Boston enjoying new bicycle renaissance

(Nicole Freedman, Boston’s new Bike Czar)

Two years ago, Boston faced the same doldrums Dallas currently does in regards to bicycle facilities. There was little movement from city officials advocating bike infrastructure, anti-bike lane groups were shouting their misguided and biased “Bike lanes are death traps” argument, and ridership levels were the same that we see here…abysmal.

So what happened?

The city wised up, hired a former racer/bicycling advocate as bike coordinator named Nicole Freedman. In one year, Nicole was able to establish a mere 5 miles of onstreet bike lanes. What followed? Bicycling skyrocketed. Local bicycling event attendance has increased by 50% or more, a bikeshare program that rivals the one’s that exist in Europe is being setup by city officials, bike racks are being installed at local businesses, and Boston is quickly removing itself from the “Worst of…” lists for bicycling in the nation. Dallas officially took their place in 2008. Even the mayor, who admitted he hadn’t ridden a bike in 40 years, is now cycling to city hall.

The Boston Globe recently profiled the exciting changes happening in their community. Read more about it here.

16 comments

  1. Boston is not Dallas, the densit, distances, public transpotatio, and auto reliance are much different.

    If we want to make Dallas bike friendly get out and bike.

    TAKE THE LANE!

  2. Cliff,

    We’ve been “takin’ the lane” since the 1970’s. It ain’t working.

    Also, if we’re going to begin a debate on why it works in some cities and not others, we can simply begin posting more comprable areas by the credentials you’re citing, if that’s what you’d prefer.

    For starters: Chattanooga, Tennessee. A) Very car oriented, B) Density comprable to Dallas…and with a smaller population to boot.

    From the American Planning Institute website:

    National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation 2007

    Chattanooga Bicycle Planning
    Chattanooga, Tennessee

    Bike ridership in Chattanooga more than doubled in 2003 from 2002. The jump came one year after the completion of the area’s Urban Area Bicycle Facilities Plan.

    The plan provided a 20-year blueprint for investing $24 million in bicycle lane and route improvement. It identified 377.5 miles of new bicycle facilities to be built and lay the groundwork for putting bike racks on city buses, implementing annual bike counts, and bolstering the bike-to-work program.

    By 2007 a $50,000 Chattanooga Bicycle Facilities Master Plan had been produced and adopted by 10 neighboring communities and $300,000 in federal Surface Transportation Program had been obtained to add even more miles of bike lanes and routes.

    Watch the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SeJYtDvOVcI

  3. Those 5 miles of bike lanes were only a small part of what the city of Boston is doing. FTA:

    “Last year, the city installed 250 new bike racks and hosted events like Hub on Wheels, an annual citywide bike festival that saw its ridership jump 60 percent from 2007 to 4,000 riders in 2008, and Bike Week, a week of biking events that drew 3,000 riders last year, a 50 percent increase from 2007, according to an annual summary released by Freedman last month.”

    I’m not suggesting that things are perfect here and we should do nothing. I just don’t think that bike lanes should be the focus. Things like raising money to install bike racks, for example, are great. Not only does it provide a tangible benefit but it raises awareness at the same time.

    I believe that Dallas’ biggest problem is not lack of facilities but lack of awareness and education. Even many existing cyclists in Dallas don’t know about the resources and facilities that are already made available by the city.

  4. I can say first hand that I’ve ran bike rack pledge drives, headed group rides, and spoke to children at local schools about bicycle safety, and none of it has increased ridership in our area to any significant or notable level.

    These items are tangible, but they’re very small and easily overlooked. When you place a 5 mile stripe down a road with bicycle only markers throughout the lane, it’s not only hard to overlook…it’s downright impossible. Bike lanes make a statement to the community that a city is serious about bicycle infrastructure, and willing to dedicate space it would otherwise set aside for parking, or additional car lanes.

    When you drive beside these lanes on your way to work, it doesn’t take long to sit in a bit of traffic and to see riders pass you buy at leisurely speeds, all the while helping the environment, their health, and contributing to lessening the amount of automobile traffic within a neighborhood.

  5. Mr Christopher · ·

    I’ll all for dedicated bikes lanes and one thing that I think is overlooked are pedestrain bridges. Coit and Beltline roads is the closest major intersection in my neighborhood. “Taking a lane” at that intersection is like taking a seat at a Russian Roulette tournament. Not a good idea for the sober. It has one of the highest instances of people running red lights in the entire city. You don’t have to be on foot or cycle to realize it is a very dangerous intersection and people are running those red lights at a lethal speed.

    I would never attempt to cross it with or without a bike lane, however that intersection (or close to) would be an ideal spot for a pedestrian bridge that could span Coit road and allow people to avoid the intersection all together yet cross the street safely. This would/could also link two major shopping centers thereby making them friendlier and inviting to those on foot or cycle. I’d bike to the grocery store if I could do so without risking my life and I’d also bike to eat/shop nearby if I could cross Coit safely.

    I think I read on this blog that Katy Trail has an intersection problem yet I don’t think anyone has considered building a pedestrain ovberpass” as a solution. Cars use bridges, why not people on foot or cycle?

    That is the sort of improvement I’d like to see in Dallas. Some sort of pedestrian (bike friendly) bridges. Seems like the stimulous package would be able to fund improvements like that.

    Chris

  6. Bridges are a pretty common part of Multi-Use paths in Dallas, particularly the rail conversions. See for example the Santa Fe Trail currently under construction in East Dallas. The Katy trail includes several bridges and I believe they are planning to spend millions of dollars to build another one. I don’t know if bridges have ever been considered for the current at-grade crossings that you refer to.

    I think I’ve seen an existing pedestrian bridge over LBJ and another one is planned near Skillman. I don’t know of any over an intersection like you describe though. They tend to be very expensive and difficult to design and build where you don’t have an existing grade separation. You need room for the stairs, ADA ramps, and all that. They have been trying to put one across Mockingbird, for example, as part of the Katy Trail extension and it has caused a number of delays to the project.

    I’m wondering, if you don’t feel comfortable riding through a particular intersection, why don’t you walk your bike across using the pedestrian crossing signals? Or perhaps you can find an alternate route that avoids the intersection altogether? TIMTOWTDI!

  7. bikerider · ·

    Bikelanes increase our danger at the very spots that are already the most hazardous.
    Intersections.

    Unless sharrows will be implimented at all intersections, newly installed bikelanes will only serve to lure unsuspecting riders to their potential deaths via cars turning across our lane.

    Also, if these “lanes” are only installed on side streets, they’ll be a total waste. If we need them at all, we need them on the major streets like Coit, Preston, Beltline, Arapaho, Mockingbird etc etc.

    You know, the type of streets that we’ve actually had commuter cyclists stuck on by inattentive drivers.

    IMO, Dallas is a great place to ride as it is now. The only thing lacking is any type of education aimed at drivers to at least let them know we belong in the center of the lane if it is less than 14′ wide.

  8. The intersection debate is what is commonly brought up, but the reality here is that Portland has hundreds of miles of bike lanes, that cross hundreds of intersections. Last year they had 0 fatalities…Dallas and the surrounding area had 6.

    If your argument is continually going to be “they are death traps at intersections”, your going to have to explain why our accident ratios are higher than cities with bike lanes.

  9. […] recently profiled Boston’s new bike coordinator, Nicole Freedman, after reading the impressive Boston Globe […]

  10. mannytmoto,

    What are you looking for? I have, safely commuted 25 miles a day for the last 6 years in Dallas. It seems to be working for me.

    I ride where I want and am able to go where I want with out aid of paint stripes to keep me safe. Sure some drivers are jerks but I sometimes am when I drive, if cyclists want special treatment there should be a lot more of them, other wise bike lanes are just long thin ghettos for people with less privileges.

  11. bikerider · ·

    There’s been 30+ years of studies done in places like Copenhagen and other so-called bike-Meccas that clearly show a large reduction in safety at intersections where bike lanes exist.

    I tried posting the actual numbers before, but you didn’t allow them to go up, because they never made it past the moderation process.

    There’s also an intersection in San Francisco that was shown to be more dangerous, but when the city tried to remove it the bike lane people came out in droves to “save” it.
    Apparently they don’t care if it’s been shown to REDUCE their safety, all they can see are stripes of paint and they want to keep them at all costs.

    Also, just from being out there riding for many many years I’ve learned that intersections can be very dangerous if you aren’t out in the drivers line of sight. To be off to the side of a turning driver is to become his sudden surprise that he can’t stop in time for.

    As far as bike lanes here in Dallas, you keep mentioning the the good folks who were killed here by inattentive drivers.
    Are you pushing to get bike lanes installed on the type of streets {Arapaho} where they were struck? Or is this push only about getting them installed on side streets that don’t need them?

    If you’re not pushing for them on streets like Arapaho you should quit using the car/cyclist accidents that occur there as justification for bike lanes, because even if bike lanes existed on the side streets, they wouldn’t have saved anyone riding on Arapaho, and those people already had the choice of riding on smaller side streets but chose not to.
    You don’t really think a stripe of paint along a side streets gutter will really entice such a rider to not use the streets like Arapaho, do you?

    So what good are they?

    Work to get ’em on all the BIG streets and I could prolly support that. {with sharrows at intersections, of course}

    What I can’t support is reducing my Right to use the road in an attempt to placate the over blown fears of a generally non-riding public.

  12. We have some great interviews planned with Copenhagen planners in the coming weeks. I think many of your concerns will be answered here.

    Also, the non-bike riding public is what we’re attempting to change. The San Fran bike lane you referenced is well documented, and even the judge recently through out the claims by the MTA on safety since the data cited for accidents was pulled from years prior to recent modifications to the intersection. If you google the Octavia lane (what you’re referencing), notice all of the comments from riders who use it daily. They’re the one’s demanding not to have it pulled.

  13. bikerider · ·

    Right. They’re the ones demanding it not be “pulled” because they’re blinded by stripes of paint and simply refuse to ride if there isn’t one.
    Even if the City shows that it’s more dangerous because of it. {which they did}

    Also, can you answer the question about the big streets? Is the push on to put bike lanes on those streets?
    Or only the little streets that don’t need them?
    i.e. are you working to improve our current ability to get around town? Or you working to limit the Rights we all currently enjoy?
    i.e. you can already ride anywhere you want {551.103} and IMHO Oak Cliff is already a wonderful place to street ride. Please don’t ruin it.

    As far as the non-bike riding public goes, I resent having my Rights to the road limited because they’re too afraid to just go ride their bikes.

  14. We’re going to have to agree to disagree here.

    You asked why the push for bike lanes…please re-read the About page for BFOC. This is a site dedicated to advocating bike infrastructure (lanes, tracks, cycle paths, etc). If that upsets you, then this isn’t the site for you.

  15. bikerider · ·

    You didn’t answer the question.

    You keep pointing out the alledged fact that we need bike lanes due the local accidents and fatalities that have occurred here.

    Problem is, didn’t most of those accidents and fatalities happen on multi-lane, high{er} speed streets like Arapaho?

    Are you advocating that lanes be installed on those types of streets? {Arapaho, Greenville, Preston, NWHwy…etc..etc.}
    The impression I get is that you are using those fatalities as a part of your advocacy for the advancement of bike lanes.
    I would presume that the only reason that you would mention those fatalities at all would be to say, “see? if we’d only had bike lanes this wouldn’t have happened”.

    If you’re advocating for bike lanes on major streets like those mentioned above, perhaps there are places that could use them.

    However, if you are only advocating for bike lanes on two-lane, 30-35mph side streets {Whitehurst in NDallas for example} you’re advocating the wasting of time and money, because those streets are better off and safer for cyclists without bike lanes and those that were struck on streets like Arapaho would’ve still gotten hit even if streets like Whitehurst had them.

    So, what are you doing to help those of us that have been out there for years proving day in and day out that VC works?
    Right now all I see you doing are things designed to reduce my Rights to the road in the name of luring new riders to the streets who are too afraid to just get out there and learn what they need to do. i.e. become an educated and skilled cyclist via experience.

    Again, if you are advocating the seizing of the right lane on all existing multi-lane streets in the DFW area for exclusive use of cyclists and only cars making right turns, then we can work together on this.
    Isn’t two lanes enough for the big metal boxes people insist on carrying around with them?

    Also, it would do all of us a service if you’d quit with the condescending attitude I keep seeing exhibited towards those that have been out there for years proving that VC works if you actually apply it.

  16. I’m not saying we need bike lanes just due to accidents and fatalities…that’s the argument given by VC’s for not having bike lanes. We’re just pointing out the hypocrisy in that statement.
    As far as the condescending tone given towards VC’s here…you might want to head back over to Cycle Dallas and take a long hard look at the tone used toward bike lane proponents. It began well before BFOC ever existed. In fact, the article from CD that spawned this entire debate was prefaced with the line:

    “The neo-urban hipsters, on the other hand, are at once proud of Oak Cliff and desirous that it be something else. That something is Portland. The new “Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom” of American communities (where the poor are shipped out of town, and Federal subsidized housing is provided for Liberal Arts Majors working at Starbuck’s… I’m not making this up!”

    And yes, we definitely want bike lanes on 30 to 35 mph roads. Where do you think they exist in all of the other cities? Highways? Head to Boulder or Portland or Davis or Minneapolis or Chattanooga or Austin and see for yourself. 90% of the bike lanes you see are on these roads.

    So why are we advocating lanes? It’s simple, we’re advocating for a more walkable community with less reliance on automobiles. Bike lanes, streetcars, wide sidewalks, thinner car lanes, complete streets, all do this. What you’re advocating is to continue a heavy reliance on car and car infrastructure. The fragmentation of our communities began as soon as we carved out wide concrete moats to seperate us all. If we can take a lane or two back and give it to the pedestrian or cyclist, we’ve immediately returned our city to a livable community.

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