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.
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.
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.