It wasn’t that long ago that Boston would slap some green paint across a thin strip of city streets and local cyclists would mark it as a major milestone.
But nowadays, cyclists are starting to see more of the real thing: bike lanes that are separated physically from cars, sometimes with concrete buffers. Several city and state projects have brought a bunch of new firsts for Boston’s two-wheelers:
A bike path in the center of a major road: Causeway Street has a new look, featuring a two-way bike path down the middle of the road, separated by concrete from the eastbound and westbound car lanes. The center-running cycle track is the only one of its kind in Boston and adds a key link to the new Connect Historic Boston bike path from the West End, through the North End to the New England Aquarium, much of which runs along city sidewalks.
Their very own traffic signals: Bikers don’t have a great reputation for following traffic rules. But now they have their own stop lights to obey, as the city has begun installing signals specifically for bike lanes at intersections. The first came last year, where Commonwealth Avenue meets the BU Bridge, and several more have been added downtown, along the Connect Historic Boston path.
The signals look like normal traffic lights, but the green light shows the emblem of a cyclist. Boston transportation commissioner Gina Fiandaca said they are meant to “remove the conflict points” between bikes and cars by giving cyclists a period of clear passage. Cambridge has also installed bike signals near Harvard and Porter squares.
Intersection blocks: The upcoming redesign of Commonwealth Avenue near Boston University will also include bike lanes separated from cars and built into a wide sidewalk, an increasingly common format in the region that is considered much less stressful for cyclists than riding alongside car traffic. The project will feature new safeguards for bikers at intersections, adding concrete platforms between the bike path and auto lanes, forcing cars to take wider, slower right turns.
A rotary for bikes: Some parts of Boston have enough bike paths they need a traffic manager. Hence a real live bicycle-sized rotary, coming to the new bike paths that intersect with the Southwest Corridor path near the T’s Forest Hills Station. It’s the first bike rotary in Boston, though the state’s first was built years ago in Harwich. To be determined: whether cyclists behave any better in their rotaries than motorists.