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|When a child wants a pet, one of the first things his or her guardian asks is,
"Are you ready to take care of an animal? Because there's no point in getting a pet
unless you're going to look after it." The same might be said for bicycle facilities.
Three years ago, the City of Boston's Parks & Recreation Department completed a project to improve the Jamaica Pond area. Included with the erosion control, planting, and other landscaping was the installation of a bike lane along Chestnut and Perkins Streets. The bike lane installation permitted the project to collect Federal Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) matching funds, so that 80% of the project's cost was paid by the Federal government.
In May, 2002, Mac Daniel of the Boston Globe wrote about the bike lane's deterioration from almost total neglect. Last September he wrote again about the lane being used "as one long parking lane."
Now it's May, 2003, and nothing has changed -- except the same problems have gotten worse. I stopped by the intersections of Chestnut and Perkins, and Perkins and the Jamaicaway last night at about 8:15 PM.
I was opposed to installing this lane before it was created in the autumn of 2000 because it directs cyclists to the right side of right-turning traffic in the approach of Chestnut onto Perkins Street. Riding forward on the turning side of traffic is so dangerous that we've had at least two cyclists killed in the Boston area by right-turning motorists in the past couple years (in June 2001, and August 2002, respectively). No bikeway should direct cyclists to ride right of right-turning traffic.
Once the lane was installed, another problem became apparent. The bike lane section on the legitimate parking lane from Chestnut to Parkman Drive along Jamaica Pond was striped in the door zone of the parked vehicles. Even worse, as Mr. Daniel reported in September and as my photos from last night confirm, the parked cars aren't limited to the legal parking areas.
Beyond its design problems, the near-total lack of maintenance means that the lane has essentially ceased to exist. It's so filled with gravel, leaves, sand and other junk it can't be ridden with reasonable safety. So who's responsible for maintaining and policing this decrepit bikeway? The road is owned by the City of Boston. However, the MDC carries the burden of maintenance, and the State Police are the ones who are supposed to hand out parking tickets. Both of these agencies are cash-strapped and personnel poor, and with cyclists traditionally receiving less than the MDC's full attention, this facility is unlikely to improve -- or even exist much longer.
You can tell the MDC about these problems, at their Feedback page. Go to http//www.state.ma.us/mdc/mdcFEEDBACK.htm [obsolete as of 2006. Contact the Community Relations Group line 617-626-4973 or check contacts on the Web page at http://www.mass.gov/dcr/aboutDCR.htm] to give them the word. One would think that being written-up in the Globe twice in a year might be enough to get them to focus on this problem lane, but it apparently isn't. So perhaps the Feedback page is what we need to use -- a lot!
But there's also a larger issue that this bike lane illustrates. There's really no point to building bicycle facilities that turn into this kind of crud-filled parking lot so quickly. As cyclists, we ought to lobby for bicycle transportation money to be used for -real- bicycle projects that actually help us. We need safe, weather protected parking; bicyclist and motorist education; proper traffic enforcement; improved intermodal surface and air transport access; good routes to bus, train and airport hubs; good end-of-trip facilities at workplaces; and other improvements that will help cyclists and that aren't going to suffer from neglect the moment they're installed.
The inter-jurisdictional issue of the Perkins bike lane's ownership and maintenance doesn't help, either. It seems all too easy for the City to obtain Federal transportation money to improve Jamaica Pond, and then pass-off the maintenance of the bike lane to a hard-pressed state agency and the State Police. The City does a good job at keeping the Jamaica Pond path open during the winter months, and if they desired to, they could also be more diligent than this in ensuring its lone bike lane is usable. And as someone who wasn't happy with this lane in the first place, I still don't get any joy in seeing its demise.
[Tom's own Web site is at http://tomrevay.tripod.com/]