Bike lanes to be added to Hub roadways by 2018

By Steven Dufour

In an attempt to keep up with the city’s growing bike population, Boston Bikes announced on Friday a plan to add 75 miles of bike paths to Boston in the next five years.

The Bike Network Plan outlines several stages of implementation for various types of lanes, traffic signals and signs specifically geared toward cyclists on roads all around Boston. The proposal is specifically detailed for the next five years, but also as a whole lays groundwork for projects over the next 30 years.

“This Bike Network Plan will improve the quality of life for every Bostonian and help keep Boston strong by improving our health, our air quality, and by reducing congestion on our city streets,” said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino in a Friday press release. “I know that this Bike Network Plan will help to transform Boston into a world-class bicycling city and make it possible for every Bostonian, young and old, to get out and ride.”

The five-year action plan proposes 47 miles of exclusive bike lanes, the largest category in the proposal. This would entail painting a green lane for cyclists on the road. It also plans for 21 miles of cycle tracks, lanes separated from the road by a median, which will decrease the chances of collisions between cars and bikes.

105 miles of lanes are proposed to be in place by 2018, but due to weather and other factors, 75 miles could be built, according to the plan.

Nicole Freedman, president of Boston Bikes, said her office was concerned with rider safety and included the cycle tracks to mitigate the risk of injury.

“All of the bike facilities we put in, from shared lanes to multi-use paths, they’re all for increased safety,” she said. “The more protected the facility, the more it’s able to increase ridership and the more impact it has on safety.”

Boston currently has 120 miles of bike paths, more than double the 55 miles in 2008, according to the plan. If all proposals go through, Boston will have 356 miles by 2043 and Boston Bikes would provide maps for bikers as the paths would be constructed or updated on their website.

Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said while Boston has made significant progress in a statewide initiative to get fewer cars and more bikes on the road, sharing the road still comes with some dangers.

“The risk comes in several aspects,” he said. “One is: drivers just have to be aware. Most bike lanes don’t physically protect a biker from a car. It’s mostly there to alert drivers to the possibility cyclists could be in the area. There are also additional things cyclists need to be doing … But in the end, if it wasn’t safe, we wouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

Freedman said the plan has not been officially approved, so the next mayor could choose not to fund the construction projects.

But she said she has seen enough support for the expansion of a bike-friendly infrastructure to expect a significant amount of the proposals will happen.

“Boston is fortunate in that it’s a very dense and flat city,” she said. “It allows for a lot of interest in biking, and it’s there. As we go forward, it actually becomes about attracting even more people — for example, seniors or families — who don’t bike already, and it’s shown that if we build it, they will come.”

This story originally appeared in The Daily Free Press on 9/25/2013.

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