Started as a ‘share the road’ program under former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, the bike lanes on East Boston major thoroughfares like Bennington Street are not designated bike lanes but a portion of a car lane that is suppose to be shared between bicyclists and motorists.
Last week a petition surfaced on East Boston Open Discussion to rid Eastie’s streets of these ‘shared lanes’. That petition was immediately countered with a petition by pro-bike lane residents and a battle is brewing over how to best accommodate both motorists and bicyclists.
In the first petition addressed to Eastie’s three elected officials circulated on change,org, Eastie resident Veronica Shaponick called for the end of bike lanes in the neighborhood, despite Mayor Martin Walsh’s recent push to put motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians on equal footing.
Mayor Walsh recently launched a new program called Boston Complete Streets that aims to make motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians all equals on city streets.
“The approach puts pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users on equal footing with motor-vehicle drivers,” said Walsh. “The initiative aims to improve the quality of life in Boston by creating streets that are both great public spaces and sustainable transportation networks. It embraces innovation to address climate change and promote healthy living. The objective is to ensure Boston’s streets are multimodal, green and smart.”
However, Shaponick is asking Eastie’s elected officials and lawmakers to improve the safety of our streets by removing all bicycle lanes–especially on the most narrow and busiest streets like Bennington.
“These lanes were slapped down anywhere and everywhere giving bicyclists a false sense of ownership, safety and protection,” she wrote. “We have the Bremen Street Greenway which offers off street bicycle lanes to travel from one end of East Boston to the other. The other issue, specifically for Bennington Street are the speeding vehicles, racing motorcycles, distracted drivers. We want to feel and be safe while driving our cars or crossing our streets.”
Her petition received 33 signatures as of Tuesday.
However, immediately after Shaponick’s petition went live, another petition on change.org, this time by John Ramos shot back saying while the anti-bike lane petition raised some important safety concerns it went too far calling for a complete ban on bike lanes.
“The author of the other petition does call improved safety on our public streets which I agree with; we simply disagree on the tactic to achieve that result,” wrote Ramos. “Nevertheless, I applaud her taking initiative, and I hope she comes to the conclusion that bike lanes are a benefit to the entire community.”
Ramos called the anti-bike lane petition ‘misguided’ because it claims bike lanes contribute to the unsafe nature of roads, when in fact the opposite is true.
“The petition’s author claims that cars & motorcycles regularly race down the narrow streets of East Boston, and that someone is going to get hurt if these bike lanes are not removed,” wrote Ramos. “This statement blames and punishes cyclists for the poor behavior of other road users, which is unfair and unjust. Countless studies have shown that bicycle infrastructure adds a measure of traffic calming to our public streets because narrower motor vehicle lanes encourage slower speeds. So rather than remove the sporadic bike lanes let’s build continuous and protected bicycle infrastructure that will contribute to slower vehicle speeds which improves the safety for people who walk, bike, and drive.”
However, Ramos agreed with some of Shaponick’s conclusions on how to improve traffic safety in Eastie.
“The author of the other petition does offer some suggestions that do add value,” said Ramos. “For example she calls for some raised crosswalks, improved signalization, and other measures that do contribute to traffic calming. She also notes that an increased number of housing developments being built in the area, which would also be a good reason to give people access to high quality bike infrastructure in their own neighborhood. We should encourage neighborhood trips being made by bike instead of by car, otherwise East Boston will become choked with traffic and pollution.”
Ramos’s petition garnered 177 signatures by Tuesday.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina weighed in on the debate this week saying he supports bike lanes.
“Look we all have to share the road and with more environmentally conscious people moving into Eastie that would rather bike than drive they deserve the same respect car drivers get,” said LaMattina. “Motorists have to get over the notion that they own the road.”
A bike lane on Bennington Street. Two petitions have been circulating in Eastie. One is calling for the removal of bike lanes while the other is in support.