Parking Protected or Parking Hidden?

John Allen


So, I saw this on the CRW Slack channel.

“Sign the petition for a protected bike lane on Charles St. A two-way, parking-protected bike lane on Charles Street in Beacon Hill would benefit everyone by making the street safer for all road users (pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers), driving more patrons to local businesses, and reducing carbon emissions. It would also complete a vital link…"

I agree about the vital link. Charles Street is one-way from Charles Circle (at the Longfellow Bridge) to Beacon Street. In the other direction, cyclists could cross to the Esplanade and use the Paul Dudley White path, or take Storrow Drive – it has a sidewalk – or to go over Beacon Hill past the State House and down Bowdoin Street. All these options are long and inconvenient.

Delivery-truck double parking is common on Charles Street. Larger view from Google Maps,  . 


So, yes, there is a gaping gap in Boston’s bicycle route network. Not only that, Beacon Hill residents have cleverly arranged that streets are one-way toward Beacon Street, same as Charles Street. Nobody would prefer them over Charles Street, which is three lanes wide and table-flat.

But, what amounts to a good solution to this problem? As your Safety Coordinator I’ll ask, what would a two-way, “parking-protected” bikeway protect against, and what would it not protect against? I’m going to give a few examples so you can decide for yourselves.

American Cycletrack shows the intersection of  the separated bikeway on 15th Street, Washington, DC with K Street NW in the evening rush hour. The first two videos on this playlist are of rides on the same cycle track. They illustrate some additional issues.

I shot video of my own ride on such a bikeway, on the Boulevard de Maisonneuve, Montreal, 2008. I had to cross the Boulevard to a temporary bikeway on the other side to pass a construction site. I nearly collided with a pedestrian and a turning car. The bikeway was too narrow for me to overtake slower bicyclists when there was oncoming traffic. My average speed was under 5 miles per hour.

A recent review of crashes on a two-way separated bikeway in Columbus, Ohio is rather alarming.

The official name for such a bikeway is “separated bikeway,” a descriptive term, unlike “cycle track” and which doesn’t leap to a conclusion about safety like "parking protected". Such bikeways do have their place if they can be wide enough and have few intersections.

While cyclists fear rear-end collisions, they are rare on Boston streets. Most urban bicycle crashes happen due to crossing and turning movements. These bikeways complicate them and require more of them. The bikeways in the videos are not really separated. They intersect with numerous streets.

The rationale for building such bikeways is generally to promote bicycle use. But understanding and accounting for how crashes happen is necessary to make this promotion reasonably safe,

There is also no substitute for bicyclist skill and situational awareness. When approaching an intersection on a two-way separated bikeway, you need to slow and look all around for conflicting traffic.

I would support a one-way contraflow bike lane on the uphill side of Charles Street, and traffic-calming measures to slow with-direction traffic. The street would then operate like a conventional two-way street, except that only bicycles could travel in one of the two directions. This is still going to be a hard sell. With the amount of delivery-truck double parking on Charles Street, it would be reduced to a single travel lane unless parking is removed from one side. And parking would have to be removed from one side so bicyclists and motorists aren’t hidden from one another approaching itnersections.

What do you think?

John S. Allen is CRW Safety Coordinator, a certified CyclingSavvy Instructor and League Cycling Instructor and author of Bicycling Street Smarts.




I hate the inbound cycle track on beacon in Sommerville for exactly these reasons