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MAPC Inner Core


More than other American cities, Boston has maintained an unbroken tradition of bicycling for transportation, in part due to its early connection with bicycling. Other factors have been the compactness of the urban core and the large number of educational institutions, many of whose students use bicycles for transportation. In the Boston Inner Core area, bicycling was and is conducted mostly on ordinary streets and roads and largely for transportation purposes.

In the years since the Second World War, increasing motor traffic has transformed many Boston area parkways into major routes for through travel. Bicyclists have felt increasing pressure from traffic congestion on other streets and highways as well. The problem is not only of heavy traffic but also of barriers. For example, the bridges and tunnels between downtown Boston and the North Shore do not accommodate bicycles; bicyclists must make a detour of several miles. The greatest emphasis in accommodating bicyclists has been on surveying and mapping of routes and on separate facilities. The Boston area has a high concentration of such facilities.

In recent years, many planners and citizens have recommended new approaches in development and transportation that will encourage bicycling, walking and public transportation. Recent planning initiatives such as the MetroPlan 2000 project represent an attempt to address these issues.

Existing facilities

Existing designated facilities described to the bicycle facilities inventory project reflect the historical background just described. They consist primarily of multi-use trails in linear parks. There are a few designated routes and a number of parking facilities.

Emerald Necklace Bicycle Paths

Many of the bridle paths and promenades of the Olmsted park system have been recast as multi-use trails, under the management of the MDC. The paths along the Riverway and Jamaicaway appear to be the most heavily used of these.

Dr. Paul Dudley White (Charles River) Paths

Walkways along the Charles River in Cambridge and in Boston’s Back Bay were reconstructed as bicycle paths in the early 1970’s. These were extended upriver to Watertown on both sides of the river in 1980. A "Riverwalk" which is used by bicyclists was built in the early 1990’s along the waterfront in Waltham.

Lallement (Southwest Corridor) Bicycle Path

This path lies above Amtrak rails and the relocated Orange Line subway, between Back Bay Station and Forest Hills Station in Boston. The path was constructed in the late 1980’s.

Other paths in MDC reservations

Designated bicycle paths also exist in the Mystic River Reservation in Medford and Somerville, and in the Stony Brook Reservation in the Hyde Park area of Boston. Bicycling is permitted on the wide walkways along the South Boston waterfront and the Lynn oceanfront. The Riverwalk recently constructed along the Charles River in Waltham is used as a bicycle path. An unpaved path exists between Alewife Station and Brighton Road in Belmont.

Minuteman Commuter Bikeway

Completed in the early 1990’s, this path extends from Arlington to Bedford. It connects with the Alewife Red Line subway station via a narrower, temporary sidewalk.

Boston to Cape Cod bicycle route (Claire Saltonstall Bikeway)

The Boston end of the Boston to Cape Cod route, Massachusetts Bicycle Route 1, follows existing paths and streets between the Back Bay and Hyde Park, continuing south through Milton, Canton, Randolph and Holbrook.

Recent Cambridge initiatives

As a result of efforts by the Cambridge Bicycle Coordinator and Bicycle Committee, several facilities have been developed or are under construction in Cambridge. Notably, edge striping on Broadway was designed to accommodate bicycling, and bicycle lanes are planned for Huron Avenue. ]

Newton Bicycle Map

The City of Newton has recently published a map indicating designated bicycle routes in all quarters of the city.

Ferry services

Commuter passenger ferries travel between Boston and Hull and also travel several short routes across Boston Harbor. Passenger ferries also travel between Quincy and Provincetown and between Boston and Gloucester, and Boston and Provincetown, during the summer tourist season. These services accommodate bicyclists.

Proposed projects

The inventory project received a number of proposals for specific facilities. But also of note is a trend toward comprehensive planning for bicycling. Bicycle committees have official status in Cambridge, Belmont, Newton, Somerville and Watertown, and there is a city Bicycle-Pedestrian Coordinator in Cambridge.

Cambridge proposals

Cambridge has an ongoing program of considering bicycling in transportation planning. This has led to the existing facilities already mentioned. A number of future facilities are planned, including bicycle lanes on Massachusetts Avenue between the Charles River and Main Street. Another proposal would extend bicycle facilities through Central Square. A link is proposed between Alewife Station and the Harvard Square area; and many small road and intersection reconstruction projects are to include bicycle-sensitive design.

Minuteman-Charles River Connector

A study of alternatives is underway for a link between the Minuteman and Paul Dudley White bicycle paths. Several very different alternatives are possible, via Watertown, Cambridge and Somerville. One, through west Cambridge, is mostly on-road; two others, via Watertown and Somerville, make use of abandoned or lightly-used rail lines. A final possibility is a path extending the length of the Alewife Brook Reservation and Mystic River Reservation to the Miller’s River in East Cambridge. Since the routing varies so widely, different users would be served by each. More than one route may, in the end, be constructed.

Belmont Bikeway/Central Massachusetts Trail

A late submission was received of a proposed connection from Brighton Road in Belmont to the eastern end of the proposed Central Massachusetts Trail in Waltham (see MAPC west section, below). This could include both paths segments and shared roadways.

South Boston-Neponset River

The MDC is working on the early stages of a proposal to link paths along the waterfront from Carson Beach in South Boston to Milton.

Charles River path improvements and extensions

The MDC is studying proposals to extend the Charles River bikeway system upstream to Dedham and downstream to the North Station area. In addition, many commenters expressed a desire for improvements to the existing paths.

Medford, Malden, Saugus and Revere proposals (Bike to the Sea)

The major proposal in this part of the Inner Core subregion is the complex of bikeways proposed for Medford, Malden, Saugus and Revere. This plan makes use of an abandoned rail line and shoreline routes. Another proposal for which a study has been funded by the City of Boston is for a path and route system extending from East Boston to Orient Point in Revere. There are several smaller proposals, including one for a path or route in the eastern part of Chelsea and another for improvements to the paths along the Mystic River in Medford and Somerville, which are interrupted where highway and rail bridges cross them.

On-road routes

Several commenters described systems of through routes in Boston, using roadway improvements. Some of these are local, but others are long arterial routes or loops. Of note is a plan to include wide outside lanes in the design of the rebuilt Surface Artery in downtown Boston.

Cross-state routes

See the section of this report on cross-state routes for more detail on the following routes:

The northern east-west route, and a spur of the southern east-west route, pass through the Inner Core subregion on their way to Boston.

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