It is through our built environment that we shape ourselves and the world. Living, working, and moving around in dysfunctional, cramped, unsafe, polluted, or just ugly places not only affects our mood and health but also our relations with those around us and the natural environment. The need to maximize the positive impact of our buildings, transportation systems, and even our usually hidden infrastructures will continue to grow as the weather gets weirder, resources get more expensive, and cities get more crowded.Read more
I love cities. They are the engines of our nation’s energy, diversity, cultural opportunities, social interaction, and entrepreneurial vibrancy. Cities are where most of our population lives and where most of our economic growth originates. Cities are the base from which we’ll create the future.Read more
The importance of the two Circle The City events this summer – July 14 on Huntington Ave. (“Avenue of the Arts”) and September 29 on Blue Hill Ave – go beyond the ability to walk, bike, roll, dance, play, eat, and hang out on car-free streets. It’s more than the zumba, street games, yoga classes, vendors, music and participatory arts activities, and multiple miles of safe space for family-friendly cycling, strolling, and hanging out.Read more
Bills submitted by the Governor, by Legislative Leadership, or in response to a media-enflamed crises can go from idea to law very quickly. The many thousands of other proposals have to wind their way through a very complicated and multi-stage process. Almost every proposal has to go through several different committees and at least one public hearing. Committee chairs have to decide which of the submissions to prioritize, balancing demands from leadership, other committee members, and their own constituency. Opponents have to be negotiated with and compromises reached. The vast majority of bills are either “sent to study” or simply never reported out of Committee and therefore never receive an up/down vote by the full House or Senate membership. Even for those bills that pass the crucial “get out of committee with a positive recommendation” milestone, very little gets settled until a deadline hits or until the two-year session comes to an end, at which point a proposal either is voted up or down or has to start all over again from the very beginning in the next two-year Legislative session. It’s slow, seldom fully transparent, and often quixotic.Read more
MassDOT has announced a goal of tripling the mode share of transit, walking, and bicycling over the next 18 years while also making the roads safer and more efficient for car travel. No matter how it is eventually measured (trips, vehicle or person miles traveled, or some combination), the Mode Shift policy is visionary and ambitious. If implemented, it will transform both the state’s transportation system and the Transportation Department. It will make Massachusetts a national leader in environmental and climate protection, in primary prevention and public health, in “main street” business revival and sustainable economic development, and much more. The real issue is not if a more sustainable transportation system is needed, the one we have is increasingly dysfunctional as well as unaffordable, but if such a transformative goal will be fully adopted and implemented.
One part of the problem is that cyclists are a visible and prominent part of the coalitions fighting for a better, safer, healthier transportation system. In fact, many car drivers see the entire new agenda as primarily about serving the needs of the 1% or 2% of the population who bikes. And that’s a not good: bicycling, and walking, are not how the majority of people get around. State leaders need to support and integrate bicyclists demands for better facilities, in both urban and suburban-town-center areas as well as along the regional Rail-Trail networks. But expanding bicycle facilities can’t be presented as the core reason for the new programs.
As with so many other proposals to create a stronger foundation for future growth – dealing with public health, environmental protection, and the built environment, among others – advocates and state leaders needs to find ways to frame the discussion so that a majority of citizens see how the costs and potential short-term disruption will relatively quickly lead to benefits for themselves and their communitiesRead more
In recent weeks, three Boston-areas bicyclists have been killed by cars or trucks, and the number of cyclist injuries has slightly increased from previous years. As a recent Boston Globe editorial pointed out, increasing bicyclist safety is a pressing issue – although it is probably just as pressing for other road users as well: people walking, in cars, using wheelchairs, getting on or off buses.
It’s not just acute physical safety that is at stake. The overall health benefits of bicycling are so strong that even under today’s less-than-ideal conditions studies show that the positives heavily outweigh the negatives, statistically adding about an extra year of life to those who regular get on their two-wheelers.
The editorial is a welcome contribution to the city’s discussion of how to make our evolving transportation system safe for all users, no matter how they are moving. Although bicycles may seem like a newcomer to the street scene, they have a long history (especially in Boston, which was the nation’s original cycling center) and there is much we can learn from research done in other cities across the US and abroad where bicycling has already taken off.Read more
Speeding, distraction, drinking, poorly designed intersections – a lot of things cause road accidents, injuries, and fatalities. But some of them have nothing to do with driving. Like guns. In a recent NY Times Opinionator piece, Mark Bittman drew on his old community organizing background and wrote, “Back in the administration of W., we looked for the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. That was the wrong place; they’re here at home.” And on our streets, where incidents of gun-involved road rage are on the rise.
The recent murders of Sikhs in Wisconsin and of “liberals” in Arizona have sparked another round of discussion about the danger of unregulated access to weapons. Given the current Supreme Court, it is unlikely that any limits will be imposed. But the way that groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have changed cultural attitudes about buzzing around with a few under your belt suggests that we may be able to de-escalate road rage through similar methods. We need to make it as unacceptable to have a loaded gun in a car as it is to have an open bottle of alcohol.Read more
There is little question that if you have a bicycle accident, and if your head gets banged, and if it isn’t so severe that you’re dead anyway, then your injuries are likely to be significantly less severe if you are wearing a helmet. I once had a dent in an old helmet that proved the point to my own satisfaction.
And I’m amazed at how often anti-bicycle people use a cyclist’s uncovered head as “proof” of the rider’s immaturity and irresponsibility – thereby justifying the critic’s condemnation of everyone who bikes.
But how to convince people to put the helmet on?
Research says that the most common non-compliance reasons are that the person doesn’t own a helmet, that it feels too hot, that they don’t like the way a helmet makes them look, or that it shouldn’t be needed for short trips. Boston is using several strategies to provide high quality helmets at little or no cost, with the Boston Cyclist’s Union playing a major role. Hubway is working with an MIT team to create helmet vending machines to place next to their stations although there are lots of technical deployment issues still to solve.Read more
Come to Boston’s first Open Streets festivals – called Circle The City – on July 15 (closing streets between Jamaica Pond and Franklin Park) and August 15 (closing parts of the Kennedy Greenway and nearby streets). Next: what about opening Storrow Drive’s outbound side every Sunday from 7am to 10am – nine miles of uninterrupted and totally safe room for bicycling, roller blading, walking, and family fun! And then Dot Ave!
The streets may belong to the people – in most cities comprising the single largest physical asset the public owns – but they’re functional dominated by cars. And the more traffic the less we are likely to use the roads, and the space around them, for anything else – and the less livable our neighborhoods become.Read more
“You can’t always get what you want,” sang the Rolling Stones, “but if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.” One of the signs of maturity is recognizing that you’ve got to give in order to get, that the real discussion should be about the nature of the trade-off rather than the need to compromise. Recent developments are forcing us to decide how to balance the benefits and costs of increased parking in downtown Boston. At stake are not just the parking spaces but the future nature of Boston life – its physical shape and feel, its residential friendliness, its commercial prosperity, the quality of its environment and its population’s health.
Parks and people are good. Cities thrive when there are lots of both.
More car traffic coming into Boston is bad. It increases pollution (air, water, and noise), makes our streets less safe and inviting no matter how you are getting around, forces government to continue shaping the built environment around the needs of cars rather than people, and makes it hard to get public support for creating less destructive modes of movement. When the car is king, people get run over.Read more