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Somerville to Build Protected Bike Lanes Near Davis Square After Fatal ‘Dooring’ Crash

10:55 AM EDT on September 2, 2022

Map of the Davis and Teele Square neighborhoods in Somerville. Holland Street, College Avenue, and Broadway form a triangle north of Davis Square, with Holland running northwest from Davis to Teele Square, College Avenue running northeast from Davis to Powder House Square, and Broadway running east-to-west at the top of the triangle from Teele to Powder House, a few blocks south of the Tufts campus..

Map of the Davis and Teele Square neighborhoods in Somerville.

On Thursday, Somerville Mayor Katjana Ballantyne announced that her administration would adjust the design for an upcoming paving project to remove some on-street parking and create protected bike lanes on Holland Street between Davis and Teele Squares.

The Mayor says that the decision is a direct response to a fatal crash that occurred two weeks ago on nearby Broadway, where Stephen Conley, 70, died from injuries he sustained when a driver opened his car door into him in an unprotected, paint-only bike lane.

"I ran for Mayor on a platform that included bold actions to keep our residents safe. Part of the reason that I am so upset is because we know how to prevent terrible crashes like this one," wrote the Mayor in a statement posted to the city's website on Thursday evening.

"Long-scheduled paving of Holland Street will finally take place in mid-September," the statement continues. "When I came into office, I inherited a design that did not include protected bike lanes for the full length of Holland Street. As Mayor, I have a unique opportunity to save lives by changing the design. I am determined to take that opportunity."

In a separate email to local safety advocates, the Mayor also wrote that she would also advocate for similar changes on Broadway, where Conley died.

"I believe that protected bike lanes can and should be designed and installed on Broadway between Teele Square and Powder House Circle... A formal design process for Broadway from Clarendon Hill to Ball Square will be kicked off in 2023. City staff will investigate opportunities for a quick-build demonstration project as part of that process," wrote the Mayor. 

In a statement sent to StreetsblogMASS, George Schneeloch, co-founder of the Somerville Bike Safety organization, wrote that "we appreciate Mayor Ballantyne's thoughtfulness on this issue. The Mayor's decision prioritizes people’s lives while accommodating the practicalities of implementing streetscape changes. The decision to put protected bike lanes on Holland Street while it is being painted this year, and to implement two-way protected bike lanes during scheduled repaving on Broadway in 2024, is a sensible one."

Both Holland Street and nearby College Avenue have been the focus of street redesign efforts in Somerville in recent years in anticipation of planned repaving projects that had been scheduled for this year.

College Avenue, where a truck driver struck and killed Leah A. Zallman, a local physician, in November 2020, was repaved earlier this summer. The project gave the street a handful of new traffic-calming features, like speed humps, raised crosswalks with curb extensions, and a northbound bike lane with some physical protection.

Holland Street is scheduled to be repaved this fall. Before Mayor Ballantyne's announcement this week, the plan had been for most of Holland Street to retain on-street parking on both sides of the street for most of the distance between Teele Square and Davis Square, with a single painted bike lane leading northwest (uphill) from Davis Square:

A sketch layout for the City of Somerville's previous proposal for a repaving project on Holland Street, showing new raised crosswalks and a street layout that generally retains on-street parking without creating physically-protected lanes for bicycle users
Earlier plans for a repaving project on Holland Street near Davis Square in Somerville called for a single paint-only bike lane for most of the distance between Teele and Davis Squares. Courtesy of the City of Somerville.

That previous design also included a number of important pedestrian improvements, including three raised crosswalks and several new curb extensions that would shorten crossing distances on Holland Street and across several of its intersecting side streets.

The details of the new design for Holland Street are expected to be presented and discussed for approval at the next meeting of Somerville's Traffic Commission later this month.

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