Comments on the Arlington Improvements to the Minuteman Bikeway

MassDOT and the Town of Arlington are moving ahead with the Arlington Center Safe Travel Project, which would redesign the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, Pleasant Street, and Mystic Street in Arlington. The aim of the project, which has been in the works since spring 2011, is to develop a connection for the Minuteman Bikeway at this busy and often hectic intersection, while improving safety and mobility for all users but particularly bicyclists and pedestrians.

On April 23, MassDOT held a public hearing for comments on the 25% design. At the hearing, MassBike Executive Director David Watson praised the project's aim to further the mobility and safety of all users of the intersection. In the spirit of discussion and given MassBike's expertise in promoting safe cycling across the Commonwealth, David also offered specific suggestions that would drastically improve the design's functionality. His comments center around the  particular needs of the less experienced, vulnerable bicyclists who frequent the Minuteman Bikeway.

Below is the letter MassBike sent to MassDOT Chief Engineer Thomas Broderick, summarizing David's thoughts on pursuing a design that promotes safety above all while keeping an eye to the convenience of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.



Subject: Comments on Arlington Intersection Improvements, Project #606885


Dear Mr. Broderick:

I am writing both on behalf of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) and myself as an Arlington resident. MassBike is the statewide bicyclist advocacy group, promoting a bicycle-friendly environment and encouraging bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation. This letter summarizes the comments I made at the public hearing on April 23, 2013.

First, I would like to thank MassDOT and the Town of Arlington for pursuing this project to improve this extraordinarily busy and complicated intersection. Everyone who has observed the operation of this intersection knows that it presents significant safety and mobility issues for all users - motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians alike, but most especially users of the Minuteman Bikeway. Both MassDOT and Arlington have demonstrated their ongoing support for biking and walking.

The proposed design includes 5-foot bikes lanes adjacent to 7-foot parking lanes on both sides of Massachusetts Avenue, a signalized bicycle crossing at Swan Place, and extension of the bikeway through Uncle Sam Park adjacent to the sidewalk. All of these improvements are within acceptable design standards, but my concern is that they do not go far enough to significantly improve bicyclist safety and mobility.

People riding bicycles on the Minuteman Bikeway have already made the important choice that they do not want to ride in the roadway with traffic. While some ride the Minuteman for convenience (e.g., to access Alewife Station), many more use it because they do not feel safe or comfortable riding in traffic. The Minuteman is a destination unto itself, one of the most-used rail trails in the United States, even drawing people who drive to Arlington or the other communities along the path for the sole purpose of riding their bikes on the Minuteman. It is a popular destination for families bicycling with their children, often very young children just learning how to ride. All of these people have chosen not to ride on the road, yet these are the very people the proposed design directs into on-road bicycle facilities that meet only the bare minimum standards for the safety of even experienced bicyclists.

In order to attract bicyclists on the Minuteman to use the new facilities, they must both very safe and very convenient. The proposed design is neither, requiring bicyclists to ride in traffic and make two-stage crossings.

While minimum-width facilities are certainly acceptable from a design perspective, particularly in constrained spaces, and adequately serve bicyclists who have chosen to ride in the roadway, such facilities do not adequately serve bicyclists who do not want to ride in traffic. These are the least experienced, most vulnerable bicyclists. Yet the proposed design would have them cross busy streets, enter the traffic flow, and ride in minimum-width bike lanes adjacent to parking where they are at risk for being doored.

When working to enhance the safety and mobility of all users in constrained space, it is essential to find the right balance between the safety and needs of all user groups. As currently proposed, the design does not find that balance. Instead, it squeezes all roadway dimensions down to bare minimums in order to shoehorn bike lanes without impacting motor vehicle capacity or parking at all. That is not balance - that is continuing the historic prioritization of motor vehicles over all other users, with bicyclists and pedestrians left on the margins. This is inconsistent with the context-sensitive approach of the MassDOT Project Development and Design Guide, with Complete Streets requirements of the Healthy Transportation Compact, with current federal policy on bicycle and pedestrian facilities, and with the Mode Shift goals of the GreenDOT policy.

While minimum bicycle facilities are acceptable in many contexts, here, in the unique situation created by the discontinuous Minuteman Bikeway, more is required to actually meet the project's safety and mobility goals. During the design process, alternatives were discussed that would have provided for greater separation from traffic for bicyclists making the Minuteman connection. Among these alternatives were a two-way cycletrack on the south side of Massachusetts Avenue and a "cross bike" or diagonal crossing through the Route 60 intersection, which together would create an almost continuous protected connection between the two sections of the bikeway. I urge MassDOT and the Town to reexamine these and other concepts to provide greater protection for bicyclists.

The primary reason that more-protected bicycle facilities cannot fit in the current design is the retention of on-street parking between Swan Place and Route 60. I completely understand the concerns of the business community and nearby residents about these parking spaces. But we are weighing the convenience of motorists against the safety of bicyclists, and it seems clear that known, significant safety concerns outweigh a handful of parking spaces in this context. With the extra seven feet available if those spaces are removed, many better options for bicyclists become possible, such as the two-cycletrack, buffered bike lanes, or simply wider bike lanes.

I also appreciate the safety concerns and complexity of the cross bike idea. But there is a strong desire line for bicyclists (and pedestrians) to make this movement, and many people do so today during the left turn signal phase from Route 60 to Massachusetts Avenue. The proposed design does nothing to protect or legitimize this movement, instead continuing the current situation requiring bicyclists to cross twice, in two signal phases, to make the Minuteman connection or simply continue onto Massachusetts Avenue. This inherently creates conflicts between bicyclists and pedestrians in the crosswalks, and those conflicts need to be addressed, perhaps with separate bicycle and pedestrians zones at the crossings, regardless of whether a cross bike is implemented.

I support MassDOT and Arlington in their efforts to make this difficult intersection safer for everyone, but I think we need to do better for bicyclists than the proposed design. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project, and I look forward to working with the project team to meet the project goals.


Very truly yours,

David Watson
Executive Director

Bay State Bike Week Starts May 11!

Just around the corner is a statewide celebration of two-wheeled, human-powered transportation: Bay State Bike Week! Be sure to check out this year's calendar of events so that you don't miss out on the free breakfasts, t-shirts and other swag, and fun rides that make this week a truly unique time for Massachusetts cyclists!

There are more than 120 events planned statewide for the nine days of Bay State Bike Week 2013. Here's a sampling from across the Commonwealth:

Be sure to sign up for the MassCommute Bicycle Challenge if you haven't already. Organizations and companies of all sizes compete against one another to rack up the most miles and trips biked during the week through this site. This year there are also individual awards in categories like "Fearless Commuter" and "Bicycle Love Story."

A big thanks goes out to our partners at MassDOT and MassRIDES for helping to make this event possible, and to the scores of event organizers who make this possible. Let's make the 2013 Bay State Bike Week the biggest and best ever!

MassBike Is Hiring!

We are excited to announce two great job opportunities. We are hiring a part-time Bike Safety Instructor for the Boston area and a Project Coordinator based in Springfield, Massachusetts. If you or anyone you know would be interested in either of these positions, please send in an application. We are expecting to close the hiring process within a few weeks, so you'll need to act quickly.

Bike Safety Instructor

Our Instructors deliver the bike safety education for our Education Program. We currently have four instructors located around the state, but are looking for an additional instructor for the Boston Metro area. The key to this position is having a flexible schedule, as many of the classes we teach are during the day, though occasionally on nights or weekends. Ideal candidates will have teaching experience and are intimately familiar with bicyclist issues. Time commitment will only rarely exceed 20 hours per month. To see the job description, click here.

Project Coordinator

We are searching for a top-notch candidate to help the City of Springfield build its bicycle and pedestrian network. The Project Coordinator is a full-time position based in Springfield that will work closely with staff from the City and from the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. An ideal candidate would have a Master's Degree and a minimum one year of experience, or two to four years of experience doing related work. Spanish language skills and familiarity with or residency in Springfield a HUGE plus. To see the job description, click here.

Christina Clarke Genco Mother’s Day Memorial Ride

The second annual Christina Clarke Genco Mother’s Day Memorial Ride will be held on May 12, 2013 to support the Christina Clarke Genco Foundation. The memorial ride commemorates Christina Genco, who was tragically killed in June 2011 while on a cross-country cycling trip to raise funds for affordable housing groups like Habitat for Humanity.

Registration for the Christina Clarke Genco Mother's Day Memorial Ride is $40, and can be completed online. Funds raised in the memorial ride will support projects within each of the Foundation's target categories: 1) Affordable Housing; 2) Safe Biking; and 3) Women’s Lacrosse Scholarship.

Join us for a day of fun, filled with food, music, prizes and the joy of giving back to the community. This day is designed for families and elite cyclists alike, with bike routes including 3.4, 17, 34, and 68 miles.  These route distances reflect the number 34 in honor of Christina’s lacrosse jersey number.  A safe biking clinic will also be provided.

Want to learn more? Email

Longfellow Bridge Construction: Progress, But Questions Remain

MassDOT recently held a public meeting with the firm selected to perform the reconstruction of the Longfellow Bridge, scheduled to start in earnest later this year and continue until 2016. Click here to see the April 9th meeting presentation.

Originally, MassDOT intended to detour all Cambridge-bound motor vehicle and bicycle traffic for the duration of the project, but MassBike and other advocates made a strong case to maintain two-way bicycle travel. For people riding just a few miles under their own power, a detour of a mile or more would discourage people from bicycling, at a time when we should be doing everything possible to shift people from driving to other biking, walking, or transit.

Thankfully, MassDOT listened, and the plan now is to maintain two-way bicycle travel, throughout construction - even though car traffic to Cambridge will be detoured the entire time! Construction will occur in several phases to permit work on different parts of the bridge, and during each phase the lane configuration will shift positions. Most of the time, bicyclists will enjoy dedicated bike lanes, though sometimes will share sidewalk space with pedestrians. We understand the very tight space constraints during construction, and we thank MassDOT for doing the best they can for bicyclists.

We are concerned, however, with the connections to local roadways and the Charles River paths on both sides of the river, both during and after construction. No plans have been shown for how those connections will work, especially as the lane configuration on the bridge shifts from side to side. These connections, especially in Charles Circle on the Boston side, and to the paths on the Cambridge side, are already challenging without the added complexity of construction. The project engineers do not seem to have a plan for involving advocates in these all-important designs, which could compromise bicyclist and pedestrian (and motorist) safety. Click here to see MassBike's formal comment letter to MassDOT.

We hope (and have requested) that MassDOT will continue the collaborative effort that led to the current design for the bridge as the designs for these critical connections move forward.

Though it was not the focus of this hearing, it should be noted that bicycle and pedestrian advocates, including MassBike, continue to encourage MassDOT to rethink the Boston-bound side of the bridge to better provide for future bicyclist and pedestrian needs.

Beacon Hill Update

[caption id="attachment_20817" align="alignleft" width="300"] Mayor Lisa Wong at the Bike/Walk Summit[/caption]On Thursday, April 11th, 50 bicycle and pedestrian advocates joined MassBike and WalkBoston for the Massachusetts Bike/Walk Summit. We heard Wendy Landman of WalkBoston, David Watson of MassBike, and Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong discuss why encouraging biking and walking in our communities is such a pressing issue. And, most importantly, local advocates met with their legislators and their staff members to urge them to adequately fund active transportation and to increase our legal protections.

The Summit could not have come at a better time. On Saturday, April 13th (two days after the event), the Senate debated and then voted on a five-year, $800 million per year transportation package. This is much more than the $500 million bill passed by the House, which Governor Deval Patrick has threatened to veto since it falls so far short of his ten-year, $1.2 billion per year plan.

Transportation for Massachusetts, a coalition of organizations including MassBike and WalkBoston, released a statement on the Senate's transportation bill. Here is an excerpt:
As passed, the bill makes progress by closing yearly budget shortfalls and begins to address our significant maintenance backlog. However, it does not provide sufficient funding to move our transportation system into the 21st century. The bill’s revenue projections are too optimistic and the total funds insufficient.

Because two different versions of the bill were passed by the separate chambers, they will now go to a conference committee. The differences will have to be worked out, and MassBike is hopeful that the end result will do two things:

  • Restore dedicated funding for shared-use paths, and ensure that biking and walking are included in everyday road and bridge projects.

  • Maintain, or ideally increase, the Senate's bottom line funding for transportation - though the latter seems unlikely.

Finally, we asked Summit attendees to ask their legislators to support specific pieces of bike/pedestrian safety legislation, which you can find here. Because the Legislature's focus so far this session has been on funding, the first public hearings for these bills have not yet been scheduled. We'll let you know just as soon as that happens.

As always, we are going to count on your support to call up your legislators and tell them that these issues matter. We will be issuing action alerts as the need arises so that the needs of bicyclists don't get lost in the broader legislative conversation. Thanks as always, we couldn't do it without you.

Welcome Our New Events And Outreach Manager

Please welcome aboard our newest team member to MassBike, Kyle Butler. Kyle has taken the role of Events and Outreach Manager, and has already dived deep into the work of getting the details perfect for Bike Night, the Summer Century, and the Berkshires to Boston Tour. In case you haven't noticed, MassBike has a lot going on this summer, and Kyle is going to ensure that these events are going to be super-fun celebrations on two wheels.

Switching gears from working in pediatric orthopedics, Kyle brings what was for him an activity in his spare time to a full-time career. He was first bitten by the cycling bug in college when he joined the Northeastern University Cycling Club. From there he helped to create Boston’s elite cycling team, Green Line Velo. Running weekly Wednesday night social group rides, hosting bicycle repair clinics, and organizing the Purgatory Road Race (which hosts the Massachusetts Road Race State Championship) have built the foundation for Kyle to take MassBike events to the next level.

Though you’ve most likely seen him driving a pedicab, leading a Bike Friday convoy or managing the course marshals at the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup Professional Criterium, Kyle is looking forward to putting his passion and skills into managing these upcoming MassBike events. Bike Night is our first big event coming up on June 7th! Be sure to chat him up while enjoying your cocktail and admiring the velo-couture.

Submit Your Bay State Bike Week Event ASAP

The month of May - Bike Month - is almost here. That means that Bay State Bike Week is just around the corner. We've already started getting events submitted for the upcoming week of bicycle celebrations (May 11-19). There is a Bike to School Day on the Cape, a Bike Rodeo in the Pioneer Valley, and a Bike Film Festival in Metro Boston, and the MassCommute Bicycle Challenge, to name only a few events.

Now is the time to submit your event to the calendar.

During the week of May 11-19, people across the state will be searching for events in their community or region - this calendar connects them up with your great event! Plus, registering your event for Bay State Bike Week also does the following:

  • Makes your event eligible for Bay State Bike Week swag, such as t-shirts and reflective ankle straps.

  • Provides branding materials for promotion of the event.

  • Gives event attendees a chance to win great prizes in a drawing!

If you have already registered your event, but want to request materials for Bay State Bike Week, check out this page here. If you have any questions about submitting an event to the calendar, requesting materials, or anything else, please do not hesitate to email

Finally, if you haven't yet planned an event but are interested in doing so, it's not too late! There is still plenty of time to put together a bike ride, bike breakfast, or other event for your community. We have included both weekends to allow for more recreational events, and not just work commuting. Check out our Event Planning Resources for more information on how to plan an event.

Cycle The WAVE Massachusetts Is Coming To Ashland

Women and girls of all ages and abilities
are invited to join this non-competitive cycling event.

On Sunday, June 23, 2013, the first East Coast event, Cycle the WAVE Massachusetts, will start and end at historic Marathon Park, Pleasant St., Ashland. All proceeds will benefit the local non-profit, Web of Benefit, Inc. This cycling event is an all-women, non-competitive ride, not a race, and there is no fundraising requirement. Women riders of all ages and abilities can sign up for the “Little Sister” (about 25 miles), or the “Big Sister” (about 50 miles). Beginning at the original Boston Marathon starting line, and winding through several beautiful MetroWest towns, the cycling event will include surprises and treats along the way, and a celebration party at the end.

All proceeds from this event will go directly to its proud sponsor, Web of Benefit. Web of Benefit promotes liberation from domestic violence and has given more than 1,100 Self-Sufficiency Grants to women in the Greater Boston and MetroWest area. Each woman “pays it forward” by performing good works for other women impacted by domestic violence.

To learn more, or to register, sponsor, donate, or volunteer (men welcome), visit Questions? Contact Deborah Maini: 781-974-4559 or

The Prouty Ultimate: Two-Days, 200 Miles In NH & VT To Fight Cancer!

You’re going to love this ride! Two days of unforgettable cycling (July 12-13, 2013) along New Hampshire and Vermont roads, by pristine lakes and rivers, and through picturesque New England villages with stunning views of the White Mountains. The Prouty is already established as one of the finest century rides in New England, a result of 31 years of paying attention to the details: frequent SAG stops, strong road support, great food, and unparalleled camaraderie. The Prouty Ultimate is an extension of that tradition, with an epic 100 miles from Manchester to Hanover, N.H., added the day before joining The Prouty classic century. The Ultimate is limited to 150 cyclists, ensuring we’ll deliver a quality, fully supported ride.

Join the Ultimate fight against cancer and support research at Dartmouth’s Norris Cotton Cancer Center – one of just 41 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the country and one of just nine Centers of Nanotechnology Excellence. The Prouty Ultimate fundraising minimum is $2,500 (or $1,850 each if you sign up with a friend).





Prouty Ultimate Perks include:

● Exclusive group dinner at the St. Anselm College event HQ, July 11th

● Pre-ride bike inspection

● Strong route support with a police escort start, a total of 12 SAG stops (some with live music), two water stops, and roving support bikes / vans

● Complimentary massage at the end of each day’s ride

● Special cocktail reception at the Canoe Club restaurant in Hanover on Friday

● ProutyGear points to “spend” on great Prouty-branded cycling apparel or other Prouty items (earn 1 point for every $500 raised)

● Amazing door prizes – all Ultimates entered into a drawing for two chances to win a bike (one from Drummond Custom Cycles,  another from The Bike Hub).

● Overnight stay at the McLane Hall Dartmouth dormitory on Friday

● All-day Prouty Party July 13th from 6:30am-5pm (at the Richmond Middle School event site) with tons of food, live entertainment, the NCCC Discovery Tent and more!

● Transportation from Hanover to Manchester on 7/11, back to Manchester on 7/13

To learn more, watch our Prouty Ultimate video (, visit and contact us with any questions: or 800-226-8744.

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