The words “cycle track” may be unfamiliar to most Bostonians, but the term may soon become a familiar phrase at community meetings: By 2018, city officials intend to install more than 20 miles of cycle tracks — bike lanes with physical barriers between bikes and cars — on major thoroughfares throughout Boston.
The plans for the new lanes are part of wider plan for the city’s bicycle infrastructure over the next five years. A report from the city’s bike and transportation departments, expected to be released Friday, includes 100 new miles of bike pathways in the city.
The plan is not set in stone: The next mayor of Boston could decide not to fund the street construction projects and residents opposed to changes to their neighborhood streets will get their say.
Up to this point, the installation of bike facilities in Boston has been piecemeal, creating unconnected stretches of bike lanes scattered throughout the city. The plan to be released Friday represents a new approach that will provide uninterrupted stretches of safe roadway from residential areas to business centers, said Nicole Freedman, director of Boston Bikes, the city’s bike department.
“When you look at a world-class bicycling city now, where 10 to 30 percent of trips are made by bike, you need a very well-thought-out, smart strategy to get there,” Freedman said. With the bike network plan, she continued, “we’re in a much better position to accomplish those aggressive goals.”
Freedman’s office spent two years drafting the map, shaped by talks with bike advocacy groups, universities, businesses, and other city departments, along with discussions at public meetings around the city, and the data from an online mapping tool that solicited information from cyclists on problem roads.
Pete Stidman, director of the Boston Cyclists Union, said the map will increase understanding of how bike infrastructure fits into a larger plan for the city.
“It’s a common comment [at public meetings] — ‘You’re putting this bike lane in, but it doesn’t really go anywhere, how is this really going to help?’ ” Stidman said. “What this does is it communicates the vision of how bikes can become a real transportation option for the city.”
The city’s plan would bring a cycle track — a bike lane protected by a physical barrier from cars, like a concrete curb or plastic posts — to the length of Boylston Street in the Back Bay, as well as Allston-Brighton’s Commonwealth Avenue and part of Cambridge Street.
A cycle track is also expected to run along Summer Street, connecting South Boston with the Financial District. One will also be placed on Shawmut Avenue and its continuation of Tremont Street, connecting Roxbury with downtown.
The plan lists other bike-friendly street features that may soon appear in the city: Thin ramps on the sides of stairs to allow people to push their bicycles up and down without carrying them; signs that direct people to the nearest cycle track; and traffic signals dedicated specifically to cyclists.
Still, Stidman criticized parts of the plan, saying that it offers few benefits for Charlestown and East Boston, and overlooks Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan. He pointed out that there are no plans for cycle tracks on the major thoroughfares of Blue Hill Avenue — which runs through all three sections of the city — and Warren Street in Roxbury.
“It doesn’t do enough to bring in traditionally underserved areas,” Stidman said. “These neighborhoods are short-shrifted by transit, and I think what we really need to focus on as a city is how to get more access to these communities.”
The separated cycle tracks will probably be controversial — they are thought to be safer for cyclists, but require taking away road space for driving or parking and cost much more than traditional painted lanes. At a Wednesday meeting on a proposal to place a cycle track around Boston Public Garden, several residents balked at the idea of removing 33 of the area’s 209 parking spots to accommodate the separated bike lanes.
The estimated price tag for the 100 miles of additional bike facilities is $30 million, though not all of that money would come from the city. Grants and state funds may pay for some of the projects, and others could be incorporated into previously scheduled street repair projects without adding to construction costs, Freedman said.
At a recent forum on transportation issues, mayoral candidates said they planned to introduce more cycle tracks to Boston.