Sen. Jehlen Speaks Out Against Beacon Street Reconstruction Plan
Anger about the proposal continued Tuesday night even as the city works to increase parking spaces included in the plan.
Somerville State Sen. Patricia Jehlen weighed in on a proposed plan to reconstruct Beacon Street, a plan that would add cycle tracks and eliminate some parking spaces along the street. The proposal has been a contentious issue in the neighborhood in recent months.
Jehlen, speaking Tuesday at a community meeting about the project held at the Argenziano School, was skeptical about the cycle tracks. "Will these tiny cycle tracks actually increase safety?" she asked.
"I strongly doubt that a five-block track will attract more cyclists. I think what will attract more cyclists is paving the street!" the senator said to applause from those who oppose the reconstruction plan.
Jehlen said of the proposal, "If this makes people unhappy and [it's] unsafe, what a shame it would be" to those who promote bicycling infrastructure, because it would give cycle tracks a bad name.
She said she hopes the city could come up with "a better proposal."
Anger about plan continues
Jehlen spoke at a boisterous meeting in which a number of Beacon Street residents expressed anger about the plan, something that has become a common occurrence at community meetings about this topic.
Marty Filosi said the Beacon Street reconstruction plan, which would eliminate roughly 90 parking spaces along the street in order to add a cycle track and make streetscape improvements, is "blatant discrimination." It takes away "our rights to park in front of our house," he said.
Filosi said, "I want my parking place; I think this is a dumb project."
He also said, "Remember the names who are doing this to us, and get out and vote. Clean house in Somerville."
"Let us park our cars!" said Vincent Drago, another Beacon Street resident. He suggested eliminating parking spots would lead to "neighbor fighting against neighbor" for spots. "They need their space to come home to their loved ones at night," he said.
Plan highlights longstanding rift within bicycle advocacy community
Somerville resident Sam Coren, who introduced herself as a cyclist, said, "Not all cyclists support" the plan. She said, "Two short bits of micro cycle tracks" would create "the perception of safety" without actually making people safer.
John Allen said, "You just cannot build a cycle track on this street, so please don't try."
However, Ken Carlson, a Beacon Street resident and member of the Somerville Bicycle Committee, said Allen and Coren represent an "extremist view" that's "not in the mainstream of the cyclist community."
Allen and Coren, he said, are part of a movement called "vehicular cycling" that doesn't represent the views held by the majority of bicyclists. Boston Biker has a long post about the matter.
Carlson said of the Beacon Street plan, "The cycle track will make cyclists safer."
He also said major bicycling organizations, including the Somerville Bicycle Committee, MassBikes, the Livable Streets Alliance, the Cambridge Bicycle Committee and the Boston Bicyclists Union, all support the plan.
"We spent a lot of time and effort with this project," he said, and "we're very proud" of it.
City looks for more parking spots
As members of the public continue to debate the Beacon Street proposal, city planners seek to minimize the number of parking spaces that would be lost.
According to presentation at Tuesday's meeting, Beacon Street currently has 212 parking spaces, and under the project's original proposal that number would have been cut to 101 spaces.
Now, the plan has 123 spaces, and the city is hoping to lease 35 to 60 off-street spaces to add to the mix. If successful, there could be 183 parking spaces along Beacon Street, which, according to the city's numbers, has about 121 parked cars during peak hours.
Residents, however, questioned that final number, saying it's quite difficult to find an available parking spot at the end of the day.