• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    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 15 comments on Comm Ave’s New Bike Lanes: Nine Safety Tips You Need to Know About

  1. Stopped cars in traffic create an illusion that even cyclists have stopped. Possibly, late for class or an appointment, we see cyclists speeding on the special lane higher than 25 miles per hour. Bike lanes speed should be restricted to 15 miles per hour.

  2. As evident by the photo at the top of this story, the bike lanes just become an extension of the sidewalk making them useless for cyclists unless the plan to ride at a walking speed. It’s a shame the city and BU took this approach as opposed to putting the bike lanes on the left side of Comm Ave (like in Back Bay) where they’d be unencumbered by parked cars and pedestrians.

    It also seems unlikely that they will be plowed and salted in the winter. The barrier separated bike lanes near the BU bridge are effectively unusable in January and February until the snow melts.

    As a daily and longtime bike commuter it’s nice to see more and more people around BU riding to work and classes but these “protected” lanes are going to be a sore spot for decades as cyclists learn to ignore them and ride in the road as they always have.

    1. I’d like to point out that the reason pedestrians are using the bike line in the photo above the article is because of BU construction blocking the sidewalks. Until the never-ending construction is completed on campus, it doesn’t seem likely that bicyclists and pedestrians will be entitled to their own separate spaces.

      1. Agreed. As a (daily) cyclist, I don’t like these bike lanes for various reasons, but the pedestrians in the picture above may have nowhere else to go (the text of the article notes that they are being diverted into the bike lane during construction). I note, too, that the cyclist is going the wrong way in what is intended to be a one-way bike lane.

        My own uncertainty about the lanes may change as we all become used to them — it seems to me that the new bike-only lights that have gradually been appearing in Cambridge and Boston are helping to regulate various road users in a positive way, but it takes a while to adjust, just as it took a while for cities to catch up and realize that there are increasing numbers of winter bikers these days and that it made sense to start plowing with them in mind, too (there are still major blind spots, e.g. Mass Ave in Cambridge).

        1. That was my thought as well, about the bicycle traffic lights. The Comm Ave bridge configuration has been in place for over 2 years now, and only recently has the car traffic, bicycle traffic, and pedestrian traffic seem to have “caught on” to how the lanes and signaling system works. (That doesn’t stop some cars turning on red when they are not supposed to, some pedestrians ignoring the Do Not Walk signals, and some cyclists blowing through the red lights)

          The fact that there are no bicycle traffic lights at St. Paul/Buick and Comm Ave is making what was always a dangerous intersection, even more dangerous (for cars, as well as pedestrians and cyclists.)

          I like the suggestion that crosswalks be painted in the bike lanes where there are already crosswalks on the street portion. “Slow” or even “Stop” signs also need to be added to the bike lanes. And green paint was a great idea for the places cars and bikes cross paths??? What a dumb idea! Yellow, orange or red should be used in those areas where 2 modes of transport cross paths.

      2. The fact they are being used as an alternative to the sidewalk during construction is a good example of the futility of these lanes. If they are “repurposed” every time there is construction, a delivery, or otherwise an impediment to the normal sidewalk then they function poorly as a dedicated lane for cyclists.

        If a cyclist has entered these protected bike lanes when they encounter such an obstruction they are stuck. They can’t ride around the blockage without stopping and lifting up the bike over the curb onto the normal sidewalk or the roadway. At least with roadway bike lanes a cyclists can navigate around the inventible obstacles.

  3. Indeed, as we see on the photo, we see pedestrian apparently untrained, oblivious, or self-entitled to the bike lanes. As a pedestrian myself, but also as a cyclist and a car driver, I can often see pedestrians choosing to walk or stand in protected bike lanes as well as cars parked on unprotected bike lanes.
    There will always be people who lack awareness of self and of the rights of other people, whether behind the wheel, by foot, or on a bike. However, the same way that pedestrians know not to walk into oncoming car traffic, pedestrians will learn not to walk into oncoming bike traffic. Quickly, we will learn to continue using the sidewalk and stop obliviously misusing other spaces.

  4. Is BUPD going to stop parking their cars in the unprotected bike lanes along Comm Ave (e.g., in front of the GSU)? This is a huge problem and they do it constantly

  5. We should remove the painted bike lane in front of Warren. It’s clearly meant to be a delivery truck / Uber / Lyft / BU Facilities / utility company loading and unloading zone, as evidenced by the continuous use of the ‘lane’ by those folks.

    Pretending that this is a bike lane means that cyclists have to swerve in to the traffic on Comm Ave to get around the parked vehicles. This is worse than having a bike lane at that location.

    Either this is a bike lane or it isn’t. Painting lines on the road doesn’t mean you’ve made a bike lane, it means you’ve painted the street. Time to either move deliveries and ride-share to another spot (Cummington or the ‘scoop’ in front of COM, maybe) or wait until a student is injured and do something then.

    I’ve walked down the line of vehicles in front of Warren a few times to speak to the drivers, and most of them were pretty polite, said that they understood th issue, but had no other place to park for a delivery. Let’s give them a spot and remove that argument.

  6. Good comments in general. One more observation is that bicycle traffic lights are a major even if unusual improvement which we rarely see in the USA (c.f. Holland). However managing pedestrian, motor vehicle, trolley and bike traffic is difficult. Hence having them at the BU bridge and not at St Paul or Pleasant etc., is a critical issue. Either use them consistently in an area where they are introduced or don’t use them at all.

  7. Cyclists need to be much more careful and vigilant now than before. I was riding on Comm Ave eastbound, about to cross Amory with a green light, and a tractor trailer took a right turn in front of me. I was able to swerve right to avoid collision, but I have never come that close to being hit in my 4 years biking in Boston.

  8. It is an absolute horror show walking, driving and probably biking around here. Add in the white “OK to cross” signals for pedestrians where cars have a green light too and it becomes something much more serious. Did you see what happened in South Boston about 6 weeks ago? Pedestrian was hit and killed while thinking they were OK crossing with a white signal, when traffic had the green light and could take a right…I know pedestrians have the right of way, but look around here, there are construction trucks, delivery trucks and anything else you can imagine blocking every intersection at all times of the day….something bad is going to happen around campus too.

  9. Respectfully, this article is in error – people using scooters and skateboards and wheelchairs are allowed in bike lanes, or at least not explicitly banned. This is a complicated issue, and we absolute need better infrastructure for people using light transit, so this is very good step in the right direction!

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