Mass. Ave. bike safety placed on city agenda

A city of Boston-led initiative to create safer bike lane connections along Massachusetts Avenue was a topic of conversation at the McCormack Civic Association’s meeting lastTuesday.

The Melnea-Cass Better Bike Project intends to work with stakeholders to design improved bike lanes in Dorchester, Roxbury, and the South End on Mass. Ave and Melnea Cass Blvd., according to Jennifer Rowe, a Boston Transportation Department planner who spoke to the civic group.

Through the Go Boston 2030 process, the Better Bike Project identified Mass. Ave. as a priority corridor, and city officials are looking at ways to add a “bicycle facility” to make the area safer for all users.

The Mass. Ave. route into Roxbury from Columbia Road, which also has heavy volumes of truck traffic, is a critical link for bike travel. Near the midpoint, the corridor includes Newmarket Square, passing by Newmarket station on the Fairmount Line and South Bay Center. 

Rowe cited “less-than-ideal’ bike conditions for the 350-400 people who ride along Mass. Ave. each weekday. The number was recorded through a camera system during a project study, she said.

In addition, Rowe said, the sidewalks along the corridor are in poor condition. She noted that Mass. Ave. is one of the worst streets in the city for accidents involving pedestrians and bikers, saying, “This area is pretty scary for people biking and walking.”

Part of the Better Bike outreach focuses on working with neighborhood associations and other stakeholders in the Mass. Ave. area. The project has hosted walk and ride-alongs with the general public, 1010 Mass. Ave staff, and the Newmarket Business Association, and stopped by civic association meetings.

“This is a priority project,” said Rowe. “Our plan over the winter is to get to the drafting table to draw up some plans, iterate on them, and, during that process, discuss some of the trade-offs with different stakeholders, including neighborhood groups.” 

The bicycle facilities would include very little actual construction, consisting mainly of painted bike lanes. While the team hasn’t yet decided on any designs, Rowe said that viable options could include the addition of bike lanes on either side of Mass. Ave, or a bi-directional lane on one side. 

“The hope is to lay out a design by late winter, finalize it in the spring, and start construction over the summer,” she added.

Reconstruction of sidewalks in the area would likely happen over a longer period of time, she said, and require coordination with the city’s Public Works Department. 

Proponents of the Better Bike Project will continue to collect feedback through the winter, hosting open houses and workshops focused on existing conditions, concepts and design tools, details of the preferred design, and pre-construction information.

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