Transportation Advocates Including MassBike Strive To Set Long-Term Vision For Longfellow Bridge

March 01, 2010
We previously reported on the efforts of MassBike, LivableStreets Alliance, WalkBoston, and the Institute for Human Centered Design to keep bike lanes on the Longfellow Bridge during "early action" construction to add sidewalks before the major reconstruction of the bridge (see here and here). We were all pleased when MassDOT committed in principle to implement that proposal (and we look forward to seeing the engineering plans soon). This was only the first step, however, in planning the long-term vision for such a vital transportation corridor.

Along with the other groups (now expanded to include Conservation Law Foundation), MassBike has submitted the following letter to express our vision for how such an important bridge can be integrated into future transportation plans. This proposal goes beyond bike lanes to encompass the entire system of transportation over this bridge, centered around the idea that infrastructure has to serve everyone, not just automobiles (though they are included as well). The proposal also incorporates environmental and public health considerations, reinforcing the idea that transportation planning needs to include a lot more than simply how to get from Point A to Point B.

Read below, or check out a pdf of the letter here.


February 23, 2010

Lucy Garliauskas
Division Administrator, FHWA
FHWA Massachusetts Division
55 Broadway, 10th Floor
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02142

Jeffrey Mullan
Secretary, MassDOT
Ten Park Plaza, Suite 3170
Boston, MA 02116-3973

William Mitchell
Acting General Manager, MBTA
Ten Park Plaza, 3rd floor
Boston, MA 02116

Richard Doyle
Regional Administrator, FTA
Transportation Systems Center
55 Broadway, Suite 920
Cambridge, MA 02142-1093

Luisa Paiewonsky
Administrator, MassDOT Highway Division
Ten Park Plaza, Suite 3170
Boston, MA 02116

Dear Transportation Leaders:

We write to you with regard to one of Boston's most iconic structures and pre-eminent transportation facilities, the Longfellow Bridge. As the state embarks on the expensive and lengthy process of rebuilding the Longfellow Bridge, we believe that the time is ripe to think about how its reconstruction fits into the future of metro Boston's urban transportation network for its expected lifetime of 75 years. To that end, we would like to see an enhanced focus on the bridge as part of a multi-modal system that provides excellent transit, pedestrian and bicycle access and begins to reduce the focus on private vehicles, while respecting the critical importance of conserving the best architectural and engineering heritage of the past. Such an approach, which is imperative to address the health, climate change, sustainability and energy crises we now face, is now framing federal transportation, environmental and livable communities policies. We are absolutely committed to working with federal, state and local agencies to make sure that the re-construction proceeds cooperatively and with all due speed.

We are pleased that MassDOT has advertised the early action contract for reconstructive measures. We look forward to seeing the plans for ADA-compliant pedestrian and bicycle accommodation that are included in that early action package and appreciate the time, energy and flexibility of MassHighway in making those early action improvements feasible. We look forward to meeting with you soon to discuss construction schedule and sequencing, logistics, etc. as they relate to impacts on transit users, pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.

With respect to the long-term design of the bridge, we have carefully considered how the needs of all bridge users can be accommodated by a safe and appropriate assignment of the existing bridge footprint. We suggest that the preferred option include the elements described below, all of which can be provided within the existing bridge footprint without moving existing walls.

1. Because of the preponderance of transit trips over the bridge (estimated by the MBTA at 100,000 trips/day
representing more than 70% of all trips), safety for transit passengers and MBTA employees is uppermost.
The design must have adequate clearance from the MBTA tracks to provide safety for transit workers and
emergency evacuations. Recent design requirements for the Orange Line at Assembly Square called for a
minimum of 8.5 feet from the track centerline.

2. Pedestrians must have ample sidewalks (12 feet clear width is adequate and 15 feet clear width is desirable)
to meet the needs of walkers and runners using the bridge sidewalks which are part of a network of regional 2
scale walking routes (the Esplanade, Cambridge Street, Main Street) and to meet the goals of the MHD
Project Development and Design Guide. Wider sidewalks would allow the bridge to serve its open space and
tourism potential. Lights and their supporting poles should not be located within the clear width of the

3. Vehicles should have one travel lane in each direction, with two lanes provided for the inbound approach to
Charles Circle. The roadway capacity additions recently provided by the Big Dig resulted in a total of 14
interstate traffic lanes where 6 existed previously. This new capacity for vehicles may be contributing to
diversions from the Longfellow Bridge, where traffic volumes have been declining over the past decade.
Based on our review of comparable Massachusetts roadways, the traffic volumes carried by the Longfellow
Bridge will be adequately served with this configuration of lanes.

4. Bicycle lanes must be at least 6 ft wide, and should be provided the maximum possible separation from the
travel lane. On sections of the bridge with a single travel lane, the bicycling zone will also serve the function
of a breakdown lane for disabled vehicles and emergency vehicles. The amount of space needed to serve the
breakdown lane function provides the opportunity to separate the bike lane from the travel lane by a painted
buffer at minimum.

5. Emergency vehicles must be accommodated by providing the space for them to pass other vehicles on singlelane
sections of the bridge. This can be accomplished by allowing emergency use of the combined width of
the vehicle lane, the shoulder next to the MBTA fence, the bicycle lane and the bicycle/vehicle buffer.
This preferred option represents the very best of context-sensitive design and meets the principles of both the MA
Transportation Reform Act of 2009 and the federal DOT/HUD/EPA Partnership for Sustainable Communities. By
moving forward with this option, MassDOT will expedite the re-construction of the bridge AND begin moving
Massachusetts toward a sustainable and livable transportation system.

In addition to our commitment to working with MassDOT and FHWA on these immediate Longfellow Bridge design choices, we look forward to working with MassDOT, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the cities of Boston and Cambridge to identify design solutions that will provide the Longfellow Bridge and other Charles River Basin bridges with safe convenient pedestrian and bicycle access to the Esplanade and to the street networks of Boston and Cambridge.

If you have any questions about our comments, please contact us via Wendy Landman at WalkBoston: 617-367-9255 or We look forward to working with all of you to make the Longfellow Bridge an exemplar of sustainable, multi-modal and handsome 21st century infrastructure.

Best regards,
Rafael Mares, Conservation Law Foundation
Chris Hart, Institute for Human Centered Design
Charlie Denison, LivableStreets
David Watson, MassBike
Wendy Landman, WalkBoston
Cc Representative Marty Walz
Representative Tim Toomey
Representative Will Brownsburger
Senator Anthony Petrucelli
Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz
Boston Transportation Commissioner Thomas Tinlin
Cambridge Director Traffic, Transportation & Parking Susan Clippinger
Michael O'Dowd, MassDOT Highway Division
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MassBike Believes In Bicycle Infrastructure

February 26, 2010
You may have noticed our recent strong support for bicycle facilities, like bike lanes on the Longfellow Bridge. In the past, MassBike garnered a reputation as an organization that was "finicky" when it comes to bicycle infrastructure. For better or worse, we sometimes got wrapped up in theoretical debates about bicycle facilities that, even if not perfect, were practical solutions to real problems. And our official policies at the time did not give us clear guidance on how to move forward.

[caption id="attachment_1210" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Photo by Phillip Barron"][/caption]

But as times change, ideas change. We want everyone to know that MassBike is 100% committed to promoting bicycle infrastructure, even if that means taking some risks on new ideas. Moving forward, we want MassBike to be on the cutting edge of promoting bicycle facilities, so we have adopted a completely new policy on bicycle infrastructure. Drafted by our volunteer Technical Advisory Committee (whose hard work we gratefully acknowledge) and adopted by our Board of Directors, the new policy definitively says "YES!" to bicycle facilities - whether they are traditional, innovative, or even experimental. So while, for the last several years, we have been working hard to turn MassBike into a lean, mean, bicycle facilities promoting machine, we now have it in writing.

You can read our new policy below. This policy will guide our future actions, and support our desire to get more bicycle facilities built and filled with happy bicyclists.


1. MassBike supports the development of dedicated and semi-dedicated bicycle infrastructure including bike lanes, shared use paths, bike boulevards (local streets prioritized for through bike travel while discouraging through motor vehicle travel), and paved shoulders. Bicycle facilities such as these improve bicyclist safety and comfort, make roads less stressful for bicyclists and motorists, and have proven successful in attracting a larger number and greater diversity of people to riding bicycles. MassBike also encourages the use of innovative bicycle facility treatments that have proven successful elsewhere, and experimentation with innovative facilities designed to improve bicyclist safety and comfort, such as bike boxes, contraflow lanes, colored bike lanes, separated paths or cycle tracks, and marking the bicyclist's line of travel within shared lanes.

2. Bicycle lanes and paths should form continuous routes and networks. They should not just be applied in pieces where leftover road space is available, or discontinued on approaches to busy intersections that may have added turning lanes. Because intersections are high conflict areas, bicycle safety treatments at intersections are especially encouraged. Example treatments include marking bike lanes through the intersection with dashed lines or color, protected traffic signal phasing, and advanced stop lines or bike boxes.

3. Where bike lanes are implemented, MassBike encourages more generous spacing than the minimum or standard bike lane widths found in national and state design manuals whenever possible. Wider bike lanes, or painted buffers next to the bike lane, improve bicyclist safety by providing greater clearance from parked cars on the right and from moving traffic on the left. Often, the extra roadway space that can make a lot of difference for bicyclist safety can be found by making small reductions in the width of travel lanes and other roadway elements with no impact on motorist safety or road capacity.

4. MassBike supports vigorous adherence to the state's Bicycle Accommodation Law, which requires that bicycle accommodation such as bike lanes, paved shoulders, or separated paths be included in any project rebuilding a state highway, or paid for with federal or state-controlled funds, unless there isn't sufficient right-of-way. However, most bicycling takes places on local streets, to which this state law does not usually apply. Therefore, MassBike encourages cities and towns to similarly adopt a policy of providing bicycle accommodation wherever right-of-way permits whenever roads are repaved, altered, or reconstructed, except on low-speed, low-volume streets that bikes can safely share with motor traffic as is.
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I Am A Concertina Technician, And I Ride

February 25, 2010
A while ago we asked you to send in your bicycling stories and you didn't disappoint! We are trying to make sure everyone out there realizes that cyclists are real live human beings, not just anonymous people on wheels. Your stories put a face on cycling. These stories are part of a larger campaign to make cycling safer for everyone in Massachusetts, stay tuned for more information about that campaign.

We are still accepting entries, so be sure to read below to find out how to send in your story.

Our next story comes from Marga, who just so happens to be Emily's daughter!

Where I Ride: Amherst/Northampton area, MA
How Often I Ride: Monday through Friday, I commute from North Amherst, where I live, to neighboring Sunderland, where I work. (Just five miles, one way). If it is snowing or really cold, I take the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority bus. The bus is free, which is wonderful, but still, I prefer biking. After work I sometimes bike to Amherst or North Hadley to see friends, go to yoga or attend various events or meetings. During the weekends, I often bike to the laundromat in Amherst center, to pick up my CSA share in North Amherst or get groceries in Amherst or Hadley; sometimes I bike on the Norwottuck trail to Northampton to see friends or just for the excitement of a (relatively) larger town. I don't have a car, so I get around by bike or bus most of the time.

My Story:
My bicycle (bought new from Belmont Wheel Works) was a high school graduation gift from my parents; probably the best gift I've ever received. It continues to serve me well after six years. One of my goals is to get into the habit of doing regular tune-ups and cleaning my bike; currently, I can't do anything more complicated than changing a tire, but hopefully I will gradually become a competent amateur bike mechanic, and keep on riding my current bike past the time it starts to get that cool "vintage" look.

My life would not be very fun at all if I didn't have a bicycle and ride it. Biking makes me happier. I enjoy the physical sensation of exercising, outdoors. It feels so good to have independence and freedom of movement without a car, without putting more CO2 into the atmosphere. I feel more connected to other people when I am biking; unlike driving, you can share smiles with people while biking. I hope to keep biking all of my life. My grandmother biked until she was eighty; my mother and father are still going strong at 61. I believe that biking almost every day will be one key element in maintaining my health and happiness for the rest of my life. Seeing the world from a bike is, in my opinion, preferable to seeing the world from the seat of a car, and in fact, I can't imagine what my life would be like if I drove instead of biked.

Thanks Marga! Great to see your mother has passed the cycling tradition down to you.

We want to hear your story. Tell us about yourself and how bicycling is a part of your life. Just copy and paste the form below into an email, fill it in, and send it to

  • Name:

  • Email:

  • Where You Ride:

  • How Often You Ride:

  • Your Profession/Relation/Title (lawyer, nurse, Grandma, son, etc):

  • A picture of you on your bicycle, or you in your daily life (be sure we can see your face):

  • A paragraph or two about your life and your bicycle:

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MassBike Urges Bicycle Access On The Whittier Bridge

February 25, 2010
The Whittier Bridge crosses the Merrimack River between Newburyport and Amesbury in the Northeast corner of Massachusetts. The bridge, which carries I-95 across the river, is one of five "mega-projects" in MassDOT's Accelerated Bridge Program, with a projected cost of $285,000,000. So why is MassBike fighting to get bicycle infrastructure on an interstate highway bridge? The answer is connectivity.

[caption id="attachment_1240" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="click for larger"][/caption]

The communities adjacent to the Whittier Bridge - Newburyport, Amesbury, and Salisbury - are popular areas for biking and walking. On both sides of the Merrimack River, there are growing networks of paths as well as popular bike routes. To MassDOT's credit, they have thought about ways to improve these networks as part of the project. This is good news, and will certainly make biking and walking in the area even more attractive. But when asked by MassBike whether the bridge itself will accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians, the answer was "We haven't thought about that." That might be a reasonable response if you are talking about an interstate highway where there are other safe options for bicyclists and pedestrians. The problem here is that there is no safe option, and this is the last available opportunity to create one.

Just east of the Whittier Bridge (literally a stone's throw away), there is another way across the river. The Chain Bridge runs from Newburyport to the tiny Deer Island, and the Hines Bridge continues from Deer Island across to Amesbury. These bridges carry busy local roads, only one lane in each direction. There are no shoulders, and narrow or nonexistent sidewalks, so bicyclists have no choice but to take the lane and mix with car traffic. And there is no hope of modifying these bridges to safely accommodate bicycles - the Chain Bridge was already renovated several years ago, and the Hines Bridge is about to be completely replaced but the design does not improve conditions for bicycles. These were missed opportunities. Further downstream is the Route 1 bridge, carrying a multi-lane highway across the river - not suitable for bicycles.

Now we are left with one option for a safe bicycle and pedestrian route across the Merrimack River - the Whittier Bridge. The bridge is going to be completely replaced, and the design is still in the conceptual stage, so there is plenty of opportunity to create a new bridge that works for all users.

David Watson, Executive Director of MassBike, testified about these issues at the recent public hearing in Amesbury, and local bicyclists also spoke up. Several bikers thanked David for coming to the meeting, and one decided to make his own public statement after speaking with David.

We will continue to follow this project closely and fight for including bicycle access on the bridge. We strongly encourage bicyclists to speak up at meetings about local projects. Check our calendar for the latest information about upcoming meetings statewide.

Need help representing bicyclist interests in a project near you, or want to request that MassBike attend a meeting? Contact David Watson, or 617-542-2453. While we don't have the resources to take an active role in every project, we're always happy to talk with you and see if there is a way we can help.
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Save The Date: Bike Night 2010!

February 25, 2010

MassBike's annual gala event will be on Saturday, May 15, 2010, at The Greatest Bar, 262 Friend Street, Boston. Leading into Bay State Bike Week (May 17-21), this is one party you will not want to miss! More details to come soon.
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Cycle For Shelter Charity Ride

February 25, 2010
The 22nd annual Cycle for Shelter will take place on Sunday, July 25, 2010 at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, MA. The ride benefits Emmaus Inc. a non-profit that has been providing shelter, services and affordable housing to homeless men, women and children since 1985.

  • Cycle for Shelter has been ranked one of the top rides in the United States by Bicycling Magazine.

  • Century, Metric Century, Half Century and Weekend Warrior (20 mile) scenic routes. The day is planned by cyclists for cyclists and is fully supported.

  • Modest registration fees and fundraising.

  • Cycle for Shelter is a popular first century or metric century whilst still offering many challenges for more experienced riders. The well-marked routes are sprinkled with checkpoints and roving support vehicles and covered by radio communications.

  • A delicious barbeque, complimentary massages, foot treatments and shower facilities await cyclists at the finish on the scenic Haverhill campus of Northern Essex Community College.

  • Emmaus is recognized as a model for providing long term solutions to homelessness. 90 cents of every dollar goes directly to the programs. With homelessness on the increase the funds raised help Emmaus increase the number of shelter spaces for people with no where else to turn.

  • For more information and to register go to: or e-mail

  • This ride participates in the MassBike charity ride partner program.

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Ask MassBike: Alewife To Seaport

February 24, 2010
We get a lot of questions here at MassBike, and we like to think we also give some pretty good answers. We realized that sharing these questions and answers on our website would be a valuable resource to others looking for the same information.

We got this question from James about riding from Alewife to Seaport district in Boston. We are not always able to answer route questions but we chose this one because so many people use the Minute Man Bike trail and it ends at Alewife.

At the transportation event today a work I was told by that someone at your office rides from Alewife to the Seaport area. Is it possible to get the names for the streets used?
Many Thanks,

Hello James

I don't ride from Alewife to the Seaport area exactly, but I do ride from Arlington to the Financial District. So most of this route is what I do every day. It's almost all on-road, in traffic, but there are bike lanes most of the way between Porter Sq and Boston.

From the back of Alewife Station (the side where the elevator exits near one of the bike cages), follow the path through Russell Field to the Linear Path (it's a little confusing so you may have to look around a bit). Take the Linear Path out to Mass Ave. Take Mass Ave to Porter Square. At Porter Sq, bear left onto Somerville Ave (to the left of the T station). If you don't want to merge into the left turn lane at Porter Sq, stay in the bike lane and there is a ramp on the right onto the sidewalk to wait for a bicycle signal to cross the intersection. From Somerville Ave, take the first right onto Beacon St, which immediately curves to the left. Beacon St turns into Hampshire St at Inman Sq. Follow Hampshire St to the end, then take a left at the light onto Broadway. Take Broadway through Kendall Sq to the Longfellow Bridge. At the end of the Longfellow Bridge, go straight onto Cambridge St and follow to Government Center. Cambridge St turns into Tremont St. At Park St station, turn left onto Winter St, and continue straight onto Summer St. You can take Summer St all the way into South Boston, or turn left at South Station onto Atlantic Ave, then right at Congress St or Northern Ave to go directly into the Seaport area.

Hope that helps!
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In-Office Bike Parking

February 24, 2010
Most everyone here at MassBike rides to work every day, this is made easier because we have some sweet in-office bike parking.

As you can see some simple hooks put into the ceiling transformed a little corner of our office into some very nice bike parking. Having something as simple as bike parking inside that keeps your bicycle out of the weather can encourage employees to ride to work much more.

If you would like more tips for how to make your office more bike friendly contact us.
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I Am A Woman, And I Ride

February 22, 2010
A while ago we asked you to send in your bicycling stories and you didn't disappoint! We are trying to make sure everyone out there realizes that cyclists are real live human beings, not just anonymous people on wheels. Your stories put a face on cycling. These stories are part of a larger campaign to make cycling safer for everyone in Massachusetts, stay tuned for more information about this campaign.

We are still accepting entries, so be sure to read below to find out how to send in your story.

Our first story comes from Emily:

Where I Ride: grocery stores, library, post office, town schools, friends' houses, local farm
How Often I Ride: most days, except when there's too much snow/ice

My Story:
I'm 61, healthy and able to ride my bike for most of my errands. We live about a half mile from the center of Weston, our land abutting the old Mass Central rail line. Though the Mass Central is not yet an official rail trail, I'm able to use it to get to the three stores where I buy my groceries, in Weston, Wayland and Watertown. I go out my door to the trail and ride west toward Weston's Omni Market or to Wayland's Whole Foods, or east toward Waltham, where after a short bit on roads I can pick up the Charles River Way at Prospect Street. From there, I follow the river to the Heron Bridge in Watertown, then cut through parking lots to Russo's. It takes me about 5 minutes to ride into Weston Center, and between a half and three quarters of an hour to Wayland or Watertown. I also ride to the Weston Library and to Land's Sake Farm, both about 10 minutes from our house.

My bike is one I inherited from our third son. We gave it to him about 15 years ago when he was around 12. My husband, Dave, took it to Frank's Spoke and Wheel for a thorough overhaul a couple years ago and it works well, especially with the "new" tire Dave salvaged from a bike he found at the Weston transfer station. I have a couple old saddle bags on the rear wheel in which I can put up to about 45 pounds of groceries.

My biking carries on a family tradition, which continues with all four of our kids. My parents both rode their bikes into their 80's. When my mom was in her mid 70's, she took her 2 longest rides, one from Weston to the Cape, the other from Weston to Peterboro, NH. Here's hoping I'll be able to do the same!

Thanks Emily! Cycling is a wonderful family tradition.

We want to hear your story. Tell us about yourself and how bicycling is a part of your life. Just copy and paste the form below into an email, fill it in, and send it to

  • Name:

  • Email:

  • Where You Ride:

  • How Often You Ride:

  • Your Profession/Relation/Title (lawyer, nurse, Grandma, son, etc):

  • A picture of you on your bicycle, or you in your daily life (be sure we can see your face):

  • A paragraph or two about your life and your bicycle:

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MassBike Supports Mountain Biking In Middlesex Fells

February 22, 2010
The Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is currently conducting a planning process for the trail system in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. In connection with the process, the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) is proposing a comprehensive plan for mountain biking in the Fells. MassBike supports NEMBA's efforts to create more opportunities for riding bikes in the Boston area by expanding mountain bike access in the Middlesex Fells Reservation. We applaud NEMBA's commitment to building and maintaining sustainable trails and to sharing those trails with all users.

Please consider submitting your own comments in support of mountain biking in the Fells. Click here for more information. Comments must be submitted by February 28, 2010.
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