Tag: Runners

WalkBoston statement on the Anderson Bridge Underpass

WalkBoston statement on the Anderson Bridge Underpass

WalkBoston enthusiastically supports the construction of the underpass for walkers, runners and cyclists beneath the Anderson Bridge, as well as the suggestion that evaluation of this underpass might lead to similar underpass routes beneath approaches to the River Street and Western Avenue Bridges.

Underpasses add significantly to the capacity of the riverside paths and also add to the network of off-road movement options along and across the Charles River. Capital improvements for the surface of all three bridges have been discussed in detail over the past few years and initial plans show positive agency responses to our advocacy for pedestrian movement across those bridges.

The Charles River paths are a key part of the broader transportation network. This proposal highlights the necessary interconnections and reinforces the need for DCR to receive increased funds for the maintenance of these and other riverside facilities.

Boston Globe: “Anderson bridge proposal backed” 8/5/2014

Learn more about the Charles River Conservancy’s Underpasses Advocacy Campaign.

Winthrop Harborwalk Comment Letter

Winthrop Harborwalk Comment Letter

May 27, 2014

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Nicholas Zavolas
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification Form for the Winthrop Harborwalk, Winthrop, MA
MEPA# 15202

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston works across Massachusetts advocating for improved and safe pedestrian facilities. We are very enthusiastic about local efforts that enhance the pedestrian environment, and where possible help residents and municipalities implement new walking facilities.

With delight, WalkBoston reviewed the ENF for the Winthrop Harborwalk, which has been designed to connect many of the water-related land uses in the former main harbor area of the town. It proposes recreating some of the original waterfront by reconstructing of a portion of the railroad trestle that once curved through Winthrop Harbor.

It’s very exciting to see a relatively small town take on a major pedestrian improvement that is focused on the waterfront. The Harborwalk will link the many nearby small businesses and local sidewalks to a new facility designed to offer residents a new way of looking at their harbor and at their town. The basic elements of the project include a new walkway designed to encourage walking along the current harborfront in areas that are primarily devoted to car parking and it opens up close views of several boatyards and marinas that are very close to the walkway.

We offer these comments:

Design the trail for extension to other areas

The proposed facility includes a 25-foot wide path – wider than most 10’-12’ wide joint use trails in Massachusetts. The right-of-way for the trail does not take away from existing parking or sidewalks, but instead adds space for walking through a proposed reuse of a former rail trestle in the harbor. Within this generous space, plans recognize the varying needs of the potential users of the path – for example, sitting spaces, strolling routes, and shade for sunny days. Many trails and viewing platforms are not as extensive or inclusive as this one. It suggests that there will be many users of this attractive facility, which is unique for the town and easily accessible to most residents. Given this likely success, it may be useful to think about extension of the trail to other areas along the waterfront, either where there are existing sidewalks that could perhaps be widened to allow more space or other alternative locations for walking and sitting at the harbor’s edge.

Design the trail to include runners
Joint use rail trails are a success in Massachusetts. Concurrent with the growth in use, new paths need to be carefully designed to serve a wide variety of users. In plans for the future (whether within this right-of-way or in trail extensions), it would be well to consider the needs of runners, who are frequent users of the trails. Runners often prefer a softer surface than that favored by cyclists and walkers; stone dust has frequently been used because it is more resilient and provides a more comfortable running surface.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Cc  James McKenna, Town Manager

Under the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) current draft regulations, states won’t be required to distinguish between different roadway users (“motorized” and “non-motorized” users in agency language). That makes for a one-size-fits-all approach, with no room for targeted strategies to improve safety for pedestrians.

Non-motorized fatalities represent 14 – 16 % of national traffic deaths — up from 12 % just a few years ago — an alarming trend hidden in the overall decrease of traffic fatalities.

Until June 9, 2014 USDOT is accepting comments on its current draft of these rules. Tell USDOT to get serious about pedestrian safety; remind Secretary Foxx that not everyone gets lucky like he did (see his quote above).

Smart Growth America has drafted a letter that addresses pedestrians and the need for state accountability on safety – sign the online petition

You can also read our comment letter on USDOT Performance Measures here, or write about the issue in your own words and send a letter to:

Secretary Foxx
U.S. Department of Transportation
Docket Operations
M-30, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590

Comments on the Environmental Notification form for the second phase of the Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II in Newburyport and Newbury, MA MEPA# 15191

Comments on the Environmental Notification form for the second phase of the Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II in Newburyport and Newbury, MA MEPA# 15191

May 12, 2014

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr. 
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Alex Strysky
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification form for the second phase of the Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II in Newburyport and Newbury, MA MEPA# 15191

Dear Secretary Sullivan:

WalkBoston has reviewed the Environmental Notification Form for the Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II, which calls for a new multi-purpose trail on a 1.5 mile section of former rail property – the old City Branch line – in the eastern part of the city. Phase II will also extend along a significant portion of the Merrimack River waterfront in the city center. This new trail adds to the existing 1.1 mile rail trail (Phase I) which links the MBTA commuter rail station and Merrimack River not far from the center of the city. A later Phase III will join these two segments in the vicinity of the existing commuter rail station south of the city, but not along the Merrimack River.

Our review leads us to offer these comments:

Design the trail for expansion 
The proposal for Phase II includes an 8-10 foot wide path. The right-of-way for the trail is irregular, as it passes through publicly owned land that includes 19.4 acres. With this space, plans should recognize the possibility that the path will need to be widened if it is successful in drawing users. Many rail trails in Massachusetts are 10-12 feet wide, permitting a 5-6 foot path in each direction. For example, an extension of the Bruce Freeman Trail in Acton will provide a 12-foot trail with 2-foot wide shoulders on both sides to allow space for pedestrians to step aside from other users of the path if they feel the need to let them pass (a possibility if bicycles are passing).

Design the rail trail to include runners 
Rail trails are a success in Massachusetts. Concurrent with the growth in use, new paths need to be carefully designed to serve a wide variety of users. Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail appears to be a very desirable facility, and it makes sense to design it to accommodate runners who are frequent users of trails. Runners often prefer a softer surface than that favored by cyclists and walkers; stone dust has frequently been used because it is resilient and provides a comfortable running surface.

Phase II of the Clipper City Rail Trail has significant right-of-way space that would allow more than a basic bicycle and pedestrian path. With space available, a parallel running track should be considered for the Trail. Even if such a running track is a future addition to the facility, space for such a track should be preserved for the future. In a state known around the world for the Boston Marathon and the many sponsored running events, runners should be included, along with the walkers and bicyclists who may be the prime users of the proposed facility.

Connecting Phase I and Phase II in the city center 
Plans for connecting Phase I and Phase II of the Trail along the Merrimack River in the waterfront area of Newburyport are not included in this document. Omitting mention of such a potential connection seems to diminish the potential created by Phase II construction. Phase II, paralleling the Merrimack River, terminates at Custom House Way, at a point that appears to be adjacent to a portion of the existing Waterfront Promenade Park. This open space has a seawall and boardwalk that can extend the walk two to three blocks further west. Admittedly, at the western end of Promenade Park, an off-street right-of-way may be difficult to find. Sidewalks may have to be used to pass along these few blocks, but if completed, this connection between Phase I and Phase II would afford a 2.4 mile loop around many of the older portions of the city.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project.


Robert Sloane 
Senior Planner

Beacon Street Multimodal Improvements Comment Letter-Somerville, MA

Beacon Street Multimodal Improvements Comment Letter-Somerville, MA

May 13, 2014

Richard K. Sullivan, Jr.
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Attn: Alex Strysky
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

Mark Kolonoski
MassDOT Highway Division
Environmental Services Section
10 Park Plaza, Room 4260
Boston, MA 02116

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification Form for the Beacon Street Multimodal Improvements and Streetscape Enhancement in Somerville, MA

Dear Secretary Sullivan and Mr. Kolonoski:

The Beacon Street project area extends from the bridge abutment at Oxford Street to Dickinson Street, a distance of approximately 1.1 miles. The project is intended to enhance pedestrian and bicycle movements with improved streetscape, wider sidewalks, a new cycle track/bicycle lanes, and new ADA compliant curb ramps. The project goal is to enhance the multimodal connectivity of the Beacon Street Corridor.

We have reviewed this project and offer the following comments:

1. Updated and continuous sidewalks on Beacon Street
The program for complete streets along Beacon Street will result in new cycle tracks and a significant reconstruction of both the street and the sidewalk. Sidewalks are to be updated and rebuilt to correct current deficiencies, including substandard slopes and lack of ramps at intersections. A sidewalk will be added to the south side of Beacon Street in a location where no sidewalk now exists. Adherence to this plan is essential for the safety and convenience of all users of the sidewalk.

The proposed sidewalks will replace the existing 10’-11’ wide sidewalks with new ones of substantially the same width. Retention of this dimension as a minimum is extremely important because some space within the sidewalk will accommodate other uses, such as trees. In only one portion of Beacon Street, where there are space constraints due to an existing stonewall, will the 10’-11’ width be precluded; we note
that no trees are planned for the sidewalk in this section.

2. Cycle tracks and bike lanes
Cycle tracks are proposed between Oxford Street and Museum Street, bike lanes between Museum Street and Park/Scott Streets, cycle tracks between Park/Scott Streets and Washington Street and bike lanes between Washington Street and the Cambridge City line. On the north side of the street, the alignments of the cycle tracks and bike lanes are end-to-end, resulting in a virtually straight path for the full length of
the project.

On the south side of the street the cycle tracks and bike lanes do not quite line up. The transitions between cycle tracks and bike lanes at the intersection of Beacon Street/Museum Street and Park Street/Washington Street are angled to accommodate the needed connections between cycle tracks and bike lanes. These intersections have crosswalks where pedestrians will cross near the bike routes. Since separate traffic signals for bicycles are not included in the project, WalkBoston is concerned that walkers may not be aware that bicycles are approaching at these intersections and need to be especially careful because these diversions might distract the cyclists or the
motorists. We request that special signage and/or pavement markings be provided to alert walkers, bicyclists and drivers of these shifts in alignment and the need to be aware of movements by others.

3. Separation of cycle tracks and sidewalks
In several locations, the proposed cycle tracks are immediately adjacent and at the same grade as the sidewalk. In effect the cycle track will be located on an extension of the sidewalk. A pronounced and clear separation between bicyclists and walkers is needed to deter cyclists from using the sidewalk to bypass slower moving bikes. The
starting and stopping of cycle tracks and bike lanes may be confusing and lead to cyclists using the sidewalks to avoid merging into traffic or worrying about people opening car doors directly in front of them.

Since all 208 of the street trees included this project are to be planted within the width of the sidewalk, we assume that they will help to separate the cycle track from walkers. Other street furniture such as the existing utility and lighting poles, or new benches, trash containers, bollards or signs might also help. The precise location of each element should be carefully considered, as they have the potential to interfere with pedestrian or bicycle movements.

4. Placement of trees
Although the sidewalks are 10 feet wide in nearly all locations along Beacon Street, some of that width – perhaps up to 5 feet – will be lost due to the planting of 208 trees directly in the sidewalk. All of the proposed new trees should be placed in long narrow tree pits (we have seen tree pits that are 2’ wide by 6’-8’ long). More typical 4-foot square tree pits that intrude into the sidewalk should not be used. Irrespective of the shape of the tree pit, tree grates and or special permeable but sturdy filler (similar to that used in some South End locations) should be explored. This is important for the safety of walkers, as is the long-term maintenance of the tree pits so that they do not pose tripping hazards for walkers or for the visually-impaired.

5. Traffic signals at crosswalks and mid-block
New traffic signal equipment and signal timing at the intersections of Beacon Street with Park/Scott and Washington Streets are planned. In addition, two High-Intensity Activated crossWalK (HAWK) pedestrian signals on mast arms are planned for pedestrian crossings at the Sacramento Street intersection and at the Buckingham/Cooney intersection. The project thus appears to have signals of some sort at intervals of about ¼ mile; however, in the portion of Beacon Street between Sacramento Street and the rail overpass at Somerville Avenue, the intersections with Oxford and Prentiss Streets have no traffic signals. With no signals to slow traffic these mid-block crossings may be difficult for pedestrians. Signage or other warnings may be essential to inform drivers and cyclists of the crosswalks.

6. Crosswalk paving
The proposed use of concrete pavers at crosswalks has been cited by one of our members as a hazard for nearly all walkers, and we agree. For all crosswalks on Beacon Street, the customary white reflective thermoplastic strips should be used. Pavers have low visibility and are uneven, making it harder for wheelchairs, seniors, and people pushing strollers or grocery carts.

7. Pedestrian signal phasing
At existing signal locations the exclusive pedestrian phase will be replaced with concurrent pedestrian phasing. For all new signals, a leading pedestrian interval (LPI) is proposed to allow pedestrians to enter the crosswalk before vehicles approaching the intersection have a green signal indication. It will be important to coordinate the LPI at each signalized intersection with any preferential treatment given to bicycles at the same location, to avoid potential conflicts.

8. Signage
There is a need for sidewalk and cycle track signs that make it clear to walkers, bicyclists and drivers how the cycle tracks function. In particular, since all the street’s users will be unfamiliar with cycle tracks it will be important to let pedestrians know what to expect in bicycle movements adjacent to them. Signs should advise bicycles to stay within the cycle tracks and avoid using the sidewalks. Signs should advise walkers of approaching bicycle traffic,places to wait before crossing the street, and to not walk in the cycle tracks. Specific notice should be given to cyclists and pedestrians of potential conflicts at intersections, where turning bicycles, vehicles and pedestrians present many different movements.

9. Lighting
New street lighting has not been proposed, and cyclists may be ‘invisible’ to walkers and drivers. The City should explore the need for additional lighting, especially at intersections where so many different movements will be taking place. In addition, as part of the introduction of the cycle track, the City should explore the opportunity to market and enforce state laws requiring bicycles to carry white front lights on bicycles visible that are visible from 500 feet. WalkBoston has received comments from a number of our older members that they find it impossible to see bicyclists approaching at night if they do not use head lights, and with the addition of a sidewalk level cycle track they are very nervous about crossing the track at intersections.

10. Driveways
A great number of private driveways will be accommodated with this design, with each rebuilt to cross both sidewalk and bicycle facilities. The north side of the street has 43 driveways and the south side has 30. Most of the driveways are narrow, and will involve drivers who will back out to reach Beacon Street. Drivers backing vehicles into the street may have obstructions that limit abilities to see approaching walkers, runners or cyclists.

11. Speed control
Speeds on local streets that are primarily residential such as Beacon Street should be strictly regulated. The current 30-mph limit should not be raised. It should be made lower with advisory signs if possible. Reminder signs should be posted at intervals along the route to warn drivers not to go faster.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this project. Please feel free to contact us if you should have questions.


Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Robert Sloane
Senior Planner