By John Lynds
At a City Council hearing last Wednesday, City Councilor Sal LaMattina said he was amazed at what he saw when he toured the Netherlands and Denmark to examine climate change and how to prepare for sea level rise.
“I was so thankful to be on this tour sponsored by the the Boston Green Ribbon Commission (GRC),” said LaMattina. “What I found was people in Europe are not only planning for 2030 but for 2100 and we need to start thinking long term in Boston and start doing simple things to help curb emissions and become a greener city.”
At the hearing, LaMattina said he was excited to start implementing a pilot programs in his district, which includes East Boston, the North End and Charlestown, and begin to curb carbon emissions in the city.
“What we saw over there were great use of recapturing water, pocket gardens, green roofs,” said LaMattina. “I’ve already reached out to some developers in East Boston and asked how we can incorporate some of what we saw in Denmark and the Netherlands into their developments and most have been very receptive. I think we can start requiring developers in my district to begin thinking more ‘green’.”
The other thing LaMattina witnessed was the unbelievable amount of bicycle use in the two European countries. With 45 percent of commuter traffic in the two countries being generated by bicyclists, LaMattina said more needs to be done in communities like Eastie to make it more bike friendly.
“I was amazed at how many people use bicycles,” said LaMattina. “In East Boston I can name all the people that regularly use bikes for transportation, but over in Europe it is a way of life. Bikes are used for commuting, shopping and getting around. It’s not like here were people get into their bicycle gear and go for a bike ride…these were just ordinary people of all ages riding bikes. But there cities are more bike friendly.”
City Council President Michelle Wu, who accompanied LaMattina on the trip agreed.
“The people and governments in Denmark and the Netherlands incorporate cycling into every day life but the infrastructure there supports it,” said Wu. “At one train station alone there were accommodations for 2,500 bikes so people could bike to the station and then use public transportation.”
Both Wu and LaMattina showed pictures of one intersection and showed that at the beginning of the evening commute over 10,000 bicyclists had commuted through the area in about an hour.
“We were told that 2.1 million bikes had passed through that intersection from January to June,” said Wu.
LaMattina said he is now eyeing places in Eastie that can better accommodate residents who want to use bikes as a form of carbon free transportation on a more regular basis.
“We can start looking at the neighborhood’s wider boulevards like Bennington Street were there is already a shared bike lane and look at ways to improve access and safety so people are more comfortable using bikes regularly,” said LaMattina.
One idea LaMattina said he is toying with are cycle tracks–a dedicated lane, complete with barriers for bicycles.
“We have some wide streets and sidewalks throughout Eastie,” said LaMattina. “We may be able to add cycle tracks along Bennington Street and Chelsea Street like they are currently doing in the North End on Commercial Street. In Europe the bike lanes are very user friendly and resemble these cycle tracks more so than the shared bike lanes we currently have in the neighborhood.”
City Councilor Sal LaMattina during last week’s council hearing on climate change.
City Council President Michelle Wu, who accompanied Councilor LaMattina on a recent trip to Denmark and the Netherlands to study how to become a ‘greener’ city during the hearing.
John Cleveland of the Boston Green Ribbon Commission. The GRC, who sponsored the trip, provides a forum for representatives of the private sector and the City to discuss, plan and act on the opportunities, challenges, ideas, and requirements of preparing Boston to meet the imperatives of climate change.