Archive for December, 2013

Response to Joan Vennochi

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Joan Vennochi hit on some interesting points related to bicycling in the city and its position in the political landscape. While her auto-centrism shouts out from behind her attempt at neutrality, she’s right that cycling shouldn’t be a conservative or liberal issue.

But driving cycling into the local political landscape is important. The common ground we share is our local streets. For too long automobiles have had the sole franchise on street planning, parking and infrastructure investment all at the cost to others. It’s no wonder the demographic of today’s early adopting riders are young men as the number one thing preventing more folks from riding is their fear for their own safety from the preponderance of automobiles clogging and hogging our streets.

Vennochi almost makes the connection that for every rider there is one less person in a car or truck clogging the streets, but alas she failed. She also failed to realize that parking isn’t what local businesses need in order to thrive, but better friendlier street design that provides safe access for everyone especially pedestrians and cyclists. There is a growing mass of evidence of the economic benefits of complete street design and there are examples where conservative elected officials recognize it and they’ve begun to adopt complete streets as part of their agenda.

Besides if today’s conservatives truly lived up to the meaning of that word, they’d be all for saving money, time and resources for little cost to the government. After all most riders motivation isn’t politics, but saving time and money while getting free exercise. It certainly isn’t to irritate “driver seat” liberals like Joan Vennochi.

Neighborhood groups impediment to expanding bike infrastructure

Friday, December 6th, 2013

We attended the community meeting on Seaver Street to finalize the plans for traffic calming and installing bike infrastructure. Apparently it was a reboot of an effort that was torpedoed by a few vocal local community members representing various local community groups. The word out of that meeting was that cycle tracks were doomed.

The DPW and Boston Bikes did a little more homework and political background work between meetings in hopes of turning things around. They met with the local nay sayers and developed an alternate plan that answered the immediate concerns. Then they quietly lobbied to get a good cadre of local bicycle supporters to attend. Mission accomplished.

The biggest fear was a misplaced one that believed a cycle track and parking outside of that put the parker at risk far beyond anyone else. That issue alone proved to be a stumbling block for the most resistant and vocal attendee at this meeting. We love the man’s sincerity, but we hope that he can open his eyes to the big picture.

The rest of the local biking community showed up and did an awesome job of arguing for bicycle infrastructure. Some very good grass roots folks from the Y’s Roxbury Bike showed and made compelling arguments for the double track (Option 2) plan the City obviously preferred. I nearly took my hand down as both the big and small pictures were well presented and argued.

The most inspiring testimonies however were from two young men who had obvious connections to Bikes Not Bombs. Wow! Boston is going to be a great city with fine young men like the two that stood up and gave compelling intelligent and soulful reasons why Seaver Street should have cycle tracks. Wow! (Did I already say that?)

Meanwhile Boston Bikes and DPW weathered the noise of one of the most cantankerous meeting participants I’ve ever encountered. YIKES! I would have been physically afraid for my own safety had I been in Nicole Friedman’s shoes. What a contrast when the guy basically pushed her aside (6 foot + 220 lbs+ of angry man versus 5 ft? Nicole?) and took over at one point.

Boston Bikes stood their ground though, kept things civil and the crowd did the rest. Anyone who hadn’t decided before they got there obviously came down for Option 2 in the end as only a few hands went up when Option 1 was offered as a choice, while a preponderence of hands soared in proud defiance when Option 2 was offered.

So now one victory in the neighborhood. Perhaps the T and DPW should take the lesson learned here and apply it to a reboot of the cold nasty response the city got from the Mattapan Community about making a Silver Line like stretch up Blue Hill Avenue.

Certainly they can take what they learned home in preparation for more encounters with rabid community folks. We already hear the auto-centric resentment toward bicycles and accomodating them in the neighborhoods. While I love my neighbors who show up at constant meetings and volunteer their time and toil to making their neighborhood a better place, I’m tired of those folks sometimes feeling so entitled that they actually block progress.

But neighbohood backers of bicycle infrastructure be warned. That we need to show up at these meetings and be cool calm and positive.

I got up and spoke of the economic benefits of cycling. I also contrasted the Seaver Street proposal to the crap Dot Ave got out of state planners when instead of increased bike capacity we got more turn lanes at the major intersection.

Given the tension in the room I didn’t ask my Dot-centric quetions. The first being, what about the part of Seaver Street on the Dot-side of Blue Hill Avenue down to Erie? Lanes? Continue the love? The other? How about making it a lane not a sharrow again from Columbia Road to Seaver. It was installed as a lane, but made into a sharrow later. With a cycle track that turns into a real weak point as a sharrow.