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Malcolm X Boulevard could be home of Boston's next cycle track

Posted by Patrick Rosso  November 26, 2012 03:54 PM

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The city of Boston is eying Roxbury for a cycle track.

Although no money has been dedicated to the project, Boston Bikes, the city’s cycling department, has been buzzing about the track, which would be similar to the one installed on Western Avenue in Allston.

“There are a lot of benefits to having people out on the street riding,” said Kristopher Carter, interim director of Boston Bikes. “We’ve been looking for a concept for Malcolm X Boulevard.”

Carter said Boston Bikes, as well as the Harvard School of Public Health and Boston Public Health Commission, have been surveying the neighborhood with the goal of creating a track exclusively for bikes, stretching from Dudley Square to Roxbury Crossing.

“We are in the early phases; it’s certainly in the work plan for next year, but there are a lot of things to check off internally,” Carter said.

The track, while still in the early stages of planning, would be much different than the traditional bike lanes found throughout the city. The track would physically separate bikes from traffic, creating a path exclusively for bikes but not completely separating them the road like the Southwest Corridor.

“We’ve been looking at primary protection for bikes, which is the infrastructure,” said Dr. Anne Lusk, of the Harvard School of Public Health, who has been working with the city. “We went into the neighborhood and asked people what they wanted.”

Using focus groups and surveys, Lusk and her team mapped destinations in the Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan area and asked residents how they could make biking to those destinations easier and more accessible.

“We wanted to develop a track that could connect to other paths,” said Lusk. “We want to take existing tracks [Southwest Corridor] and building spurs off of that. You don’t want to build something in total isolation, you want to put it in a location were people will use it.”

Those destination points are what in Lusk’s mind make Dudley Square and Roxbury an attractive site for the track. With historical sites, shops, and all the new development happening in Dudley, Lusk saw the site as a center of activity.

“Dudley Square is a major hub and a phenomenal destination,” Lusk said. “If Cambridge has cycle tracks, Roxbury should have cycle tracks. It shouldn’t be that people in Roxbury have to bike all the way to Cambridge for a cycle destination, we want to bring the bikes and the economic development to Roxbury.”

But before any shovels hit the ground or community meetings are held a number of details have to be worked out, from how to divide the bikes and cars to how to handle the buses that rumble down the stretch of road.

“We are certainly interested in pursuing this,” said Carter. “It could be a great benefit to the neighborhood.”

Although the money isn’t there, Carter said the department and city is interested and will be making plans to start talking with the greater community next year.

E-mail Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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