EVERETT, Mass. (Feb. 22, 2016) - Wearing hard hats and reflective vests, the group of engineers, firefighters, transportation experts and a few bike advocates stood along the sidewalk of Everett’s Broadway in plain view of Boston’s skyline. Indeed the group stood right on the Boston city line.
Voices were raised to overcome the din of diesel engines growling south on Route 99. Amid the slush of February, this group looked more like a stranding than the vanguard of 21st Century design. And yet they seemed hopeful.
Because Everett is on the cusp of a multi-modal transportation overhaul.
“The corridor has received unprecedented levels of analysis and scrutiny by planners, traffic engineers and developers in the past three years,” said Jay Monty, the first transportation planner ever hired by this city founded in 1630. He has been on the job just one year. “I can’t count the number of times I’ve brought ideas to the table that would get laughed out of the room in other communities, but here, folks are willing to give them a try. Already we’re talking about true cycle tracks that would connect downtown Everett to Medford - and the T-Station at Wellington - that could be a reality within the next two years.”
A review of a map, as always, is revelatory. Everett is wedged against the Mystic River which fans northward into a floodplain with wetlands, estuaries, streams and things folks used to call “swamps.”
Consider the next juxtaposition. To the south, Logan Airport is - like Everett - sits on the eastern side of the Mystic River. And all of the fresh produce, fish, meat, and time-sensitive products for the entire New England market arrive there. To add to that impact countless liquid natural gas, heating oil, crude oil and petroleum products crucial to the heating of New England homes arrive via ships and head up the Mystic River to either East Boston or Everett.
Given hazardous material restrictions and tolls on the tunnels and bridges, most of those trucks go through Everett, with its bridge over the Mystic River.
“As the only north-south access between Boston and Everett, the competition for space on the road between trucks, cars, transit, cyclists and pedestrians is intense at nearly all hours of the day,” explained Monty. “It is an incredibly busy transit corridor as well. MBTA buses that utilize the corridor can, at peak times, be carrying upwards of 30 percent of all the people moving through the corridor, making it one of the busiest transit corridors in the region. Then of course, is the crucial role it plays for the growing numbers of cyclists as it is the only means of reaching a number of north shore communities from Boston and the only way of reaching East Boston from downtown.
Enter Steve Winslow
“We have already seen an uptick in bicycle commuting in our area and would expect a surge if bicyclists had an off-road alternative to Route 99,” said Stephen Winslow of Malden. “An off-road bicycle route can help break that bottleneck and ensure residents of the Northern Strand communities have access to the new economy jobs being created nearby.”
Winslow and his stalwart group “Bike to the Sea” worked more than two decades to build his vision. Inspired by the success of the nearby Minuteman Bikeway, Winslow’s group augured through social and political granite to build the Northern Strand Rail Trail along an abandoned rail bed running from Malden and Everett through the North Shore wetlands of Revere, and Saugus. The goal has been to afford these working class citizens a healthy and active route to the beaches of Lynn, Swampscott and Nahant and the economic offerings of Boston, Cambridge and Somerville.
Only two issues remain: one bike-hating mayor in Lynn that has blocked the completion of the path to the sea, and the connection between the Everett terminus and a safe corridor into Boston along the Mystic River.
The southernmost bridge and most direct route is along Route 99, which requires a cyclist to travel through Sweetser Circle, a massive rotary interchange with Route 16.
“Getting through the circle can only be described as a circular game of Frogger! There are cars coming into the circle from seemingly every angle that are not really interested in me and more interested in getting as quickly as possible to the point where they can sit in traffic exiting the circle,” said Kurt Maw, who routinely commutes from his home in Salem to his job in Boston, where he serves as principal engineer of Essential Inc.
After surviving Sweetser Circle cyclists then tackle the metal-grate Malden Bridge, the approach to which is inside the Boston city boundaries, created by a curious tongue of land. This is the same four-lane bridge used by motorists, buses, and all those trucks unable to go through the tunnels. This raucous roaring corridor includes a bike lane that services a number of stalwart riders each day. But the comfort level along this corridor is barely tolerable by the most experienced of cyclists.
“Once you manage to get through the circle and onto 99 heading south toward Sullivan Square, there is a striped bike lane,” said Maw. “It doesn't really do a whole lot to offer a feeling of comfort due to the the number of driveways, and parking lots along the way….It's a two-mile stretch of chaos. While the bike lane that's there helps, if there was a way to move bikes off of this section of road it would be amazing!”
Before we even discuss bicycles, let’s go back to those things folks once called “swamps.”
In the mid-1800s the folks who ran Boston’s Union Oyster House harvested shellfish in those swamps. But by the turn of the 20th Century industry had set up shop. In 1929 Monsanto established operations there. They employed thousands of Everett residents and received regular praise from local officials and the newspaper.
But there were also routine chemical mishaps and employee dangers. During the 1950s there were more than five considerable chemical leaks. While Monsanto served as the flagship, Everett and other area communities along the Mystic River watershed hosted dozens of chemical plants.
During the 1980s the firms closed up and left behind this terrible legacy. Little substantial development or improvements could take place due to the incredible environmental burden of doing so.
Enter Steve Wynn
“The Wynn Casino is the proverbial elephant in the room, but many other property owners in the corridor are already looking to sell or upzone their properties,” said Monty, noting the Assembly Row development on the Somerville side of the river and growing developments in Charlestown and Chelsea.
With the imminent construction of a casino by Steve Wynn, bicycle advocates, environmentalists, and transportation planners find themselves with a curious ally with a big checkbook. To construct this casino, Wynn has already agreed to a massive environmental cleanup of the marshlands along the Mystic River, where the Department of Conservation and Recreation has been developing the Mystic River Reservation with assorted boardwalks and pathways. Wynn’s funds are going into coffers controlled by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Everett has applied, with MassBike support, for a grant to fund a study to close that one kilometer gap of Broadway to the river, which could include $250,000 to study the potential for constructing a bike-ped bridge over the river.
“The impact of this would be huge, particularly for those cyclists and pedestrians coming from Malden and points north as they would be able to bypass the dangerous intersection at Sweetser Circle (Route 16 and Broadway) and all of lower Broadway. If we’re ultimately successful in constructing a bridge across the Mystic River to Assembly Row and the Orange Line, the north shore will have the equivalent of what Cambridge and Arlington have at Alewife: Direct off-road bicycle and pedestrian access to the MBTA,” said Monty. “In some respects, Everett has been off the radar for many years, and is now awakening to its immense potential as a vibrant and connected urban community.”
This could also literally and politically pave the way to create a car-free bridge that connects Somerville to a North Shore route. Such a connection would create a bicycle bridge between Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge to the more than a dozen communities on the North Shore. A day ride from Boston to the beaches of Beverly would become a reasonable 17-mile ride. Millennials and students could gain access to housing in Saugus, Revere and Lynn and pedal comfortably less than 10 miles into Boston. And residents of Everett, Malden and Chelsea could gain quick, affordable access to the jobs in the creative corridor that houses Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Biogen and dozens of other high-paying jobs that are now all but impossible to reach via transit or bicycle.
“What excites me every day working in Everett is the extent to which other communities, state agencies, advocacy groups, etc. are interested in doing work here and realizing the potential that exists.”
Chief Fisher,I hope this finds you well. As the executive director of MassBike, I would like to request a meeting with you in the near future to discuss the numerous reports I received over the weekend about cyclists being stopped by your offices while riding through Carlisle.
From all reports I received your officers were professional and courteous during these stops. They reported the town would heretofore require bicyclists to ride single file. We would like to work with the town to understand the concerns of the townspeople of Carlisle. As a resident of Lexington, I routinely ride through your beautiful town, often times leading groups of beginners and novices who are preparing for such charity rides as the Best Buddies Challenge and the Pan Mass Challenge. I diligently preach the importance of courtesy for all on the roadways.
But a strict single-file policy is problematic for several reasons.
We believe the conflicts in Carlisle could be best handled through some minor adjustments to engineering, education for all users, and enforcement of existing state laws for both motorists and cyclists. We would like to serve as a resource for all in this matter.
Could we find time to talk? We are happy to meet with you in the coming weeks.
[caption id="attachment_24473" align="alignleft" width="225"] Midtown Greenway, Minneapolis, MN[/caption]
Typically ridership decreases as the weather turns colder and there is an increase in snow and ice on the ground. However, there is a subset of the population that bikes year-round. I am happy to say that I’ve been commuting year-round since I started biking in Boston six years ago.
Interestingly, I discovered an entire conference dedicated to winter biking, the Winter Cycling Congress (WCC). I had the distinct pleasure of speaking at the Fourth annual WCC held last week in Minneapolis, the first time the conference has been held in the United States. Minneapolis proved to be a fantastic place for [winter] biking (I’m sure biking there in the summer is great as well). Both the on-road and trail networks were well maintained and usable. Strong mayoral support and communication between the Department of Public Works and maintenance staff has created an impressive program for snow removal. When Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges was elected mayor in 2014, her first proclamation in office was naming January 3rd “Winter Biking Day.” Having that kind of support from the mayor highlighted the prioritization of bicycling as a legitimate mode of transportation for all users during all seasons.
Best Practices for Promoting Winter Biking
- Political will, notably mayoral support, is essential for four-season infrastructure to be designed, implemented & maintained.
- Engaging with DPWs and maintenance teams at the onset of design and implementation of separated bike lane projects is important. By including DPWs and maintenance at the onset of the project, it creates cohesion amongst departments.
- Bicyclist and pedestrian counters work even when covered with layers of snow and ice, so there are opportunities to figure out ridership numbers year-round.
- Winter ridership depends on a variety of factors, not just precipitation or temperature, but rather on snow clearance and perceptions of safety.
- In order for a municipality to have a year-round bicycling culture, the infrastructure must be designed with winter in mind - not as an afterthought or reaction to a storm.
- Many municipalities such as Minneapolis and Montreal have winter bike maintenance plans to ensure that priority and connected bike routes are plowed.
- Design separated bike lanes so that they are wide enough for plowing equipment, such as tool cats, to successfully remove snow.
- Covered bike parking at transit stations will promote multi-modal transportation year-round.
Temporary Solutions: Sneckdowns
[caption id="attachment_24475" align="alignright" width="300"] Sneckdown in Downtown Boston, February 2015[/caption]
“Sneckdown” is buzzword amongst sustainable and active transportation advocates and planners. A sneckdown is a form of traffic calming that uses snow to give a clear depiction of how much roadway space cars need. The snow-covered space on the roadways indicates opportunities for space to be reallocated for different uses such as bike lanes, protected bike lanes or curb extensions. Sneckdowns act as traffic calming mechanism and tap into a complete streets design framework with minimal costs.
What I found interesting was that usually when people talk about biking in the winter, some proclaimed doing so with gusto, whereas others sheepishly confessed to doing so. If bicyclists are a niche market, those who bike year-round are a niche within a niche. The WCC brings to the forefront many of the issues year-round riders face: mainly, cold weather, maintenance concerns and desires for connectivity to the road network.
For biking to be a legitimate and safe form of daily, year-round transportation, bike infrastructure needs to receive the same degree of maintenance and prioritization given to cars. As ridership continues to increase, bicycling year-round will become as normal and as easy as, well, riding a bike.
One thing that I really enjoyed about being in a city that celebrated winter biking was that the people embraced winter, rather than treating it as an obstacle or something that “just happens.” I think that it is important to understand that seasons are not inherently bad, they add richness and diversity to places. By focusing on the creative opportunities winter provides, rather than as barriers or obstacles, it creates a sustainable and diverse city that is navigable by bike year-round.
[caption id="attachment_24476" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Hiawatha LRT Trail, Minneapolis[/caption]
Interested in getting into winter biking? Winter Bike to Work Day is this Friday, February 12! Please visit www.winterbiketoworkday.org for more information. Join us at Flat Black @ 50 Broad Street for a special Rise & Bike at 8 AM on the 12th! Do you need something cool to stay warm? Check out our neck gaiters here.
WESTFIELD, Mass. (Feb. 8, 2016) - For many Bay State residents the city of Westfield is not much more than an exit on the MassPike. But this college town could soon boast the state's longest protected bike lane and serve as a nexus of a network of bike paths stretching north to Amherst and south to New Haven, Connecticut.
Note the word is “could.”
There is a good plan and a great plan. With the good plan, Westfield will have a bike lane running the full length of Western Avenue which connects downtown with Westfield State University. But MassDOT, led by the state's Complete Streets Czar Luciano Rabito, is urging the city to use state funds to go with the great plan: a protected bike lane.
The plans were developed in response to a cluster of crashes – including some fatal collisions – identified in this college town.
Per usual, a handful of abutters were able to stall the plan. Mayor Daniel Knapik was opposed to the protected bike lane. And the college administration took no stance. And local bike advocates failed to sufficiently raise their collective voice.
In November, effectively the eleventh hour of the project's design phase, things changed. Voters elected a new mayor, Brian Sullivan. Westfield State brought in a new president, Dr. Raymond Torrecilha, both of whom were favorable to the path. And local advocates, led by MassBike's Pioneer Valley Chapter President Sean Condon, rallied to the cause.
“The city seems to be leaning towards it,” said Condon, who attended the public hearing held Jan. 26. Held simply to provide input for city officials on this one issue, the hearing filled an auditorium. “There were clear lines drawn between those for and those against. But more spoke for (the protected bike lane) than against.”
Supporters tended to be younger residents with children. Opponents typically were older. According to Condon, however, a number of elder residents spoke in favor of the path, noting it created a safer city for their grandchildren.
“The Western Avenue protected bike lane will play a significant role in connecting population centers and recreation destination,” said Peter Sutton, the new Massachusetts Bike-Ped coordinator. “It is a connector between major destinations including Baystate Noble Hospital, Westfield State University, the Westfield YMCA, Stanley Park, Highland Elementary School, downtown and off-campus WSU student housing, Amelia Park campus, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield, Westfield Middle School South and more.”
And that is within the city. The connectivity to other cycling networks could amplify the impact this protected bike lane would have on Westfield’s economy and quality of life.
Currently the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail is less than four miles long but connects to the Southwick Trail and a network or 30 miles of trails extending deep into Connecticut. During this year two major developments are expected with the completion of the Westfield River Levee trail and the completion of a trestle bridge across the Westfield River. That bridge will connect Westfields trails to roads through Southampton and on to the paths of Easthampton, Northampton, Hadley and Amherst. Southampton remains the lone community without a rail trail in the area.
To the east, plans are developing that would see major bike-friendly initiatives in West Springfield and Agawam, both of which are applying for Complete Streets funding. This week the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission’s Joint Transportation Committee will be hosting an all-day seminar that focuses primarily on Complete Streets policies.
Writing this next paragraph is hard to do without sounding like an “as-seen-on-TV” ad. BUT WAIT THERE IS MORE! The recent development of Amtrak's Vermonter service has seen the opening of stations in Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. Congress is pressing Amtrak to adopt roll-on access for bicycles. Public hearings are being held throughout 2016 on this subject along with other service elements of Amtrak. The public comment period has been extended through Feb. 16. To add your input, click here: NEC Future Comment Page
New policies within the Federal Transit Administration have also enabled municipalities to apply for funding to build bicycle accommodations – ranging from bike lanes to parking to signalized intersections – within a three-mile radius of any transit stop. Hence the entire greater Springfield area could see a labyrinth of bike friendly facilities.
All of this could patch into that Westfield network of trails and that protected bike lane. The entire Pioneer Valley could become one of the most bike-friendly areas in the United States with state officials seeing the value in marketing the “Happy Valley.”
Order yours today!
This month, as we get into planning our trip to the National Bike Summit in early March, MassBike is looking for your feedback and comments regarding federal transportation policy.
Rise and Bike is part of a MassBike event series, with a rotating panel of discussions on the 2nd Tuesday of every month. For more info, click here: http://massbike.org/
Just ask Board Member Tim Johnson and he'll tell you that these MassBike neck gaiters are the best cycling accessory you can get! Just enough to keep you warm on those extra chilly days and easy to carry in a pocket or toss in your bag. Stay warm while representing your statewide bicycle advocacy group!
Made from 100% polyester microfiber that wicks away moisture!
For over a decade, MassBike has coordinated the Massachusetts delegation to the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC. This is the nation’s largest annual bicycle advocacy event. It's an opportunity to go to Washington and let our congress know how important it is to continue promoting policies and funding that favor bicycling.
Even if you are new to legislative advocacy, don’t fear: we set up the meetings and train participants on what to do. We will discuss important bicycling issues, share stories, and network with other advocates from across the country.
If you have any questions or plan to join us, please feel free to call 617-542-2453 or email email@example.com
Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation: Update
MassDOT’s contractor, White-Skanska-Consigli (WSC), anticipates setting up the final configuration of Stage 3 by Thursday, February 11, 2016. The shift of the tracks to their temporary positions was completed over a series of Red Line Weekend Diversions. The relocation of the large barrier fence along the tracks will be completed by February 1. The installation of the upstream “Salt and Pepper” towers, hampered by the cold temperatures of mid-January, is complete with the last stones installed this week. Now that the towers are complete, removal of the staging will begin this weekend, followed by the placement of concrete sidewalks and curbs adjacent to the towers. Once the sidewalks and curbs are in place, the final sections of temporary fence needed for the new upstream bicycle lane can be installed. WSC anticipates the final set up for the upstream bicycle lane will be complete by the end of the day on Thursday, February 11, 2016, when inbound and outbound bike travel is shifted. Stage 3 work will take approximately eight months to complete. View the Stage 3 Graphic for travel space configuration along the Longfellow Bridge.
All bike travel, both inbound and outbound, will be shifted to the sidewalk on the upstream side of the bridge on February 11. During this stage, inbound vehicles and all pedestrians will continue to use the downstream side of the bridge.
Red Line Configuration
The construction of the temporary outbound Red Line track (called a “shoo-fly”) on the roadway is complete. The outbound trains were shifted to the shoo-fly track and the inbound trains were shifted to the old outbound track in mid-January. This shift allows WSC to rehabilitate the bridge under the current location of the MBTA inbound tracks.
The Cambridge-bound detour remains in place using the existing signed route from Charles Circle following Charles Street to Leverett Circle, Monsignor O’Brien Highway (Route 28)/Charles River Dam Road and Land Boulevard.
For more information, visit the project website at www.mass.gov/massdot/longfellowbridge. For questions or issues and concerns related to construction, please call the project hotline at 617-519-9892 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. View construction progress photos on MassDOT’s Longfellow Bridge Flickr Album.
MassDOT’s contractor, WSC, encourages drivers to avoid the area and seek alternate routes to minimize delays. Those traveling through the area should expect delays and should reduce speed and use caution. The schedule for this major infrastructure project is weather dependent and subject to change without notice.
BOSTON, M.A..- (January 25, 2016) - On March 1 the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition will take an anchor position in a shared work environment with potentially other transportation advocacy leaders at the Cambridge Innovation Center at 50 Milk Street in downtown Boston. The CIC houses co-working space in Kendall Square and Boston. The long term goal of the co-working space is to create a hub of active and sustainable transportation advocacy.
With proximity to the State House, Boston City Hall, and the Department of Transportation the Cambridge Innovation Center is the ideal location to act as home-base for the crucial work that is done with government partners. The shared space will further develop the collaborative efforts within the community, increase MassBike’s ability to effectively pursue change and strengthen a unified voice.
MassBike will be an active and engaged member of the diverse CIC community, hosting various events and educational programming throughout the year. The multi-floor facility specializes in creating affordable shared space environments with event space, conference facilities and professional communication design.
“We want to put our team in an exhilarating environment alongside some of the best and brightest thought leaders. The long term goal is to make the collective bicycle lobby in Massachusetts the strongest in America. In short, we want to go to the zone defense,” said MassBike Executive Director Richard Fries.