Tag: memorial drive

WalkBoston Comments on Memorial Drive Phase III – 25% Design

WalkBoston Comments on Memorial Drive Phase III – 25% Design

July 21, 2022

Commissioner Doug Rice
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02114
Attn: Jeff Parenti, Deputy Chief Engineer; Dan Driscoll, Director of Green Transportation

RE: Memorial Drive Phase III – 25% Design  

Dear Commissioner Rice:

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ primary pedestrian advocacy organization, working across the Commonwealth to make it safer and easier for people to walk for all activities of daily living such as access to transit, school and jobs. We are writing with comments about the 25% design for the 0.8-mile section of Memorial Drive from Eliot Bridge east to the intersection of Memorial Drive and John F. Kennedy Street near Harvard Square. We are happy to see this project continuing to move forward.

We are very pleased that DCR is committed to implementing a road diet for this portion of Memorial Drive and to several key elements of the project including:

  • Paying close attention to providing a walking path that is separated from the paved shared use path. Converting the existing 6.5-foot-wide path to a 10-foot shared use path paired with a 5-foot wide stabilized gravel path for people walking and running will help reduce conflicts. 
  • Adding mid-block crossings in two locations (although further attention is needed to make these crossings safe under the current roadway design, such as adding speed tables and mini bump-outs).
  • Taking special care of the Plane trees and carefully designing refurbished planting and landscaping of the Reservation. 

Our comments and concerns are centered on the design speed that underlies the specific roadway design and thus will not yield the very significant safety benefits that slower speeds would make possible. There is definitive evidence that in order to slow traffic, roads must be designed with that purpose. We strongly urge DCR to work internally and with the City of Cambridge to revise the design speed of 35 mph and to reduce that speed to 25 mph. The nearby and heavily traveled Alewife Brook Parkway is posted for 25 mph, as are many other DCR parkways. 

DCR should be designing a road for what is needed, and not repeating roadway designs of the past that allow people to drive fast, especially at off peak times. MassDOT Safe Speeds Guidance specifically addresses this issue, and certainly DCR as a parks and recreation agency, should be leading the way for slower speeds and safer conditions for people walking and biking.

Memorial Drive should be posted and designed for 25 mph.

The slower design speed would reflect the roadway’s setting within a park, would  match the speed limit of Cambridge, and would significantly enhance the safety of the tens of thousands of pedestrians and bicyclists who are drawn to the Reservation and its pathways. In addition to the direct safety benefits of a reduced design speed (and thus reduced actual driving speed) additional benefits of a lower design speed include:

Allowing the reduction of the pavement width from 26’ – comprising two ten-foot lanes and two three-foot shoulders. Narrowing the shoulders to 12-18” would provide a number of important benefits:

  • Adding more park space and creating more distance between the roadway and the allee of Plane trees
  • Reducing impervious surface and runoff from the roadway, which would improve the health of the Reservations’s trees and other plants
  • Shortening crossing distances for pedestrians, thus possibly limiting the need for substantial traffic calming at the mid-block crossings

We also request that DCR remove the right turn slip lane to Hawthorn Street that seems unnecessary from an operating standpoint, would increase the speed of right-turning vehicles and this section of roadway adds unnecessary paving within the Reservation.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the 25% design, and we look forward to continuing to work with you on this important and exciting project. 

Stacey Beuttell, AICP

Executive Director, WalkBoston

Comments on Memorial Drive Phase III

Comments on Memorial Drive Phase III

January 27, 2022

Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs

100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114
Attn: MEPA Office, Christina Lyons

RE: Memorial Drive Phase III – Environmental Notification Form 16495

Dear Secretary Theoharides:

WalkBoston is Massachusetts’ primary pedestrian advocacy organization, working across the Commonwealth to make it safer and easier for people to walk for all activities of daily living such as access to transit, school and jobs. We are writing to you to show support for the MassDCR road diet of the 0.8-mile section of Memorial Drive from Eliot Bridge east to the intersection of Memorial Drive and John F. Kennedy Street near Harvard Square. We are happy to see this project move forward since it was last discussed publicly in the Summer of 2019.

We appreciate that there is continued attention to separating users by mode whenever possible on MassDCR facilities and within the Charles River Basin, following the recommendations from the 2002 Charles River Basin Plan. Converting the existing 6.5-foot-wide path to a 10-foot shared use path paired with a 5-foot wide stabilized gravel path for people walking and running will help reduce conflicts. 

We also applaud you for the addition of mid-block crossings into the project area, an opportunity unlocked by the road diet’s narrower cross-section. There is a new mid-block pedestrian crossing proposed on Memorial Drive near Sparks Street and Mt. Auburn, which provides a direct link to the MBTA Bus Stop for Bus 71 and 73 to further enhance accessibility to this important park and transportation corridor for transit riders. An additional mid-block crossing is also proposed at Memorial Drive near University Road, closer to JFK. Both pedestrian crossings will include rapid flashing beacon lights (RRFBs) to alert drivers to crossing pedestrians. 

With a projected increase in biking and e-bike usage in the coming years, we encourage you to highlight any possible conflict zones between people walking and biking with paint or signage to help minimize these conflicts, particularly at the new mid-block crossings. 

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. 

Stacey Beuttell, AICP

Executive Director, WalkBoston

Comment Letter Re: a car-free option for Memorial Drive Phase III

Comment Letter Re: a car-free option for Memorial Drive Phase III

Commissioner Leo Roy
Department of Conservation and Recreation

May 9, 2019
Dear Commissioner Roy,

As part of the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Memorial Drive Phase III redesign between Eliot Bridge and the B.U. Boat House we ask that you consider a car-free option in the planning process.

As recently highlighted by Governor Baker’s Commission on the Future of Transportation, 40% of Massachusetts’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions come from transportation infrastructure and vehicles, half of which come from passenger vehicles alone. The pressing need to limit passenger vehicle trips, in concert with the City of Cambridge’s 1992 Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance, justify consideration for a car-free Memorial Drive.

This planning process allows the State a unique opportunity to enhance regional park access by connecting adjacent parks (Riverbend Park, John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, Riverside City Park, Riverside Press Park, Magazine Beach, and others) to the Charles River. Creating truly safe and accessible connectivity between walking and biking facilities along the Charles River and adjacent neighborhoods will have lower positive impact then a car- free option. By limiting vehicle infrastructure, the State will be expanding space for new parkland and an expanded tree canopy. Limiting car access to Memorial Drive will align with ongoing climate resiliency initiatives by reducing GHG emissions, increasing green space, but also by establishing space for further flood mitigation, an ongoing issue near Magazine Beach and Micro Center.

This concept of a car-free Memorial Drive is not new, but a logical extension of the existing weekend Riverbend Park Street closures, which demonstrate the desire for this type of expansive riverfront parkland. While recognizing that over 1,000 vehicles use Memorial Drive during peak hours, we believe that ongoing transportation initiatives including the Green Line Extension, the Allston I-90 Multimodal Interchange, West Station, the Grand Junction path and regional rail concepts, and the MBTA’s Better Buses initiative will provide viable alternatives in the long-run, significantly reducing the need for Memorial Drive as a private vehicle throughway.

The existing sub-standard conditions of the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path along Memorial Drive currently have high usership. There are currently over 1,000 daily bike commuters and over 1,000 daily runners and pedestrians. The existing conditions do not provide safe accommodation for existing users, and with future expansion of the regions multi-use paths, including the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway and the Grand Junction Path, this section of paths will see increased daily users. Providing safe and reliable accommodations for sustainable transportation and recreation modes should be the highest priority of the DCR.

There is precedence for a project of this scope, as when a two-mile stretch of a busy highway along the Seine in Paris, France, was permanently closed to cars in 2016, and turned into a bicycle and pedestrian promenade. This type of project could prove to be similarly iconic for the Charles River.

This is a complicated project. We recommend, along with The Charles River Conservancy and Magazine Beach Partners that a task force or advisory group be created to help better inform decisions throughout the process. The groups listed on their letter can help you provide better transparency and inclusiveness in the project. While early in the planning phase it is important to consider this highly impactful, once in a lifetime opportunity to restore Cambridge’s public shoreline. Thank you for your consideration of this unique opportunity to prioritize climate resiliency and public health.


Tony Lechuga, LivableStreets
David Read, Longwood Area Cyclists
Alex Auriema, Memorial Drive Bicycle Group
Nathanael Fillmore, Cambridge Bicycle Safety
Janie Katz-Christy, Green Streets Initiative
Steven Nutter, Green Cambridge
Becca Wolfson, Boston Cyclists Union
Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston

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