Dotbike met with the Boston Cyclists Union one week and representatives of the Mayor’s Boston Bikes the next. This blogger pressed the approach that “if it gets paved it gets painted” on both fronts. Even from among the ranks of Dotbikers, it is obvious that not everyone shares that view. We’ll endeavor to outline why this argument is one all bike advocacy and regional planning groups should adopt.
The BCU meeting saw us go over the tiresome often repeated exercise of choosing what streets needed attention. Like all of them was too much. Let’s focus on a few things and get a win. Meanwhile BCU’s general view is to work for cycletracks to be scattered across the city not to far from anyone. That’s a great goal and I’m all for that. However the Boston Bikes meeting revealed why striving for incremental gains is the best policy for today. Not that we won’t keep swinging for the fences where we can, but let’s play for some hits. The homers come when you’re hitting good.
Boston Bikes had few if any announcements of any significance to please any riders in Dorchester. There’s a hope that funding for Hubway to the rest of the City will be found and a plan installed in one fell swoop. Hazzaa! Otherwise sharrows on Geneva Ave. and new paint on Ballou Street as part of the Urban Trail are about it. That in spite of a huge state project on Gallivan Boulevard and Morton Street, paving on Washington from Codman Square to 4 Corners and any number of other DPW projects. NO PAINT NO NOTHING.
We got a sense that Boston Bikes hasn’t found its voice in the new Walsh Administration and the old line road planners sans Commissioner Timlin and Mayor Menino’s insistence have fallen back into their “find more speed and preserve parking” ways. It was brought to our attention that the overwhelming number of requests politicians here are for more parking and more room for cars. Bike advocates voices get drowned out even in the face of logic that says they are 100% right when it comes to creating a more sustainable and healthy transportation environment for all of us.
Given the situation above then why the paint everything approach? Data suggests the ridership increases when the perception of safety increases. The Field of Dreams, “Build it and They Will Come” mantra is true. So how do we get more riders who in turn will become advocates for further improvements to bike infrastructure? You start with what is easy and unobjectionable for the politicians to sell. A sharrow? What’s that? No problem, put it down is the thinking.
Why is this the best conclusion? This writer has been active in community life for all his life. His mother had him at the dump sorting bottles and piling newspapers in the 1960s. My mother’s efforts were directly attributed to the dump, which became a land fill, to remain open many years longer than projected thanks to the recycling that was done. My first introduction to small actions yielding big results.
During high school I got tired of offensive cigarette smoke in the bathrooms and watching my friends get suspended for smoking. As a student representative to the School Committee I brought forward a proposal to allow students to smoke at school (funny how times change huh?). We crafted it with 5 options beginning with being able to smoke at school events where adults could smoke with parental permission, to between class smoking at designated smoking areas in school. When I graduated we had before and after school smoking allowed and I learned that it got to the point where students could smoke at lunch but not study halls before anti-smoking for everyone turned that back. Yet for a time we had nearly smoke free bathrooms at my school and a lot fewer senseless suspensions.
Finally as a Dorchester resident, we worked a monthly volunteer staffed drop off site for FIVE years before the Menino Adminstration finally brought a full scale curbside recycling program to all of Boston. We had up to 800 cars a month and we parlayed that into a loud voice they newly elected Mayor couldn’t ignore even in the face of his cynically resistant Public Works Director. We learned about incremental improvements and being coopted from Mayor Flynn, which we took but we never lost site of our ultimate goal of a city-wide curbside program.
So, how do we get the Mayor and transportation planners to move to a more pro-active pedestrian and cyclists approach with their road planning? Give them the lowest bar to reach so they can at least get on the ladder. Then they will have more constituents looking for more improved pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. That will make it easier for them to say yes to more demanding requests in time.
This is especially true in Dorchester and other outlying neighborhoods that have a history of actually being suburban rather than urban. The Ashmont neighborhood I live in was one of the first ever Street Car suburbs and many of my neighbors thinking remains stubbornly 20th century suburban when it comes to transportation. Car first, last and always. Community groups are especially resistant offering up incorrect assessments of the impact of improved cycling infrastructure and firmly believing them. After all it is the prevailing wisdom in America. Cyclists are a minority. There are more of us every day, but not enough yet.
Incremental change will serve to entice new riders, educate drivers which will increase the number of advocates and weaken auto-centric resistance as we all get used to more bikes on our streets.
So Dotbike has a great approach working now. Let’s work with the entire community to bring as much biking infrastructure as we can. Let’s begin installing fix it stations around the community. There’s already plenty of bikes around, but it is true that a lack of access to repairing bikes is an impediment to regular riding. So donate NOW to their fix it station near Fields Corner.
Next, let’s invite Mayor Marty to go on a ride with us to get a sense of our perspective. He had agreed to one with Galen Mook. Galen did you ever collect? Let’s do it! We’ll pick you up at your house Marty and ride to City Hall. How about that?
Meanwhile let’s turn up the heat so we can get Boston Bikes the administrative support it needs to get back on track toward instituting the Toole Design 5-30 year transportation plan. Instead of waiting for a complete redesign with each street, let’s take what we can get. The easy ask. Hear that Marty? We want cycle tracks on Comm Ave sure. That would be great. We also want sharrows on both Washington Streets, lanes on Mass Ave, a new look at Dot Ave. We have other dreams, but we’ll take our time on those and take a commitment from the Mayor to instruct his planners to include some form of bicycle infrastructure in EVERY major paving and road restoration project.
So, y’all Let’s Do It!