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The world-famous Charles River Reservation lines both sides of its majestic river for 8-1/2 miles in greater Boston. Created as a State Reservation between 1910 and 1936, this beautiful urban greenway contains continuous, longitudinal paths that serve as “trunk routes” for non-motorized transportation, hourly serving as many as 10,000 cyclists, pedestrians and runners. However, narrow bridges and urban land uses abutting the Reservation (high-volume arterial roads, railyards and car-oriented streets and businesses) present major barriers to access from the adjacent communities and to the greenway and the river.

This paper presents the draft findings and specific strategies of a “Pedestrian and Bicyclist Connectivity Study.” It was commissioned jointly by two state agencies—(a) the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which has primary jurisdiction over the Charles River roads and bridges in the study area; and (b) the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, responsible for care and control of the Charles River Reservation.

The Study was prepared between 2009 and 2013 by a team led by the Boston landscape architecture firm of Halvorson Design Partnership, with Alta Planning + Design, multi-modal planners and HDR Engineering, civil engineers.

The research design involved a rigorous, data-driven methodology that analyzed existing “bikeped” infrastructure and trip generators. The study also assessed the nature and location of barriers to access in and around the Reservation, and the ten bridges that traverse it.

A “toolbox” of 22 specific measures with potential to improve connectivity for the Charles River Reservation was developed.

The overall goal of this project is to improve the quality of life for tens of thousands of people who live or work within walking, running, skating or bicycling distance by increasing use of the greenway as a transportation and recreational resource. Accordingly, more than 100 specific improvements in the approaches to (and river crossings within) the greenway were identified to enhance pedestrian and bicycle connectivity to the adjacent neighborhoods, many of which currently have limited or missing connections to the river. (See Figure 1.)

Changes in the Charles River Basin area do not occur in isolation: roadway projects, new trails and greenways, and renovated bridges are being implemented throughout the region. Nonmotorized mobility initiatives, programs and policies are already encouraging a more diverse mix of travel patterns and behaviors, helping the region to move towards a “mode shift” away from private automobiles to more sustainable modes.

[This is happening in Cambridge and Boston already, as each city continues to improve the walking environment, promote universal accessibility and develop a network of integrated bicycle facilities. A notable example of this phenomenon is the implementation in Boston of “Hubway,” a city-wide bicycle sharing system, sponsored by New Balance and operated by Alta Bike Share. In its first 16 months of operation, Hubway recorded more than 675,000 separate trips. 2012 saw the expansion of the system to neighboring Cambridge and Somerville and plans are underway to add Hubway stations and bikes to Brookline, as well. All four municipalities are working with Massachusetts Department of Transportation, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Federal Transit Administration to continue to fill and expand the system in the Metro Area.]



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