Councilor Flynn Sponsors Licensing Session on Boylston Bike and Bus Lanes Days Ahead of Project Getting Underway

Four days ahead of the project’s scheduled start date, District 2 City Councilor Ed Flynn sponsored a virtual listening session on Wednesday, June 5. on the city’s controversial plan to add a bicycle lane on and bus lane connected to Boylston Street.

​The Boylston Street Better Bus and Bike Lane project will create a one-way, separated bike lane on Boylston Street between Arlington Street and Massachusetts Avenue, as well as a new bus lane from Ring Road to Arlington Street, according to the city.

​Susan Collings, a South End resident who bikes as her primary mode of transportation, said she has felt unsafe while biking on Boylston Street and expressed her support for the project. “Go for it on the Boylston Street bike lanes because it’s going to make biking a lot safer in that area,” she said.

​But Collings also urged the city to address the risk for bicyclists posed by mopeds and other delivery vehicles frequently crossing over into bike lanes.

​Ryan Hatcher, an East Fens resident who primarily walks and doesn’t bike, said he too would “strongly” support the bike lane on Boylston Street, and added if implemented properly, he believes it could make a “big difference” when it comes to safety.

​Hatcher echoed opening remarks made by Councilor Flynn, who asserted that the “reckless driving in the City of Boston has to end,” especially when it comes to mopeds and other delivery vehicles, along with the increasingly prevalent problem of drag-racing around the Back Bay and in other city neighborhoods.

​Deborah Bulkeley, a longtime Back Bay resident who owns a car but walks as her primary transportation mode, said Boylston Street currently isn’t safe for bicyclists, and asserted that more enforcement is needed on roadways.

​“Double-parking on Boylston is terrible,” she said. “If there’s going to be a bike lane there, there has to be enforcement.”

​ Danielle Mooney, a Dorchester resident who manages a carpentry company and frequently works in the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and South End, said she would welcome the additional bike and bus infrastructure on Boylston Street because she believes improving access for other transportation modes would free up the roads for those working in the trades, like herself, who rely on driving their own vehicles for work.

​Mooney also predicted that drivers would adjust quickly to the reduction of one traffic lane needed to achieve the project.

​Matt Sabel, a Back Bay resident for more than 30 years and father of two small children, said he’s never seen conditions more dangerous for pedestrians in the neighborhood.

​Sabel suggested that operators of motorized scooters, including delivery drivers, should have to go through the same type of process to get a license as for a driver’s license.

​Regarding the proposed bike lane, Sabel expressed “a real sense of hopelessness that the decisions have been made with minimal thought.”

​Meg Mainzer-Cohen, president and executive director of the Back Bay Association, said her “macro comment” was that her organization and the neighborhood businesses that make up its membership are “extremely concerned about what’s going to happen to Boylston Street and much of the Back Bay,” once the project is implemented.

​Mainzer-Cohen emphasized that the BBA’s concerns with the project isn’t about putting the interests of the neighborhoods’ businesses above those of the residential community, since Boylston Street is a roadway that serves everyone.

​“We don’t think the city has quite the right balance,”  said Mainzer-Cohen, who added that city needed to take the project area’s close proximity to MBTA service more into account.

The city also needs to consider that pedestrians are now ‘underserved’ when it comes to signal timings at intersections, added Mainzer-Cohen, even without taking frequent vehicle loadings and unloadings into account. She also predicted that two vehicular lanes flanked by a bike lane on one side and a bus lane on the other wouldn’t adequately serve the area’s transportation needs.

Like Sabel, Mainzer-Cohen said she doesn’t think the city had given the community sufficient notification ahead of moving forward with the project.

Mainzer-Cohen suggested that the city should take a ‘phased’ approach to the project instead by installing the bike lane first and then the bus lane at a later date, once the impact of the bike lane is better understood. (Mainzer-Cohen said she had broached this idea with city officials, but they were unwilling to consider it.)

Martyn Roetter, chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay, cited the “historic nature” of Back Bay streets, with multiple modes of transportation sharing “small spaces” on its streets and narrow sidewalks.

​Roetter echoed Mainzer-Cohen’s comments and pointed to the symbiotic relationship between Back Bay residents and businesses, which depend on neighborhood streets to provide and obtain goods and services.

​Regarding the current plan, Roetter said NABB remains most concerned with pedestrians as “the most vulnerable constituency,” followed by cyclists.

​“It is a complex problem, and what we’re looking for is some reasonable compromise between all the alternatives,” said Roetter. “I hope we can arrive at a solution that’s more balanced than the one that’s being considered at the moment.”

​In conclusion, Councilor Flynn emphasized that the listening session wasn’t “the end of the conversation,” and said he hoped the city would work with the community in “good faith” to reach a compromise on the issue.

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