Back Bay Residents Petition Against Beacon Street Redesign

After a long, confusing construction period over the winter, the redesign of Beacon Street in the Back Bay is finally completed, but many residents are not happy with the result.

Over the course of just a few months, Grant Schaumburg collected over 200 signatures of disgruntled Beacon Street residents over the redesign of the street. Everyone who signed the petition believes the street should be restored to its former state.

Many of the signers added comments regarding the safety, aesthetics, and practicality of new configuration.

“It not as though [the City] was trying to do bad things, they were trying to make it better and more safe,” said Schaumburg. “But they didn’t quite accomplish that.”

Because the redesign was recently finished, Schaumburg believes nothing will happen anytime soon. But Schaumburg said the petition reflects the predominant opinion of people living on Beacon Street, providing a good baseline for evaluating the new configuration.

A year from now, Schaumburg will ask the signers whether they have changed their opinion. He hopes the petition will help the City to decide whether to keep the new design or not.

“The redesign was well-intended,” said Schaumburg. “But it didn’t quite achieve the right thing. Maybe [the City] will come up with something better.”

The construction of the redesign began this past December when crews began work to re-paint lines that shifted the parking lane to a new location, creating a protected bike lane between parked cars and the sidewalk. The new bike lane runs from Berkeley Street down to Massachusetts Avenue.

Other major changes included shifting from three lanes to two lanes of travel to encourage people to drive slower, updated walk signal timing, signage for 25 mph, new ‘no trucks’ signage and no turn on red signage. The project also included daylighting, which helps people see each other at intersections by prohibiting parking at specific corners.

The Boston Transportation Department was in charge of the design of the street and the Boston Public Works Department was in charge of implementation.

“This is an accident waiting to happen!” said one Beacon Street resident in the petition.

Residents voiced that the Beacon Street redesign slows traffic and creates congestion. With the reduced amounts of travel lanes for cars, double-parking by delivery trucks or car share services like Uber, causes further restricted traffic, often narrowing the road down to one lane.

The added congestion creates massive loss of time for those who have to drive to work, making the commute twice as long, wasting fuel and increasing exhaust pollution.

With another bike lane only a few blocks away on Commonwealth Avenue, many residents say there are a low percentage of bikers using the protected bike lane.

“Commonwealth Avenue looks like it’s set up better,” said Schaumburg, even though it doesn’t have a protected bike lane.

Residents said that the new configuration on Beacon Street reduces car and pedestrian safety by making it difficult for cars to see pedestrians and bikes and harder for pedestrians to see cars. The parked cars often block the line of sight.

For example, Schaumburg noted that turning right at Exeter Street requires the driver to look across the passenger’s side of the car for bikes. It is now also very difficult to drive out of the 180 Beacon St. garage because the view of traffic is blocked in both directions.

“It transformed an attractive boulevard into a messy jumble of parked and driving vehicles,” said Schaumburg.

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