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Vision Zero Boston

Beacon St demo: Making streets safer with parking-protected bike lanes

July 13, 2016

Update (July 15, 2016): The permanent parking-protected bike lane has been installed on Beacon St. If you are biking on Beacon St, bike between the buffer and the curb. If you are parking a car on Beacon St, park next to the buffer, not the curb. The post below gives the details of our demonstration and provides general info about parking-protected bike lanes.

Yesterday, we installed a (very) temporary parking-protected bike lane on Beacon St in the Back Bay. This demonstration gave people the opportunity to experience this type of street design and to learn why this type of bike lane is good for people on bikes and other road users.

Parking-protected bike lanes provide a comfortable, safe place for people biking on our streets. Rather than having a bike lane between parked cars and moving cars, a parking-protected bike lane is between parked cars and the curb, reducing the risk of crashes due to opening car doors and double-parking.

After exiting cars, people should look for people on bikes before crossing the bike lane to the sidewalk. Unless otherwise signed, all parking rules remain in effect, including parking meter fees and resident permit parking. As always, bicyclists must yield to pedestrians crossing the road.

Our demonstration project:

A section of Beacon St was recently repaved, so it provided us with a great opportunity use tape and cones to test a different configuration.

First, we striped out a 70-foot section of a parking-protected bike lane. The bike lane consisted of a 5-foot bike lane with a 3-foot buffer. We placed cones in the buffer area to help further define the bike lane from the parking lane.

Then, we parked a few cars next to the buffer so that people could get the full effect.

Members of the Vision Zero Task Force talk with community members.“/>

From 8:00 - 11:00am, people from across Boston stopped by to discuss the work that we’re doing to improve walking, biking, and driving in Boston and ask questions about parking-protected bike lanes. Most people appreciated the opportunity to see it in action, even if it was only 70-feet long and installed for 3 hours.

Here’s what we saw:

>Left: A shuttle bus pulls into the bike lane. Right: The shuttle bus pulls up next to cones that were placed in the street by the Vision Zero Task Force.

People on bikes no longer had to worry about swerving into traffic to get around double parked vehicles. Without the parking-protected bike lane, vehicles were pulling over in the bike lane. People on bikes were forced to merge with much larger and faster vehicles.

Once the temporary facility was installed, people still double parked, but cyclists were able to travel down the road without have to pull out at the last minute. Other traffic also continued to flow.

Doors were no longer a problem. Regular bike lanes sometimes require people to open their car door into the bike lane. If someone opens their door at the same time that another person is biking by, the person on the bike can be hit or pushed into moving traffic. Parking-protected bike lanes include a buffer, where vehicle doors can swing open without overhanging the bike lane. The buffer also provides a safe space for passengers to exit a vehicle before crossing to the sidewalk.

Large vehicles could still turn. One concern that we hear is that large vehicles won’t be able to make turns due to the new geometry of the street. During the 3-hour demonstration, we saw many buses and large trucks turn left and right from Mass Ave onto Beacon St. No one got stuck.

People seemed to drive more slowly. We know that crashes happen, but they don’t have to be deadly or cause serious injury. During our short demonstration, we saw people make different choices than others made before. People slowed down more when making turns, and seemed to travel down the street at safer speeds.

What’s next:

We’re currently working on many different projects that will make our roads safer and more comfortable for everyone. Over the next few years, we hope to make substantial changes to Boston’s streets by using paint, flexposts, signage, and signal timing changes. These tools allow us to get things in the ground faster and evaluate what works and what doesn’t work before we install more permanent solutions.

In the next few months, we’ll put the final touches on our plans for the Vision Zero Priority Corridors, and start implementing changes. The plans focus on safety improvements for our most vulnerable road users–people of all ages who are walking and biking–knowing that everyone will benefit from safer streets.

In the coming week, we’ll be re-striping Beacon St between Massachusetts Ave and Charlesgate East with a new configuration that includes a new parking-protected bike lane and maintains two parking lanes and the existing two travel lanes. We hope that you will visit this facility to see it in action. Let us know what works and what doesn’t work so that we can incorporate your feedback into our future plans.

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