DCR Gets It Right – With A Little Help From Advocates

We are pleased to declare victory for bicyclists on two separate but related roadway access issues, on the Alewife Brook Parkway on the Arlington-Cambridge-Somerville line, and on the Mystic Valley Parkway in Arlington.

Narrow shoulders, wide lanes

New bike lanes in progress!

In late August, we discovered what appeared to be preliminary striping for very narrow shoulders and very wide travel lanes on the newly-repaved Mystic Valley Parkway in Arlington. As shown, those shoulders would not have been wide enough to qualify as bike lanes.  We immediately expressed our concern to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and were quickly joined by other advocates who also noticed the problem. This was urgent, as paving and striping were ongoing. A flurry of emails and phone calls, and five days later we learned that DCR would stripe five-foot bike lanes – a big improvement. And those bike lanes are now installed! Many thanks to all the advocates for jumping on this right away, and to DCR for listening to us.

“No Bikes” signs went up …

… and finally came down!

The other problem involved some incorrect road signs and, surprisingly, considering there was no engineering or paint involved, took much longer to solve. Several months ago, we learned that “No Bikes” signs had appeared at intersections on the Alewife Brook Parkway, ostensibly banning bicyclists from riding on the road. This surprised us because we know that Massachusetts law gives bicyclists the right to use all public roads except for limited access or express highways (such as I-93 or I-95). Other bicyclists also noticed the signs and complained to neighboring municipalities. More emails and phone calls ensued, over a period of months, until two weeks ago, when we got the word that the signs would come down. And down they are.

For the record, we agree that the Alewife Brook Parkway is not a particularly good road for bicycling. Cars go too fast, and there is little or no shoulder so bicyclists must take the lane. The new Alewife Greenway offers an alternative, but some bicyclists prefer to ride in the road for a variety of reasons. We believe DCR acted to protect bicyclists, though we disagreed with their approach. The answer is not to remove bicycles from the road – it is to make the road safer for bicyclists. MassBike will continue to defend bicyclists right to use the road, and we have committed to working with state officials on future efforts to improve bicyclist safety on the parkway. Though we often have to be persistent, we are very lucky to have state agencies, like DCR, that value our opinion and, ultimately, agree with us.



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3 Responses to DCR Gets It Right – With A Little Help From Advocates

  1. wogga September 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    Not sure I agree with removing signage — if the road can’t be improved. I applaud MassBike etc for insisting on bicyclists’ legal right to any non highway road, but the road should really be fixed. A bicyclist on Rte 16 is an unsafe thing – for him/herself and the cars trying to use the road.

    I am a year round bike-commuter.

    • Tom Walsh September 26, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

      The issue is a legal one. Cyclists have a legal right to use that road, regardless of how unsafe the road is, or how terrible of an idea it might be to bike on that road.

      Thus, hanging a “no bikes on road” sign is illegal — the DCR simply has no legal authority to put up such a sign. The DCR was legally bound to take them down.

      The DCR could alternately put up a sign that said “CAUTION: ROAD IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS FOR CYCLISTS. PLEASE SEEK ALTERNATE ROUTES.” or something like that. That would be permissible.

  2. anon October 1, 2012 at 9:52 pm #

    I’ve been riding on a nearby section of Route 16 more and more — near the Fresh Pond rotaries. Despite the narrow lanes and lack of shoulders, I find the roadway much safer than the bike path.

    At each of the multiple driveway crossings, there’s a nonstandard stop sign for the path (no actual sign — just a stop sign painted onto the ground), and granite curbs marking driveway edges which cross the path diagonally, which are supposed to be flush but actually cause an unpleasant jolt. The path is unsafe, uncomfortable, and slow.

    The new cycle track on Concord Avenue along the pond isn’t as bumpy (for now), but it’s still unsafe and slow.

    So I claim the lane in the road instead. No harassment from other drivers or police so far — let’s hope it stays that way.

    One problem these bicycle sidewalks don’t have is pedestrians. But that’s just because hardly anyone wants to walk in that area.

    The next time someone proposes one of these sidepaths, please try to convince them to build shoulders on the road instead.