Along Columbus Avenue in Lower Roxbury and the South End, bicycles and residents are elated to hear that safety improvements are coming to the highly commuted traffic corridor.
The Boston Public Transportation Department (BTD), announced the safety improvements, including a parking-protected bike lane that will run down Columbus Avenue from Melnea Cass Boulevard to Northampton Street, at a public meeting on Thursday, March 15 at the Tenants’ Development Corporation.
These improvements will be part of a Public Works Department project to repave Columbus Avenue. Construction is expected to start in late spring or early summer of this year.
“This project meets a need for cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians commuting in the area,” said Gina Fiandaca, commissioner of BTD.
Safety concerns that the BTD have heard from the public include poor roadway surface, desire for safer crossings, speeding, and double-parking in the bike lane. Also, people have said it is hard to see each other at intersections.
The parking protected bike lane will reduce crossing distance for people walking, reduce conflicts between people on bikes and, in vehicles, prevent people from opening the door into the bike lane and makes it more comfortable for bikers who will be separated from traffic.
“It’s one of the busiest sections of road that bicycles use in the city,” said Vineet Gupta, director of planning of BTD. “You just need to stand in the area, and you’ll see it.”
This corridor sees a very high percentage of bikes. A study taken in May 2017 from east of Burke Street shows that at 8a.m. bicycles account for 25 percent of the total vehicles being used in the area. That means from 8 to 9 a.m., there are 200 bicycles using this stretch of roadway to commute.
The project will coordinate and connect to current bike routes and ongoing projects in the area including the Southwest Corridor, the future Ruggles Path by Northeastern, the South Bay Harbor Trail that will extend down Melnea Cass Boulevard by next year and to improvements coming to Massachusetts Avenue.
Vision Zero data from June 2014 to October 2016 shows that Columbus Avenue is an area that has a high numbers of bike crashes. Vision Zero Boston hopes to eliminate all fatal and serious crashes on Boston streets by 2030.
“We want to make it safe for all walking, bicycling and driving,” said Gupta.
The project will also include daylighting or the process of removing a parking spot closest to the intersection that will allow people to make eye contact without having to step out into the road. This will restrict the parking by 20 feet from the intersection, per BTD rules. Some of the these non-conforming spots are used as parking today.
In addition, the city will work to make bike facilities between the Southwest Corridor and Northampton Street more accessible. Fiandaca stated that this could be done with the Hubway expansion (now called Blue Bikes) that was recently announced in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield that will add 70 new Hubway stations throughout the city.
BTD also heard concerns from people traveling to the Peoples Baptist Church on Camden Street and the St. Cyprians Church on S.t Cyprians Place have nowhere to park on Sundays.
In order to remedy that problem, BTD proposes allowing parking in the median area, which currently has cobblestones that will be removed, for Sundays from Camden Street to Northampton Street.
Crosswalks are being moved from the east to west side of the street with updated ramps on Coventry Street, Cunard Street, and St. Cyprians Place.
Funding for this project comes from the City’s capital budget and fits under the Public Works Department’s repaving project of Columbus Avenue.
Due to the tight deadline and positive feedback BTD received after the first public meeting, there will be no more public outreach.
“With the impact this project will have on Columbus Avenue and the expansion of the Hubway program, we hope the 2018 season will kick off in a great way,” said Fiandaca.