Open letter to DCR Commissioner Jack Murray

To DCR Commissioner Jack Murray:

On Sunday, November 23, 2014, bike lanes were painted on Lynn Fells Parkway from a spot near Pond Street in Stoneham to Vinton Street in Melrose. This letter is to express gratitude for the inclusion of bicycle accommodations in the road design, but also to offer a critique and to request an addition to fix a problem that may simply be an unintended error in the implementation.

Most importantly, if the design for bike lanes on Lynn Fells Parkway is representative of the intended treatment for other DCR roads in the future, this is a cause for concern.

As you are probably aware, this section of roadway is crossed by pedestrians to reach the largest of Melrose’s five public elementary schools, as well as the middle school and high school. It also hosts a nontrivial percentage of the local bicycle traffic, according to both anecdotal data acquired from residents and the quantitative metrics available from Strava (see heat map below). As such, this particular stretch of road has been the subject of many requests for traffic calming over the years, and is consistently singled out in public meetings as a location where road users would like to see safety prioritized over speed.

 

Strava Heat Map

This image shows local bicycle activity collected from users of the Strava application. Brighter, wider blue lines represent more frequently used routes. Note that Fellsway East and Lynn Fells Parkway are principal arteries for cyclists. [1]

The road has a posted speed limit of either 30 or 35 mph, (westbound sign differs from eastbound for the same segment), and as is typical for DCR parkways, trucks are prohibited. There are no MBTA bus routes on the road. For a road fitting this description, NACTO guidelines would suggest 10’ motor vehicle travel lanes [2], and even the less cautious AASHTO guidelines suggest a range of 10’-12’ [3].

Considering the persistent public demand for traffic calming and the guidelines from the recognized standards, the dimensions as painted seem as though they must be a mistake. The motor vehicle travel lanes are 14-1/2’ wide and the shoulder (with bike lane markings) is 5’. Note also that the shoulder has storm drains and other obstructions that narrow its effective width in some places.

There is ample evidence that this can be improved upon. Even on this very same road, the next segment further east (between Tremont St and Melrose St), has lane widths of 12’ and shoulders of 7-1/2’.

As an effective and inexpensive solution to the problem, I suggest that an additional line be painted 8-1/2’ from the curb on each side. This leaves 11’ travel lanes and a 3-1/2’ buffer between the vehicle lanes and the bike lane. This would also improve continuity with the existing lane geometry east of Tremont Street.

 

Thanks in advance for your action on this matter,

Steve Leibman

sleibman@alum.mit.edu

 

[1] http://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#13/-71.05185/42.44275/blue/bike

[2] http://nacto.org/usdg/lane-width

[3] http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/geometric/pubs/mitigationstrategies/chapter3/3_lanewidth.cfm

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