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Planet Southie hears plan for cycle track along West and East Broadway

Posted by Patrick Rosso  January 25, 2013 01:23 PM

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Members of the neighborhood group Planet Southie discussed ways to foster friendlier roadways in South Boston.

Mike Tremblay, a transportation engineer, appeared before the group Thursday night to present an idea he developed while studying at Northeastern University.

The plan calls for creating a cycle track on East and West Broadway, the reengineering of parking along the thoroughfare, and expanded sidewalks.

While many of those in attendance were interested in the project, the plan it is not currently being reviewed by the city, it is not funded, nor has it been formally proposed.

“This is food for thought, to continue the conversation on safe transit in South Boston,” said Stefanie Valovic, a founding member of Planet Southie.

Thursday’s conversation is especially timely; a cyclist was killed on West Broadway last year.

Tremblay’s plan would create a two-way cycle track (an enclosed bike lane) from L Street all the way to Broadway Station on one side of West and East Broadway.

The track would have a lane for each direction of bike traffic and would be separated from the cars with some sort of physical barrier.

Cycle tracks have been popular for years in Europe because they take bikes out of the traffic and encourage ridership. They have recently been popping up across the United States and in Boston.

In addition to adding the cycle track to the roadway, East Broadway would be cut down to one lane on either side, crosswalk lengths would be reduced, and back-in diagonal parking would replace parallel spaces.

All this would reduce double-parking on the roadway, create a safer biking environment, and stimulate a more “downtown” feeling along West and East Broadway, according to Tremblay.

“We wanted to make it [East and West Broadway] into more of a destination design and not just a highway,” Tremblay said. “We found that two [driving] lanes on East Broadway is enough. Essentially, you have a double-parking lane along East Broadway now.”

While the cycle track is a benefit to bikers, Tremblay said that it would also prompt other changes in the neighborhood.

With the reduction of the driving lanes on East Broadway, Tremblay said the sidewalks could be expanded to allow restaurants to have more space for cafes and encourage more pedestrians in the neighborhood.

“We’d be able to widen the sidewalk quite a bit, which would help make it feel more pedestrian friendly,” he said. “With that kind of atmosphere it becomes a destination.”

The cycle track could also be a benefit to those driving in the neighborhood. Not only would it physically separate bikes and cars, but light signals for bikes would be installed at intersections to further reinforce existing bike traffic laws.

”Were there any solutions for solving the Boston to South Boston connection?” asked Dan Ferraro, a South Boston resident.

While a connection to Boston for bikes from the neighborhood was not directly addressed both Tremblay and Valovic saw any work on safer biking in the neighborhood would lead to better connections.

“This is just the beginning of a conversation and it’s nice to know there are some solutions to our road issues,” said Valovic.

Valovic after the meeting that with all the development in South Boston from construction near Broadway Station to East Second Street and H Street, conversations about transit are especially relevant.

“How do we anticipate the incoming development and how do we ensure it’s built with transit common sense?” said Valovic. “This is an exploration of creative use, opens up the conversation, and connects interested people.”

Planet Southie meets on the fourth Thursday of every month from 6:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at The Distillery Building offices located at 516 East Second St.

For more information about the group, click here.

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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