We’ve all done it; cruising around the block looking for an open parking space. In fact, we all do it so much that studies suggest between 8% and an incredible 75% of the traffic in high demand areas have already reached their destination and are wasting time (and gas) looking for a place to pull over. Studies in 10 cities found that it took between 3.5 and 13.9 minutes to find an on-street parking spot. In Harvard Square, nearly a third of the drivers were cruising at peak time, with an average search taking 11.5 minutes. (It’s even worse overseas: the global average of cruising time is 20 minutes, and in Nairobi it’s not unheard of to spend an hour searching for a spot!)Read more
Paradigm shift. A fundamental change in one’s core understanding of a situation. It’s hard to do. It takes abandoning everything you’ve been taught and believed and that made sense, then adopting something totally new and perhaps both untried and unsettling. It takes going from a belief that the sun goes around the earth to understanding that it’s exactly the opposite. And, as Galileo found out, there is often a powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – an Inquisition – ready to attack you for questioning orthodoxy.Read more
In recent years, bicycling has increased nationwide. However, the growing numbers are most visible in urban areas where car congestion and mixed-use density make cycling particularly useful, which also gives bicyclists the political clout to push for improved safety facilities.
While the Seaport gets all the headlines, of Boston’s traditional neighborhoods it is Allston that is about to undergo the most dramatic change physically, economically, and demographically. As a result, it is an important case study and indicator of how the city will be implementing its commitment to Complete Streets, walkability, traffic calming, and the Mayor’s core statement that “the car is no longer king.” The good news is that there is no doubt that transit, pedestrian, and bicycling facilities will be included in future plans. The question is whether they will be treated as secondary, or as equals, or even (can we hope?) be given priority over Single Occupancy Vehicles – meaning cars.Read more
Politics is the art of the possible and getting things pass requires placating a broad variety of often competing interests. All of which makes it hard to be bold or to even fully address complicated issues. Small, incremental steps are the usual, and often appropriate, approach. So it is rather remarkable when an elected executive comes out with a visionary, risky, and courageous proposal that could actually solve several long-standing problems while setting the stage for greater prosperity and increased equity. Maybe the Governor’s decision to return to the more lucrative private sector has emboldened him, or maybe there is a real turning of the political tide, but even though there are many ways the FY2014 budget proposal and its revenue measures could be improved, it’s overall thrust – including its focus on education, health, and transportation – is truly praiseworthy.Read more
The implementation of Boston’s Complete Streets Policy and the Bike Network Plan will radically improve the safety and comfort of walking and cycling in the city. But full implementation will require many different kinds of changes to many roads all around the city. The best way to lower the inevitable anxiety about change is to have lots of examples already in place, demonstrating (as the passage of same-sex marriage did in its own sphere) that it won’t precipitate the end of the world or even disrupt our everyday lives.Read more
In response to the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, which sets deadlines for reducing Green House Gas emissions, MassDOT has recently announced plans to triple the share of travel done using transit, bicycle, and foot by 2030 — 18 years from now. (The Act was also the impetus for MassDOT’s exemplary GreenDOT program.) Since both our population and economy are likely to grow over that time, in order to reach that mode share goal almost none of the inevitable increase in transportation activity can happen in Single Occupancy Vehicles (SOVs). The entire rise in travel will have to use train, trolley, bus, multi-person cars, bikes, or feet.
It’s important to know that the huge increase in bicycling in Boston has been accompanied by a much small increase in bike-car collisions, meaning that the accident rate has gone down. It’s yet another validation of the “Safety In Numbers” principle. It’s not that the new cyclists are more skilled than the previous ones, or that a higher percentage of them are wearing helmets. It’s simply that the more people on bikes the more that drivers become aware and accepting of their presence, leading to a lower rate of collisions and injuries. But that doesn’t make it any less upsetting to learn that yet another bicyclist has been killed by a motor vehicle. The fifth this year. Yet another ghost haunting our streets. The police haven’t issued a final report on this latest tragedy, so the following is based on what has been available in the newspapers and on-line. But here is my best guess of what happened, and some suggestions about how to make it less likely to happen again.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