I spent half a day last week riding around the Charles River Basin looking at the bridges, intersections, and paths, and identifying problems and brainstorming solutions with fellow advocates from WalkBoston, LivableStreets Alliance, Boston Cyclists Union, and the Esplanade Association. We work with these groups regularly, but this gathering was noteworthy because we were all invited to tour the area by bike with MassDOT, DCR personnel and their consultants to aid bicycle and pedestrian planning.
MassDOT has been encouraging employees to ride bikes to meetings and to check out project sites, and has purchased a fleet of bikes for employees to borrow. The Secretary of Transportation, the Highway Division Administrator, the Longfellow Bridge project managers, among others, have been spotted riding bikes around projects.
We talked about a wide range of issues and projects, including Longfellow Bridge connections to the parkland, the Harvard Bridge connections between the Esplanade and the Massachusetts Avenue bike lanes, the BU Bridge (we heard that the design still includes 5-foot bike lanes), the River Street and Western Avenue bridges, the Anderson Memorial Bridge, the underpass debate, ideas for improving the paths managed by the DCR along both sides of the river, and more. It was an opportunity to talk about both ongoing projects and our collective wishlist.
On our way back, one of the MassDOT bikes got a flat. No one knew how to fix it or had a spare tube, so I was able to save the day (and suggest that all the MassDOT bikes should be stocked with spare tubes, patch kits, and pumps). But more importantly, sharing this little misadventure further strengthened our relationship with MassDOT staff working on some important projects for bicyclists.
Thanks to MassDOT and DCR for reaching out to us and for engaging in the conversation, and especially for recognizing the importance of experiencing these places from a bike saddle.