Tag: esplanade

Comment Letter: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

Comment Letter: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

September 19, 2016

Mayor Martin Walsh, Boston
Mayor Denise Simmons, Cambridge
Stephanie Pollack, Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation
Tom Tinlin, Massachusetts Highway Administrator
Leo Roy, Massachusetts Commissioner, Department of Conservation and Recreation
Monica Bharel, Massachusetts Commissioner, Department of Public Health

Re: A proposal for the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge

Dear Friends:

Boston and Cambridge have declared themselves Vision Zero cities. The Healthy Transportation Compact has united our state agencies in concerted efforts to increase active transportation and improve safety for walking and bicycling.

DCR is on track to add a new Charlesgate Path and a signalized pedestrian/bike crossing of the Mass Ave Bridge to connect the Esplanade with the Back Bay/Kenmore neighborhoods (the crosswalk will be located where the Mass Ave. Bridge crosses the open space between inbound and outbound Storrow Drive). The new Charlesgate path, and the enhanced connection between the Esplanade and Charlesgate via the new crosswalk will generate significant new use by people walking and biking.

These are wonderful developments for people from across Massachusetts and the world who commute, amble and sightsee on the Esplanade, along Memorial Drive, and across the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge! And, they are all leading to more people on foot and bike on the bridge.

As we see the increase in people walking and biking, the lack of safe biking accommodation on the Mass Ave Bridge is leading to large numbers of bicycles on the sidewalks of the Bridge – an unsafe and uncomfortable situation.

We ask that MassDOT, DCR, Boston and Cambridge explore the re-purposing one of the outbound Mass Ave Bridge vehicle travel lanes to provide space for a protected bike lane on each side of the bridge, with access provided from the Esplanade and Charlesgate paths that will connect to the Bridge.

Based on a very preliminary look at the traffic volumes and lane use on the Bridge, we believe that improving the network by adding low-stress, protected bicycle lanes could be accomplished without significant impacts to vehicle operations. Providing protected bike lanes will both improve the safety of people on bikes and improve the safety of pedestrians by removing bicycles from the Bridge sidewalks.

We look forward to working with you and your staff to explore this suggestion.

Best regards,

Wendy Landman, Executive Director, WalkBoston
Tani Marinovich, Executive Director, The Esplanade Association

Cc Senator Will Brownsberger
Senator Joseph A. Boncore
Representative Jay Livingstone
Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets, City of Boston
Gina Fiandaca, Boston Commissioner of Transportation
Joe Barr, Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation, City of Cambridge
Becca Wolfson, Executive Director, Boston Cyclists Union
Stacy Thompson, Executive Director, LivableStreets Alliance
Richard Fries, Executive Director, MassBike
Herb Nolan, Solomon Fund
Renata von Tscharner, Charles River Conservancy
Peter Furth, Northeastern University
Suzanne Walmsley, Boston Athletic Association

Comments on Charles River Basin Connectivity Study

Comments on Charles River Basin Connectivity Study

December 16, 2013

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Dan Driscoll
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Charles River Basin Connectivity Study

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the Charles River Basin Pedestrian and Bicycle Study for Pathways and Bridges, the so-called Connectivity Study. Our comments arise from the document and from the recent presentation of the study to the public.

The Connectivity Study is very exciting work, as it assembles the issues of movement along the basin very effectively, and points out the possibilities for positive changes in the paths, walkways and running facilities along the River. DCR should be very proud of this feat, and should proceed into implementation of priority aspects of the planning effort as soon as possible.

We were particularly heartened by the Study’s general recommendations for the Basin: “DCR should strive to develop a 10’-wide paved path with a parallel soft-surface trail or shoulder for runners (emphasis added) where possible….. In “pinch point” conditions, a minimum 8’ paved path, with 3’ shoulder on one side, should be incorporated.”

This acceptance of separate paths for runners and joggers – and also pedestrians – is a very important aspect of the planning and represents continuity with past planning efforts.

In the 2002 Master Plan for the Basin a stated goal was to provide safe and continuous bicycle, skating, and pedestrian access along the entire length of the Basin, with a “separation of footpaths and bike paths where doing so will not create excessive pavement near the shoreline.” The master plan also called for reducing congestion and minimizing conflicts on the paths (presumably conflicts between bicycles and pedestrians).

In 2005, users were surveyed to discern attitudes about the river facilities. The survey asked respondents to list and rank how they used the Basin. The top twelve responses were, in order of frequency:
Walking for pleasure
Attending concerts or events
Relaxing in the park
Driving on the parkways
Running or walking for exercise
Using Riverbend Park in summer
Enjoying the outdoors with children
Inline skating
Informal sports

More than sixty percent of those surveyed used the Basin more than once a week for strolling, relaxing, attending concerts or attending special events. Eighty-six percent asked for easier and safer pedestrian access to the Basin, and an equal proportion recommended separating pathways by user types. Users also frequently called for more benches and places to sit, more wildlife areas, more park rangers, and more convenient parking.

If the Continuity Study can be regarded as an update to the Master Plan, we think it may be leaving out some of the emphasis that the authors of the two planning documents clearly stated. In particular, the separation of bicycle and pedestrian paths does not seem to be as important an aspect of the plan as the users of the park suggested to be of high importance. WalkBoston believes that path separation should be integral to all elements of the plan, as it will help deal with the many problems inherent in an area that is so heavily used with so many potential conflicts between users.

We urge consideration of the following:
1. The elimination of conflicts between users of the paths should be uppermost as a safety precaution. Conflicts arise where bicycle traffic is moving rapidly through areas where pedestrians are strolling, causing dangerous situations for all. The conflicts are particularly difficult for commuting cyclists, some of whom are loath to slow down.

2. An expansion of the definition of ‘multi-use path’ would open options that are not clearly included at the moment. Multi-use pathways in the Basin should have an element – probably a parallel, separate path – that would cater to slow-moving walkers, runners and joggers. The foot traffic path could be built entirely separated from the paved path or built as a non-cambered shoulder.

3. Multi-use paths are appropriate for areas where there is low density of use by walkers, runners and cyclists, but should not dominate planning for the heart of the very heavily used park system in the center of Boston. Instead, the overriding goal should be provision of facilities in which space is plentiful for all park users and potential conflicts between users are minimized using methods that are appropriate to each location.

4. Existing multi-use paths should be expanded all along the river to meet the definition of separation between paths based on user needs.

5. Recognition of what runners and joggers show about their desires for facilities would help in planning new paths. Narrow dirt paths that exist informally alongside many of the paved paths in the Basin demonstrate a clear desire for a softer surface preferred by runners. The softer surfaces can also be used by pedestrians and will clearly help separate cyclists from people on foot.

6. A demonstration of the path separation is included in the proposal for the Greenough Boulevard narrowing. The effects on users would be an important element to explore.

7. Path separation in the near term may only be possible on one side of the river. The Greenough Boulevard proposal and the Memorial Drive narrowing between the Eliot and Anderson Bridges point in the direction of path separation as a major feature on the north bank. Continuation of path separation both west and east of these two segments would be a next logical step. Except at intersections, parkland seems to be available for new or modified paths.

8. An unfortunate aspect of all path planning along the river is the intersections with streets at the bridges. The narrow paths that exist at many of the bridges will be a major feature of riverfront paths for a long time, but should not preclude path separation away from the bridge intersections.

9. As long-term improvements, underpasses at bridge intersections are appropriate and important options that will enhance the recreational and transportation options for many Basin users.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.


Wendy Landman                                    Bob Sloane
Executive Director                                  Senior Project Manager

Cc Nicole Freedman, Boston Bikes
Cara Seiderman, City of Cambridge
Steve McLaughlin, MassDOT
Margo Levine Newman, The Esplanade Association
Renata von Tscharner, Charles River Conservancy
Herb Nolan, Solomon Fund
Jackie Douglas, LivableStreets Alliance
Pete Stidman, Boston Cyclists Union
David Watson, MassBike
Tom Grilk, Boston Athletic Association

Boston: Science Park Walking Map

Boston: Science Park Walking Map

Boston is America’s walking city — so on a nice day, enjoy a Charles River walk to the Science Museum or Esplanade. See parks, landmarks and Boston history along the way. Consider taking the shuttle one way and walking the other.

Click for “WalkBoston’s Science Park Walking Map” PDF