How does your community stack up when it comes to creating safe, accessible walking and bicycling routes?
A new report aims to help you find out. The “Metro Boston Municipal Trails, Bikeways & Greenways Inventory” study released this week by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) is tracking the region’s progress toward building new bike and pedestrian facilities across Greater Boston – ranking cities and towns based on total mileage recently built. It compares communities based on shared-use path, bicycle lane and foot path availability. The report also examines access disparities by race and socio-economic status, and it offers a list of high-priority projects to link key routes regionally for greater equity.
According to the report, Cambridge, Somerville and Boston are leading the region by bike lane mileage, with more than 15 percent of streets in Cambridge featuring some form of protected bike lane, and at least 10 percent of streets in Somerville and five percent of streets in Boston.
The report is current through the end of 2020 and is using data pulled from trailmap.mapc.org, MAPC’s inventory of bike and pedestrian infrastructure in Greater Boston. The full report is available at mapc.org/resource-library/trails-inventory. According to MAPC, the goal is to update the database annually.
“It’s great to see this kind of data in one place, and to be able to show lots of measurable momentum toward building out a safe network of interconnected trails and bike lanes,” said MAPC Senior Transportation Planner David Loutzenheiser. “The goal is to get even more information, especially in light of how transportation patterns continue to evolve amid the pandemic, and to be able to use that to help cities and towns make a case for future investments.”
“There’s great news in the report, showing the significant progress that’s been made since the time in the early 1990s when the Boston area bicycle and trail network consisted of the Paul Dudley White Path along the Charles River and the Minuteman Trail in Arlington,” said Malden Councillor-at-Large Stephen Winslow, who founded Bike to the Sea in 1993 to help create what is now the Northern Strand Community Trail, which connects Everett to Lynn and Nahant. Connecting the Northern Strand through to Salem is one of the five key regional routes identified in the report as a high priority for the region.
“I’m hopeful that as more residents become familiar with the newest facilities being added through the Complete Streets and Shared Streets programs, that momentum will continue to build towards the vision of a transformative regional network,” said Winslow.
Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition Executive Director Galen Mook said bicycling infrastructure helps to support a growing economy and attracts new development while alleviating traffic and pollution that is harmful to communities.“This ranking of bike lanes, trails [and bikeways] across the Metro Boston region by MAPC shows which municipalities are investing in their communities, and provides incentives and best practices for municipalities to inspire and educate leaders to take action,” said Mook. “Since this report showcases exactly where the gaps are, policymakers and municipal leaders in communities that didn’t rank as high will hopefully be motivated to invest in their infrastructure as the benefits of better bicycling and walking infrastructure become apparent.”