(Image courtesy Boston Bikes)
By the fall, cyclists on Mt. Vernon Street in Dorchester will see work beginning on a buffered bike lane for the roadway.
Also known as a cycle track, the bicycle infrastructure has been gaining popularity among cycling and safety advocates because it physically separates cyclists from vehicles using a variety of methods including paint and plastic bollards.
The new track, which will stretch from University Drive to approximately the entrance of the Double Tree Hotel on Columbia Point, was presented to a small audience at a public meeting Wednesday night.
“This came out of a long-term project to redesign Mt. Vernon and we saw the cycle track as something we could do right now,” explained Nicole Freedman, director of the city’s Boston Bikes program. “Cycle tracks dramatically increase ridership and decreases crashes and Mt. Vernon is a perfect candidate for the track.”
The track will stretch approximately three-quarters of a mile. Cost estimates were not immediately available, but Freedman said tracks typically cost between $30,000-$50,000 a mile.
The plan for Mt. Vernon, a four-lane road with no street parking, calls for the elimination of one travel lane in both directions. Left turn lanes, however, will still be maintained. There are also a number of bus stops on the street that planners proposed consolidating and working the track around.
“I think the two lanes on Mt. Vernon are unnecessary,” said Patrick Hoey, a senior planner with the Boston Transportation Department, one of the partners on the project. “From what we’ve seen I wouldn’t expect to see a deterioration of service [increased congestion] out there.”
The cycle track came out of a much larger discussion between the city and area residents about the future of Mt. Vernon Street. Eventually, city planners expect to generate a long-term design plan for the roadway and completely reconstruct it, but for the time being planners have been working to make the existing roadway safer.
“The neighborhood came to the city about calming traffic on Mt. Vernon Street,” Hoey said. “We’ve added road stripes, put up signs for pedestrians, and the next logical step was accommodations for cyclists.”
Wednesday’s meeting was sparsely attended, but there were proponents and opponents of the track.
“When the school buses are around the traffic is horrible,” said Louise Tardif, who works on Mt. Vernon Street. “There is already a traffic problem and when you collapse the lanes it’s only going to exacerbate it.”
Others from the cyclist community, however, saw the track as a way to increase safety for commuters and those just starting out.
“Someone like me is going to be on Mt. Vernon anyway, but a cycle track would make it much safer,” said Jon Ramos, a South Boston resident and bike commuter.
“I just feel a lot safer with separated lanes,” added Nancy King, a Dorchester resident and bike commuter.
As planners prepare for work on the street they will also be collaborating with the Department of Conservation and Recreation to address ways to increase bicycle safety on Mt Vernon Street after the Double Tree Hotel entrance heading towards the JFK/UMass MBTA Station.
That portion of Mt. Vernon is administered by DCR, but city planners said they hope to have a design settled on with the agency and begin construction on that portion of the road by late fall into the spring.