On Friday, April 18, Governor Patrick signed the Transportation Bond Bill (H.4046) into law, which provides for $12.7 billion in financing for transportation improvements across Massachusetts.
MassBike is very pleased with the outcome: $377,255,000 for the design, construction and repair of, or improvements to, pedestrian, bicycle and multi-use pathways; $50,000,000 for a Complete Streets certification and grant program to incentivize communities to create roads that are safe and convenient for everyone; and at least $230,796,100 in authorizations for specific path, roadway, and bridge projects across the Commonwealth that include significant bicycle or pedestrian infrastructure components. Overall, this represents a major increase in statewide funding for projects that will encourage and facilitate active transportation.
Throughout the process, MassBike and partner advocacy organizations worked hard to ensure the inclusion of these authorizations in the final bill. Regular updates on the status of the bill were provided here in our blog (here, here, and here). We thank Joint Transportation Committee co-chairs Senator Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and Representative William Straus (D-Mattapoisett), Senate Bonding Committee chairman Senator Brian Joyce (D-Milton), House Bonding Committee chairman Representative Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford), and conference committee members Reps. Straus, Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) and Peter Durant (R-Spencer) and Sens. McGee, Stephen Brewer (D-Barre) and Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) for their leadership. We also thank all of our members, supporters, and partners who helped us make the case to their legislators when it counted most.
We combed through the list of authorizations to identify all projects that clearly have a specific benefit for biking and walking and compiled them into a PDF (click here to view). These projects represent everything from roadway and streetscape projects that include Complete Streets design elements to shared-use trail projects to bike/pedestrian bridges. The status of these projects ranges from the early planning stages right up to shovel-ready. Some highlights include $1.3 million for the Watertown Greenway, $1.7 million for the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail, $3 million for the Grand Junction Rail Trail, and $56 million for various Complete Streets projects across Massachusetts.
With financing now authorized, the work for advocates shifts to ensuring that as much of this funding as possible is actually allocated and that these much-needed bicycle and pedestrian projects are constructed.
On Monday, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced the details of the new Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Awareness and Enforcement Program. In it's first year, the program will launch a statewide safety awareness campaign, work intensively in 12 communities statewide, and engage partnerships with Regional Planning Agencies, local leaders, and law enforcement officials. This initiative marks the first time Massachusetts has targeted federal highway safety funding specifically for bicyclist and pedestrian safety.
MassBike is excited to be a partner in this important project. Together with MassDOT, the Department of Public Health (DPH), and WalkBoston, we will work to increase roadway safety through a comprehensive awareness campaign targeted towards motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. MassBike's role in the new safety program will be multifaceted, and will include:
- Contributing to a new safety pamphlet, the first step in a larger public outreach campaign
- Training police officers on the laws related to bicyclists and motorist interactions with bicyclists so that they can perform more effective enforcement
- Updating training for truck drivers to include bicyclist and pedestrian safety
The core of our work in the first phase of the program will be targeted assessments and interventions in the 12 target communities to address their specific safety issues.
"There are two important things we need to do to both enhance bicyclist and pedestrian safety, and encourage more people to bike and walk," said MassBike Executive Director David Watson. "The first thing is improving our infrastructure to provide safer and more convenient options for people who bike and walk. The second is shifting the way people think about biking and walking and their role in the transportation system. This new program is a big step in the right direction on both fronts."
The 12 communities included in the initial phase of the program are Brockton, Cambridge, Fall River, Haverhill, Lynn, New Bedford, Newton, Pittsfield, Quincy, Salem, Somerville, and Watertown.
The City of Lowell is considering removing bike lanes on Father Morissette Boulevard less than a year after their installation.
Last August, the city installed the bike lanes between Pawtucket Street and Arcand Drive, following recommendations made in the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan. This was an important step towards making Lowell a more accommodating place for residents to ride bikes for transportation and recreation. Lowell blogs Art is the Handmaid of Human Good and Learning Lowell have both written extensively about the project.
Now, Mayor Rodney Elliott and City Councilor Rita Mercier have filed a motion to remove the bike lanes and revert Father Morissette Boulevard to its previous configuration, four lanes for car traffic. This motion will be debated at a City Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday April 29, at 6:30 PM. The meeting will take place at Lowell City Hall at 375 Merrimack Street.
Although we recognize there are concerns with the design of this specific bike lane, this is not a reason to remove it in haste. We believe this a great opportunity to open a dialogue on what the City of Lowell can do to continue improving its roadways, including Father Morissette Boulevard, for all road users.
We strongly encourage Lowell residents to attend tomorrow night's City Council meeting and speak up in favor of bicycle infrastructure. In order to get on the speaking order, you must register to speak on the motion with the City Clerk ahead in advance of the meeting: call 978-674-4161.
Can't make it to the meeting? Before tomorrow afternoon, call the office of Mayor Elliott (978-674-4040) and Councilor Mercier (978-453-2467) and share your thoughts. If you have a relationship with any of your councilors, we recommend contacting them directly as well. Alternatively, use this online contact form to send an electronic message to an individual member, or the entire City Council.
Here are specific points we think will be important to mention either at the meeting, on the phone, or via email:
- Conduct a full review of Father Morissette Boulevard: With less than a year on the ground, it is too soon to deem the bike lanes a failure. Before making any changes to the roadway, study how the bike lanes could be improved and connected to a broader network that will encourage more bicycle use across the city.
- More bike lanes, not less: City Manager Bernie Lynch noted that "More than 2/3 of residents surveyed identified bicycle infrastructure as a key opportunity for improving the City's transportation network." Bike lanes improve roadway safety for all users and encourage new people to try riding a bike. Getting more people to choose active transportation is an important part of reducing obesity and improving public health. Bicycle infrastructure has proven economic benefits, too.
- Form a Lowell Bicycle Committee: build local support and capacity for implementing the bike network recommendations made in the Lowell Downtown Evolution Plan.
By taking action now, you can let the Mayor and City Council know that Lowell residents support better infrastructure for biking, and at the same time lay the groundwork for ongoing bicycling improvements in Lowell. If you plan to attend, please let us know by emailing email@example.com.
Tomorrow, Thursday April 24 at 5pm, is an important deadline to submit public comments on the I-90 Allston Interchange Project.
At a meeting hosted two weeks ago, MassDOT presented its preliminary plans for the $260 million project, which will realign the Massachusetts Turnpike ramps, open up land for development, and aim to improve conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians. Right now, the project is still in the visioning phase.
Though construction is not expected to start until fall 2017, community groups and bike and pedestrian advocates, including MassBike, are hard at work developing strategies to ensure that new development will enhance the neighborhood, and that new roadways will be developed to put non-motorized users on an equal footing with motor traffic.
It is very important for MassDOT to hear from community members that they support biking and walking connections within the project area. Since this is such a large project, it touches Allston, Brighton, Brookline, Cambridge, and the BU campus. If you live, work, learn or play in or near the project area, we encourage you to review the presentation (PDF) and submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters should be addressed to:
Patricia Leavenworth, P.E., Chief Engineer
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116
ATTN: Bridge Project Management, Project File No. 606475
People's Pike, an ad-hoc advocacy group of community members and bike and pedestrian advocates, put together a helpful list of project goals you might consider mentioning if you choose to submit comment on the project:
- Transforming Cambridge Street from an overbuilt connector road into a world-class, mixed-use, “complete street” from Harvard Ave to the Charles River
- The “People’s Pike” - an off-road multi-use path with separated space for cyclists and pedestrians that runs alongside the rebuilt Turnpike and connects to the Dr. Paul Dudley White bike path on the Boston side of the Charles River, Memorial Drive via the Grand Junction railroad bridge, and Commonwealth Avenue
- A bike/ped overpass that replaces the unsafe and inaccessible Franklin Street footbridge over the Turnpike connecting Lincoln and Cambridge Streets
- Expanded Charles River parklands between Genzyme and the BU Bridge
- New complete streets over the relocated Turnpike that connect Packard’s Corner and North Allston
- Commuter rail connections to North Station and South Station with pedestrian access to these stations from both North and South Allston
- New direct connections between the Turnpike, Cambridge, and Storrow Drive that improve mobility for drivers
- Highway and rail infrastructure that supports future air rights development.
It's springtime, which means we are gearing up for all sorts of bike fun across Massachusetts.
UPDATE: Due to Saturday's weather forecast, Dorchester Bike Festival has been moved to Sunday, April 27.
This Sunday marks another year of Dorchester Bike Festival! MassBike is co-sponsoring the event. In addition, there will be free breakfast, free bike tune ups, a group bike ride, an obstacle course for kids, and prizes!
The festival takes place at the Ashmont T Station Park & Pedal Facility at 1970 Dorchester Avenue in Dorchester from 9 AM - Noon.
We hope to see you there!
State Representative Gailanne Cariddi of North Adams has filed an amendment to the state budget that would provide dedicated state funding for Mass in Motion, providing enough funding to maintain current investments. Representatives have until tomorrow afternoon (Friday, April 11) to sign on as co-sponsors. In order to be successful, we need to have lots of Reps, especially those from Mass in Motion communities, sign on in support.
What can you do to help secure state funding for Mass in Motion?
Please call your State Representative immediately and ask her or him to co-sponsor Rep. Cariddi's amendment to restore funding for Mass in Motion. A fact sheet about the amendment is here that you can share with your Rep. A list of all the Representatives from Mass in Motion communities is here, and includes their email, phone number, and social media handles.
Not sure who your State Representative is? Visit this page to find out.
Once you've called your representative, please take a moment to let us know you have by emailing email@example.com.
Thank you for your support in this effort. By taking action, you are helping to ensure that our communities have the resources to continue healthy transportation and active living programs that are making a real impact across our commonwealth.
Walking and Biking Advocates Make The Case For Active Transportation At The Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit
Last Thursday, advocates for better walking and biking came together for the 3rd annual Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit at the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill. Organized in partnership between MassBike and WalkBoston, the summit was an opportunity for attendees to meet with their elected leaders and talk about about the importance of promoting active transportation around the Commonwealth.
The keynote speaker this year was Department of Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, who talked about the Mass in Motion program and how expanding opportunities for walking and biking will be necessary for achieving important public health outcomes like reducing obesity and associated chronic diseases and bringing down health care costs.
This year's topics of discussion with lawmakers were the two safety bills, the Vulnerable Road Users Bill and the Bike Lane Protection Bill, the importance of continued funding for Mass in Motion programs, the necessity of gas tax indexing for meeting statewide mode shift goals, and increasing funding for Department of Conservation and Recreation to ensure adequate maintenance and staffing of their facilities.
MassBike and WalkBoston Executive Directors David Watson and Wendy Landman met with the the offices of House Speaker Robert DeLeo, as well as Joint Transportation Committee Co-Chairs Senator Thomas McGee and Representative Bill Straus. This past Monday, David Watson met with the office of Senate President Therese Murray. Altogether, summit attendees held a total of 22 meetings with their elected leaders.
As meetings continued into the afternoon, news spread of the tragic death of Eoin McGrory of Chelsea, who was killed while riding his bicycle in Charlestown. The news added a sense of urgency to following meetings, and reminded attendees of the importance of enhancing legal protections for vulnerable road users to making tragedies like this less frequent.
Much work still needs to be done to move the two bills forward, but momentum is clearly building following the positive conversations advocates had with their elected leaders, and the desire to do something in the wake of last Thursday's tragedy. MassBike, WalkBoston, and partner organizations will continue to engage elected leaders and policy makers on the range of important issues discussed at the Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit. There will also be many more opportunities for citizens to take action. You can keep up to date by subscribing to MassBike's email newsletter (scroll to the top of this page to sign up) and following MassBike on Facebook and Twitter.
Which bike tour takes you along scenic routes through quaint Central Massachusetts towns, including stops at swimming holes, homemade ice cream stands, and even a Trappist beer brewery, and let's you pedal along at your own pace while chatting with the new friends you just made at breakfast? The Mass BikePike Tour does, of course!
Now in it's seventh year, this tour, designed to appeal to riders with a range of experience and abilities, proudly calls itself “The Friendliest Ride in the East”. This year's tour will take place August 7 - 10.
[caption id="attachment_22131" align="alignleft" width="300"] Photo: Mass BikePike Tour[/caption]
The tour starts in Shirley, and riders will explore the apple country, visit the 18th century utopia of Harvard, savor the all-day breakfast at old-fashioned classic diner in Oxford, and try to pick which town green is the most beautiful – it's a tough call! Along with the beautiful scenery, riders can look forward to the climb to the top of Purgatory Chasm. Beer-lovers will enjoy the chance to ride by the monastery that is the first and only certified Trappist Beer brewery in the United States!
Each evening features a pre-dinner “social hour”, a nightly campfire/stargazing, and optional field trips to local attractions. The Mass BikePike Tour is affordably priced and all proceeds benefit MassBike. The tour is fully supported with cues, arrows, sag vehicles, rest stops and staff.
Spaces go quickly, so sign up now to reserve your space! The tour also offers volunteer spots to offset the cost of signing up. For more information, please visit www.massbikepike.org.
Residents of Easthampton and surrounding communities in the Pioneer Valley will have to seek alternate routes if they are planning to travel along the Manhan Rail Trail corridor this spring and summer. MassBike's Pioneer Valley Chapter (MassBike PV) reported the closure on Facebook yesterday.
The closure is due to construction related to the Pioneer Mills Project, and portions of the trail will be closed through June. MassBike PV has provided a helpful map of the construction area and suggested detours. The Manhan Rail Trail has a total length of 6 miles within Easthampton and continues for several miles into Northampton where it connects with a system of trails in that city.
Follow MassBike PV on Facebook for regular updates. Do you have any updates about this project to report? Please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do the Northampton Tweed Ride, Jamaica Plain Free Pancake Breakfast, Franklin Bike Rodeo, and over 170 other local bike events around Massachusetts all have in common?
They are all part of Bay State Bike Week, the annual celebration of human-powered transportation across Massachusetts. With temperatures quickly rising, it's time to polish off that dirty bike you've been riding all winter, or dust off the one that's been idling through the coldest months, and get ready for this year's festivities.
Every year, bike enthusiasts across Massachusetts plan events in their communities. Events range from bike safety classes for children to rides of silence to commuter breakfasts and beyond. Last year's festivities even included a tour of Pioneer Valley wineries!
This year's Bay State Bike Week will be from May 10 through May 18. Visit the Bay State Bike Week website to learn about events happening in your local area, how to plan an event, or to add your event to the calendar. Be sure to like Bay State Bike Week on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and keep up to date with the hashtag #BSBW.
Bay State Bike Week is a partnership between MassBike, MassDOT, and MassRIDES, in collaboration with local advocacy leaders, bike shop owners, and anyone else who likes seeing others go by bike.