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You Can’t Fix Shitty Design With Signs And Spray Paint

Written by Boston Biker on Jun 28

Want proof?  Ride over the Longfellow bridge “bike path.”

Every day I ride over the Longfellow, and ever day the farce that is the “bike path” gets more and more hilarious (and now that its warm, more and more dangerous.)

I started off skeptical of the paths design, noticing that the it was far too narrow, had odd turns, choke points, blind traffic interactions, lots of hazards, strange elevation changes, and most troubling thing was that the “sidewalk” was now the “bike lane.”  I thought it was horrible then, now I think its even worse.

Before I document the latest hilarious attempt to rescue this failed attempt at a bike path let me just recount some of the things I have personally seen on this path over the last couple months:

  • Crashes involving two cyclists on the Boston side of the bridge, where the path narrows dramatically while people are rolling down hill meeting folks struggling up hill
  • Crashes involving a cyclist and pedestrian on the Cambridge side of the bridge, as cyclists were heading down the hill and pedestrians were entering the “bike path” from the blind side on the left
  • Pedestrians tripping and falling from all the unmarked, and hard to see curbs and metal posts sticking out
  • Joggers with headphones not notice they are about to run into an oncoming bike until it was nearly too late
  • People with jogging strollers running into metal posts on the ground nearly throwing their child to the ground
  • Fucking Segway tours clogging up the path while they take pictures
  • Cyclists arguing with pedestrians constantly about who should or should not be on the path
  • Overheard this exchange “You can’t be on this bridge, I have a torn rotator cuff because a jogger ran out in front of me on this very path and caused me to crash, you need to go over there to the sidewalk” to which the three people responded “Too bad we are tourists!” and continued to walk over the bridge
  • I personally had to ask the construction people to remove the green dust control fencing from one half of the “path” because it blocked the view of people entering the path from seeing if people were coming down the bridge

And now it seems that someone besides me must have noticed because the already ridiculous situation on the bridge has become ludicrous.

Here is the view as you approach the Cambridge side:

20160628_171246

20160628_171248

20160628_171251

1 sign telling pedestrians not to walk on the bridge, 2 signs telling them where they should walk instead, and 2 signs clearly stating that this path is for cyclists only.  Someone has also taken a can of pink spray paint and highlighted all the things you are likely to run into, you can see one such example above, none of which will do any good in the dark.

Seems pretty heavy handed, but you ain’t seen nothing yet.

From the Boston side:

20160628_170922


20160628_170926

 

20160628_170929

 

20160628_170936

20160628_170957

(See that board on the ground above, it was another sign that had blown over in the wind…I flipped it back up.)

20160628_171045

(notice you can’t see who is coming down the path from this location, this happens a lot on this side)

Lets run this down… At the entrance to the path there are two giant “no pedestrian” signs using universal symbols, a giant “sidewalk closed” sign using words, two giant “bikes here” signs using symbols, stripped barriers, multiple bike markings on the ground, sharrows, a sign further down that says “bikes only” ANOTHER no pedestrians sign after that, AND a sign telling pedestrians where to walk.  Someone has also added cones to most of the metal poll sticking out into the ground (the rest got the same ineffective pink paint treatment as the Cambridge side), oh yea and the sign I flipped back up saying this path is for cyclists…

That is a lot of signs…at this point you might be asking yourself “did it do any good” and the answer would be “fuck no it didn’t do shit.”

You can see in the photograph above, the final person in a line of Segway riders blasting down the path at high speed, he was followed by a flood of pedestrians, joggers, strollers, roller carts, and all manner of non-cyclist traffic…in short you can’t fix shitty design with signs.  Short of posting armed guards on both ends of the bridge this is going to continue.

The reason why so many people are walking on a path that is clearly not for them is because…it makes total sense that they should want to!  It’s the most convenient path for them to take.  This has been a pedestrian path for years, the other side isn’t that pleasant to walk down.  This side of the bridge has a better view of the city, it is easier for more foot traffic to reach, and there is a spooky underpass detour on the Cambridge side if you go the “right” way.  They are following their desire lines.  Its no wonder the “bike path” is anything but.

All the things that make this a great pedestrian path, also make it a horrible bike path.  Its too narrow, has strange approaches, is hard to ride into and out of safely, it makes you take strange traffic diversions, puts you in conflict with traffic (cars, pedestrians, AND other cyclists), and is bumpy too boot!

What a mess…

I still think the best option would have been to close the bridge to automobile traffic, turn the portion of road that is open into a two way bike path, and allow emergency vehicles to go over the bridge both ways.

There are so few cars able to make it over the bridge as it is currently configured, that it would matter little to overall traffic flow.  With the increase in walking, cycling, and public transit the traffic would quickly take up the slack as people adapted.

Instead we have this horrible design that puts cyclists and pedestrians (the main users of the bridge at this point), in dangerous conflict with each other, restricts emergency vehicle use of the bridge, makes everyone unhappy, just so we can allow a couple of cars to putt slowly over it each day.

Are we designing for people, or are we designing for cars?  It’s time to decide, because this shitty design is going to get someone killed.


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The Longfellow Bridge Sucks For Cyclists, Let MassDOT Know We Are Pissed

Written by Boston Biker on Dec 20

The longfellow bridge has gone from pretty awesome (one lane of traffic and two lanes of bikes), to bad (wrong side bike path on the pedestrian walkway), to atrocious (one very narrow bike lane, and a bike/pedestrian traffic heading north).

Personally I see a lot more people going over the bridge on foot and on bicycle than I do in cars, shut the car traffic down and reserve the road for emergency and bike traffic, at least until the end of construction.

 

From The BCU:

The current conditions on the Longfellow Bridge are unsafe and unacceptable for people on bikes.  As you may know, the outbound bike lane was removed and cyclists are being asked to walk their bike on the sidewalk heading into Cambridge.  The inbound lane was narrowed so that large vehicles cannot safely pass cyclists in the bike lane.  Please see our letter to MassDOT, below, and send in your own!  Tell your story of traveling on the Longfellow and tell MassDOT and your elected representatives that this is an untenable situation, and cyclist accommodations must be addressed!

___________________________________

Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack

Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza, Suite 4160
Boston, MA 02116

CC: Representative Jay Livingstone
CC: Chris Osgood, Chief of Street, City of Boston

RE: Longfellow Bridge Modified Phase 2 Construction

Dear Secretary,

On behalf of our members, the Boston Cyclists Union, the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition and LivableStreets Alliance would like to bring to your attention the increasingly hazardous conditions for people riding bicycles over the Longfellow Bridge, and we request that these hazards be addressed immediately.

Recently, due to the need to construct a temporary track for the Red Line, the inbound travel lane and bike lane have both been narrowed, and outbound cyclists no longer have a street­level contraflow bike lane and instead are being required to walk their bicycles on the sidewalk.

The current accommodations for the hundreds of people on bicycles* crossing the bridge daily are unacceptable to us and our members. The bike and travel lane widths heading inbound into Boston do not adequately provide a safe way for motorized vehicles to overtake people riding bicycles in the bike lane. Trolley buses, trucks and other large vehicles regularly travel in the bike lane, putting people riding bicycles at extreme risk of being side­swiped or struck from behind. Construction activities also routinely negatively impact the roadway condition with gravel and debris, and cones and markers are often moved into the path designated as the bike lane. (Please see the image attached below of current conditions heading inbound. Notice the bike lane is blocked by jersey barriers, forcing people riding bicycles into the travel lane.) Moreover, instructing outbound cyclists to walk their bikes on the sidewalk does not fulfill MassDOT’s promise to provide two ­way bike travel for the duration of the project.

From what we understand, this situation is temporary and two­way bicycle travel will switch to the upstream side of the bridge sometime early next year, but that does not make the current situation permissible to the hundreds of people biking over the Longfellow everyday. Moreover, we are concerned that the project will not follow the anticipated project schedule, and the current situation will persist throughout the winter. If that is the case, snow accumulation in the inbound bike lane will force people riding bikes into the travel lane with vehicular traffic, making an already dangerous situation even worse. We have provided a video, attached, demonstrating the approach of a trolley bus to a cyclist in the bike lane. Please note the bus’s right wheels overlapping with the bike lane, and the closeness during the pass.

We look forward to hearing how MassDOT plans to address these hazards.

Sincerely,

Rebecca Wolfson, Interim Executive Director, Boston Cyclists Union Richard Fries, Executive Director, MassBike
Charlie Denison, Advocacy Committee Chair, LivableStreets Alliance

* On Tuesday, Dec. 8 the Boston Cyclists Union conducted a count of users on the Longfellow Bridge and observed 333 people riding bicycles and 713 motorized vehicles going inbound between 7:35 AM and 9:15 AM. The fact that people riding bicycles represent approximately 32% of the rush­hour inbound vehicle traffic on the Longfellow Bridge demonstrate how important of a connection the bridge is for people riding bicycles between Cambridge and Boston.

__________________________________

Watch this VIDEO demonstrating unsafe riding conditions!

(See the full letter here: Longfellow Phase 2 Comments-2)

Please write to MassDOT at [email protected] and CC [email protected][email protected] and [email protected] so we can see that you’ve taken action and can help amplify your voice!

 


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Longfellow Bridge…What The Hell?

Written by Boston Biker on Apr 06

I have been noticing all sorts of strange markings and changes, on the Longfellow outbound towards Cambridge side.  And today like a chrysalis, the Longfellow bike infrastructure has emerged into a giant ugly moth.

Honestly its the worst.  I have no idea what anyone was thinking.

This design is rotten. Impossible angles, ramps, intense pedestrian conflict, poor marking, a reversal of the usual order of traffic (Both pedestrian and cyclists traffic on the left? Is this the UK?) it has everything you don’t want in a bike path.  And those railings are totally invisible in the dark, its only a matter of time before someone plows into them, or into the many raised concrete partitions, or into a pedestrian not wearing bright clothing, this design becomes ten times more ludicrous in the dark.

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Moments before I took these pictures 5 cyclists almost ran over like 10 pedestrians. The smartest cyclist of the bunch simply crossed over and rode down the wrong side of the bridge for a 100 yards, and then popped back over…a dangerous option, but one that puts the cyclists in less conflict with the many (many) pedestrians.

I sorta get what they were going for, and I would love to believe that this set up was thought up to protect cyclists from cars? But at the expense of putting pedestrians in danger? To be clear it would be one thing to set up a system by which cyclists were to dismount and walk for 100 feet and then get back on, but this system is set up to encourage them to remain riding, and in the process get in all sorts of conflicts with all sorts of pedestrians.

In my opinion there is ample room to move the concrete divers over a couple feet to the right and put those plastic bollards on the left hand side of the striped area to keep cars away from the cyclists, thus leaving plenty of room for everyone, without putting pedestrians and cyclists into dangerous conflict.


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Posted in Commuting, infrastructure | 3 Comments »

The Natives Are Restless

Written by Boston Biker on Jul 30

Today a man screamed out of his car at me “THE BIKE LANE IS OVER THERE!”  He did so while vigorously pointing at the pile of debris and torn up pavement that I had moved slightly over to avoid.  There wasn’t a bike lane in sight, but that wasn’t the point.  He was angry, and had no one to address his anger at so he was taking it out on me.

I caught up with him in about 20 feet because he was stuck in the epic traffic jams that have been growing out of the Longfellow project.  I asked him if he needed something and he told me to get off the road, blah blah blah the same thing every angry motorist has ever shouted.

I informed him that I had the full legal right to use the lane blah blah blah the same thing every cyclist says….then I screamed and pointed “93 IS RIGHT OVER THERE!!!” and rode off, because frankly it was a nice day and I was enjoying my relatively unencumbered ride to work.

I got to work about 15 minutes later, for all I know he is still stuck in traffic.  The problem is, this  guy brought a mountain bike to a road race.  By which I mean to say, he incorrectly chose his mode of transportation to fit the reality of our current situation.

Motorists seem to be the most put out by the construction project.  Sadly, the car is no longer king in Boston, and it shows.  To put it mildly, they are really cranky.  I don’t begrudge them their crankiness, I would be cranky too if I was stuck in a car for an extra hour every day.  But sadly they have to understand one thing:

The roads are too small, and the cars are too big.

bike-bus-car

There is simply no way around this.  If you want to drive your giant car (why does it need to be that big if its only carrying one person around?), on Boston’s tiny ass road system, you will quickly run out of room.

Its just simple math.  You got X amount of road space, and Y amount of cars, and Y>X.  Its that simple, no amount of honking and yelling and getting upset is ever going to fix the problem.  At some point you just can’t shoe-horn one more fucking car into the system without causing gridlock.

You also can’t build your way out of this problem.  In the 60’s and 70’s they tried building more (and bigger) roads, all that did was encourage more folks from the burbs to drive in causing the problem to get worse.  The Longfellow needs to be fixed, and while its being fixed the amount of road space we have to move cars is even less.

If you are stuck in traffic trying to cross the Longfellow, and you drove in from say Somerville, it might be time to consider a bicycle.  Or a t-pass, or a nice pair of walking shoes.  Your doctor will be happy with the extra exercise, your wallet will be happy with the savings on gas, and I will be happy because you wont be screaming out of your car at me because you have no other place to direct your anger.

PS.  Cranky motorists please try to remember, that every cyclist on the street is one less car you need to be stuck behind.  You might not be doing anything to make traffic less horrible, but they are.  So the next time you see one shout out your window “THANK YOU FOR CYCLING!” and continue on your way.


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Lonfellow Bridge Final Design Announced

Written by Boston Biker on Mar 08

From MassBike (who did a lot of work with other groups to get this awesome design)  I suggest you support them for their hard work.

—————————–

 

MassDOT recently released the long-awaited Environmental Assessment for the Longfellow Bridge reconstruction project, which reveals the design MassDOT has chosen for the bridge. To its credit, MassDOT clearly listened to much of the input from the Longfellow Bridge Task Force (on which I served):

Click to enlarge

 

As seen above, the outbound (Boston-to-Cambridge) side of the bridge as proposed will be truly multimodal, with a single travel lane for motor vehicles, a wide buffered bike lane, and a wide sidewalk. While we can (and will) push to further narrow the remaining travel lane to provide even more space for bicyclists and pedestrians – and to slow down the traffic that speeds over the bridge – MassDOT has the right idea for the outbound side.

Throughout the process, the design for the inbound side has been the focus of discussion and disagreement. The alternative chosen by MassDOT does not represent an improvement over current conditions for bicyclists; at most, the bike lane is six inches wider than the current shoulder/bike lane. So bicyclists who are not comfortable riding across the bridge today will not feel any safer riding across the reconstructed bridge. And the sidewalk, while wider than what exists today, is still narrow – too narrow to be comfortably shared by pedestrians, wheelchairs, strollers, and the inevitable less-confident bicyclists drawn by the wider-but-still-inadequate sidewalk.

Another option proposed by the Task Force would configure the inbound side much like the outbound side: wide sidewalk, wide buffered bike lane, and a single travel lane (see below). While there is disagreement over whether this configuration would provide an acceptable level of service for cars, one thing is certain: the decision we make now will determine whether or not we will ever be able to realize the Task Force’s vision of maximized space for bicyclists and pedestrians, if and when future traffic volumes support doing so.

Click to Enlarge

At the recent public hearing on the Longfellow Bridge reconstruction project, MassBike joined with other advocates to speak out in support of this longer-term vision for the bridge. Click here for our full joint statement.

There are tradeoffs for bicyclists and pedestrians in these design choices. The MassDOT plan would mean losing the opportunity for a wider sidewalk until the next time the bridge is rebuilt (50-75 years), because the crash barrier cannot easily be moved once built. Faster cyclists would be in the same narrow bike lane we have today, while slower, less confident cyclists would probably be jockeying for space on a narrow sidewalk (if they felt safe enough to use the bridge at all). On the other hand, the advocates’ plan would move the crash barrier inward, creating a much wider space for bicyclists and pedestrians to share on the sidewalk, but eliminating the on-street bike lane. Neither proposed solution is optimal from either the bicyclist or pedestrian perspective.

Advocates for bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, the disabled, and the Charles River parkland all agree that the longer-term vision is the one we want and this is the only way to preserve that option. In the short-term, less confident bicyclists will feel more protected being physically separated from cars, and many more people may choose to bike over the bridge to Boston or the Esplanade. Some may view it as bikers and walkers sacrificing separate space for the possibility of a better deal in the future, but I don’t see it as a sacrifice. Instead of separate but inadequate space for bicyclists and pedestrians, we’ll get a much wider more flexible space that will be safer and more inviting for more people. It can work, and is already working on bridges elsewhere, like the busy Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, Oregon.

So let’s thank MassDOT for demonstrating some real multimodal thinking on this project, and push them to think just a little further into the future we all want to see.


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The Word On The Street

  • RSS Here is what people are saying

    • Harvard Bridge connection to the PDW path: proposed improvement November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Harvard Bridge connection to the PDW path: proposed improvement November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Harvard Bridge connection to the PDW path: proposed improvement November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Mass and Beacon: looking at the larger picture. November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Harvard Bridge connection to the PDW path: proposed improvement November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Harvard Bridge connection to the PDW path: proposed improvement November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Harvard Bridge connection to the PDW path: proposed improvement November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Harvard Bridge connection to the PDF path: proposed improvement November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Harvard Bridge connection to the PDW path: proposed improvement November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. There are two special bicycle routes … Continue reading →
      jsallen
    • Mass and Beacon: looking at the larger picture. November 18, 2017
      TweetLet’s look at how well bicycle routes around the Boston end of the Harvard Bridge (Massachusetts Avenue bridge over the Charles River) might be improved.. Here is a Google maps overview of the area. You may click on it to … Continue reading →
      jsallen