Cyclists push for safe lanes around the Public Garden
With plastic ducks zip-tied to her handlebars, Rebecca Albrecht set out on the broad expanse of blacktop around the Public Garden amid a sea of fellow cyclists.
For more than an hour during Sunday’s Make Way for Bike Lanes rally, some 250 cyclists circled on the one-way streets surrounding the swan boats, statues, tulips, and those famous ducklings, hoping to highlight just how treacherous the streets around this marquee gathering place can be.
The city proposed protected bicycle space around the Public Garden in a recently released planning document, but many advocates on Sunday said they’ve heard that story before. A 2012 plan never got off the ground, and the city says completion of the new project could be several years away.
Building safe bike lanes should be simple here, advocates say, because the one-way streets are so wide that drag racers have been seen flying down Beacon Street. Losing a lane of traffic to build a bike lane inside a row of parked cars would also slow traffic, making the area safer for pedestrians and drivers.
“It won’t be that big of a deal,” said Doug Johnson, a community organizer for the Boston Cyclists Union, the group that organized the rally. “We just need [the city] to have the political will to do it right now.”
Data from Boston’s Vision Zero project, which aims to eliminate serious traffic crashes in the city by 2030, show about 30 traffic-related injuries in the immediate area of the Public Garden between the middle of 2014 and the end of 2016, including about a dozen suffered by bicyclists.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Mayor Martin J. Walsh said the city is “committed to the safety and well-being of all users of the roads.”
Walsh, she said, is committing $709 million over the next five years to the city’s Go Boston 2030 action plan, an ambitious overhaul of the city’s transportation infrastructure that was released to the public last month.
The statement did not specifically address the Public Garden, but the Go Boston 2030 documents include just such a plan. Protected bike lanes would line three sides of the Public Garden and extend southwest down Columbus Avenue and north up Charles Street.
Advocates on Sunday said they’ve heard similar promises before, and the time to act is now.
“The planning process buys more time to not make the progress we need to see,” said Becca Wolfson, executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union.
Cyclists on Sunday said the area is a trouble spot, as vehicles traveling on wide streets and in thin traffic outside of peak times can easily get up to unsafe speeds. A drag-racing crash on Beacon Street a few blocks from the Public Garden injured a pedestrian in March 2016.
“You have to fight your way into lanes,” said Gideon Bein, 35, an inflatable plastic duck strapped to his trailer.
On Sunday, Bein and the rest of the crowd circled the Public Garden in swarms. To make sure cyclists followed the rules of the road, volunteers at two intersections waved stop signs.
Albrecht, who has been bicycling around Boston for 44 years, won’t be here to see whether the city does finally make way for bike lanes. After decades of trying to turn Boston into better bicycle city — she and her husband are behind some of the white “ghost bike” memorials to cyclists killed in crashes — she is decamping for the Netherlands for good.
“I’ll be in bicycle paradise,” Albrecht said.
Though the bicycling community here has grown in number and strength over her years in the saddle, she said, Boston has a ways to go.