Monday, March 10, 2014

Crosby's Corner: something to like for cyclists

If you drive out Route 2 like I did this weekend (twice, because I misremembered the date for a ski race), you'll notice some construction near the border of Lincoln and Concord. This is Crosby's Corner, and it's an example of a highway project which will likely benefit all users, and which is the right kind of construction to do in this day and age. It's always a breath of fresh air to remember that MassDOT secretary Rich Davey has said that we're not building any more highways. But it's the right policy: fix and streamline what you have so that it serves the people who use it.

So, Crosby's Corner. It's the second light on Route 2 past 128, where, going outbound, you come down a hill and take a left. It's certainly not what you'd think of being a safe design, but it dates from the 1930s when there was far less traffic than today. Now it is a backup-causing bottleneck (one of several on Route 2) and probably the most dangerous intersection on the road. Outbound, there's the left turn light at the bottom of a hill. Inbound, there's a sharp right at the bottom of a hill and then a left-hand merge with no merge space. There have been some pretty horrendous accidents, and it is only a matter of time until the next one.

The plans for improvements are generally good. A few houses were taken for the construction, which will take up more space than the current roadway, although it won't feel like a superhighway interchange. What excites me most, however, is that for the first time in nearly a century, bicyclists will be able to get from Route 2A to Sandy Pond Road, filling a major gap in the cycling network.

Some of the best bicycling in the region is north and west of Boston. Once you get past 128, the rolling country roads of Lincoln, Concord and beyond are a cyclists dream: they're too narrow for high speed driving, and twisty enough that (for the most part) they don't form direct enough routes to be amenable for through traffic. The one downside is Route 2: while there are some crossing points, there are several areas where access is, for all intents and purposes, limited to cars. (Route 2 is not a limited access freeway, and bicycling would be technically legal, but it would be extraordinarily dangerous.)

I will admit that the Crosby's Corner area is not currently, nor will it ever be, a major bike commuting corridor. But it will connect Sandy Pond Road, a beautiful, low-traffic roadway, to 2A, a more heavily-used thoroughfare, but one with enough of a shoulder to be amenable to cyclists. On my evening summer rides, I often face the question of cutting across Route 2 on Bedford Road, or adding 6 miles to my ride to head out to Concord center, and then back on Route 126. Taking Sandy Pond Road would be great, but would require a 100 yard ride on and then left turn across Route 2, unfeasable even over such a short distance. The new plans will allow cyclists to cross under Route 2 and then take a somewhat roundabout route to Sandy Pond Road. While the current plans don't mention it, a short cycletrack-like path from Sandy Pond Road along the Route 2 shoulder would better facilitate bicycling movements. This should be a goal of the project, as it would be an inexpensive way to work in dramatic bicycle improvements for a $60 million highway project.

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