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Boston Bike Network: An ambitious trek

From Hubway to bike paths, Boston has made great strides towards becoming a more bicycle-friendly city. But even compared to the work that has already been done, the Boston Bike Network Plan — announced last Friday and scheduled to take up to 30 years to fully complete — is very ambitious. If this program is implemented, it has the potential to transform the way Bostonians get around the city. It will also require political courage from the next mayor to pull it off.

Boston currently has 120 miles of lanes, but almost none on major streets are protected from traffic. The plan calls for a total of 356 miles of bicycle lanes to be completed by 2043, with nearly half offering some form of barrier from cars. Combined with painted lanes on less-traveled residential streets, the network would connect residential areas to downtown and neighborhoods to each other.

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Under the plan, the city would jump-start the expansion of the network with 100 new miles in the next five years, 20 of them being separated “cycle track.” Nicole Freedman, director of Mayor Menino’s Boston Bikes program, estimates the cost of the first phase to be $30 million, coming partially from city funds as well as regularly scheduled state and federal road projects and street repairs by utilities. The cost is in line with other cities, such as Chicago, Portland, Oregon, and San Francisco, which also have major bike master plans.

It has been encouraging to see Mayor Tom Menino use his final years in office to promote a bike-friendly city as part of his environmental policy. All the mayoral candidates, including finalists John Connolly and Marty Walsh, pledged to support cycle tracks. The winner will have to display the political skills to quell any uproar from neighborhoods worried about the loss of parking, let alone finding the available funds. If he does, the bike network plan will be part of Boston riding into a world-class future.

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