Two-way Bike Traffic on Webster Ave

Earlier this month I sent input to the Sommerville Bicycle Committee in response to their March 2014 Transportation Improvement Proposal (It can be found underneath the heading “Transportation Improvement Proposals” at this link:  I think their proposal is excellent, but in the words of their reply “I like when residents see what the Bike Committee is asking of the city and say it is not bold enough.”  As partners with the city I suppose their proposals are tempered with political realities such as budgets and timelines of ongoing public works projects.  Me – not so much… I can just plain dream big.

So today I saw a post on Facebook that Webster Ave now has a painted bike lane.  That’s pretty awesome in itself… but it reminded me that I used Webster Ave as an example in a pitch for counter flow bike lanes in my feedback.  The entire document is linked immediately below.

Suggestion for the Somerville Bicycle Committee

As a community with a desire for safe, connected streets, we should consider converting one-way streets to two way, and where we can’t – install protected counterflow bike lanes.  Many one-way city streets are configured for one-way traffic because in the 1960s and 1970s, highway departments made them that way as a means of speeding up traffic through our neighborhoods.  What we know now and should have known then is that optimizing streets for car throughput is bad for just about everybody – including the safety of people in those cars (It’s been studied: two-way streets are good for neighborhood when compared to one-way streets).

We’ve seen a poignant example of this recently when a driver on the 3-lane highway through the Back Bay neighborhood known as Beacon Street killed two people walking on the sidewalk.  If Beacon Street was one lane each direction with center turn bays, I suspect it would have been much harder for a driver to gather enough speed to get her car airborne and flip it onto the sidewalk.

So I hope you find this educational and even a bit entertaining, and you add to your arsenal of safe streets demands – counterflow bike lanes and converting one-way streets to two-way is better for human scale mobility and community safety.