Action Alert - Comments due for Arborway Bicycle [and Pedestrian] Facilities

Friday, March 6, 2015 - 5:00pm

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WalkBoston supports DCRs preliminary concepts for “Arborway Bicycle [and Pedestrian] Facilities”

Deadline for comments: March 6, 2015 (see information about providing comments at the end of this document)

Recently the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) launched a public process to improve safety and connections for people walking, bicycling and driving the section of the Emerald Necklace parkways between Jamaica Pond and the future Casey Arborway (under construction).  As well as creating new, separated paths for pedestrians and cyclists, proposed improvements include replacing Murray and Kelley Circles with new, safer “roundabouts”.

DCR was initially responding to concerns of the bicycling community. However, they and their consultants, Toole Design Group, quickly saw that the challenges facing cyclists and pedestrians in this area cannot be fixed without also solving the existing problems of confusing and dangerous vehicle circulation and chronic speeding. So, the scope and objectives were expanded to all users.



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If you live in Jamaica Plain you probably already know that the Arborway is unsafe. Between 2008 and 2012 alone there were 135 crashes on the Arborway, with more than 20 injuries. You also know that Murray Circle is especially dangerous because of high vehicle speeds and lack of clarity for drivers. Cars frequently jockey for openings and exits. No one wants to walk or bicycle across the roads that feed into Murray Circle!

Current vehicle speeds on the Arborway far exceed the posted limit of 30 mph and as demonstrated by the number of crashes, pose serious risks to drivers as well as to people on foot and on bike.

The key safety and access problems that the design is intended to address are:
-    Speeding.
-    Inadequate and unprotected crosswalks
-    Sidewalks that must serve a combination of walkers and bicyclists and that are not connected to safe crossings or on-road bike lanes.


The process that DCR used to develop a set of “starter ideas” included both a public meeting and several meetings with local elected officials and pedestrian and bicycle advocates. The ideas presented by Toole Design at a public meeting on February 5 are impressive and promising.

·     Separate pedestrian sidewalks and bike paths would be provided in the area.
·     The “circles” would be rebuilt as smaller, modern roundabouts that 
           -   clarify vehicular movements
           -   prevent speeding by requiring travel speeds of 15 -20 mph
           -   provide multiple safe crosswalks (for people traveling in all directions)

·      Provide raised crosswalks to improve pedestrian visibility and slow traffic
·      Preserve the historic roads between today’s traffic circles including the allees of oak trees
·      Reduce the number of traffic signals that interrupt vehicle flow (reduced from 5 to 1)

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What is strikingly innovative about the current “starter ideas” is the concept of replacing the enormous Murray Circle with two smaller roundabouts, side by side, to sort and channel traffic clearly and efficiently – while providing multiple crossings for bikes and pedestrians.

In addition the plan provides local residents on both sides of the Arborway with multiple ways to access their homes, while using the outer roadways for local access only, making them safer for all users.   

WalkBoston is happy to support this comprehensive package of improvements. The safety of people who are walking or bicycling is absolutely dependent on changing the traffic circles. We feel that the proposed plan would both provide good vehicle access and accomplish the following benefits for walkers: 
-    Improve connections between Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum for all park visitors, whether on foot or on bike
-    Improve safety and reduce the number of accidents, injuries and deaths
-    Improve quality of life for local residents
-    Make the movements through the roundabouts clear and understandable and prevent speeding

Naturally, a lot of details need to be worked out in the next phase of design (e.g. How will persons who are blind or visually impaired navigate the roundabouts? How will snow removal be handled?), but the big ideas are solid. DCR’s intention is to make this area more livable for residents and park visitors alike while continuing to accommodate vehicles.

Call to Action: We hope you will join WalkBoston to support DCR’s concepts for improving Arborway safety 
and connectivity for all users and all travel modes. Let’s not miss this opportunity!

The link to the DCR/ Toole presentation is

Scroll down to where you see this heading: Material from Past 2015 Meetings
And look at this bullet: February 3 & 5, 2015: Arborway Bicycle Facilities

The Feb. 5 presentation is in three parts:

- Part I contains historical background and the current state of the road with traffic studies and some other statistics
- Part II primarily discusses the merits of modern roundabouts vs. rotaries
- Part III contains the proposed solution: a reconfiguration involving three roundabouts to
   replace the existing huge rotaries and a redesigned road south of Murray Circle


If you have questions please email us at and we will try to find the answers or direct you to the right person at DCR.

Please send your comments to DCR by Friday, March 6, 2015:

E-mail: Please note “Arborway Bicycle Facilities” in the subject line 

Write: Department of Conservation and Recreation, Office of Public Outreach, 251 Causeway Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114