447Grounding McGrath Study - Public Comments on Final Report
- Jan 7, 2014The project to remove the McCarthy viaduct and to change the McGrath
Highway into a boulevard will be a great improvement for the Union
Square area. However, the current plans showing three lanes of travel
in each direction,and bicycle accommodation via side paths need serious
reconsideration. With the completion of the Central Artery Project, the
need for McGrath to be a freeway-like thoroughfare is greatly
diminished. The area would be better served with a configuration of two
lanes in each direction with turning lanes as appropriate.
Currently McGrath Highway is classified as "Other Freeway", yet it is a
major bicycle connection route from Cambridge to the northern suburbs.
Alternatives to the east involve using the Gilmore Bridge or Washington
Street Bridge to Charlestown and Sullivan Square to Mystic Avenue, Route
28, and Route 99. Recent development though Assembly Square provide a
more comfortable route to Route 28 for those cyclists who do not want to
operate on the busier adjacent roadways.
To the west, Medford Street and Somerville Avenue can be used to access
much of Somerville and Cambridge. However, if one is traveling to
Highland Avenue, Medford Street, or points further north along McGrath
Highway, it is not possible to avoid the access roads on either side of
the elevated portion through the Union Square area and across Washington
Street. Additionally, the left turn onto Highland Avenue is currently
difficult for bicycle operation.
Therefore, it is imperative that any solution which accommodates bicycle
traffic must take into account this through bicycle traffic by competent
cyclists accustomed to operation on the roadways at maximum utility.
The current proposals do not do this, but cater to a minority subset of
bicycle operators who prefer compromised utility and sidewalk operation.
If these side paths are provided, the adjacent roadways must accommodate
cyclists to the maximum extent possible. Additionally, side path
operation in the winter is generally not possible due to inadequate snow
removal or other obstruction. Even if the overall width of the design is
not reduced to two lanes in each direction, there should be adequate
room for a 5' wide bike lane outside the door zone in each direction.
Here are my detailed comments regarding the various recommended plans:
1) In all cases, bicycle accommodation should align with general
vehicular flow so as not to create conflicts that are not already
present. For example, bicycle operators should not be directed to paths
or lanes which require them to switch to the opposite side of the roadway.
2) Bicycle accommodations should not direct bicyclists into conflicts
with pedestrians, such as is shown where the proposed side path joins
the crosswalk across Poplar Street and Washington Street.
3) Bicycle accommodations should recognize that cyclists will be
arriving from many different points, including Highland Avenue/Medford
Street and McGrath Highway from the north, Somerville Avenue and
Washington Street from the west, Washington Street from the east, and
McGrath Highway across the Squire Bridge, from the south.
4) Bicyclists are not looking for "places to ride their bikes", but are
looking to use each of the major corridors for transportation needs.
Bicycle operation is more like motor vehicle operation than it is like
pedestrian operation, and should not be treated the same as pedestrian
5) In many cases, the proposed bicycle side-path requires cyclists to
dismount and cross streets with pedestrian phases, rather than directing
them to cross with the general traffic phase, or providing a totally
6) If bicycle lanes are not provided, it should be clear that bicycle
operation in the street is permitted and encouraged through the use of
Bicycle May Use Full Lane signs.
7) Some have suggested that a bicycle track should be installed along
the length of the corridor. While I do not generally support bicycle
tracks due to safety and utility concerns. If they are provided, they
should be phase separated to prevent turning conflicts where right turns
Rather than providing a segregated facility for cyclists along the
eastern edge of the project area, the plan should accommodate cyclists
by providing a wide curb lane or delimited right hand side bicycle lane
through the area from Squires Bridge to the intersection with Highland
Avenue/Medford Street, and corresponding facilities in the reverse
Additionally, an additional bicycle lane should be provided to the right
of the rightmost left turn lane to accommodate bicyclists turning left
from McGrath Highway onto Highland Avenue.
The proposed side path should be an adjunct facility, and not the
primary facility for the area.
168 Grove Street