Friday, February 6, 2015

Connecting Casey Arborway Bike Paths to Jamaica Pond: A New Proposal

Toole Design Group


Recently DCR held two public meetings at the Arnold Arboretum to discuss possible future Arborway Bicycle Facilities between the Casey Arborway Project and Jamaica Pond. Preliminary in nature, the purpose of the meetings was to seek community input and develop “Starter Ideas” that might help this portion of the historic Emerald Necklace parkways gain more balance and become more inclusive and safe for all users: cars, bikes, pedestrians. Upon the completion of the Casey Arborway Project, there will be strong bike and pedestrian facilities both to the south in Forest Hills and to the north of the project area at Jamaica Pond and beyond, but this section of the Emerald Necklace is not currently safe for any mode of travel. The goal is to improve the comfort and safety of all users while keeping in mind the DCR’s Historic Parkways Preservation Guidelines which make the case, as Patrice Kish, DCR’s Director of Cultural Resources put it, that “A parkway is not a road. It’s a park with a road in it.”

The meetings came about thanks to advocate engagement. When DCR prematurely painted (and then removed) bike lanes between the two rotaries without community or expert input, it was suggested that a plan be developed to address the needs of all users. DCR contracted with nationally recognized Toole Design Group to collect data, solicit community input from neighbors and stakeholders, and to provide design services.

With participant turn-out hampered by recent blizzards, difficult travel conditions and a last minute scheduling change, some two dozen members of the public attending the Tuesday, February 3 meeting first heard about traffic counts and accident rates. According to Toole’s new counts, 49,200 vehicles use the Arborway between the two rotaries each day. These rotaries are Murray Circle at Centre St. (added to the Frederick Law Olmsted parkways in 1932) and Kelley Circle at Parkman Drive near the Pond. For northbound traffic (towards the pond), approximately 50% of vehicles come from Forest Hills to the south and 50% come from Centre St. and the Faulkner Hospital area to the southwest. Northbound, more drivers use the inner lanes while southbound drivers prefer the outer lanes. This is partly a function of the geometry and deflection angles of the approach lanes at the rotaries, and partly a function of the vehicle's ultimate destination as it exits the area.

There have been 135 vehicle crashes in the study area between 2008-2012, some causing very serious injuries. Crashes have been geographically distributed throughout: 38 occured between South Street and Centre, 23 at Centre and Murray Circle coming from the monument, 30 on Murray Circle itself, and 36 at Kelley Circle. Speeding is certainly a factor, with average speeds in the study area significantly above the posted 30 m.p.h. limit. These factors indicate that reconfiguration should take place on the roadways to improve vehicle safety and to provide safe accommodation to pedestrians and cyclists. Telegraphing their preliminary design preferences, Ian Lockwood of Toole provided a thorough description of the many types and purposes of modern roundabouts - roadway features that are very different from a large-scale rotary which provides little traffic calming and does not encourage safe use for pedestrians and bikes. A typical example is configured like this:

Toole Design Group

Attendees were asked to consider what they like and don’t like about the area currently, and to apply their extensive local knowledge to the question of what might be missing and what might be done to improve the area. All suggestions were encouraged in breakout groups, extensive notes were taken on large format maps, and ideas were then shared with the larger group for discussion. After the first meeting, Toole Design Group spent an intensive 48 hours incorporating as much of the community’s input as possible and then with better weather and turn-out presented their “Starter Idea” proposal to a group of some 50-75 neighbors and advocates at the second public meeting on February 5, 2015:

Both Murray and Kelley rotaries would be reconfigured in this proposal to create smaller modern roundabouts, with raised table-style crosswalks for pedestrians and bikes at the approach and exit points of the roundabouts. These would enhance safety for the crosswalks dramatically, while providing traffic calming for vehicles conducive to the park setting, increasing contiguous greenspace. Toole proposed that almost all traffic lights be eliminated, since lane deflection directs and protects all routes of vehicle travel. This reduces points of conflict between vehicles and reduces air pollution from cars waiting at traffic lights.

From the south at Forest Hills, a pedestrian path would continue from South St. through the Arborway Hillside to a new raised-table crosswalk at St. Rose Street on the Arborway frontage road. The crosswalks at the main Hunnewell entrance to the Arboretum would also be raised on both the frontage road and main line Arborway:

Toole Design Group


Bike lanes are created along the Arboretum and Arborway Hillside by removing the median and using the existing curb lines to preserve trees - a strategy used wherever possible throughout the corridor. The two-way bike facility along the Arboretum and the one-way lane along the Hillside would connect with the Casey Arborway Project facilities at Forest Hills and continue to Franklin Park or on Morton Street towards Blue Hill Avenue:
Toole Design Group

The Murray Circle rotary becomes a double roundabout in this design, with raised crosswalks and pedestrian refuge islands throughout the entire area for traffic calming and safer paths for all users. Lanes are deflected (i.e. steered) towards the continuing routes. Asphalt is reduced and greenspace is increased (sidewalks black, bike paths yellow in this image):
Toole Design Group


The outer frontage road lanes between the existing rotaries are reconfigured for bikes and residents with regional vehicle traffic using the center lanes. Along the top of the following image on the westerly frontage road, the direction of local vehicle traffic is reversed to northbound-only. Buffered two-way bike lanes would be provided on both frontage roads along the inner edges, away from frontage road parking and local traffic:
Toole Design Group

Toole Design Group


Kelley Circle is also reconfigured to improve facilities for bikes and pedestrians, with a reduction in confusing crossovers and increased traffic calming for vehicles. Two small bicycle rotaries are including, echoing the new configuration at the southern end of Southwest Corridor Park within the Casey Arborway Project:
Toole Design Group


Patrice Kish, in closing, reminded the audience that the historic Emerald Necklace is not only one of the most important parks in Boston, it is one of the most important parks in the nation. The idea that parkways are not roads, but parks with roads in them echoes the lasting and influential vision of Frederick Law Olmsted and the through-line of urban American landscape architecture. Similar sentiments were echoed by Toole’s Ian Lockwood, who made a strong case for urban placemaking, designing for the local community and for regional resource enhancement rather than designing solely for transient commuters. “People going through your neighborhood should do so on your terms, not theirs,” he said.

DCR welcomes all comments received by March 6, 2015 to dcr.updates@state.ma.us
Be sure to note “Arborway Bicycle Facilities” in the subject line.
The full presentations from which these images were extracted are available here under Public Meetings, February 3 & 5, 2015:
http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/public-outreach/public-meetings/

7 comments:

  1. "(sidewalks yellow, bike paths black....)" I think that's backwards.

    Did Toole say why the cycletracks are on the inside of the carriageways rather than the outside, between the two roundabouts?

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    1. Sidewalks: good catch. Fixed.

      On cycle track location: they didn't say, but their presentation included anl overview of specific types of "buffering" for cycletracks. I'm guessing the intent is to reduce conflict with parked cars and local residents, and to place bikes closer to the park-like medians than to homes.

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    2. Also: avoid conflicts eith cars backing out of driveways (or pulling into driveways).

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    3. Also: avoid conflicts eith cars backing out of driveways (or pulling into driveways).

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  2. This is a really useful summary for those who couldn't make the meeting - thanks!

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  3. You are most welcome. I've been trying to stay as neutral as I can this early in the process since there is as yet no funding for this or any more developed proposal... yet. As an abutting neighbor, my interest in the eventual outcome is primarily as a recreational user of the corridor and one who would like to see enhanced safety for all. The Emerald Necklace, the Pond and the Arboretum are all regional attractions - and safety shouldn't be dependent on local knowledge. It certainly is here.

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