• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Photo: Headshot of Rich Barlow, an older white man with dark grey hair and wearing a grey shirt and grey-blue blazer, smiles and poses in front of a dark grey backdrop.

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 21 comments on Cyclists Push for Bike Lanes behind Barriers

  1. We need the BU Police to help enforce the No Stopping/No Parking/Tow Zone areas of the Commonwealth Avenue campus, including where they should bring in Boston Police. It’s an ongoing safety problem that delivery trucks are allowed to stop and stay in front of stores such as City Convenient 700 Commonwealth Ave, blocking the bike lane there. The Boston Globe delivery truck is a regular offender. Cyclists are forced to swing way out into traffic, amidst other vehicles which have to somehow maneuver around the illegally parked trucks. I have never once seen a BU Police car attending to such public safety problems.

    1. Would be great if the trucks stop in the traffic lane with blinkers on to make deliveries, and leave the bike lane clear. Will protect bike lane and slow traffic.

  2. It would also be helpful if cyclists would use their lanes and obey traffic laws. They often bike on the sidewalk and don’t stop at lights on the street. I was almost run down by a bike stepping off a curb at a crosswalk on a walk signal last night. That happens frequently. You can’t hear or see the bikes like you can the cars and they should stop at red lights.

  3. Whatever else happens, vehicle traffic, including buses, needs to slow down considerably. When school is in session, Com Ave basically functions as a pedestrian zone. We need to make that official, or else drivers will continue to feel entitled to be enraged at bikers and pedestrians who simply have no safe choices right now.

    1. Pedestrians have safe choices. There are plenty of places to cross legally and safely on Comm. Ave. If pedestrians didn’t make a habit of ignoring the traffic signals and of walking against the light, they would be a lot safer.

      1. Sometimes pedestrians have to ignore the traffic signals because everyone else is inconsiderate. There are plenty of times I would be stranded trying to cross the street (especially BU Bridge area) because cars were turning aggressively while I had the walk light. Despite “yield to pedestrians on turn” signs, entire walk light cycles will go by without opportunities to cross. Same problem in intersections when cars decide to block the box and cause gridlock, preventing safe crossing for pedestrians.

  4. Pedestrians need to be protected from bicycles. If cyclists refuse to obey traffic laws (especially stopping at stop lights) and continue to be in conflict with bus drivers, they should be removed from Comm ave.

    Boston has let their automobile drivers be out of control for decades. They need to crack down on bicyclists soon or begin banning them from high traffic areas.

    1. The best way to improve cyclist behavior is by providing complete, well designed, safe infrastructure for them. This has been well proven in study after study.

      Think of it this way: in places where there are no sidewalks, people still walk… they just do it in the road.

      So, want better cyclist behavior? Support better cycling infrastructure.

  5. One of the most important questions is who should go around buses and double-parked cars and the answers is cars because they are most protected. Therefore the cycle lanes should be added to the sidewalk further improving the pedestrianization of the area.

  6. I hope that transportation commissioner James Gillooly will get on a bike and ride down Comm Ave. and then go ride in the protected bike lane on Western Ave. so that he can understand what we are saying. Bike lanes protected by parked cars are the best; they can be cleared of snow and debris, they separate bikers and pedestrians, and motorists cannot double park or block them by taking a long diagonal to get to the right turn lane. I disagree with the special right turn lane concept, which BTW is in place in front of 808 Comm Ave and intermingles cars and vehicles very dangerously. The Western Ave. protected bike lane is much better than the multi-use trails. I disagree with Schimek’s position. Zank is right, however, all traffic, including bikes should slow down on Comm Ave. Bikers should not be going 20 mph. I have also seen many pedestrians wait for vehicles to pass at intersections and then step out in front on on-coming bicycles who still have a green light. Everyone needs to think more defensively!

  7. I am a daily cycle commuter from Fenway to West Campus – we need wider and/or protected tracks. With thousands of students and pretty flat land, cycling is ideal, but it is horrifying in fast traffic, and the BU bridge is absolutely life threatening. Most cyclists ride safely, but the narrow track is dangerous and many cars don’t park close to the curb, extending into the bike lane.

  8. Thanks Rich Barlow for writing a well-researched and careful article that covers different points of view (except it would be better to say “travel lane” than “car travel lane”, since bicyclists are equally allowed). In response to David Watson’s comment about “needed physical separation from motor vehicle traffic”: “protected” bike lanes provide only a false protection — a barrier where you don’t need it (between intersections) but increased collision risk where most car-bike collisions occur, at intersections. I also note that the groups who are now calling to put a bike lane on the sidewalk side of Comm Ave to protect bicyclists from opening doors are the same ones who demanded the current design in 2007-2008, even though putting bike lanes in the door zone was already a known hazard (dramatized by the 2002 death of Dana Laird in Cambridge). We know know that more than 1/4 of incidents on Comm Ave are doorings, and a similar number happen when bicyclists overtake stopped or slow traffic in the bike lane, unaware that motorists are likely to make a right turn across the bike lane. There was only 1 sideswipe collision of a bicyclist in day light, and only 1 collision of the dreaded type when a motorist rear-ended a bicyclist — and that involved a driver who told police she was “too drunk to drive.” I have recently completed the full analysis of 1800 collisions citywide, and there were only 26 “motorist overtaking” collisions in daylight where the bicyclist did not swerve prior to the collision (1.4%), even though most roads did not have bike lanes (and 4 of the 26 happened with bike lanes). Most of these were sideswipes where the bicyclist was not seriously injured. Only one was a full rear end collision, and it involved an erratic (drugged or criminal) driver. Bicyclists are right to worry about the risk of injury, but wrong to worry about overtaking motorists. Instead they should worry about riding without lights at night, passing on the right, riding the wrong way, not observing red lights and stop signs, and the occasional motorist left turn, pulling out, or changing lanes without yielding. And above all, they should worry about potholes, ice, sand, trolley tracks, jaywalking pedestrians, and other road hazards that lead to most bicyclist injuries, including most serious ones (not reported to police, but that show up in the hospital data).

  9. An alert reader noted that an earlier version of this story referred to “elevated” crosswalks, which implied pedestrian overpasses. We have amended the story to “raised” crosswalks, which are built to the level of the sidewalk on each side of an intersection.

  10. It’s strange that this write-up gives equal time to both Mr. Schimek’s personal plan (for unprotected bike lanes) and the protected cycle track plan supported by the vast majority of bike advocates. This is like giving equal time to evolution and creationism in a science class. Both are ideas but only one is accurate.

    I predict the City and BU will use the false controversy created by Mr. Schimek’s comments as an excuse to say “bike advocates asked for buffered bike lanes” when the vast majority of cycling advocates agree that physically protected lanes are the only way forward.

    Mr. Schimek’s plan will not attract the segment of riders known as Interested but Concerned (60%). Instead, only the Strong and Fearless (1%) will cycle on Comm Ave. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/158497

    The only way to grow the cycling mode share on Comm Ave is physically bike lanes (cycle tracks.)

    -John, Allston

    1. In reply to John J: It doesn’t matter what is done on Commonwealth Avenue, it is still going to be crowded, congested and inconvenient to cross. That is especially a problem for local travel by bicyclists, with one-way travel on each side, lengthening trip distance and time. Many trips require overshooting the destination and doubling back. Bicycle travel also will be slower on separated bikeways than in bike lanes, due to the inability to pull out and pass, and to complications at intersection. The predictable result is wrong-way travel and travel on sidewalks. A solution which really addresses this problem, and also gets bicyclists and pedestrians past the mess at the the BU Bridge, is to connect parallel, lightly-traveled streets and paths, as I have described here: http://streetsmarts.bostonbiker.org/2015/03/25/commonweatlh-avenue-victory/

      As to your claim of “false controversy,” you make an argument of popularity to counter Paul Schimek’s of safety. Dare I say, apples and oranges? Let’s look outside the box for a solution which will offer both, and convenience too. I think that the best which can be done on Commonwealth Avenue is what Paul Schimek advocates, but that still falls way short of what is possible by looking a bit farther afield.

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