Sunday, July 21, 2024

BU Bridge Safety Alliance Member and Northeastern professor Peter Furth visits the bridge Thursday. (Photo: Emily Pauls)

Changes to the BU Bridge and its intersections, including protected bike lanes, a dedicated bus lane and better-coordinated signals were presented Thursday at Boston University by a group called The BU Bridge Safety Alliance that hopes to make the area safer and more efficient.

Eighty-seven crashes were reported on the bridge and in the intersections at each end between the years 2018 and 2022, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The alliance, formed in January, has come up with a low-cost and quick-build plan to ease traffic congestion and increase bike and pedestrian safety, member and Northeastern University professor Peter Furth said.

The alliance proposes using flex posts to separate cars from a curbside bike lane and signal separation for bikes and right-turning traffic, preventing them from going at the same time. “What we’re asking for is not radical,” Furth said.

There is already signal separation on Commonwealth Avenue going right onto the bridge and right onto Essex Street, he added.

The plan also includes pedestrian safety improvements, including a longer head start for cars and bikes at crosswalks.

Changes in Cambridge

On the Cambridge side, crosswalk signals that are activated by pushbuttons would be eliminated in favor of automatic signalization for people crossing Memorial Drive – where there are two sections to cross with an island separating them. “Right now they’re not coordinated across the island,” Furth said. “It’s easy to solve. Just coordinate them.”

The automatic signalization at the crosswalks on Memorial Drive would also allow for longer green lights for cars and buses, which would eliminate most traffic congestion, according to the alliance’s presentation.

“There is a way without any added lanes with just timing the lights to get more cars on and more cars off,” Furth said.

One of the main challenges facing the proposal is that the area of the bridge is multijurisdictional. Cambridge, Boston, Brookline, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and Massachusetts Department of Transportation all own or operate different parts of the bridge and intersections.

Coordination between each would be needed, with one leading the charge, the alliance said.

Adding allies

According to alliance member Ken Carlson, the group has met with and received feedback from the MBTA, Boston Transportation Department, Boston Cyclist Union, MassBike, Cambridge Bike Safety, Memorial Drive Alliance and Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department.

“Feedback has been amazingly positive,” Carlson said. “We’ve also circulated a petition in favor of recommendations. There is definitely an appetite for people wanting to see improvements.”

The group has also shared its recommendations with Boston University, the LivableStreets Alliance, Walk Massachusetts, Bicycling Brookline and Charles River Conservancy.

The next step is to arrange a meeting with MassDOT and DCR officials, the alliance said.

Three state transportation representatives were at the group’s Thursday site visit and meeting. MassDOT’s Mark Abbott said the area in question hasn’t been a focus, but they would take what was presented back to their superiors.