North End Cycle Track Takes Shape at Connect Historic Boston Meeting

Connect Historic Boston Pathway In Downtown Boston (CHB Image)

Connect Historic Boston Pathway In Downtown Boston (CHB Image)

The North End cycle track design continues to move forward in an accelerated process driven by Federal funding deadlines including a $23 million TIGER grant for the Connect Historic Boston (CHB) project. The primary CHB effort in the North End / Waterfront is the cycle track that will form part of a 4 mile continuous “family friendly” pedestrian and bicycling trail connecting to downtown Boston transportation hubs and historic districts.

A December 19th meeting was held as a follow-up to an initial November 21, 2013 meeting on the same subject. A handful of North End residents attended the meeting along with BTD/BRA staff, consultants and special interest representatives from cycling groups.

Existing parking and vehicular capacity will be retained with three lanes on Atlantic Ave. and Commercial St. (2 lanes northbound, 1 lane southbound). One southbound lane was removed two years ago when the traditional bike lanes were first installed. The same three lane vehicle configuration will remain and the two bike lanes will be combined into the cycle track, adjacent to the sidewalk on the waterfront side of the street.

Since the bike lanes were added to Commercial Street, there has been increased overall vehicle traffic volume in the morning hours. In the evening, southbound traffic has been roughly steady while there has been a slight reduction in the northbound direction. Data was compared from 2010 when there were 4 total lanes (2 northbound, 2 southbound) versus that collected in the Fall of 2013 with 3 traffic lanes (2 northbound, 1 southbound) the 2 five foot wide bike lanes.

The greatest traffic sticking point has been at Atlantic Avenue and Cross Street intersection where the queuing is as much as 2.5x longer than before the bike lanes were added. BTD is considering traffic signal changes to help mitigate the long line up of cars on Atlantic Avenue.

No parking spaces will be lost as part of the cycle track, although some will be relocated, as part of adjusted bus stops and corner curb bump outs. The cycle track will be paved with red asphalt to make a distinction between the adjacent pedestrian part of the sidewalk. New “bike lights” will be installed at intersections where there are currently traffic lights. An expanded discussion from the last meeting included more information on how the bike routes will connect to the rest of the city network.

Along Christopher Columbus Park, the cycle track will not be part of the sidewalk, but will stay at the roadway level similar to the existing bike lane. To separate the bike lane from vehicle traffic, a 2 foot wide, 6″ high raised curb-like buffer will be added.  The existing brick sidewalk along the park will be maintained. The median at Mercant’s Row crossing the Greenway area will be removed so the cycle track bike lanes will line up from Atlantic Ave. toward Surface Road.

Around the North End on Commercial Street, from Charter Street to Commercial Wharf, the cycle track will be raised to be flush with the sidewalk level. The bike lanes will be moved inside the parked cars and adjacent to the sidewalk. Trees and light posts will remain between the sidewalk and cycle track.

While all intersections will have new bike traffic lights, there is particular attention being paid to where the cycle track ends at the Charter Street intersection. This intersection near the Steriti Skating Rink has been the site of many accidents. Signage will be added for bicyclists and the crosswalk shape will be modified to improve visibility. An area that remains difficult for bicyclists is from Charter Street to Keany Square (N. Washington Street). Currently, there is not enough space for a cycle track in the roadway approaching Keany Square and the N. Washington Street bridge. As such, that section of Commercial and Causeway Street is not part of this project.

BTD said they have not addressed the issue of where Segway tours will travel or whether those vehicles will be allowed on the cycle track.

Future meetings are expected in early 2014 as design plans are finalized. Planners are working toward a final design for approval in mid-2014 based on funding deadlines. More information and meeting slides are posted on the ConnectHistoric-Boston.org website.