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It’s Time to Build Resilient Streets for Somerville – StreetsblogMASS

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It’s Time to Construct Resilient Streets for Somerville – StreetsblogMASS

In cities throughout the globe rising from COVID-19, now we have constantly seen a sluggish return to transit, and a quick return (and even progress) in personal automotive journey. We all know that pre-COVID-19, fewer than half of Boston space residents drove to work. We additionally know that if this ratio have been to vary as a result of disaster — with individuals mode shifting to single occupancy automobiles – all of our lives could be impacted in methods each important and menial, and never for the higher.

One prediction by researchers at Vanderbilt College estimated that if most Boston space transit customers switched to driving alone in their very own automobiles, that would translate as much as 776,000 added site visitors hours per day, or including 22 minutes to every individual’s commute.

Together with these elevated commute occasions, there could be extra deadly automotive crashes, much less social and financial mobility, and higher ranges of air pollution and particulate matter within the air. If you happen to suppose this scale of mode-shift is unrealistic, we might merely level to a recent MassINC poll indicating that 44 % of transit customers count on to make fewer journeys within the close to future.

If the prospect of this transportation nightmare worries you, you aren’t alone. Fortunately, town of Somerville, and plenty of of its neighbors within the Boston Metro area, have lengthy been on the forefront of transportation innovation in Massachusetts. Somerville’s response to the pandemic has been swift and robust, with Shared Streets, expanded avenue house for outdoor eating, and pop-up protected bike lanes arrange throughout town.

However these actions are all non permanent, and everlasting modifications aren’t assured. Somerville has led in prioritizing buses, bicycles and pedestrians on a number of key streets previously few years, and we will lead once more right here.

The Approach Ahead

It’s more and more clear that for our cities and communities to prosper, we have to change the way in which we construct our streets – to raised design them for individuals, and heart them on the idea of resilience.

It was on this context that Somerville Bicycle Safety was happy to have had the prospect to satisfy with the designers at Avenue Plans, the place we got down to define what we expect the way forward for Resilient Streets ought to seem like for our municipality.

First, we wish to reply the query you’re doubtless asking your self: what’s a resilient avenue?

A resilient avenue is a avenue that prioritizes the environment friendly motion of individuals; it’s a avenue that builds redundancy into transit networks by creating a number of, equally engaging choices for getting round; and it’s a avenue that’s constructed to handle or mitigate environmental modifications which can be doubtless on the horizon. A resilient avenue is a avenue that makes social distancing doable: for bus riders, for bike riders, for strolling, sitting, and eating. It’s a avenue that’s lined with inexperienced house for recreating, shade to battle the warmth island impact, and ample drainage to fight the potential of flooding. Resilient streets don’t faux to be blind to the socio-economic historical past of the communities they run by way of – relatively, they’re constructed to assist right historic injustices by offering higher entry for these with the best want.

A resilient avenue works greatest when it’s related to different resilient streets, and is of the requisite size and proximity to those that it might probably facilitate all method of makes use of: journeys to the native buying and restaurant hubs, intra-municipality journey between neighborhoods, in addition to medium-to-long distance (5-8 miles) inter-municipality “conventional” commutes to Central Enterprise Districts.

Having a top quality, reasonably priced bikeshare community – with each traditional pedal bikes and ebikes –  solely additional will increase the effectiveness of resilient streets in stopping mode shift towards single occupancy driving.


Map of Highland Avenue Somerville


We selected to reimagine Highland Avenue, a significant east-west connector, for a couple of causes. A very powerful of which is that it’s a avenue that carefully resembles so many different streets in Somerville: it’s 40 ft curb to curb, it has parking lanes on either side of the road, and it has two common bus strains. If we will present how Highland Avenue might be constructed to raised accommodate all avenue customers, we imagine the identical classes might be utilized way more broadly throughout the municipality.

Secondly, this can be a lengthy cross-town hall connecting two multimodal transit hubs, Davis Sq. and Lechmere. It’s densely developed with residences and retail alongside its size, and has most of the metropolis’s main locations together with Somerville’s Metropolis Corridor, principal library, and highschool.

Lastly, the timing is good as a result of Somerville will probably be upgrading a number of of its busiest 40’ streets within the subsequent few years, together with Holland Avenue and Faculty Avenue in 2021. Highland Avenue itself is a part of the Spring Hill Sewer Separation project and will probably be fully rebuilt over the following few years.

Highland Avenue near Central St. in 2020.
Highland Avenue close to Central St. in 2020.
Reimagined design for Highland Avenue with protected bike lanes
A reimagined design for Highland Avenue would prioritize transferring individuals safely and simply alongside its size. Rendering courtesy of Street Plans.

This reimagined Highland Avenue would prioritize transferring individuals safely and simply alongside its size. Bus riders, together with commuters, and college students going to and from the highschool, would have comfy locations to board and in-lane stops would lower down on the delay of buses having to tug again into automotive site visitors. Folks on bicycles would really feel protected utilizing the bodily separated lanes to commute to Metropolis Corridor, run errands, and decide up meals from Highland’s many native eating places. Pedestrians would have ample house to make brief journeys to buy and transfer across the neighborhood. By eradicating bikes and merging buses from the journey lane, even drivers would profit from smoother and safer journeys.

Our Cities Can’t Do This Alone

As now we have seen, bicycles are enjoying a key role within the restoration of cities internationally, however essentially the most profitable bicycle coverage platforms are supported past simply town stage, and embrace coverage adoption on the state/province, in addition to the nationwide stage.

  1. Massachusetts would profit from ebikes:
    Massachusetts is certainly one of solely seven states within the union that hasn’t clearly outlined what an ebike is, thus making giant scale adaptation unimaginable. As we’ve seen in different cities, ebikes enhance the recognition and accessibility of biking as an entire, as a result of they attraction to a broader spectrum of the inhabitants – together with seniors and other people with disabilities – and encourage individuals to bike longer distances. This final level is especially pertinent to communities outdoors the central core of Boston itself. Ebike definition language is presently being debated as a part of the Transportation Bond Invoice, which has to go earlier than the top of the yr. It’s vitally vital that ebike language is included within the last model that’s agreed upon by each homes within the state legislature.
  2. The federal authorities must assist higher transportation insurance policies for each cities and residents:
    As a part of the latest floor transit reauthorization invoice (H.R. 2) on the federal stage, there was an effort to introduce a brand new $2.4 billion grant program to assist counties doing infrastructure work on native priorities. That is low-hanging fruit that empowers cities like Somerville by giving us the sources we have to reply to present situations and anticipate challenges by way of the creation of really resilient transportation networks.

There’s additionally a bipartisan invoice in entrance of Congress (H.R. 1507) that may reintroduce – and strengthen – the commuter tax profit for biking to work, together with making bikeshare memberships tax deductible. Bicycle commuter advantages have been proven to extend the quantity of people that select biking, over different modes, and are one other widespread sense coverage to forestall mode shift towards single occupancy automobiles throughout this perilous time.

For cities to emerge from the present disaster, we’re going to have to do issues otherwise. With the potential for important mode-shift away from environment friendly, environmentally pleasant transportation methods, we have to suppose creatively about how we’re going to get individuals from level A to level B in methods which can be according to our environmental, security, and public well being targets. Our streets have the house to maneuver many extra individuals, extra safely, than they’re presently doing. Let’s begin there.

Take Motion:

  1. Signal this petition and assist Somerville Bicycle Security in our effort to proceed to broaden protected infrastructure for individuals of all ages and all talents in all neighborhoods of Somerville.

  2. Help the work of MassBike to outline ebikes in Massachusetts
  3. Signal this petition by Folks for Bikes to assist the passage of the Bicycle Commuter Act, making bike commuters eligible for pre-tax advantages.

Concerning the authors:

Arah Schuur and George Schneeloch, each Somerville residents, based Somerville Bicycle Safety after the failed effort so as to add protected bike lanes to one of many metropolis’s principal streets. Somerville Bike Security works to make bicycling protected for individuals of all ages and talents, in all neighborhoods of Somerville, and might be reached at info@somervillebikesafety.org.

Thomas DeVito is the East Coast Coverage Supervisor for Transit, Bikes, and Scooters at Lyft. Thomas was beforehand a group organizer, serving as Senior Director of Advocacy at Transportation Alternate options, based mostly out of New York Metropolis.


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