BTD Backtracks On Safety Improvements For Deadly Section of Mass. Ave.

A driver struck and killed a bicyclist at the corner of Harrison and Massachusetts Avenues on April 22, 2020. The driver of the truck pictured at left was involved in the crash and remained on the scene; bystander reports suggest a second hit-and-run driver may have also been involved. Contributed photo.
A driver struck and killed a bicyclist at the corner of Harrison and Massachusetts Avenues on April 22, 2020. The driver of the truck pictured at left was involved in the crash and remained on the scene; bystander reports suggest a second hit-and-run driver may have also been involved. Contributed photo.
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A newly-installed curb intended to protect bikes and pedestrians along a deadly two-block section of Massachusetts Avenue through the Boston Medical Center has been removed.

City of Boston officials had previously identified Mass. Ave. in the vicinity of the Boston Medical Center (BMC) as a top priority for more robust safety improvements. Drivers killed two victims on Massachusetts Avenue near the BMC earlier this spring: on March 16, one driver reportedly killed a pedestrian walking in a crosswalk at Mass. Ave. and Albany Street, and on April 22, a truck driver struck and killed a bicycle rider at intersection of Mass. and Harrison Avenues.

A view of the former curb-protected bike lane on Massachusetts Avenue through the Boston Medical Center campus, pictured before the cast concrete curbs were removed on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Contributed photo by Wali Sabuhi.
A view of the former curb-protected bike lane on Massachusetts Avenue through the Boston Medical Center campus, pictured before the cast concrete curbs were removed on Wednesday, December 16, 2020. Contributed photo by Wali Sabuhi.

At a May meeting of Boston’s Vision Zero Task Force, City of Boston staff shared conceptual plans for a project that would install a protected bikeway between Harrison Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

Elements of that plan were installed in mid-November, when the BTD installed modular cast concrete curbs to provide protection for a new bike lane on Mass. Ave. through the BMC campus.

Similar cast concrete curbs have been in place along other sections of Mass. Ave. in the Back Bay neighborhood since May, and those remain in place.

But early Wednesday morning, crews arrived to remove the curbs through the BMC campus.

“Out of an abundance of caution and as the result of several recent crashes, the concrete barriers were removed along the edge of the bike lane on Mass. Avenue between Harrison and Melnea Cass Boulevard as we reevaluate what measures can be implemented to improve safety in this priority area,” wrote Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Greg Rooney in an emailed statement to Streetsblog on Thursday afternoon. “We will reinstall protections for the bike lane basing our work on the crash evaluation.”

A BTD official reported that there have been four crashes on the corridor since the new curbs were put in place.

The removal of the protected bike lane was first reported by LiveBoston617, a Twitter account run by local first responders, in a tweet that inaccurately blamed the curbs, not the drivers who drove their cars into them, for “at least 10 accidents in under a month.”

There are no records, either in the MassDOT crash database or in local news reports, of any injury-causing crashes on Mass. Ave. in the vicinity of the Boston Medical Center since late August, well before the protected bike lane was installed.

 

StreetsblogMASS has requested copies of any police reports related to more recent crashes in this area, but has yet to receive a response.

The City of Boston has singled out the entire length of Massachusetts Avenue as a threat to public safety: the street is part of the city’s “high crash network,” and has a higher density of crashes that cause injuries to bicyclists and pedestrians than 97 percent of all other city streets.

 

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