Bike Newton welcomes back guest blogger Jane Hanser, who has lived beside and observed Commonwealth Avenue’s bicycle and pedestrian traffic for many years. Her insights, recommendations and efforts are a critical addition to the growing consensus that Commonwealth Avenue could be much safer and better, and complements the 2009 Northeastern University Capstone Project Study and the Bicycle Advisory Committee’s Bicycle Network Plan (pdf).
Last I posted on this topic on BikeNewton.org, we reported our optimism that areas along the Commonwealth Avenue Carriage Road which we had identified as unsafe for bicycles, along with suggestions for improvement, changes we proposed, would see the light of day: We had strong confidence in the leadership of The Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC), then chaired by Lois Levin, and in Newton’s Transportation Director, Bill Paille. In the intervening months, we have seen many safety improvements implemented due to the the responsiveness of Bill Paille, Jim McGonagle, Gloria Son, Shane Mark and Mayor Setti Warren. John Pelletier, the current Chair of the BAC, is continuing to support the improvements proposed and we continue to work closely with the Transportation Department and the Office of the Mayor to improve safety for bicyclists. Come and read, and see a few photos, of some of the improvements that have been made, and a few that are on the drawing board!
SIGNAGE AT: BULLOUGHS POND ROAD
Signage: First, this important safety sign warning drivers of bicycles and pedestrians crossing was designed and installed along the west side of Bulloughs Pond Road for northbound vehicles, right before where the Carriage Road “ends” and continues as a path for bicyclists and pedestrians only (before it intersects with Walnut St.):
After neighbors enthusiastically approved of that sign, a similar safety sign warning drivers of bicycles and pedestrians was installed in the berm on the south side of the Carriage Road for vehicles coming from Commonwealth Ave and turning and entering onto Bulloughs Pond Road:
BICYCLES MAY ENTER!!!
Bicyclists, Were you ever concerned that you might receive a traffic ticket if you continued straight along the Carriage Road at the following intersections: Bulloughs Pond Road, Lowell Ave., Chestnut, and Lyons Park? Well, you can now pedal on without concern due to new signage at the following intersections: Bulloughs Pond Road, before Lowell Avenue, before Chestnut St., and before Lyons Park.
Here are a few photos (Sorry; no photo yet for Lyons Park):
BULLOUGHS POND ROAD: “DO NOT ENTER EXCEPT BIKES”
CHESTNUT: “RIGHT TURN ONLY EXCEPT BIKES”
LOWELL AVENUE: “RIGHT TURN ONLY EXCEPT BIKES”
Here’s a nice set of before and after photos! Many of you are familiar with this – we’re happy to say – former danger to bicyclists, runners and other pedestrians, right before (east of) Bulloughs Pond Road:
..which now looks like this:
The “crosswalks” before and after Morseland have been repaired. On the priority list of cobblestone crosswalks to be removed and paved with the Transportation Department when warmer weather arrives are many of the remaining cobble crosswalks, in particular those that are of low elevation and that receive the runoff from the higher elevations, and those that are already crumbling, thus presenting a danger to runners and bicyclists.
CARRIAGE ROAD SIGNAGE: Graphic “Bicyclist and Pedestrian Ahead”
The Transportation Department installed many more Bicyclist and Pedestrian Ahead signs at ten intersections where no stop sign currently exists for southbound vehicles before they enter or cross the Carriage Road. These new eye-catching graphic signs have been placed for both southbound and northbound vehicles, a significant statement about Newton’s concern for Carriage Road and pedestrian and bicycle safety and use.
The streets with these signs are Commonwealth Park, Beaumont Ave., Higgins St., Valentine, Wauwinet, Wimbledon Circle, and Melrose Street. These signs are already having an impact and raising driver awareness of the pedestrians and bicycles ahead and are effectively slowing down, if not stopping vehicles altogether prior to entering the Carriage Road.
Here are a few photos of some intersections:
WIMBLEDON CIRCLE, southbound
WIMBLEDON CIRCLE, northbound
Still to be dealt with are Westbourne, Sumner, and Islington. It is our hope that in the future some of the southbound signs can be replaced with STOP signs, but this requires a lengthy and bureaucratic process of Traffic Council (a committee of the City Council) approval. In the meanwhile, we are happy to see these signs!
DO NOT BLOCK THE BOX
It was previously a challenge for bicyclists to ride safely along the Carriage Road (in either direction) when north/south vehicles waiting for a light to turn green blocked bicyclists’ safe path across. With these painted Xes at key intersections, bicyclists and pedestrians have access to cross safely while vehicles heading south are lined up awaiting a green light. In addition, signs have been placed right before the painted Xes to make it clearer to drivers what intersection is being referred to.
Before Striping: before Lowell (looking west)
Signage: View from Lowell, looking south:
and Valentine (before Valentine, looking west):
View from Valentine, looking south: (Sign and road paint)
At most of the northeast and northwest intersections, foliage obstructs good visibility. My husband Phil and I volunteered through the Parks and Recreation Department to “Adopt a Corner” and the two corners we adopted were located at Bulloughs Pond Road and the Carriage Road. It took us three days to cut everything down, and a DPW front loader to haul everything away. But the result is both safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers, and much more aesthetically pleasing for the neighborhood.
Northwest corner – before
Northwest corner – after (We did more touch-up after this photo was taken, removing tree stumps, carrying away a bit more of the refuse, etc.)
Northeast Corner – before
Northeast Corner – after:Conversations with the DPW indicate their intention to remove much more of this obstructing foliage when warmer weather arrives.
All these changes, which have been the result of considerable thought, planning and attention to the safety of bicyclists, in particular as they interface with motor vehicles and pedestrian, are very exciting. Pleased as we are for what has been done, we look forward to the warmer weather and more improvements. Little by little, sign by sign, intersection by intersection, cobble removal by cobble removal, bike lane by bike lane, we are on a track toward safer bicycling, running, strolling, and walking for people of all ages along the Newton portion of this acclaimed Olmsted parkway.
FUTURE REPORTS: Auburndale Square redesign, Moving Stop Signs along the Carriage Road to be closer to the Intersections, Adding more pedestrian crossing striping, and much more!