Thanks to the calls and e-mails from our members throughout the year to state lawmakers we have good news to report! The current legislative session is over and there are victories to celebrate and a we have a clear picture of the work that remains ahead.Read more
Ghost Bike Removed from Lincoln Crash Site Within Hours of Installation
Ghost bikes spur a lot of emotion. Like the crosses and shrines erected along highway crash scenes, these stark emblems pay tribute to a place where a cyclist died while also serving reminders to motorists to mind their behavior.
On the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 17, I corresponded with Maureen Crocker, the sister of Eugene Thornberg, who died in June after a collision between his bicycle and a motor vehicle along Route 126 in Lincoln.
The Lincoln Police granted Crocker permission to host a memorial ghost bike service near the scene of the crash on Saturday, Sept. 10. The family delayed the service to allow Thornberg’s son, Patrick Thornberg, to return from his basic training for the U.S. Marine Corps in Parris Island, S.C.
The service will be held at 11 a.m. The Lincoln Police graciously offered to close the road for one hour to accommodate the service. They would also grant permission to install the ghost bike but only for that weekend.Read more
Second Lincoln Fatality, Waltham Collision Showcase Poor Bike Conditions
News of the first crash on Wednesday, Aug. 17, came in the morning. Normally that would have filled up our caseload for the day here at MassBike.
But in pursuing details about the crash, we learned of a second crash on the same day. This one proved fatal.
Both involved large motor vehicles, a pickup truck and an SUV.Read more
ADVISORY - August 27 & 28
Longfellow Bridge Steam Pipe Venting to Require Brief Travel Closures
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Longfellow Bridge Rehabilitation Project design/build contractor, White-Skanska-Consigli JV (WSC), announce that all vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, and MBTA Red Line travel near the Charles Circle staging area of the Longfellow Bridge will be halted for a brief period of time. The temporary halt is necessary to complete replacement of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH's) existing steam line with a new 18-inch line on Saturday, August 27, and Sunday, August 28. The line runs under the Longfellow Bridge and is being replaced as part of the bridge rehabilitation. The new line must be cleaned before it is put into service. The cleaning process (called a “steam blow”) uses pressurized steam to remove dirt and other debris from inside the new line.Read more
Yesterday, In the wake of the tragic loss of Amanda Phillips in Cambridge last week, MassBike sent the following letter to Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan. While we continue to work diligently to improve our roadways and pass new laws, we cannot expect to see change unless we enforce existing laws. Copied on our letter to Ms. Ryan, we have reached out to Cambridge Acting Police Commissioner Christopher Burke, Cambridge Mayor E. Denise Simmons, Attorney General Maura Healey, State Rep. David M. Rogers, State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, State Sen. Patricia D. Jehlen, State Rep. Timothy J. Toomey, State Rep. Marjorie C. Decker, and State Rep. Jonathan Hecht to ensure that charges are filed against the motorists involved.Read more
It has been a busy time winding up towards the spring! Right after moving into a new office space, the MassBike staff left for the National Bike Summit in Washington, DC for a series of speakers and panels on a variety of topics followed by a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill. After three days at the National Bike Summit, Programs Director Barbara Jacobson continued on to New York to represent MassBike at the Vision Zero Conference.
[caption id="attachment_24506" align="alignleft" width="300"] International Women's Day was celebrated by the delegation being made up mostly of women![/caption]
This year the delegation from Massachusetts included representation from MassBike, Boston Cyclists Union, Mattapan Food and Fitness, and Zagster. The group represented the diversity of the state of Massachusetts with local advocates, community-based groups, retail, and corporate representation, all focused on a common goal to improve bicycling in the state using their own unique strategies. The summit overlaps International Women’s Day, which bolstered excitement as the majority of the delegation members are women! As bicycling for transportation continues to become more ingrained in culture, the users will become more diverse. Massachusetts is proud to showcase the diversity of voices at the summit.
Programs Director, Barbara Jacobson & Becca Wolfson, Interim Executive Director of the Boston Cyclists Union participated on a panel about Vision Zero initiatives in cities throughout the United States. Vision Zero is a policy that originally started in Sweden and is focused on eliminating traffic crashes and fatalities to zero because zero is the only acceptable number for such incidences. Many cities throughout the United States have adopted Vision Zero policies such as New York, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and Boston.
[caption id="attachment_24507" align="alignleft" width="300"] Becca and Barbara on the Vision Zero panel.[/caption]
The panel included Tamika Butler, Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Nick Jackson from Toole Design Group, Sam Zimbabwe, District Department of Transportation based in Washington, DC and was moderated by Leah Shahum Director, Vision Zero Network.
Barbara and Becca presented on the formation of the Massachusetts Vision Zero Coalition, a collective effort among advocacy groups and individuals to educate, inform and support the adoption and follow-through of Vision Zero policies and road designs throughout the Commonwealth. The panel served as a catalyst for engaging bike advocates within a broader context of improving the roadways for all users. In turn the Vision Zero strategy can help to strengthen the messaging bike advocates have been saying for years. By coupling Vision Zero with redesigning roadways for people it helps to create consensus that bike infrastructure is beneficial to all users.
[caption id="attachment_24504" align="alignright" width="300"] MA delegation meeting with Senator Markey.[/caption]
Following two days of inspirational speakers and panels, the delegation took to the hill! The delegation was sent to meet with Massachusetts legislators to discuss key bills that the League of American Bicyclists had asked us to champion. Our first ask was to remind them that there is specific funding available (402/405 funding) for educational purposes and to ensure this funding is utilized. Second was the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) which would make it easier for all Americans to be physically active. It would allow individuals and families to use pre-tax dollars for physical fitness activities through flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). This means bicycles, cycling education classes, gym memberships, or school athletic fees could be paid for with pre-tax dollars. The MA legislators and their staff that the delegation met with were all extremely receptive! MassBike will follow up with each office over the coming weeks to ensure that these asks are followed through on.
[caption id="attachment_24503" align="alignright" width="300"] Meeting with Senator Warren.[/caption]
A fun highlight from the summit, we were lucky to be joined by the winner of the Saris poster contest, as the winner was Caleb from Somerville! Caleb came to the lobby day meetings and was honored at Representative Capuano's office. Caleb's winning design now resides on Capitol Hill! The delegation was thrilled to have him as part of the process. Thanks Caleb and your family for coming along!
[caption id="attachment_24511" align="alignleft" width="300"] Caleb and his winning poster for the Saris contest.[/caption]
The day after lobby day at the National Bike Summit, it was off to the Vision Zero Cities Conference in New York City. Highlights included best practices and projects from former New York City’s transportation commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, and the release of her book, Street Fight. There were compelling testimonies of strength and motivation to improve road conditions from Families for Safe Streets co-founders Amy and Hsi-Pei Liao who channeled their grief from losing their three year old daughter, Allison when she was hit and killed while crossing the street. There was representation form the masked Peatónito, the ‘Superhero of the Streets’, from Mexico City. He uses humor to bring awareness to the importance of crosswalks and preventing crashes and fatalities from happening. Here is a video from his time in New York City.
Additionally, Ydanis Rodriguez, Councilman and the chair of the NYC Committee on Transportation announced Car Free NYC. The event will take place on Earth Day, April 22nd. This event will create the opportunity for people to use the streets instead of cars.
By RICHARD FRIES, Executive Director
SUDBURY, Mass. (March 8, 2016) - The statewide online trail map developed by David Loutzenheiser of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council is perhaps the greatest resource available to any Massachusetts bike advocate. Pore over those lines and one quickly beholds the enormous opportunities of the next decade in Massachusetts.
Green dotted lines show promise where trails are proposed. But of all the locations on that map, one particular nexus stands out: Sudbury. And the next month will see critical meetings and hearings regarding the future of bike paths in Boston’s MetroWest region.
In Sudbury there are not one but two dotted green lines on that MAPC map. Currently lacking any off-road trails as of this writing, Sudbury could host the nexus of both the Bruce Freeman Trail, running through 10 communities from Lowell to Milford, and the MassCentral Rail Trail, an ambitious 104-mile path connecting Boston to Northampton.
“The Bruce Freeman has been in the process for 20 years,” explained Loutzenheiser. “That trail is moving south in the next couple of years.”
The first phase of the Bruce Freeman is complete. Nearly seven miles of trail is open from Lowell to Westford. Construction is under way in Acton, Westford and Carlisle. There is solid progress on the design of a bridge over the Concord River, the largest geological impediment to the project.
Riders who enjoy Sudbury’s country roads and farm stands may not recognize the demand for such a facility. But the impacts of those routes, with an intersection of two paths, could re-imagine transportation and recreation in Sudbury. This sleepy suburb could enjoy enormous economic benefits without the traffic, noise and confusion typically associated with development. Both of those paths offer connection points with commuter rail lines running from Boston to Worcester and Fitchburg. Loutzenheiser notes that the Bruce Freeman, running north and south, will have more recreational character while the Central Mass, running east and west, would have more of a transportation focus, connect users to several commuter rail stations and ultimately a route into Boston.
In some ways, the Bruce Freeman trail has been the hare with the ambitious Central Mass Rail Trail playing the part of the tortoise. “I would not say it is the tortoise,” said Loutzenheiser. “They have the links but not the resources. They are trying to push the ball forward to build the trail. (Department of Conservation and Recreation) has the 99 year lease for the 26 miles from Waltham to Berlin.”
But Sudbury has presented some of the more difficult political impediments. “It’s part of the greening of things that rail trails were seen as a newfangled thing in New England 15 years ago,” explained Craig Della Penna, the former Rails to Trails Conservancy rep in New England. A Realtor, Della Penna is the first real estate agent in the U.S. that focuses on properties along rail trails. “There were about a dozen rail-trail wars where projects were voted down. In Sudbury there was a pretty sophisticated opposition. They played hardball and that caused some of the more well known environmental organizations that had been supportive to fade away into the background.”
The significance of the Mass Central cannot be overstated. At its eastern tip it would connect with the Minuteman and Somerville networks at the Alewife MBTA station. To the west it would intersect with not only the Bruce Freeman, but also the Assabet River trail in Hudson, the Ware River Trail in Barre, and then at its Western tip connect to the Norwottuck system that links Amherst to Northampton. Other trails to the south could ultimately link to the Farmington system in Connecticut. Visionaries see a bike rider rolling from Boston to New Haven without once being on a roadway.
Recent developments along the Central Mass project may see that tortoise - at least in Sudbury - overtake the hare. Della Penna credits Dan Driscoll, the DCR’s director of recreation facilities planning, for working for five years to secure a 99-year lease from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to use the corridor for the Central Mass Rail Trail. That represents the key 26-mile section between Waltham and Berlin.
But like most bike facilities, the cost of the work - grading, drainage, bridgework - has proven prohibitive in a society that gives little priority to such projects. That may change.
Every New Englander can recall the ferocious ice storms of December, 2008, that left more than a million residents - many in this region - without power for weeks. Utility companies were unable to service those powerlines crippled by falling trees.
Eversource, which provides electricity for most of the region, is overhauling the entire grid to improve access to all of its power lines. Their contractor’s recent report shone a light on one key corridor: the Central Mass Rail Trail.
“Independent Systems Operators of New England is tasked with increasing the reliability of electric power throughout New England,” explained Dick Williamson, the Sudbury representative on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Committee. Eversource’s contractor “ISO has identified a problem with electrical power to Hudson. ISO has identified the need for a line from Eversource's Sudbury substation west to Hudson. Several routes have been studied, but one route stands out, namely a transmission line along the Mass Central right of way. The substation sits alongside the right of way.”
“It provides an opportunity to build sections of the trail - at least the subsurface - but also may pose a significant impact to the rail-bed in terms of tree clearance and wildlife habitat,” said Loutzenheiser. “Each town will need to evaluate their best course of action.”
There are issues. The contractor is recommending a clear-cut 82-foot wide corridor, which has fueled opposition from abutters. Many wish to see the lines buried, which would only require a 35-foot wide corridor. But that increases the cost from $50 million to $100 million. And this all gets tacked on to people’s electric bills, spurring some arguments to do nothing at all.
Curiously, this has not sparked any reaction against the bike path specifically to date.
“There is a lot of support in general in the towns,” explained Loutzenheiser, noting communities that questioned such trails 15 years ago have come to appreciate them as an asset. Through repeated use of the corridors simply as footpaths in towns along the Mass Central route the corridor has been set aside to serve as a greenway.
Della Penna is equally optimistic. A soft-spoken bear of a man, Della Penna has regularly hosted dinner parties with the most strident and hysterical opponents of rail trails, carefully noting all of their issues. He also keeps attuned to any abutting properties that come on the market and finds pro-path buyers.
He spoke publicly last week on the project in his hometown of Florence, a neighborhood of Northampton where an open section of Mass Central Rail Trail passes less than 10 feet from his house. “Right now we have 85 miles of the 104 in the corridor in a protected status,” said Della Penna, noting the state will be formally developing an analysis of the few gaps left. In fact there are more than 200 projects within 100 miles of Northampton. What is being developed here is the densest network of paths in the nation right where people live, work, play, and go to school.
But this massive piece between Waltham and Berlin could be fast tracked with Eversource providing key sub-surface work on the corridor.
“The final decision on the project will be made by the state level Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB),” explained Williamson. “There will be a lot of lobbying between now and the EFSB submission, tentatively scheduled for late spring.”
Want to Know More?
There have been several meetings and hearings. To look at the Eversource presentation made to the Sudbury Board of Selectmen last month, click here: Eversource Sudbury Selectmen Presentation
Additionally there will be an update on the status of the Central Mass Rail Trail on Thursday, April 7, at 9:30 a.m. at the Sudbury Town Hall.
Riders OK to Ride Two Abreast in Carlisle
Police Chief Dismisses Existence of Single-File Ordinance
By RICHARD FRIES, Executive Director
CARLISLE, Mass. (Feb. 24, 2016) - During a one-day crusade by an apparent rogue police officer last Sunday, dozens of riders were pulled over and informed that the Town of Carlisle had banned cycling two abreast. Even when riders outlined state law, the officer politely informed all that a new town ordinance had superseded state law.
When asked about the situation over the weekend Carlisle Police Chief John C. Fisher stated clearly that the town did not have any ordinance that varied from state law regarding bicycles riding two abreast. He did not explain why the officer took such actions but he did clarify that his department has no policy instructing officers to restrict the actions of bicyclists riding lawfully. He promise to investigate the actions taken over the weekend.
"We don't want anybody thinking badly about Carlisle," said Chief Fisher.
The officer in question was not identified. No statement was made regarding any disciplinary action or his current standing with the Carlisle Police Department.
Located about 17 miles northwest of Boston, Carlisle is a rural, bedroom community. With the Minuteman Bikeway corridor ending in neighboring Bedford, Carlisle hosts a network of country roads popular with touring clubs, racing teams and charity groups. Although large groups of cyclists do gather along such routes as 225 and occasionally delay traffic, there are almost no traffic lights and the main roads are relatively wide. Cars are occasionally delayed briefly on the narrow winding roadways.
MassBike has offered to host a forum with Carlisle residents, police, and officials to discuss ways of improving understand between all parties. There has been no response to that offer.
We advise all cyclists, motorists, and law enforcement to be well educated on the rules of the road. You can learn about some of the basics that you need to know through our safety video here.
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.