Letters to the Editor

Resident Concerns RE: City of Boston Bike Lane Plans for Back Bay 

Dear Editor,

As a resident of Back Bay for the past 8 years and a Boston resident for over 30 years, I am passionate about advocating for my neighborhood. I am also a supporter of biking and no longer own a car. My urgent plea is for the Boston media to cover the important issue of the impending development of bike lanes in the city that will likely pose concerning consequences to two major intersections; Storrow Drive exit onto Mugar Way/Beacon Street and the popular entrance to Storrow Drive at the Berkeley/Beacon Street intersections exiting Back Bay.  

We are involved with the City of Boston, Mayor Wu, and their Planning Office over a proposed bike lane installation on Berkeley Street. The plan would extend from Columbus Ave in The South End, continue onto Beacon Street, and turn right onto Arlington Street in Back Bay. We believe this plan is reckless and unvalidated, and it will likely cause additional traffic strain and negative impacts on commuters using the primary exiting thoroughfare of Berkeley Street in Back Bay. It also raises safety concerns for all types of travelers on these roads, including pedestrians, pets, cyclists, and drivers.  Other serious impacts include significant losses to premium parking spots (all spots on Berkeley Street’s right side from Columbus Ave through Beacon Street would be removed) and preventing residents (some of whom are elderly, have physical challenges or are parents with young children) from safely entering their home. Additionally, there are serious safety concerns for The Fisher College students on Beacon Street trekking to and from classes and parking spot losses impacting student accessibility and loading and unloading demands, as well as traffic flow constrictions, on the already narrowed Beacon Street, where double-parking remains problematic by the hour, all day and night. 

We learned about the bike lane plans almost a year ago during our annual NABB (Neighborhood Association of Back Bay) meeting. However, we were assured that the Mayor’s Office and City Planning Team members would take into account the feedback and safety concerns of the local neighborhood, specifically in regard to the impact on foot, handicapped, car, tourist, animals, and bike traffic in our area. 

Instead, we were not consulted in the process and were shocked to learn last month about the City’s plans when the City’s Planning Office and its Bike Advocacy team announced that they would be holding intermittent pop-up events to publicize their plans.  At these meetings, run by relatively junior staff, these staffers told us their plans had already been approved by the Mayor, were not up for discussion and would be implemented by the fall of 2023. 

We have attempted to understand the basis for the City’s plans and to make a fact-based argument for reconsideration.  One neighbor, Michael Weingarten, who is known in the community for producing detailed quantitative analyses (with an MBA from Harvard Business School and experience at the Boston Consulting Group), conducted a traffic study of key intersections along Berkeley from Commonwealth to Beacon.  In just two weeks, he produced a 25-page memo highlighting numerous equities and included several compromises to Mayor Wu’s bike plan plans for Back Bay. 

• If the City’s announced purpose is to connect commuters from the South End to the Back Bay Commercial District through bike lanes, there isn’t a significant reason to continue the Berkeley Street bike lane beyond Commonwealth Avenue.  

• Other alternate South End to Back Bay connecting streets have been raised within both Mike’s memo and including several tenured residents’ suggested compromises. The Back Bay residents are simply requesting for the City of Boston, Mayor Wu, and their Planning Office to apply necessary data driven due diligence principles and uphold their responsibility to equitably upgrade existing or design safe bike lanes for all affected parties, by leading with safety first, and resist being influenced by biker convenience as the primary driver for their development principles. 

The Berkeley Street lane will create a continuous, comfortable bike route from the South End and South Boston into the Back Bay–a major employment center – Boston.gov 

 Michael published his report on June 8. I raised the report at the Mayor’s June 22 Back Bay/Beacon Hill Neighborhood Meeting.

{Furthermore, I was fortunate to meet directly with Mayor Wu during a 1:1 and outline appreciable safety advantages to access the Esplanade areas via the Dartmouth Street Footbridge versus The City of Boston Planning and it’s Bike Lane Committee’s preferred Arthur Fiedler Footbridge which has a total of four (4) blind spots and four-foot cement-wall opacity concerns significantly reducing visibility for all travelers by foot or bike. The Dartmouth Street Footbridge has wide open railings offering maximum visibility and is 1/3rd shorter, reducing pedestrian-vs-bicycle direct exposure time. The Mayor verbally acknowledged she was not aware of some of these notable differences and committed to taking a second look at the Dartmouth Street Footbridge for additional consideration. The City Planning Team has refused to take into consideration any alternatives.}  

In the same session, Franklin-Hodge told me that the City had done its own unpublished analyses that supported their plan.  I asked for a copy of a report with accompanying data (as Michael did later).  He agreed, but so far, we have been ignored. 

In sum, the City is proceeding with its plans, and so far, has failed to produce public access to any data analyses the City Planning Office may have used to conclude Berkeley Street as their preferred bike lane connector from the South End to Back Bay, despite numerous requests. 

We urge the media to provide comprehensive coverage of all aspects of the bike lane project, including the City Planning data that was gathered and used. If the project is truly beneficial, it should be made publicly available by Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Boston’s Chief of Streets (and head of the bike lane project).  

Additionally, we question why Mayor Wu’s Administration and City Planning teams have ignored the concerns, suggestions, and compromises put forward by the residents. Raising awareness about this issue in the community is crucial. The City promised open dialogue and has conducted two publicly available meetings for Back Bay residents and have not shared these data points collected and collective residential feedback from these gatherings. Furthermore, these proposed “Sidewalk Meetings” are no place for serious and productive dialogue and data comparisons. 

On Thursday, June 29, at 5 pm-7 pm at the corner of Berkeley and Beacon Streets, all parties for and against this project will meet once again at the epicenter of contention outside on the sidewalk, during a so-called rush-hour albeit on a holiday weekend.  


Ali Foley, Beacon Street Resident (between Berkeley and Clarendon Streets)

Reader Weighs In on Bike Lane

Dear Editor,

Fuller disclosure of the proposed Berkeley Street bike lane reveals it is part of a master planned network connecting riders to the Esplanade. Essentially, the lane is a joy ride linking the cross-town connection to the green belt for recreational purposes. Arguments that the lane bottlenecks car traffic, is injurious to businesses, the white posts unsightly and maintenance intensive have been dismissed as irrelevant. City Hall’s intransigence to Berkeley protestations is the same modis operandi used to silence similar outcries against bike lanes elsewhere in the city.

Push back against bikes is overdue: bikes are not regulated, they are not insured, not bound by traffic rules, rented without safety helmets, and do not have horns to warn pedestrians of their menacing presence. Instead of creating lanes carved out of already inadequate road-bandwidth, bikes are hazards to unsuspecting pedestrians and drivers, who are suddenly surprised by bikes cutting across streets, weaving in and out of traffic, speeding, and not using existing bike lanes.

The same present danger is true of e-scooters. Paris France, by popular vote, has outlawed e-scooters as being too dangerous for public road use. Boston should move beyond nostalgically indulging the minor conveniences and miniscule green effect provided by two wheel vehicles.

Spending tax money to accommodate outmoded means of transportation is counter productive. This conclusion is obvious to anyone walking, or driving Boston’s streets, where risk is an encouraged, dangerous free-for-all by Mayor Wu and her “woke” city hall gang.

Barry Zaltman

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