Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Filling the gap

As I mentioned before, today at 7pm Town of Arlington will hold a meeting to discuss the Arlington Center Safe Travel Project. I was supposed to show up but unfortunately, I have to pass this time. I got some ugly cold last Sunday. This is what happens when you stop bicycling for two days ;)

I read about the meeting and the project first on Biking in Heels blog. Following those links you can find out more about the project here and see the presentation of several different options that will be discussed.

For those of you who do not live in my area I will try to outline the situation. The Minuteman Bikeway is a popular recreational path that connects several towns northeast of Boston. It starts in Somerville, passes Cambridge, enters Arlington, Lexington, and then continues through Bedford ending in Concord. It is 26km (16mi) long and is the safest way of reaching all these towns by bicycle. In Arlington Center the Bikeway has to cut across the very busy intersection of Rt60 and Massachusetts Ave.

Current situation in Arlington Center (Source: Arlington Center Safe Travel Project)

As you can see in the graphics above, both ends of the path (marked blue) are on the opposite sides of the intersection with no facilities  connecting them for a safe passage. I have to admit that I often end up using sidewalk (unfortunately, illegally) to get to the other end of the path. The project proposes several solutions (see presentation link above) from which option 5 is the most revolutionary.
Option 5 (Source: Arlington Center Safe Travel Project)

In this option, the path will be extended along the sidewalk on the northeast side, then continue though a bicycle-only crossing and eventually merge with the southeast end of the Bikeway. In order to fit a double-wide (to travel in both directions) bike lane along Mass Ave, some parking spaces will have to be removed. Personally, I like this option as it guarantees a safe passage for cyclists (designated crossing, bollards along the Mass Ave section), while maintaining status quo for motorists (except removed parking spaces). If you browse through the presentation you will notice that Option 4 is a bit less radical and parking spaces are saved at the expense of the median dividing the traffic in the middle of Mass Ave.
However, there is also Option 3B, which I find particularly pleasing:
Option 3B (Source: Arlington Center Safe Travel Project)

What you see here is a design that is maybe a bit easier to accept for motorists since all parking spaces are saved, but it divides the bike path into separate lanes on both sides of Mass Ave. I already expressed my feelings about Massachusetts Ave. It is wide enough to accommodate bike lanes. This design is, in my opinion, the best option. Not only it merges both loose ends of the Bikeway but it promises bike lanes on Mass Ave. Unlike in the above graphics, hopefully those lanes would be eventually extended also to the east, in Cambridge direction.

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