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City abruptly cancels second meeting on W. Broadway bike lanes

Posted by Patrick Rosso  September 13, 2013 01:02 PM

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Amid opposition to the idea of bike lanes on West Broadway, a meeting set for Monday on the proposal has been abruptly canceled by the city.

The cancellation was due to a lack of community consensus, said a representative from the Mayor’s office. The project is, however, not being abandoned as city officials will continue discussions internally and with the community.

At a meeting in late-August, Nicole Freedman, the director of Boston Bikes, the city’s bike agency, presented a proposal that would add bike lanes to West Broadway from the Broadway Bridge to the corner of West Broadway and Dorchester Street.

"One thing we realized is there was a lot of disagreement on the issue and a lot of work has to be done to create a better understanding of bike lanes," Freedman said Friday. "Bike lanes are here to stay and have been successful across the city whether it be Jamaica Plain, Downtown, or Charlestown."

Freedman added that every neighborhood's community process is different and the city needs to do a better job educating residents about the benefits of bikes lanes.

"In each neighborhood the community process is a little different and it's about having the right community process," said Freedman.

At the August meeting a number of proponents and opponents of the lanes testified about the perceived benefits and perceived impacts of the lanes.

Proponents said the lanes would make the street safer for cyclists who already use the street and generate business.

Opponents said the lanes would hurt businesses and impact double parking, a cherished, but illegal tradition in South Boston.

City Councilor Bill Linehan came out in opposition to the lanes, saying the lanes would make the street more dangerous for bikes.

“Bikes are allowed on local streets already and neighborhood bicyclists are welcome to bike to Broadway to do some shopping. Providing a designated lane for bikes on Broadway however would encourage all bicyclists, including commuters, to use Broadway,” he said in a statement. “A designated lane would signal to bicyclists that Broadway is the safest option, when clearly it is not.”

A representative from Linehan's office said Thursday that they were not aware that the meeting would be canceled.

Southie Bikes, a neighborhood organization and one of the lead proponents of the lanes, said in a statement that it is committed to continuing discussions on the matter.

“It has always been the position of Southie Bikes to listen to the constructive feedback from the people in the neighborhood. We received plenty of great ideas for how to make bike lanes work well in Southie, and we look forward to incorporating those ideas into the design going forward. There is more work to be done, and given Boston's rapidly changing political landscape the meeting will be deferred to a future date,” said the statement. “Planet Southie, Southie Bikes, Chamber of Commerce, and City Councilor Bill Linehan have more work to do toward common understanding.”

West Broadway, which runs from the Broadway Bridge to Dorchester Street, is one and two lane road with parking on both sides. There are currently no bike lanes on the street, although it is heavily used by cyclists, according to the city of Boston. In the proposed plan no parking or travel lanes were eliminated.

According to the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, bicycles can be ridden “on any public road, street, or bikeway in the Commonwealth, except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting bikes have been posted.”

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

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