Councilors: Back Bay getting overrun with road races

City councilors Josh Zakim (Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, Mission Hill) and Michael Flaherty (at large) say it's time to curb a proliferating number of road races that tie up neighborhood streets, particularly in the Back Bay, but also in the Fenway and Beacon Hill.

"Parades, road races, the National Realtor's Race, the National Whatever Organization Happens to Be in Town road races," Zakim sighed. Especially because these events are often little publicized outside the groups themselves, kids trying to get to piano lessons or people trying to get to the dentists find themselves seriously detoured and late, he said.

Flaherty said he realizes many of these events help "very important charitable causes," but added, "there are other neighborhoods that can host races." Besides, that would mean more foot traffic for stores along the routes in other neighborhoods, so it would be win-win, he said.

The council agreed to schedule a hearing to consider what to do about the issue. Flaherty said that, in addition to city transportation officials, it would be important to invite DCR to the table, because of the multiplication of races along the state-owned Esplanade.



Free tagging: 



Is there ANYTHING people won't NIMBY about?

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wow, can you believe people want to have parades and public gatherings in a major city -- and in the heavily business- and tourist-oriented portion of it, no less?


About time.

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People do realize that you can donate to a charity without participating in a road race, right?


Small road races don't need

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Small road races don't need road closures. You tell racers "rest on red" and have everyone subtract red light time from their finishing time.


No you can't

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It is impractical to calculate time based on red lights.

That said, although I love my road races, this is a topic worthy of discussion. I'm surprised that Flaherty mentioned that other neighborhoods can put on races. South Boston, or specifically Day Blvd, gets a bit overrun with races, according to a friend who lives a few blocks from that road. Still, limits to the time of day and/or day of the week could help a lot.

By the way, registration for the BAA Distance Medley opened this morning. 2 races through the Back Bay and another one in the Fenway. Zakim will not be pleased.


Sing us a song, you're the piano man

it would be important to invite DCR to the table, because of the multiplication of races along the state-owned Esplanade.

How many kids are late to their piano lessons because of a 5K along the Charles River?



Everyone knows you just ask Alexa how long traffic is and send the chauffeur the updated timeline. Alexa schedules my mani/pedi/waxes on Newbury atomically to not coincide with with charity or Jim and Margery.

It's not hard people.




What oddly specific concern trolling. If an adult can't get to a PCP, Zakim remains silent. But a CHILD can't get to a DENTIST? This will not stand!

And what about kids who play brass or woodwinds? Did you think of them, Josh? As Bob Knight said to Jeremy Schaap: "You have a long way to go to be as good as your dad."


No one is talking about races

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No one is talking about races or charity walks or concerts on the Charles. The street closings of concern are ones where people live and work. Back Bay is a neighborhood of residents, businesses, students, schools, restaurants, medical offices and not just an urban Disneyland for tourists and suburbanites... I know, shocking, right? Back Bay is proud to host to the marathon, July 4th, First Night, parades, countless charity walks and road races. I would think other neighborhoods would love to host more road races and walks. What's your problem with this?



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We bike everywhere. We use the esplanade path for my commute to work and my kids' commutes to classes and other places. It's bad enough on a normal weekday when people don't realize it's a commuter route and think a good place to teach a toddler to ride a balance bike or walk three-abreast with your grandparents is the middle of a path where people are likely to be cycling 15mph. And before the bike haters show up, no, of course I don't run over these people. I ring my bell repeatedly, they don't look up or move, I slow down almost to a stop while still ringing, and eventually end up passing them on the grass if in an area where it's possible, or having some parent yell at me to quit ringing my bell because their kid is just a baby (which to them means that toddlers who don't respond to bells or voice or get out of the way of fast-approaching traffic should be sitting on a balance bike in the middle of the path while their parent's ass is on a bench).


Hi. Avid bike commuter here.

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Hi. Avid bike commuter here. You are on a multi-use path that was built for everyone to enjoy, you are just using it to commute because it is convenient for you (just like I use my local trails to commute). You don't have a right to an unimpeded path to go 15mph just because you want to.

Yes, people walking three abreast are stupid. So are the 10-foot dog leashes. Toddlers on bikes? That's what the path is there for! Maybe some day they'll grow up to be a bike commuter too, hopefully not as entitled as some of us.

So please stop behaving the way you describe - "ringing my bell repeatedly". Just go around. You are giving good cyclists a bad reputation.


Yes, the path is for everyone

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As I said, I will go around on the grass if it's possible in that area, but I can't go around people walking across the whole width of the path, or toddlers wandering unpredictably and not looking up. There are a lot of narrow areas where there isn't anywhere to go around. You'd know that if you actually rode there.

I didn't say I should never have to slow down, but having to come all the way to a stop because people don't know how to use a shared path is ridiculous. So is finding the path completely covered in people standing on it because there's an event for which the DCR often doesn't bother to put up signage in advance, and because people don't understand a path is to be used for moving along and allowing others to do the same, not for standing around on and not moving when cyclists or runners wish to pass. There is an entire park for doing that.

And no the path is not an appropriate place to teach a toddler with no safety awareness how to ride a bike. Did you actually read my comment, or are you just deciding you're a superior cyclist to me? The kids I was describing are young toddlers with balance bikes mostly standing and wandering. Their parents are nowhere near close enough to grab them if someone were to not be as vigilant as I am. My children are bike commuters, and they didn't learn by being allowed to wander around in moving bike/foot traffic before they had any spatial awareness. They practiced in parks until they were preschool age and had some awareness to get out of the way of others, and then they used the paths and I frequently gave them voice commands to stay right, look up, pass correctly, etc.


If I can't get past a group of people?

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Yes, we ring our bells, we shout "excuse me." Some of the people don't look up or notice they're blocking a path until you're right behind them, and even then, they act surprised that people are wanting to use it for travel.

If there's grass to go around on, we do that, but parts of it are too narrow and have a fence, railing, trees, alongside them.

Do you have a better suggestion? I'd love to hear it.


Do you think people aren't hearing you (your bike, your voice, your bell) because they are wearing headphones and listening to music?


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Sometimes they have headphones on, sometimes they just seem to be entitled and oblivious, particularly the nuclear families in the Back Bay between about 10 and 12 who spread out the entire width of the path.

The two toddlers about 18 months old who were wandering on balance bikes blocking the narrow wooden bridge near BU didn't respond because they wouldn't developmentally be necessarily responding to a couple of strangers calling to them and ringing bike bells.


The way you described it just seemed like you were being a dink about it. Like you were riding around, ringing the bell as you passed each person, and if they didn't get out of your way, you just got as close as possible to them and kept ringing the bell. And then if they got out of the way you would ride past them, look them dead in the eyes with a angry stare, stop your bike and ring your bell twice more before riding off again.

OK, that's kind of an amusing image

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But um no. I thought I pretty clearly described that there are people who really just do not look up or move. If they're in packs across the whole path, this is aggravating and isn't respectful use of the shared path. And then they're SUPER SURPRISED that people are biking on a bike path and want to pass their pack of people.

I actually have had two separate parents of young toddlers tell me and my kids that their kid is just a baby and doesn't understand that ringing our bells and saying "excuse me" means to move. OK, um, since you know that, why is your child wandering on the path without being corralled while you are on your phone not close enough to grab them? We had one this past fall where a young toddler was wandering around lining up dandelions on the path. The kid with me was quite up a ways ahead of me, riding my cargo bike. Slowed way down, was ringing the bell, asking if they could go around this way or that way. Kid was totally oblivious. This was around 4:45 on a weekday too. Not too long before the lycra dudes come flying through there. Why on earth wouldn't you tell your kid to do that on the grass instead? I wasn't a hoverer when I had little kids, but I would be terrified if my kid was wandering around on a bike path while I stared at my phone.

Ok, eeka...

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I don't know how old you are, but I was a bike commuter along that same path in the 1980s. I can tell you that, even way back then, I ran into the same problem.

The moral of this story is: Some people who use paths such as this one don't change behaviors that much.

So you can gnash your teeth at every indiscretion that you encounter on that path or live and let live and enjoy your ride.

Also, ringing your bell (but not being obnoxious with it) and saying "passing on your" whatever side will work for most people. Some people, who are wearing headphones, will not hear you. (They probably act surprised because of your presence.) Then, you have to pass them or get off your bike and walk around them.

That is life. Enjoy the ride.

Or you can bitch and moan. Your choice.

Not there, but

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I was a bike commuter in the '80s in a different city. The paths had signs explaining to stay to your right, use voice/bell to pass, and people did so.

Yes, most people move, but it's annoying when people don't. There's a whole park if you want to do things like stand around not particularly going anywhere.


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Yes, I happily yield to runners and cyclists who are slower than me. I didn’t say anything about these folks. I’m talking about people who think the path is the exact same as the rest of the park and that they can spread all the way across it and block it off and refuse to move. Having the right of way doesn’t mean you use a travel surface any way you want. If a roadway was covered in people standing around, would you happily sit in your car for as long as it took them to decide they were no longer going to do this? Or would you suggest they find somewhere else for activities that have nothing to do with roadways?

You tell those toddlers!

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The Esplanade paths are explicitly mixed-use, not designated bike highways.

"Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians...and share the path" is pretty clear cut, even if people recreating are moving more slowly than you and the Lycra dudes might like.


Mixed use

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Mixed use path doesn't mean toddlers who don't yet respond to being called to should be wandering on the paths while their adult is staring at their phone nowhere near them, especially when there's a whole park for such activities. There's the expectation that people use it for predictable traffic flow in a single direction at a time. I of course don't care what speed people are traveling if they are staying right and can be passed. Should people also play soccer and Frisbee on the path? Why have a path at all if it isn't intended for travel?


How dare people utilize an

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How dare people utilize an area owned by the Dept. of Conservation and RECREATION, for something other than commuting.


Well ...

The same could be said of the DCR roadways on either side of the river. Those are actually for use by "pleasure vehicles only".

So shut Storrow and turn it over to cyclists.



Make anything else up today?

It happens to me like once every two years maybe? I'm guessing that is what happened here. That car was going way to fast for a glare problem. I'm thinking the driver just didn't even see the light due to inattention, unfamiliarity of the area, etc. I am also up for any punishment for this driver.

FYI this exactly what I said about it. So you are kind of way off. Are you a liar by nature or just stupid?

(I also have not been in a crash since in 20 years and have been pulled over once in my life when I was 19)

Um Pete?

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That's normal and all, but you should probably stick to doing that in private locations.

Don't know about piano lessons

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But events on the Esplanade are often a nightmare because they allow people to park along Storrow drive. Can tie up traffic for miles coming off Route 1 and 93. Eliminate that parking (perfectly rational - but always seems to fall on deaf ears) and you solve the Esplanade traffic problem.

As for Back Bay - I'll have to admit - I mostly don't notice. Marathon, July 4, First Night are easy to plan around. The road races are usually just a couple of hours - but there are A LOT of them, so some limits should be reasonable (once a month?), otherwise take it to another neighborhood.

The one exception I'd like to see moved is the Greek Day parade - huge disruption on Boylston Street, middle of the day and more people on Boylston Street marching than on the sidewalks watching. Screws up traffic for much of the afternoon.

Objective observation from a 26 year resident.

The parking and uber drop off

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The parking and uber drop off lane on storrow during concerts is infuriating. Looks like something designed by a bunch of suburbanite DCR and MSP brass. There are weeks in the summer when they do it almost every day.


Suburbanites on Storrow

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Storrow Drive is for suburbanites coming in to the city, whether or not MSP/DCR uses it for parking.

Actually, it's for "pleasure driving" but that was cast off eons ago.

The only kids who would be

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How many kids are late to their piano lessons because of a 5K along the Charles River?

The only kids who are late are the ones who can't run fast.

South Boston already hosts

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South Boston already hosts their fair share of road races. Streets are shut down and cars are towed for no reason. Take your races somewhere else


Roads are paid for by

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Roads are paid for by everyone yet drivers are complaining that they have to share them for far less than 1% of the time. The city has many real problems. People running a 5K is certainly not one of them.



The streets belong to everyone, not just drivers. And the only things being overrun are cyclists and pedestrians, by drivers.



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Still waiting on that pedestrian excise tax ... (would a size 13 man pay more than a size 6 woman?)

Wait 45 seconds or less for

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Wait 45 seconds or less for the light to change and you can cross rush hour traffic.

How long do you have to wait to walk across a road race?

15 years ago

15 years ago, I had no problem crossing the Marathon route to get to HSPH. I just waited with my bike and the cops working the event would escort peds and cyclists across when there was a break in the traffic.

So very sad

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These lovely local community events (they aren't all for charity) are inconveniencing sedentary people who want to drive their cars and avoid contact with all other humans!

Oh the humanity!

Darling, the Boston Marathon

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Darling, the Boston Marathon is an international event of thousands not some quaint lovely local event as are many of the walks and races Back Bay is happy to hosts. Thanks for chiming in though!

I love the marathon

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But the stock market is open and it's a normal working day for everybody but city employees, it should be held on Sunday.

Daily Show and Charity Walks

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How can anyone forget this gem from 2006, Dan Bakkedahl on the Daily Show and the man kvetching about too many charity walks in Back Bay interrupting him getting around.

I actually agree with this. I

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I actually agree with this. I think street closures for festivals and public events are fantastic, but the number of charity races and essentially private events requiring street closures is getting a bit out of hand.


And, with many of the street

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And, with many of the street closures there is no advanced notice. Of course the big events we all are prepared for and the city lets people know what will be closed and when. However, this is not the case with the lesser known events/ races/ walks. There are plenty of residents who have family and obligations outside of the area, and in neighboring states. So, while some of you sneer at missing appointments and being late for family events keep in mind that not everyone lives the carefree lifestyle you do.

This is a simmering issue in Somerville, too

Every few Sundays there seems to be another road race that starts and ends in Davis Square, using this route that loops around through Ball Square, Powderhouse Circle, and Teele Square. The problem is that this entirely encircles a residential area, making it impossible to enter or leave except on foot or (with some difficulty) bike.


Is that all? It feels like there are more

I don't have a car and live just outside the encircled area, so it doesn't affect me directly. But I hear discussion about this on Davis Square local forums (Facebook and the former LIveJournal group)

I got almost caught trying to

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I got almost caught trying to get to the other side of Davis Square on way to work/ suburbs for one of those runs on a Sunday morning last fall- live about a mile away and had no clue it was happening and I'm in that area pretty much every day
Somerville also seems to also have a number of weeknight/ post-work impromptu 5k's that don't close the streets- but jam the sidewalks with a group of runners that seems to materialize out of nowhere

Try going to Castle Island or

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Try going to Castle Island or Marine Park for a Sunday morning walk/jog etc. Ever more frequently there has been races stopping you from even getting close. And try getting to MGH for a sick family member when one of these road races have closed down Cambridge St and all surrounding main roads, causing gridlock on streets that are left open. Not fun to say the least. Glad that it has finally been brought up.


All for it

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And they can start with the biggest WASTE of them all - the Boston Marathon and their discriminatory practice of having separate races for the snobs (elites), the ordinary rabble, and those who'll would never qualify but give a sob story to get in.

I knew you’d come out on this one

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But sorry, I would bet anything that Zakim was not talking about an internationally renowned race that pumps millions into the local economy while raising money for charities.


"sob story"?

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Are you referring to those running on behalf of a charity? Pretty sure that's the only major group that doesn't need to qualify.

Reading Resident, Right?

Sounds like REI needs to up its game!

I think I'll suggest that they hold regular events at that location. Training rides and runs. Raise money for Rails to Trails, the Nature Conservancy, and the Appalachian Mountain Club.

"little publicized"

The lack of notice is a huge problem. Years ago I actually wrote to the city about the lack of notice for the Allston-Brighton Day parade and 5K, because a lot of the traffic gets detoured up my street and causes confused and annoyed gridlock all over. Complaining didn't do any good back then, but for the last couple of years I've at least gotten a flier in the mail announcing the date.


Way too many

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South Boston probably has more roadraces than any section of the City. Unfortunately all are on DCR roadways.
Call me a NIMBY, but there are parking restrictions and traffic rerouting occur on every weekend, you can call me whatever you want.

Who drives?

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Who drives to Back Bay for piano lessons or a dentist?

If you live there, you're walking right? Or are you leaving to go to a dentist or piano lessons outside of town? Who does that?

I get that a neighborhood can have too many road closures. The reasoning is odd though.

Arrange to head in an hour earlier for dentist or piano lessons.

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Knowing there could be traffic shutdowns from time to time arrange to head in an hour earlier for trips to the dentist or for piano lessons. Life in the City is a life of unanticipated transportation events routinely.

Keep a Plan B in mind for all trips! It could be worse, for example Manhattan, Venice, etc.

I'm totally with the

I'm totally with the councilors on this one.

Back when I lived in Somerville, some assholes were nice enough to organize a road race that went down our street. We had to sit in the car for half an hour just waiting for a chance to leave our own driveway. If you want to get fit, join a gym or run down a community path that's bicycle/pedestrian only--Boston has a ton of them. If you want to support a charity, simply donate your money and ask others to do the same. (As an aside, I'v always thought that charity runs are goofy in the same way that drinking games are goofy: if you want to drink, then drink already--no need to pull out a deck of cards or a ping pong ball.)

What right did these joggers had to take up an entire public thoroughfare to the exclusion of the residents who actually lived on it? If I had infinite time on my hands, I'd find all of the people involved in this narcissistic crap and pick a random day to jog in place at the end of their driveways when they're trying to get somewhere. Preposterous and dickish, right? So if it's not okay for one person to do such a thing, how is it perfectly fine when several hundred do?


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Hey, if we're discussing the public good here, let's not encourage gyms though, except perhaps for lifting weights, and limited special use for disabled people or people rehabbing from an injury. Let's encourage people who are able-bodied to get their exercise by walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing sports, etc. They can get places without carbon emissions and get exercise at the same time. It's not really great for the common good to have all these people in gyms using electricity to run or cycle when they could be out saving energy. Plus so many of them drive there.

(Also, why have we not made it so the treadmills and exercise bikes generate electricity rather than run on it? This seems like an obvious step to take.)

Here's the problem with treadmills

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They decide how fast you go. It's yet another reason to hate them. You power them up and you get your 9 minute per mile pace. Relentless.

Check out what happened to Taylor Swift('s stunt double) when she forgot to go the speed of the treadmill.

The Ultimate Smug Alert

I was wandering through an area of San Francisco on a mild night and there was a house with the garage door open.

Inside the garage was a guy rocking out on a stationary bike ... plugged into his plug-in hybrid car.

If that makes you mad

Try RUSH HOUR when people in vehicles far larger than themselves have the nerve to block all the roadways with their excessively large and polluting vehicles!

As for the road races, etc., well, I like them. They keep the cut-through traffic out of my neighborhood for a whole half day!

This'll be fun. Blocking them

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This'll be fun. Blocking them from whom? Who are these more deserving road users, the chosen ones, who are being blocked, pray tell? The majority of commuters, who travel by car should be stepping aside and self flagellating in favor of _____________ (fill in blank, please).