The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Why bike lane infrastructure is and should be the future of transit

Sophomore+Luke+Humblias+biking+to+school+on+the+morning+of+September+29%2C+2023%2C+on+Greenough+Street.
EZRA KLEINBAUM/CYPRESS STAFF
Sophomore Luke Humblias biking to school on the morning of September 29, 2023, on Greenough Street.

Brookline recently announced that 16 streets are being upgraded with protected bike lanes, including Cypress Street, Aspinwall Avenue and St. Paul Street, popular routes for many students going to the high school. These projects are long overdue and welcome news for Brookline bicyclists when past “safe cycling infrastructure” has mostly consisted of paint on a road.

I recently participated in a group bike ride on Cypress Street to the high school, as part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)’s Safe Routes to School program. Aside from the congratulatory free donut at the end, the best thing I got from that ride was finally feeling safe to bike in Brookline.

Whether you bike or not, you might have noticed Brookline doesn’t have a lot of safe and useful places to cycle. Most roads only have “sharrows.” That’s the term for those little pictures of a bicycle that are painted on the roads to signify that people are allowed to bike there.

Unfortunately, sharrows do nothing to actually make roads safe for people cycling, as you’re still riding next to SUVs going 45 miles per hour. It’s risky enough to turn most people off from cycling on Brookline streets. That includes me. I vividly remember when I tried pedaling on Harvard Street. I went out into the lane, before a massive truck riding in the painted bike lane zoomed past and almost knocked me over. That was a memorable experience that I never hope to repeat. Experiences like these discourage many Brookline residents from biking on most streets in the town. That’s more important than you might think.

A sharrow bike lane on Tappen Street, in front of the Freshman Building.

Environmentalism is a self-professed goal of many communities and Brookline is no exception. The Select Board has an ambitious Climate Action Plan and aims to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050. Boston, Cambridge and Somerville have similar targets for carbon neutrality, or net zero CO2 emissions.

If we want to reach carbon neutrality, we have to end our reliance on cars as the only viable transportation method. According to the EPA, transportation is the biggest source of emissions in the United States at 29%, and cars make up the bulk of that percentage. While electric vehicles can solve some of the climate issues of gas powered cars, the best way to reduce our environmental impact is to use non-car transportation.

This reduction can come in the form of buses, trains and other expensive infrastructure and technology, but cycling infrastructure is easy and cheap to build and bikes have very little carbon emissions. They’re a sustainable, healthy and convenient mode of transport, especially for a compact and dense town like Brookline.

The point is, everyone should care about cycling and making it safer. Many students at the high school care about climate change and stopping our dependency on cars is the most achievable step our community can take to become a sustainable town.

This effort isn’t just for city planners, it requires you, too. When these lanes are installed, I encourage everyone to try and use them. Biking is a great way to get to school or around town (with or without a donut)! If students utilize these projects and tell the town they’re worthwhile, it encourages the town to build more bike lanes. Between these new lanes, biking connectivity projects for South Brookline and improvements in bike lanes on Commonwealth Avenue and Beacon Street, Brookline can finally be a walkable, bikeable town.

If you care about climate change, the environment, public health, air quality, or just want to get to the high school faster, you should be celebrating these new bike lanes, using them and rooting for more to come.

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    Jerry WechslerNov 5, 2023 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks for this piece. I agree that it is crucial that bike lanes be protected. In areas with significant traffic, there is real danger, especially as drivers exhibit more and more aggressive behavior behind the wheel.

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