Brookline Bicycle Advisory Committee seeks to improve biking safety

The Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) gathered virtually via Zoom on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m., where they discussed how to improve road safety for cyclists by analyzing data on bike traffic and crash reports.

The committee examined crash data that BAC Chair Mitch Heineman gathered. During 2021, there were 20 reported bike crashes in the town, while in the same time frame, it was reported that in 2022, there were 38 reported bike crashes, marking an overall increase of 90 percent.

The committee then noted that of the total five traffic crashes in Nov. 2022 involving bicycles, three of them were located on Harvard Street, with the other two occurring in the surrounding area. Amanda Zimmerman, BAC and Town Meeting Member, said it’s important to collect this data to identify traffic hotspots.

“The whole point of paying attention to bike crashes, crashes with pedestrians, or [crashes] between cars is to identify the infrastructure problems that can be addressed instead of just saying a person is at fault, something we can’t do anything about,” Zimmerman said.

The committee discussed how to improve the safety of traffic hotspots, such as Harvard Street. They looked at Beacon St., which typically is not listed in the crash reports, for inspiration for how to improve the safety of traffic hotspots, but no clear solution was found. David Kroop, president of Biking Brookline, said Harvard St. proves to be a difficult and complicated problem. The committee then decided to send a letter to the transportation board with the data to alert the board of this pressing matter.

Afterwards, the committee discussed how difficult it was to compile data on the peak number of cyclists seen on major streets. Heineman described the current process: the members of the committee manually watch and record the number of cyclists on a given day and certain times, such as rush hour. Zimmerman said they would like to have automated systems to collect the data instead to increase accuracy. In response, BAC member Lynnae Terrill said their data collecting methodology is insufficient.

“[This methodology] is just not capturing all of the cyclists that are out on the streets in Brookline during the span of a day. We’re trying to capture snapshots. But, as [the committee have] all pointed out, it’s just not an exact picture of what’s actually happening,” Terrill said. “It would be really wise for us to push for automated capture. We just need more information, frankly.”

Committee members also discussed a draft letter of recommendations for traffic calming in the Park Street neighborhood. The letter sparked conversations about the role of micro-mobility in the neighborhood and the importance of finding a balance between safety and accessibility.

Zimmerman raised concerns about the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, particularly during the busy morning hours. Mike Toffell, Town Meeting Member, advocated for the removal of a lane of parking during these peak hours to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists, arguing that this would help ensure the safety of those who may be navigating the busy streets.

Toffell said that it is important to identify what the root issue is at Park Street and address it appropriately.

Kroop said a parking ban on Park Street may do little to address the stop-and-go traffic and advocated for the implementation of traffic calming measures to improve the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

“I think what’s going to happen is you’ll have the ban on parking, there’ll still be cars stopping and standing in those lanes and children will just be merging in and out of traffic,” Kroop said.

Toffel acknowledged the concerns about speeding on Park Street and suggested that it is important to find a solution that addresses both concerns about speed and about pedestrians and cyclists navigating around parked cars.

“One truth is we are concerned about speed. Another truth is we’re concerned about zigzagging [of pedestrians and cyclists]. To address the zigzagging by removing parking for an hour exacerbates the concern about speed and so a remedy for that would be important, which could be, for example a stop sign or a speed bump,” said Toffel.

The draft letter will be reviewed and revised in the coming weeks, with the goal of presenting it to the town for consideration in the near future.