3 replies on “1/27: Watertown Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Public Meeting”

  1. It’s bad enough that the town is seriously considering reducing Mt. Auburn St. down to one lane in each direction in order to accommodate bike lanes, but I really hope this upcoming plan doesn’t include allowing E scooters on our streets and/or sidewalks. (if and when the legislature gives them the green light).
    The quality of life in this town has been diminished enough over the years and the last thing we need is yet another unwanted nuisance.

    1. I haven’t heard of a plan to reduce Mt. Auburn Street to one lane, but that’s very exciting if true. I am a resident and homeowner living off Mt. Auburn and would love to see it given a significant road diet.

  2. This is the column by the Globe’s Jeff Jacoby explaining the stupidity of new bike lanes.

    “How bike lanes kill” (Feb. 24, 2020):

    As regular readers may know, I’m no fan of the relentless push in many towns — including the ones I live and work in — to make the streets more and more friendly to bicycles by making them less and less friendly to automobiles. I have nothing against bicycles, which are nimble, nonpolluting, healthful, and inexpensive. I also have nothing against rollerblades, Segways, wheelchairs, scooters, unicycles, or horse-drawn buggies. But none of them belong in the middle of crowded urban traffic.

    Designated lanes for bicycles are a fine idea — where traffic is minimal or there is ample room to expand roadways. But the current mania for subtracting or narrowing already-crowded car lanes in order to benefit cyclists is terrible.

    Inserting bike lanes into city streets disadvantages the overwhelming majority of drivers and passengers who rely on automobiles in order to accommodate the relatively tiny minority who bike. In a column last year I wrote: “The doctrine that cars, buses, and trucks should ‘share the road’ with bicycles sounds egalitarian and green, but it’s as impractical as expecting motor vehicles to ‘share’ urban thoroughfares with skateboards and strollers. The chief function of those roads is to keep people and goods moving as rapidly, efficiently, and safely as possible. Bike lanes unavoidably impede that function — often to the detriment of bike riders themselves.”

    But taking away road lanes from cars in order to provide more lanes for bicycles isn’t just inconvenient. It’s also deadly, as Gary M. Galles, a professor of economics at Pepperdine University, shows in a recent essay for the Foundation for Economic Education.

    He begins by noting that in the wake of implementing a new plan to bring down the number of people killed in Los Angeles traffic, the number of people killed in Los Angeles traffic went up:

    Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti created Vision Zero in 2015 in an effort to reduce non-driver traffic fatalities, especially pedestrian deaths. Its goals were to cut non-driver fatalities by 20% by 2015, 50% by this year, and 100% by 2025. Following that vision, the City Council adopted Mobility Plan 2035, a 20-year initiative to remove automobile lanes and make more room for bus and bike lanes to upgrade pedestrian and cyclist safety.

    Results to date? Since Vision Zero was launched in 2015, according to the Los Angeles Times, the number of pedestrians, vehicle occupants, bicycle riders, and motorcyclists killed each year in crashes has risen 33%. (Fatalities surged in 2016 from 183 to 253, a 38% increase, and have dipped slightly since then.).

    It isn’t hard to understand why cramming Los Angeles drivers into fewer driving lanes makes LA’s roads more dangerous, not less. And with the city planning to double down on its approach — a blueprint just approved by City Council would remove even more traffic lanes in order to make more room for bikes and buses — it seems obvious that congestion will only grow worse and fatal accidents more frequent.

    Until reading Galles’s essay, though, it hadn’t occurred to me that there is another way in which increased congestion will cost lives. “More motor vehicles trapped in gridlock,” he writes, “cannot clear the way for ambulances or fire trucks responding to emergency calls.”

    I tend to be skeptical of the “adopt-my-policy-or-people-will-die” school of analysis, but there is nothing theoretical about the outcomes to be expected when emergency response times slow down. When it takes EMTs longer to reach people suffering a heart attack, or becomes more difficult for fire trucks to reach a blazing building, the cost is paid in human lives. Galles quotes the Mayo Clinic’s Roger White, an expert in the treatment of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests: “A one-minute decrease in the call-to-shock time increases the odds of survival by 57%,” White told USA Today, while decreasing the response time by three minutes “improves a victim’s chance of surviving almost fourfold.”

    Even backers of the new Los Angeles transportation plan agree that it will worsen traffic in many parts of the city. That is another way of saying that emergencies will be responded to more slowly. And that is another way of saying that more victims of heart attack (or a stroke or ingested poison or a shooting or a fire) won’t make it.

    The numbers are jolting. If transportation economist Randal O’Toole is correct, for every pedestrian whose life might be saved by so-called traffic calming — i.e., by policies that deliberately slow automobile traffic in order to boost bikes and buses — more than 30 lives are apt to be lost due to delayed paramedics and firefighters. When Ronald Bowman, a scientist with the National Bureau of Standards, crunched the data for a plan to slow traffic in Boulder, Colo., he came up with an even more lopsided risk factor: 85 lives lost for each life saved.

    To the militant and self-righteous bicycle lobby, of course, little of this matters. They want more bike lanes and fewer cars, they want them now, and they can be counted on to browbeat any objectors with loud insults and vehement sanctimony. But the objections are valid, whether or not they’re heeded. Bikes are terrific, but they don’t belong on the busiest city streets. The price of insisting otherwise isn’t cheap.

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