starts & stops

Back Bay road hazard for bicyclists strikes again

T general manager Frank DePaola (left) got a few gag gifts at his retirement ceremony.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
T general manager Frank DePaola (left) got a few gag gifts at his retirement ceremony.

It’s an area that state and city officials have long known as dangerous for cyclists: On a Back Bay block where Stuart Street breaks off of Huntington Avenue to head into Copley Square, a metal expansion joint in the road can catch a cyclist’s wheel, causing that person to crash.

My predecessor wrote about this problem three years ago, after a Cambridge cyclist was thrown off his bike there when his wheel got caught in the track.

After about a year — and hearing horror stories from many other cyclists who crashed in the same way — the state said it had fixed the problem. By filling the joint with grit, bike wheels would be less likely to get stuck in the groove, officials said.


But a frequent cyclist, Alex Bell, didn’t get the benefits of that change last week. While heading out of a nearby parking garage in the area, he took a “nasty spill” on the expansion joint, he said.

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The trouble, he said, was that the crack was no longer filled with enough caulking.

“I don’t think it’s right that conditions this unsafe are allowed to persist in Boston,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Many cyclists would agree, particularly after a week in which a 27-year-old Cambridge cyclist was killed in Inman Square after she was hit by a truck. Anyone who cycles regularly in the region knows that real danger can lurk in busy, congested areas.

So, why was this dangerous Back Bay block allowed to go back to its old ways?


When I asked about it, state transportation department spokeswoman Jacquelyn Goddard didn’t provide any reason.

But she did tell me that the state is planning to address it: Repairs for the expansion joint were scheduled for Friday night, she said.

Employees bid farewell to T’s general manager

For much of MBTA General Manager Frank DePaola’s retirement ceremony on Thursday, the affair resembled a roast.

Tom Tinlin — a longtime Boston City Hall official who succeeded DePaola as the state transportation department’s highway administrator — ribbed the departing chief for never being able to hold onto a job.

Since 2014, DePaola has served as the state transportation department’s highway administrator, acting transportation secretary, the first chief operating officer for MassDOT, acting general manager for the MBTA, and then the T’s latest permanent general manager.


DePaola, who has prostate cancer, announced he would retire from the agency after June 30 to focus on his health.

At a packed gathering on the second floor of 10 Park Plaza on Thursday, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack said DePaola has promised so many people so many capital projects — some of them scribbled on napkins — that the transportation department would be dealing with his pledges for years.

“Napkins that have promises from Frank,” she said. “That’s how we’ll know you will never be forgotten.”

He received a litany of humorous gifts, including a commemorative bus stop sign, a speed limit sign that expands to 135 miles per hour (an apparent nod to his love of speeding on the highways he once was in charge of), and a one-way ticket on the CapeFlyer, the T’s train to Cape Cod.

But Thursday did have its moments of earnestness. Tinlin, a natural emcee who poked fun at DePaola throughout the ceremony, said it was rare to meet a leader that so many would praise without hesitation.

“Not one person has had anything disparaging to say,” he said, “And you don’t get that in public service.”

Several mentioned that DePaola has been a go-to guy when agencies are in trouble.

Jeffrey Gonneville, who became the agency’s chief operating officer under DePaola’s tenure, said DePaola had helped calm workers during the disastrous winter of 2015, as employees were fearing for their jobs.

DePaola came over to the T’s operations and control center on High Street, Gonneville recalled, and told everyone to tune out the noise. DePaola told them that he would deal with the top leaders — they had to focus on restoring service.

“That was that little bit of calm, that smoothness, that leadership, that we needed for all of us,” Gonneville told the crowd. “I felt a little bit empowered so that we could focus on restoring service.”

That kind of relationship with his employees was what DePaola, when he took his turn at the microphone, wanted people to recall about him.

“I want to make sure if I’m remembered for anything, I’m remembered for how I always kept the welfare of our employees first,” said DePaola.

Nicole Dungca can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ndungca.