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Legislators to MassDOT: Don't touch those plastic posts that separate bicyclists from cars on the Longfellow

State senators and representatives from either side of the Longfellow Bridge want the state to keep the "flex posts" that separate the Longfellow bike lanes from cars over the winter.

MassDOT currently plans to have workers remove the plastic posts on Sunday to make it easier to plow the bridge after snowstorms - after originally promising to keep them in place year round.

In a letter today to state Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, state senators Joseph Boncore (1st Suffolk and Middlesex) and Sal DiDomenico (Middlesex and Suffolk) and state representatives Jay Livingstone (8th Suffolk) and Mike Connolly (26th Middlesex) said they want MassDOT to leave those cones alone, at least until it can show a plan that will protect bicyclists as well as the flex posts have.

We are incredibly disappointed to learn that MassDOT has now announced that it is reneging on its specific commitment and removing flex posts from the bridge. We are also disappointed that MassDOT has not announced any other safety measures for the bridge to mitigate in any way the removal of the flex posts.

Copy of the letter.

MassDOT says it will put the posts back "at the conclusion of the snow and ice season:"

After receiving stakeholder input and reviewing snow removal options, MassDOT made the decision to remove the vertical flex posts for the winter so that crews and snow plows will have access to the full width of the bridge during and after storm events. This will ensure that the vehicular travel lanes, bicycle lanes, gutter line, and drainage structures are all cleared at the same time.

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Comments

With the posts in place, what are the options to plow after a major snowfall?

I'm all for protecting cyclists, but would like to know what the range of alternatives (and related costs) are.

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Voting closed 17

Boston went out and bought smaller snow plows specifically for the purpose of plowing its new protected bike lanes. MassDOT needs to do the same.

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Voting closed 10

I don't have a position on this. Can someone explain how they propose to plow the snow with the flex posts in place? The state obviously SAID they could do it, although they seem to have changed their tune. Just logistically, how do they plan to plow?

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Voting closed 22

They probably would plow the bike lane the same way they clear the pedestrian lane, which is (I think) with a mini-bobcat with a plow attachment. But it'd take twice the time and I also expect the plows for the main road will end up taking out the flex posts.

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Voting closed 13

I think the flex posts should have been replaced with something more durable but in reality, if they remove them, their promise of it making plowing of the bike lane will be BS. The bike lane will become the snow storage lane until spring (like parking spots are on other streets). Keeping the posts in place will force them to actually remove the snow from the bike lanes - so keep them.

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Voting closed 28

In return, how about the cyclists agree to use ONLY the bike lane. Seems reasonable, given that you've now increased the time and labor MassDOT must expend to clear your special lane of snow.

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Voting closed 75

When drivers agree to stay the eff out of that lane at all times, including when they are "only going to be a minute" ...

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Voting closed 61

Unfortunately they refused to make the bike lane wide enough for cyclists of different speeds to pass, which was frequently predicted to be a problem given the incline of the bridge. Every time some jackass yells at me to get back in the bike line I respond with the MGL section that says bikers can use car lanes, even if a bike lane is present.

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Voting closed 14

The same exact way other cities with snow and protected bike lanes already do it: With equipment specifically designed to plow bike lanes and pedestrian paths:

IMAGE(https://i.ytimg.com/vi/H5RrU146124/maxresdefault.jpg)

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Voting closed 18

So, I'll preface this by saying I am a bike commuter but I don't ride over the Longfellow as part of my commute. I do ride over it pretty frequently nonetheless, and have done so for the past decade-ish. I have never understood why the Longfellow flexpost-protected bike lane was so important to Mass Bike/bike advocates in the first place. I think at best it is "security theater", like the TSA or something. The Longfellow is a super-long straightaway with good visibility, no parking, no reason for anybody to pull over to pick up/discharge passengers, and no intersections or driveways. The potential for cars to cross into the bike lane and conflict with a rider on a road like this is essentially nil, and if it did happen it would essentially be the result of gross negligence/impairment/malfeasance, in which case the flexpost offers no protection anyway.

Sure, I guess it's nice to have consistent protected lanes everywhere, but why choose this hill to die on? Mass Bike made a huge stink over adding the posts, but I wish they would have expended that political capital literally almost anywhere else. The two closest Charles river crossings BOTH still lack bike lanes entirely (and somebody just died on one of them), not to mention that the Boston side of the Longfellow has basically no safe bike connection anywhere besides the river path. Charles St and Cambridge St are both a horrible mess to bike on. Why couldn't they have worked as hard on getting striped lanes in those places? Let's face it, if you're too nervous/inexperienced of a biker to ride on the Longfellow without posts in place, you are going to have a very hard time when you get to Charles Circle.

If MassDOT doesn't have a real workable plan to keep the bridge plowed with the posts in place, what will probably happen is that the bike lane gets too small to actually ride in which is actually a worse outcome for bikers as the posts will trap people in the inadequate bike lane. Last winter the parking-protected lanes on Mass Ave in Boston became impassible and we didn't even get that much accumulation. We'll see what ends up happening, but I'm skeptical this is the right fight at the right time.

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Voting closed 55

...is a particularly sensible post.

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Voting closed 21

I seem to recall some MIT program proposed a design for retractable posts that could fold down into the roadway temporarily, allowing things like snow plowing or emergency vehicles to pass traffic. Like most of those things it never made a difference anywhere though.

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Voting closed 3

I do commute over the Longfellow regularly; before the flex posts were there, cars and trucks would regularly slide into the bike lane, I have almost been hit twice. That no longer happens with the posts. As for Charles street, its current configuration (which has changed over the years) makes no sense: there's no need for Charles street to have three lanes of one way car traffic, plus parking on both sides. A lot of cyclists do as you suggest: when they come off the bridge, the take a right onto Charles. Some cyclists stick to the right lane, some to the left, where they often have to dodge other cyclists illegally riding against traffic flow. IMO, they should slice off a lane for two-way cycle traffic.

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Voting closed 15

This.

It's true that the flexposts won't save you from drunk or negligent drivers (that would have required concrete, which we asked for but which MassDOT refused to give us for--if I recall correctly--snow removal, of all reasons). But they definitely keep drivers from "buzzing" cyclists, which definitely makes the biking experience much more stressful. Basically, it's substantially inferior to a solid barrier, but it's much better than nothing.

Also it's not a "hill to die on." It's more like MassDOT needs to receive the constant drum beat of "always be improving on this" so every little bit helps.

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Voting closed 13

Part of the reason MassBike takes this so seriously is because there is zero reason for a newly built road in 2018 to not have decent bike infrastructure. The original plan for the bridge did not. No decent bike infrastructure should no longer be an option for new roads. When Charles Street gets rebuilt, I assume they'll be demanding good bike lanes there.

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Voting closed 10

Designing and implementing safe cycling infra is beneath MassDOT, maintaining it doubly so apparently. They have shown time and time again that they are an agency that is focused solely on moving cars and little else, not to mention the disdain they have for public transit.

How about the snails pace on the Comm Ave. protected bike lanes, now entering our second winter without any bike lanes, protected or not, along this stretch. They took away the existing bike lane without providing anything in the interim. They've sort of opened up portions of the new bike lanes to cyclists but do not remove snow from it or have it blocked with signage directing cyclists to take the full lane. Or they just obstruct the new lanes without informing cyclists, who then have to dismount, walk between parked cars and contend with speeding cars. The new bike lights are time terribly because we can't have motorists waiting too long. But don't worry, the parking spots are freshly painted.

The cycling community pushed for something more than just flex posts and paint on the Longfellow bridge but apparently even the bare minimum is too much for MassDOT to maintain.

And don't forget that DCR still hasn't installed the cycling infra near the Museum of Science, where a cyclist died recently. They delayed the installation specifically because of concerns about inconveniencing motorists.

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Voting closed 33

They can't even clear the junk out of the catch basins on the BU Bridge. They have trees growing out of them again they are so clogged!

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Voting closed 9

Growing the wacky tabaccy in those basins.

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Voting closed 1

While another comes out with the usual plot-of-the Man conspiracy theories. Compare. Contrast.

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Voting closed 8

When was the last time you biked the areas Spin speaks of?

I'm guessing .... never?

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Voting closed 11

I have biked up and down both side of the Chuck, from apartments on both sides of the same. I even know that if you are crossing the Mass Ave Bridge headed towards Beacon you need to slow down. No need to get all snippy because you still you were desperate to prove there was no such thing as being too high to drive last week. Don't you leave out in Dedham anyway?

We still need someone to explain to us how snow removal would work with the partitions up. Just let me know if there is a plan besides releasing a small army of elves to shovel between them, the only thing which would seem to keep the bike lanes clear. I look forward to any proposal that actually works in the physical world.

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Voting closed 13

Montreal does it right:

https://twitter.com/CyclistBartek/status/1073616931452669952

Thats why the cycling community pushed for more than just paint and bollards. These were the bare minimum given to protect cyclists but if its too much of a burden to maintain, well then we need better alternatives. You don't just rip it all up for a few months and say "have fun swimming with the sharks."

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Voting closed 13

The path you showed is a two lane path. A pickup truck is laying down the grit in the video.

Perhaps we can shift the tracks over on the Longfellow so that there are two bike lanes on one side of the bridge.

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Voting closed 6

And I believe the cycling community was asking for that, a two way path on one side of the bridge.

Added benefit, emergency vehicles could use it to bypass traffic.

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Voting closed 10

Are you kidding?

How would you do that? Logistically, that is. If you wanted emergency vehicles to have the option of going into a separated two-way bike path to bypass motor vehicle lanes, how would you propose to do that?

An ambulance could merge into the space with bike traffic going the same direction, yes. What about all the bike traffic going in the opposite direction on the two way path - what would they be expected to do?

Dismount and hop over the rail onto the sidewalk?

Have some sort of emergency gate shut at the far end of the bridge, wait for all the bike traffic on-span to clear out*, then send the ambulance through? Right

* assuming, of course, that everybody is patient and waits while the barrier is shut?

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Voting closed 5

This isn't exactly a novel idea. They use mountable curbs to achieve this, and if there's also a mountable curb between the bike lane and the sidewalk, that also makes it easy for the cyclists to hop out of the lane to let the emergency vehicle pass. It would probably be too difficult and dangerous to use in all but the most extreme cases but it would still be a better option than trying to push through two lanes of stopped cars.

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Voting closed 8

No I'm not kidding, this is a logistically sound proposal that two way bike lanes can accommodate.

As others have pointed out, this can be designed in a way that satisfies the safety needs of cyclists with the added benefit of allowing emergency vehicles to by pass traffic. Yes some cyclists would have to dismount, yes it would take away a travel lane but there is a significant benefit of emergency vehicles not being delayed by motor vehicle traffic. Not to mention the ease of snow removal.

There is no need to over engineer this, the only negative impact is on single occupant cars, they can wait.

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Voting closed 13

You can't refute his facts so instead you call it a conspiracy theory. Boston drivers are killing cyclists and Boston cycling infrastructure sucks. You can't argue with that. It is sickening that Boston drivers prioritize their convenience over people's lives.

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Voting closed 13

Yes, but elitists like you wouldn't be caught dead on a bike. Because you're lazy. Just like the drivers you bemoan constantly.

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Voting closed 1

But WHY did they use those things?!? I mean we all knew they were going to come down in the winter. Why?!? There's better solutions for snow-prone areas, like rubber curbing.

Not a big bike fan but come on.. this is just poor planning. People do ride their bikes in the winter!!

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Voting closed 15

I think the post make sense for 8 or 9 months a year, but I see logistical issues with these things with snow removal. This leads me to ask the question I usually dread- are there other cold weather cities that use these for bike lane protection, and what do they do come snow storms?

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Voting closed 6

How about just toss the snow in the bike lane, bikers aren’t going to be out during winter anyway they can take the T.

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Voting closed 22

Pay attention please.

See also: Montreal

I remember standing around in Downtown Edmonton at morning rush hour in December and seeing cyclist after cyclist dressed like a ninja yeti with full head and tail lights and studded tires going tick tick tick tick tick.

It was -15C/5F

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Voting closed 24

But it appears there is strong criticism of the city’s work keeping bike paths clear of snow.

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Voting closed 11

Meaning "not totally clear within 48 hours sometimes".

I've ridden there shortly after a storm and it isn't perfect, but the concept of clearing the lanes exists in the central city.

They have a different standard for snow clearing, generally.

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Voting closed 10

Which is surprisingly half assed when it comes to sidewalks, and I've seen that in other Canadian cities.

When I don't do a really good job clearing the sidewalk after a snow storm, but it is kind of passable, I call it "Canadian quality" shoveling. I'm a bit more exacting (which my wife greatly appreciates.)

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Voting closed 6

Lazy, selfish, obese drivers could take the T as well.

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Voting closed 19

I biked last winter during active snowfall and I plan to do so this year. Weather has never prevented me from biking. You might not be tough enough to get a little snow on you and need the protection of a car, but I don't.

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Voting closed 5

Please resolve this sooner than later.. those poor people (and the cyclists)...

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Voting closed 3

For bridges and other areas which need to be separate from Bike/peds lanes, would a snow melt truck work? I realize they're expensive, but the investment to develop year round transport alternatives should be prioritized.

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Voting closed 5

What does Montreal do?

They have year round bike infrastructure and seem to have this sorted.

Which makes me wonder: what are the suggested alternatives to the North Washington Bridge now that it is being removed/replaced? The stupid tiny ass twisty bull shit over the locks already doesn't cut it for the pedestrian traffic.

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Voting closed 11

Year after year, it gets listed as one of the best cities for cycling. And it's a hell of a lot colder and snowier than Boston is.

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Voting closed 13

Done some biking in my day
And the thought of this cause me to say
When the snow falls MassDOT may
Scoop up all the snow and put it in the bay
And in the bike lane put down some hay
So all the bike can shout out yay!

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Voting closed 10

I'm a cycle commuter who crosses the Longfellow five days a week, year round, and (just like any other year) the state will screw this up no matter what they do (last year it was the crews obliviously shoveling snow from the sidewalk into the bike lane). I already know I'm going to be riding in the "car" lane no matter what they decide to do, so just pick one and do it already.

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Voting closed 9

Bikes have a legal right to full use of the road. Remove the plastic bollards. They give drivers the false impression that cyclists can ONLY use the road IF there are bike lanes protected by plastic poles.

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Voting closed 3

They wanted a shared lane sacrificed to make two bike-only lanes, bollards, and now that isn't good enough. Some want multiple bike lanes due to slower cyclists, and probably no room left for any motorized traffic.

Leave the bollards. Plow the snow into the bike lane, breaking the bollards, and require the state Legislature to pass a bill to fund replacement, which should take a few years. Thank Obama's EPA for not being able to plow the snow off bridges into rivers and the ocean, so it stays on sidewalks.

Cyclists are the 1%, and for whom there is never enough. BTW, cycling numbers have decreased in Boston (proper), San Francisco, and other cities, mainly due to preference for Uber/Lyft. Census ACS shows cycling growth still for Middlesex County, though. Since planning for the Longellow and other bridges was done, traffic volumes have dramatically increased, invalidating all claims of having enough capacity with lane loss to make bike lanes. This is due to the economy and Uber/Lyft.

What would Montreal do? Have a massive snowblower truck followed by a dump truck to collect and then take away snow. Swap in new dump trucks as they fill up. I don't know of a combination sized to fit in a bike lane, however. Montreal would take down the bollards because they don't trifle with petty things when they have to move serious snow.

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Voting closed 29

They build and maintain real bike infra that is not only safe for cyclists but easier to maintain with regular old plows:

https://twitter.com/CyclistBartek/status/1073616931452669952

This was the kind of infra the bike community was pushing for. We were then given paint and bollards. Now we are just going to have paint to protect us from all the cars going 40+ mph on Longfellow. Strange that we'd be upset about that.

You're right, we are never satisfied because we are continually given sub-par infra that directly impacts our safety. You can make all poor arguments you want about prioritizing the movement of cars but the fact remains, our roads cannot handle the congestion that comes with everyone driving, building better alternatives that get people out of cars, implementing congestion pricing and road diets are the way to go.

It is about the economy and sticking with the status quo will hurt it in the long run, its not sustainable.

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Voting closed 10

You must not get to Cambridge much.

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Voting closed 3

Plow all the snow into the bike lane. What is there like 5 people who are gonna use the bike lane wity lots of snow on the ground? Yeah, not even .000001 percent.

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Voting closed 2

...snow in Boston doesn't just magically disappear after it stops falling. Plowing it into the bike lane sometimes means that the bike lane remains covered in snow basically until April. That ends up affecting hundreds of people every single day.

PLUS if people know that they can rely on the bike infrastructure to be usable EVERY SINGLE DAY they are a lot more likely to bike year round. Just imagine how useful your car would be if you didn't know if there would be roads available to get you to work for the entire months of February and March.

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Voting closed 3

With the bollards in place, even if they plow the bike lane right away, won't there be a snow berm along the bollards? That won't help cyclists. It prevents merging out of the lane to pass another cyclist, and will make black ice more of a problem in thaw-refreeze conditions.

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Voting closed 1