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In response to a motion in Traffic Council to make permanent a trial removal of parking on Walnut Street (south of Beacon to Forest), Alderman Jay Ciccione said:

If we’re going to start doing this [remove the parking permanently], then I say we take away parking on every street in the city. Simple as that. I just don’t think it’s fair. You’ve got people who’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for homes and were able to park in front of their homes and now you’re going to take away their ability to be able to have — as they said — a landscaper come.

Jay’s full comment is short (under 2 minutes) and worth listening to in its entirety. (The motion passed 4-1, with Jay the lone nay vote.)

Jay raises many of the commonly held objections to removing lightly used parking to create room for bike lanes. He’s comprehensive, coherent, and impassioned. But, he’s on the wrong side on this issue. The comment is particularly timely because Public Safety & Transportation, a committee Jay chairs, is taking up a Traffic Council policy statement on bikes and on-street parking this evening.

The roads are a public asset. Buying an abutting home does not give you any claim or right to the use of the city right-of-way. Nor, does it insulate you from changes to the right-of-way that have an impact on your home’s value. And, is it even clear that the availability of on-street parking has an impact on property values? Around the corner on Beacon between Walnut and Centre, no parking is allowed. Property owners seem to be doing fine.

Having occasional access to on-street parking is not an illegitimate claim. The question is how strong that claim is when there are competing claims. The competing claims on Walnut St. are safety (generally) and bicycle accommodations (and safety of bicyclists). Bike advocates have long agitated for safe bicycle accommodations on Walnut St., a key corridor for all travel. But, it was local residents concerned about safe car travel and pedestrian crossings that instigated this particular request to remove parking.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), full bike lanes cannot co-exist with legal parking, even if only occasional. It’s a regulatory restriction. If the city were to allow parking to accommodate landscapers or occasional visitors, it could not provide the full measure of safety to bikers that bike lanes provide. Without the full measure of safety that bike lanes provide, many bicyclists won’t use the route.

Ultimately, the first priority for the allocation of the right-of-way ought to be transport: cars, bikes, and pedestrians moving from one place to another. Not storage. Providing occasional storage for abutters on Walnut St. would prevent the use of the road by bicyclists in higher numbers.

As for Jay’s comment about taking parking away on all Newton streets, I can’t wait until he sees the bicycle plan currently in draft form. On-street parking is only an issue on main corridors and a handful of routes to high-priority destinations (like NSHS and the south-side middle schools). On less busy streets, the expectation is that cars and bikes and parked cars can get along fine.

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