franklin St Overpass between Lincoln St and Cambridge St
- New parkland along the Charles River (an "Allston Esplanade")
- A connection under the BU Bridge between the Boston and Cambridge paths of the Charles River at the Grand Junction Rail Bridge
- Extension of Babcock and Malvern Streets over the new Pike to create north-south connections and reduce congestion on Brighton Ave and Harvard Ave
- Allston residents and neighbors (not just drivers on the Pike going through Allston) considered in the rebuild
Come to The Jackson Mann Community Center Auditorium at 500 Cambridge Street in Allston on Thursday at 6:30 PM and let them know this is an unprecedented opportunity to reconnect the neighborhood and fully address all transportation needs. Find more information on our calendar.
Come and speak up for cyclists, and send this to anyone you know who wants the Pike rebuilt with bikes and bike safety in mind.
You can also come earlier at 4:00 PM to the Jackson Mann for a presentation by the Boston Society of Architects. Two design teams will share their ideas for how to build a new neighborhood in the land opened up by the interchange realignment.
At Pro Walk/Pro Bike today, Secretary Anthony Foxx of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced a new USDOT national bicycle and pedestrian safety initiative to
- Close gaps in bicycle and pedestrian networks, especially in low-income neighborhoods.
- Conduct bicycle and pedestrian safety assessments in every state. Recently in Quincy, MassBike and WalkBoston led one of the three pilot assessments in the country.
- Create a "road diet" guide to help states and communities make streets safer for everyone. This is essentially a national Complete Streets guide.
- Launch a bicycle and pedestrian safety action team to examine and improve how government approaches these issues.
This initiative is the most comprehensive that USDOT has ever put forward for bicyclist and pedestrian safety. In his announcement, Foxx asked Congress to pass a long-term surface transportation bill. A long-term bill will help create opportunities that are often lost with short-term funding, such as the chance to have a broader conversation on how to engage communities in the highest efforts. Foxx asked all of us to tell Congress to pass a long-term transportation bill.
MassBike Executive Director David Watson, who is attending Pro Walk/Pro Bike and heard Foxx speak on this important issue, said "We're confident the Massachusetts Congressional delegation is supportive, but we will all need to help convince the rest of Congress."
UPDATE: Here is a link to the Safer People Safer Streets initiative.
You may have heard about how The People's Pint was supporting bicycling in general and MassBike specifically back in June. Last week we had a chance to enjoy the beer along with the support during a Training Wheels tasting at the Craft Beer Cellar in Newton.
At the tasting a steady stream of people came in, sampled the American session ale, and chatted with us about bicycling. Training Wheels was a big hit with the crowd, and we enjoyed getting to know fellow beer and bike lovers.
The People's Pint's Alden Booth presented us with a check for $310, representing 25 percent of the profits from the sale of Training Wheels. The People's Pint has been supporting bicycling from their Greenfield, MA brewpub since 2003 with their Bike to Live program. Bike to Live encourages patrons to travel to their restaurant by bike instead of car and logs miles to demonstrate the impact of the program. They currently have over 63,000 bike miles logged on their website. Looking at all of the aspects of promoting cycling, from financial to physical, is part of what makes The People's Pint a brewery with a serious focus on biking.
A percentage of the profits of Training Wheels still goes to MassBike. If you want to support MassBike and have a taste of the "hop forward" Training Wheels ale, you can find it at many craft beer stores. If you are lucky enough to live nearby, bike on over to the People's Pint brewpub for a taste.
This August, Melrose became the latest community to participate in MassBike's Bikeable Communities Program. The Melrose Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee, which promotes biking and walking in Melrose, contacted us because they wanted more information about how they could implement bike infrastructure in their city and encourage more biking for transportation. As Kara Showers, of Mass in Motion: Melrose/Wakefield and the Melrose/Wakefield Health Department, told us, "There is much interest in bike riding around [Melrose] for pleasure and as a mode of transportation. It is exciting to be able to support this community interest!"
Melrose has a lot of opportunities for bicycling infrastructure and increasing bicycling in the city. In our first meeting with them, we highlighted these opportunities and a few key strategies that will help them reach their goal. Together we
- Identified areas that would benefit from bike lanes, bike racks, or other physical changes that would make Melrose an even safer and more attractive place to ride a bike
- Discussed how cycling and bike parking grows the local economy and how the committee could use this information to strengthen their relationship with local businesses
- Identified people and organizations who could be allies in advocacy
We then joined the Melrose Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee at the Sally Frank’s Farmers' Market for the first Bike Day. Showers saw a great deal of excitement for bicycling during Bike Day where, "[Committee] staff answered cyclists' questions, talked about rules of the road, and [demonstrated] how to change a flat tire." Mass in Motion: Melrose/Wakefield also provided helmets, and we helped out with helmet fittings and informational materials for kids and adults. Visiting the market gave us a chance to connect with Melrose's enthusiastic bicycling community and learn more about how the city can improve cycling.
After engaging with the Melrose Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee in our meeting and the Melrose community at the farmers' market, we were able to work with the committee to identify assets that will help them grow bicycling for transportation in Melrose. Some of these assets are
- A farmer’s market that sets up near a commuter rail. Here the committee can promote cycling and provide education and safety trainings in a location with a lot of foot (and wheel) traffic, as they did during Bike Day. The farmer’s market is also a good place to meet cyclists who might be interested in advocacy.
- A nearby T station, Oak Grove, with a Pedal & Park bike cage. The secure bike parking at a convenient location gave the committee the idea to encourage a group of commuters to ride together to this station. Creating this convoy will attract potential cyclists who want support, encouragement, or tips.
- An active cycling community in place. In Melrose a lot of people already ride their bikes for transportation. This community of users will help show a need for biking infrastructure and are likely to be advocates.
- A few popular corridors wide enough for bike lanes. Bikes lanes often encourage more riders.
- A potential ally in the local business community. By working with local businesses, which benefit financially from a greater cycling community, the committee can create strong support and backing for projects that require city approval or funding, such as bike racks. As with new bike lanes, adding bike parking encourages cyclists to shop and dine.
Melrose is just one example of how MassBike’s Bikeable Communities Program helps local advocates improve cycling in a city or town by providing support and education. Your community’s opportunities, needs, and wants for biking might be different than what you have read about in Melrose. If you would like to discuss our Bikeable Communities Program and what it could do for your neighborhood, please email Program Manager Barbara Jacobson for more information.
Watson remembers biking in the streets of Massachusetts at the beginning of his tenure at MassBike. "Bike commuters were bravely riding along, but largely limited to the strongest and most fearless among us," he wrote in his announcement (pdf). "There were precious few bike lanes in the state, and none at all in Boston. State transportation policies were just beginning to contemplate biking and walking, but that had not yet translated to change on the streets. Little or no funding was dedicated to bicycle infrastructure or education."
Now, eight years later, much has improved. Massachusetts has installed more bike lanes and increased state funding for bike paths. More residents have an interest in biking for transportation and health. In a time when federal funding for biking and walking has been cut, Massachusetts has created a state policy to triple biking, walking, and transit, and is providing funding to make it happen. With David at the helm, MassBike has:
- Launched our Safe Routes to School Program in 2008, which has reached more than 11,000 kids
- Championed the Bicyclist Safety Bill, which became law in 2009
- Trained MBTA bus drivers since 2010 to better prepare drivers for interactions with bicyclists
- Successfully advocated for improved bike parking at transit stations and bike racks on all buses
- Expanded Bay State Bike Week in 2010 to a statewide celebration in partnership with MassDOT
- Introduced legislation in 2011 (and again in 2013) to protect Vulnerable Road Users
- Secured expanded bicycle hours on the MBTA Blue Line in 2011
- Published bike safety information in seven languages in 2012 (now 10 languages!)
- Launched the Bikeable Communities Program in 2012, which has helped more than 40 cities and towns improve bicycling conditions
- Created the annual Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit in 2012
- Helped educate police officers in 2014 with our training video
- In 2014 successfully advocated for increased funding for bike paths, including more than $130 million in the MassDOT capital budget and $377 million in bonding authority
"A tireless advocate - and a tireless cyclist - David has been instrumental in seeing so many wins for safe biking in Massachusetts," said Jim Bradley, President of MassBike's Board of Directors. "We thank him for serving MassBike, bicyclists in Massachusetts, and the community so well these last eight years. We will remember his time at MassBike as one of action, commitment, and enthusiasm."
The Board now begins a search for a new Executive Director. The right person will capitalize on the successes of Watson's tenure to provide Massachusetts with a future of greater acceptance of and enthusiasm for bicycling.
"I am very proud of the team, the organization, and the partnerships we have built together over the past eight years," Watson wrote of the MassBike board, staff, and community. "This has been the most challenging and the most rewarding job I have ever had, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity to do it."