Twelve Ways of Looking at a Bike Lane

The Boston Globe reported this week that biking advocates are pushing State transportation officials to maintain a physically separate bike lane over the Longfellow Bridge during the Winter. The refurbished bridge, which opened to traffic this Summer, sports a separate bike lane protected by what are known by transit geeks as “delineator posts” or “flex posts.” They’re flexible, plastic posts that keep cars at a distance, but don’t constitute an actual permanent, physical barrier for cyclists.

Bike Lane - Longfellow Bridge

Flex posts separating cyclists from cars on the refurbished Longfellow Bridge may be going away for the Winter. Cyclists aren’t happy. What are some other options?

The problem? The plastic posts will get torn up and otherwise mess with snow plows once the first real snowfall comes. That’s why Mass DOT said that is planning to take them up over the winter. Doing so will make it easier to clear snow from the bridge. Needless to say, it will also leave cyclists exposed in icy, snowy conditions that are among the least safe cyclists face. Sure, there are fewer cyclists over the Winter months – but that’s small comfort to the many Boston area folks who commute by bike year round. The Boston Cyclists Union estimates that around 40% of those who commute by bike do it year ’round.

It’s no surprise that cyclists aren’t crazy about this “solution” and want the Mass DOT to leave the flexposts in place and use a smaller plow to clear the bike lane and sidewalk.

As I see it, one problem is the flex posts themselves, which are not durable and are removable. They posit the physically separate bike lane as something that’s “nice to have,” but that can be taken away as a concession to ‘business as usual’ (cars, snow plows) which is what’s being done here.

What are some other options for separating cyclists from cars in addition to the flex posts? People for bikes put together a nice infographic, which I’ve put turned into a slide show. It illustrates the many different options for separating bikes from traffic, then grades them on aesthetics, cost and durability. As Belmont looks to make our streets more welcoming to non-car transportation (pedestrians, cyclists, etc.) these are worth considering for our main thoroughfares where, too often, pedestrians, cyclists and cars are tossed together without proper separation and protection from vehicles!