Tag: sidewalk widths

Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Assessment Holyoke

Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Assessment Holyoke

Holyoke is one of 18 communities participating in the MassDOT multi-disciplinary program to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in Massachusetts. One of the components of the MassDOT program is to conduct walk and bike assessments that identify infrastructure challenges to biking and walking, and recommend short- and long-term improvements. These assessments are also a means of building local knowledge of the importance of well-designed bicycle and pedestrian facilities. WalkBoston and MassBike led a walk and bicycle assessment of two locations in Holyoke: the intersection of Beech Street at Resnic Boulevard / W Franklin Street and the Appleton Street Corridor between Sycamore Street and Chestnut Street.


Read the full report here:


Comments on the Charles River Resource Management Plan

Comments on the Charles River Resource Management Plan

October 31, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Charles River Resource Management Plan

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

WalkBoston reviews public planning documents to identify potential implications for pedestrians. The following comments are based on our review of this document:

We are very excited about the opportunities presented for potential improvements in the 3- mile long section of riverfront between the Harbor and the BU Bridge. Because the document gives each proposed improvement a priority ranking, we are able to sense where DCR is moving in its schedule to improve the Lower Charles River Basin.

Many of the improvements proposed are essential for all users of the parks and nearby neighborhoods. We commend DCR for its foresight in working toward protection from flooding that might be anticipated in the wake of Hurricane Sandy two years ago. Improvements to the dam between the river and the harbor will protect the basin, and much of the Back Bay and portions of Cambridge, from flooding.

We are also happy that DCR has been active in working on both the proposed South Bank Bridge behind North Station and the “drawbridge walkway” to be constructed as part of an MBTA replacement bridge. These measures will complete the connection of the riverfront paths with the Harbor Walk.

A related improvement is the proposed walkway behind the Science Museum that would provide connections into the museum, pass over the locks with a new bridge and perhaps through the state police barracks to connect with riverside paths and the existing sidewalk in front of the Museum. This improvement would add capacity of the paths around the basin by providing a new pathway for walkers and runners who currently have no option other than the narrow sidewalk that lies along the reconstructed Craigie Dam roadway.

The partnership of DCR and The Esplanade Association has resulted in proposals that are also moving forward. The relocation of Storrow Drive under one of the Longfellow Bridge arches will provide new park space. Overall goals of the Association’s Esplanade 2020 proposals include revitalizing the area around the Hatch Shell with redesigned paths, a café, and areas for audiences attending Hatch Shell performances. One of the recurring issues in the Hatch Shell work has been the mixing of pedestrians and bicycles at the proposed café that cannot be avoided until a high-speed bicycle path, separated from pedestrian ways, is provided under the Fiedler Footbridge.

We are very pleased the concept of providing separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists is a major feature of the report. In some cases, this kind of separation already exists, as in portions of the Boston Esplanade. In others, such as the Cambridge Esplanade, it will be a major improvement to separate paths for a substantial portion of the riverfront. This design provides high-speed bicycle commuters a special route away from quieter activities, such as strolling or playing with children. We trust that the users of the Cambridge Esplanade will benefit from a proposed greensward with trees and a slight differential in elevation that promotes safety by discouraging a mix of fast cyclists and slower users of the paths.

The report also cites several management issues that require relatively small expenditures. For example, the attention given to removing or controlling geese is important because the birds have become dominant in some sections of the Basin, interfering with safe, healthy and pleasant walking on paths near the River. Snow removal is extremely important to walkers and runners who use the riverside facilities during all months of the year.

However, WalkBoston is concerned that the aspirations expressed in the document do not extend as far as they might. We hope that DCR will explore giving more attention to the following issues.

Minimum widths for paths
The report points out that some stretches of paved paths are only five feet wide. This is insufficient to serve the mix and volume of users, often including both pedestrians and bicyclists. It is clearly inadequate for a multi-use path.

Reliance on multi-use facilities
Pedestrian volumes in the riverfront between the BU Bridge and Boston Harbor are significant. These volumes are reflected in user surveys undertaken by DCR and others, where “walking for pleasure” was shown to be the single most important purpose for many people using the parkland. In another survey, 55% of the respondents cited “congested pathways” as an issue they hoped would be addressed. In the same survey 86% of the respondents would support “separating paths by user types.” 67% of respondents reported a negative experience in using the park, with the majority citing the conflict of pedestrians and cyclists.

These surveys indicate that walkers desire safe and pleasant alternatives to multi-use paths. While it is not feasible to provide separate pedestrian paths along the full length of the corridor, it is clearly a desirable feature to include throughout the wider portions of the park. Multi-use paths would thus be limited to those locations where there are no other options such as narrow stretches of parkland or the recently completed North Bank Bridge.

Provisions for runners and joggers
One of the goals stated in the report calls for safe and continuous bicycle, skating and pedestrian access along the entire length of the park. We would add to that list of users the many runners and joggers who use River paths because they are relatively safe and removed from vehicular traffic.

While runners and joggers do not directly compete with pedestrians for space, they are better served by softer surfaces than asphalt or concrete. “Soft surface” paths have been discussed in locations such as the Greenough Boulevard reconstruction, where separate paths are proposed to serve cycling, walking and running. While the separation of walking and cycling paths is a recurring theme in the report, the possibility of also providing a separate path for runners is not. We would suggest including it in any revisions that might be forthcoming. The presence of so many “goat paths” adjacent to the paved paths clearly point to the need.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage, MEPA #15134

Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage, MEPA #15134

October 24, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: MEPA Office EEA #14069
100 Cambridge St., Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage, MEPA #15134

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

WalkBoston has reviewed this document to identify potential implications for pedestrians. We offer the following comments.

Sidewalk Widths
The FEIR contains detailed drawings of sidewalk widths at all locations, and WalkBoston believes that the widths are completely adequate, except as noted below at the outer bus bays facing the Greenway. On map B.2 – Conceptual Improvement Plan, Bus Bays #4, 5, and 6 are shown with sidewalks that are only 8.5 feet wide, compared with those of Bus Bays #1, 2, and 3, which have 15 foot sidewalks without encroachments. Bays 4, 5, and 6 also appear to have a line of windbreaks that encroach on the 8.5’ width. No benches are shown, but the text response to our DEIR comments states that, “Additional measures, such as windbreaks and seating areas will also be incorporated into the reconfigured Haymarket Bus Station area.” The relatively narrow sidewalk coupled with windbreaks and potentially benches as well, could make the sidewalk uncomfortably narrow and crowded at Bays 4,5, and 6. We urge the proponent to consider a modest re-distribution of space to provide wider sidewalks at these bus stops.

Truck loading bays
WalkBoston continues to be concerned about loading docks that require trucks to back from the major adjoining streets into the building. Two of these streets are major access ways into Central Artery (I-93) and will require very careful operation to be safe for both pedestrians and other vehicles. Clear and enforced management should stipulate that they will not be used, except in emergencies, during daytime working and peak travel times.

Cut-ins on sidewalks
Cut-ins proposed on three sides of the East Parcel and two sides of the West Parcel should also be managed to reduce conflicts with pedestrians as loading and unloading occurs from vehicles. Management of the site should ensure that use of the cut-ins for deliveries (not for guest or resident drop off) is minimized during busy portions of the day or evening.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project. Please feel free to contact us if there are any questions.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner

Comments on the DEIR for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage MEPA #15134

Comments on the DEIR for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage MEPA #15134

July 11, 2014

Secretary Maeve Vallely Bartlett
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)
Attn: Holly Johnson
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston MA 02114

RE: Comments on the DEIR for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage MEPA #15134

Dear Secretary Vallely Bartlett:

WalkBoston reviews significant proposed development projects to provide comments about their impacts on pedestrians, and to suggest measures that may mitigate negative impacts or generally improve the projects for walkers.

We have reviewed the DEIR for the Redevelopment of the Government Center Garage and find exciting aspects of the project that will benefit walkers. These include:

Enhancement of a major pedestrian-transit hub
The East Parcel contains a high-volume transit hub with extensive pedestrian access. Access to the Orange and Green Line Haymarket Station access points will be maintained, as will access to the many MBTA bus services. Some of the difficult pedestrian crossings to the site will be improved by narrowing the width of the New Sudbury Street and thus the length of the crosswalks at its intersection with Congress Street.

The sidewalk through the East Parcel
The new pedestrian connection proposed for this project between Congress Street and Canal Street respects a traditional walking route between Downtown and North Station. This route will see more intensive use over the coming years as the significant developments at North Station and at this site occur, and the proposed design reflects the many circulation activities that are required of this parcel.

A new signalized intersection for Bowker Street
The proposed signalized intersection at New Chardon Street and Bowker Street is a welcome addition for pedestrians. The nearby intersection of New Chardon and Congress Street is skewed in such a way that the crossing is very long and is inconvenient for walkers going to the courthouse across the street. The new crosswalk makes the move much more convenient.

Improvements to on-site parking
As parking ceases to be the principal use of this site, the plan is much less auto-oriented. A reduction of number of available parking spaces reduces vehicles circulating around the site for access. This is accompanied by a reduction in the number of places where vehicles must cross sidewalks, enhancing pedestrian safety. The removal of garage access from New Chardon Street and its potentially busy sidewalks is a major pedestrian benefit of the proposal.

In addition to these project benefits, we also note several issues that need more attention.

Weather protection for walkers
The current garage has the unusual benefit of covering the bus waiting area and access to the transit station below, thus protecting walkers from rain and snow. Removing the garage and opening up the area for new development is beneficial to the project, and we believe that Figure 1.8 shows that the new structure will also provide cover for the bus station area. However, no cover for the subway entrance area is shown. The diagrams are less than clear on this point and we ask the developer to clarify how the bus waiting area and subway entrance areas will be designed and whether they will be covered.

Widths of sidewalks
Pedestrian improvements included in the project will improve safety at crosswalks and along the major streets. A note suggests that the current sidewalks widths are varied throughout the project, and are “rarely less than eight feet wide.” We trust that the standards for future sidewalk widths in this pedestrian-friendly project will be considerably wider and in keeping with the City’s complete street guidelines.

Services provided at the bus station
Six bus stops are proposed in the redesign of the bus station. Three of the stops will be in the area where they are now located, and three stops will be provided by a nominal widening at the side of the Central Artery Surface Road. The design and operation of the bus stops is critical for pedestrian safety and convenience. We ask that the proponent provide detailed diagrams and sketches of how this area will operate and ensure that bus patrons are well served by the new design.

Truck loading bays facing New Chardon Street
New Chardon Street is the major Downtown/North End access to and from the Central Artery (I-93). Four truck loading docks are proposed for the section of New Chardon between Congress Street and the on- and off-ramps leading to the I-93. The site plan suggests that trucks will back into these docks from the street travel lanes across the sidewalk on this side of the East Parcel. Unless use of the docks are restricted to the middle of the night it is difficult to comprehend how trucks backing into place across the sidewalk on a ramp to I-93 can be safely accommodated. We request that the proponent describe this element of the project in detail, including how pedestrian safety will be maintained.

Cut-ins on sidewalks
Cut-ins are proposed on three sides of the East Parcel and two sides of the West Parcel:
1. New Seabury Street near the Surface Artery
2. New Chardon Street near Canal Street
3. New Chardon Street near Bowker Street
4. Congress Street Near New Sudbury Street toward Leverett Circle
5. Congress Street near New Sudbury Street toward State Street

Although not well defined in the DEIR, a cut-in appears to be a pull out lane that reduces the width of the sidewalk to accommodate vehicles. The drawings in the DEIR show these indentations only vaguely but imply that a cut-in is a lane for vehicles separate from the adjacent thoroughfare but parallel to it.

The next stage of development of the project should include details of:

  •  Why the cut-ins are needed in each of the five locations?
  • How they are proposed to be used (back-in, parallel movement, etc.)?
  • How they relate to, or potentially conflict with, all major adjacent pedestrian flows?
  • Design guidelines that include minimum widths for adjacent sidewalks or crosswalks, as well as bollards or other protections for walkers. We are concerned that the sidewalks seem quite narrow adjacent to some of the proposed cut-ins.

We appreciate your consideration of our comments and look forward to your responses to them. Please feel free to contact WalkBoston with questions you may have.


Wendy Landman                                 Robert Sloane
Executive Director                              Senior Project Manager

Route 138 Reconstruction Comment Letter

Route 138 Reconstruction Comment Letter

March 2, 2010

Secretary Ian Bowles
Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
MEPA Office 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

RE: Comments on the Environmental Notification Form for the roadway reconstruction of Turnpike Street, Route 138 in Canton.
EOEA #14535

Dear Mr. Bowles:

WalkBoston appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the Environmental Notification Form for the roadway reconstruction of Turnpike Street, Route 138 in Canton. The proposal calls for reconstruction of the roadway between Sassamon Street and Randolph Street in Canton, and includes a sidewalk on the west side of the street. This sidewalk will be 5.5 feet wide.

We applaud the state for constructing this sidewalk in an area that is in need of facilities for the safety of pedestrians and are pleased to see a pedestrian network beginning to evolve in the vicinity of the town center and the educational campuses on Randolph Street. Our concerns about the installation of the new sidewalks are discussed below.

It appears that the proposed new sidewalk on the west side of Turnpike Street will complement the existing limited width sidewalks along this street north and south of the project area. When completed, this sidewalk plus the sidewalks to the north and south of it will provide a pedestrian facility extending along Washington/Turnpike Street from the Route 128/I-93 interchange to about 600 south of Randolph Street. This is commendable and very welcome. It also suggests the need for continuity of the sidewalks on the full length of this important local street and its connections via sidewalks on Washington Street and Randolph Street into the center of the community. One of the problems we see regularly in sidewalk construction is that the necessary clear walking widths are not always preserved. Frequently, utility poles and signal utility boxes are placed directly within the sidewalk, significantly reducing the clear width available to pedestrians. This is the case with the existing sidewalks along Turnpike and Washington Streets which are very narrow and which have utility poles rendering them difficult to use, particularly for those in wheelchairs. We trust that the new sidewalks will be designed with sufficient clear width to enable comfortable and safe use by pedestrians and people in wheelchairs.

Adequate sidewalk widths are also important if bus service is provided. While there is apparently no current bus service along this portion of Turnpike Street, if future bus service is anticipated, the clear width should be enlarged where buses might stop – especially near intersections such as Randolph Street.

The sidewalk cross slope design should be closely examined for its effects on walkers or wheelchairs, in particular at driveways where steep slopes can be uncomfortable for both pedestrians and wheelchair users, can be slippery in snowy or icy conditions, and potentially dangerous if pitched steeply toward the street.

We note that the principal intersections with Turnpike Street at Randolph Street and at Washington Street already have traffic signals in place. As part of this project, countdown signals should be added in both locations to help pedestrians cross the intersection.

Wheelchair ramps are already in position at both sides of the intersection at Turnpike and Randolph Streets and at Turnpike and Washington Streets, and cut-throughs are in place in the pedestrian refuge island in the intersection of Turnpike and Washington Streets. However, no marked crosswalks exist to connect these facilities. Marked crosswalks should be added to both intersections.

We suggest that the plan include signs in advance of each pedestrian crossing to warn drivers to slow down and be alert for pedestrians.

Over time, we urge MassDot to consider widening the existing sidewalks on Turnpike and Washington Streets which are narrow and have frequent utility poles. In addition, new and or improved sidewalks should be added wherever possible. Future construction of walkways along Randolph Street to the Blue Hills Regional Technical High School and Massasoit Community College would be a welcome improvement.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Environmental Notification Form for the roadway reconstruction of Turnpike Street, Route 138 in Canton. Please contact us for any clarification or additional comments that you may need.


Robert Sloane
Senior Planner