From the horse’s mouth

There’s a scene in Anne Hall where Woody Allen, standing on line for a movie with Diane Keeton, is annoyed by a man holding forth on the meaning of a book by Marshall McLuhan.

The ensuing argument is only settled when McLuhan himself appears and tells the man, “You know nothing of my work…. How you got to teach a class in anything is totally amazing!”

Such authoritative rejoinders are rare, but there were several slow-motion examples captured in the transcript of the 25% design hearing held at Town Hall in April of 2011.

One bitterly contested point about Mass. Ave. has been MassDOT’s bicycle-accommodation requirement. Rebuild opponents are not happy with this requirement, but it is straightforward.

At the 2011 hearing (which was held by MassDOT), we got to hear it all directly from the agency in question.

Here’s what Frank Suszynski, project-development engineer at MassDOT, had to say (Transcript at 76.14–77.20).

As far as MassDOT is concerned, on all projects that we do, we do look at bike accommodations. There’s several variations of what is considered meeting acceptable bike accommodations.

We heard some people talking about shared use. That’s where you have a shared lane width. The minimum lane width for that would be 15 feet. We’d prefer 16 feet in a shared use.

There are only 14 feet available for a shared-use lane, which a preceding discussion (Transcript at 71.22–75.11) established would be unsafe.

So what Suszynski was really doing here was explaining why shared use, which might be possible in some situations, is not an option for this stretch of Mass. Ave.

Mcluhan Suszynski continued:

We can have it [bicycle lane] marked—what we’re showing here is a marked lane five [feet].

That’s the desirable. And we shoot for desirable. We don’t always attain it. But when we do have cases where there’s available roadway width, we prefer to see a five-foot marked bike lane for the safety and efficiencies associated with that.

But [were there no bike lanes] a combined or a shared bike lane would still be required by MassDOT for this project…. For two lanes, it would be a 12-foot travel lane and then we’d want the second lane to be a combined 15-foot wide…[and] then you’d have concerns about the parking.

When it’s adjacent to parking, your preference would be 15 to 16 feet…. There’s a range which is acceptable…. [E]specially in the past five years, we’re really focused on making sure that we adequately address all users of the roadway, including pedestrians and bikes. And bike accommodation is extremely important to the Department.

Suszynski might have said more, but for an off-the-cuff answer this does a good job of characterizing the bicycle-accommodation requirement.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule that there must be bike lanes everywhere, but MassDOT prefers bike lanes when possible, as in this case.

Furthermore, for shared lanes that are near parking, MassDOT wants 15 to 16 feet. Anything less is not safe. And to have four travel lanes, with 15-foot shared lanes instead of bike lanes, we’d have to narrow the sidewalks on Mass. Ave. because the street is not wide enough for that design.

Consequently, bike lanes are not just the preferred way to accommodate cyclists, in this case lanes are apparently the only safe way to do so.


1 comment so far

  1. Mark Kaepplein on

    The statement came from the other end of the horse. Francis Suszynski’s civil engineering license (P.E., #39870) in Massachusetts expired in 2000, thus has no professional responsibility to tell the truth.

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