Eyes On the Street: Portions of New Tremont St. Protected Bike Lane Are Ready to Ride

A pedestrian crosses Tremont Street in a new crosswalk. In the foreground is a newly-installed median island, about the size of a parked car, that is paved in bricks and ringed by a granite curb. To its left are two lanes for two-way car traffic; to its right is an asphalt-paved bike lane, and a second curb at the right edge of the photo delineates the street's sidewalk. A smaller granite curb island is located at the far side of the crosswalk, and two other pairs of islands in a similar configuration protect the crosswalk on the opposite side of the intersection. Historic brick rowhomes line both sides of the street. In the distance is a church steeple.
New protected bike lanes and a protected crosswalk at the intersection of Tremont and West Brookline Street in Boston's South End. Photographed on Dec. 22, 2022.

After a year of construction, the westernmost portion of Boston's newest curb- and parking-protected bike lanes on Tremont Street in the South End is ready to accommodate bike traffic, although it's still very much an active work site.

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) and its contractors have been installing new curbs, bus stops, and raised crosswalks along Tremont Street between Massachusetts Avenue and Herald Street near I-90. The project will reduce the number of motor vehicle driving lanes from four to two, while also making room for physically-protected bike lanes and raised crosswalks at intersections.

The project has been in the works since before the pandemic. Tremont Street had been a priority for safety improvements under the city’s “Vision Zero” policy after motorists killed pedestrians there in November 2015 and again in May 2017.

Construction got underway early this spring, and has mostly been focused on re-configuring curbs and installing new crosswalk-protected islands, like the ones pictured below, at intersections:

A new crosswalk on Tremont Street in the South End. In the foreground are four newly-installed median islands paved in bricks and granite. The islands separate the street's bike lanes, which run along the edge of the street, separated from the center car lanes by the islands at the intersection and rows of parked cars further in the distance. Historic brick rowhouses line the opposite side of the street. In the distance on the left some skyscrapers and construction cranes in downtown Boston are visible. New protected bike lanes, a protected crosswalk, and a new bus stop waiting area (at right) at the intersection of Tremont and Aguadilla Street in Boston's South End. Photographed on Dec. 22, 2022.

For most of the summer and fall, the street has been a relatively chaotic construction zone: the new curbs were funneling traffic into two lanes at intersections, but people in cars were still parking along the curbs, blocking the path of the planned bike lanes.

In the past few weeks, though, new striping has gone down on several blocks in the western end of the project area, roughly from the South End branch of the Boston Public Library at West Newton Street to Massachusetts Avenue.

The new striping indicates clearly where cars are expected to park, and when we visited on Thursday morning, the path of the new protected bike lane was mostly clear between Massachusetts Avenue and West Newton, except at one intersection where contractors were still building new curbs.

The newly-installed median islands are also already clearly improving safety for the neighborhood's pedestrians. Where people on foot once had to cross four lanes of motor vehicle traffic, in the blind zone of passing cars, the new street layout means that pedestrians only have to cross two lanes of motor vehicle traffic, and the newly-installed islands located between the car lanes and bike lanes give pedestrians and motorists much clearer lines of sight to see each other:

A new crosswalk on Tremont Street in the South End. In the foreground is a newly-installed median island, about the size of a parked car, that is paved in bricks and ringed by a granite curb, with an orange construction barrel on top. To its left is a single motor vehicle lane and another, smaller median island; on the left edge of the photo, a person wearing a bright yellow jacket rides a bicycle across the street. On the far side of the intersection are three more median islands to delineate traffic: an older concrete median in the middle of the street divides eastbound and westbound motor vehicle traffic, and smaller, newly-installed medians paved in brick and granite on either side of the street separate the car lanes from bike lanes, which run along the street's sidewalks. Beyond the median islands, the bike lanes are separated from car lanes by rows of parked cars. Two modern, brick-clad 20th-century apartment blocks line the opposite side of the street. In the distance on the right is a stone church steeple and clocktower. New protected bike lanes and a protected crosswalk at the intersection of Tremont and West Springfield Street, one block east of Massachusetts Avenue. Photographed on Dec. 22, 2022.

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