imageThis sign on Walnut Street approaching Homer Street (southbound) marking the end of the single-block bike lane on Walnut Street along City Hall is no longer accurate. There are now bike lanes from Homer Street to Beacon Street and again from Beacon Street to Forest Street. Bike accommodations continue all the way south until Walnut Street ends at Centre Street, an additional, meaningful mile in each direction. Bicycling advocates long-held hope that the stub was just a down payment on “real” accommodations has been realized. This is a significant extension of the bicycle network, connecting two commercial centers (Newton Highlands and Four Corners) and two significant points of interest (the library and city hall).

Almost as encouraging as the extension of bike accommodations is their nature. There are now lots of sharrows on Walnut Street. Sharrows are chevrons over bike symbols placed in the travel lane when there is not space for separate bike facilities (like bike lanes). Sharrows indicate to bicyclists where they should ride in the travel lane and let motorists know to expect bicyclists and that bicyclists are entitled to ride in the travel lane. imageThe sharrows are most noticeable when Walnut Street turns commercial in Newton Highlands — south of Forest Street to Centre Street — where there is not sufficient right-of-way for bike lanes. They are also in the approaches to intersections, where turning lanes take up the right-of-way and preclude bike lanes. This picture is of Walnut Street southbound approaching Beacon Street.

Ideally, all bike accommodations will/would be full and separate, which would encourage new riders who are reluctant to ride in and with traffic. But, on many Newton streets, the opportunity is limited by the right-of-way or parking*. Sharrows probably do a modest bit to encourage new riders, but do a lot to make the streets friendlier to the growing number of people who are going to ride even without full accommodations. They are an important public recognition that bicyclists are legitimate road users.

The next step is to extend the stub north, past Newton North and through Newton Highlands.

*Parking is n0t necessarily a good excuse for not providing full accommodations.

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