Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Local news: "We will never give away our parking spaces!"

The time for a change is now.

Long time ago, I wrote a little bit about major changes coming to my town - the plan to rebuild our main intersection and make it more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. Obviously, as it nearly always happens in such situations, the project faced some strong opposition of "concerned citizens" or those who are so terrified by the loss of a few parking spaces and installation of a bike lane, that they would rather enjoy speeding cars, increased traffic and smell of exhaust fumes.

The construction is supposed to start in April. Right now, the Arlington Center intersection is still a mess. Back in the days this place was designed, the planners clearly had a goal to make it more pleasant for drivers. Pedestrians' experience was an afterthought and bicyclists... well, let's just say they didn't exist.

But it's not 1970's anymore. With more people on bikes traveling through this area and more people on foot, changes were definitely necessary. One of the major problems came with the opening of the now-popular Minuteman Bikeway. This shared path is abruptly cut off on one side of the intersection and then continues several hundred feet later on the other side. This disconnect is troublesome for all cyclists using the Bikeway on their daily commute, towards the Alewife Station.

The plan is now in place. You can download the whole thing here but keep in mind that it's very detailed. It's probably better to just take a peek at the "at glance" version.

Plan for the new Arlington Center.

The things I am most excited about include:

  • Curb extension (shown in red) - more space for people and shorter distance to cross. ("outrageous!")
  • Extension of the Bikeway to the edge of the intersection - no more riding on sidewalk. ("a massive waste!")
  • Bike lanes on both sides of the Massachusetts Ave - finally. ("blasphemy!")
  • Crossing signal for bicycles across the Mass Ave - safer way to cross this busy street. ("ridiculous!")

Things not to write home about:

  • Bike lanes next to high speed traffic and parked cars - cyclists will get doored. ("We will never give away our parking spaces!")
  • Bike lanes do not continue the full length of the Mass Ave. ("Yipee, more space for us!")
  • How will crossing signals be timed? Will crossing the street on a bicycle on or foot require long wait? ("Sure it will. Cars go first!")

As you can see, it seems that a loss of just a few parking spaces is seen as such a drastic economic hit to the well-being of our little town that there is no way we can expect a protected bike lane on Mass Ave any time soon, despite having plenty of space available ("After my dead body!").

Still, I'm glad these changes are coming. They are much needed and maybe they will be an ignition point to a much larger discussion later on. After all, it's not just a single intersection that needs to be rebuilt, but the entire length of Massachusetts Ave.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing. I applaud Arlington for finally taking the first steps to fix this well-used and dangerous intersection. I used to commute into downtown Boston from Arlington - Mass Ave. almost the whole way - and strongly agree that the entire length should be rebuilt with current usage, including cyclists, in mind.