Council Withdraws Support for Bike Lane on Hawthorne Street

Some City Councilors are wary of seeing dedicated or shared bike lanes on some of Chelsea’s busier roadways.

Monday night, the council reconsidered a vote on the Traffic Commission’s recommendations from its September meeting. During the reconsideration, the council voted against supporting a traffic improvement plan near the Early Childhood Center that included a shared bike lane on Hawthorne Street.

Originally, the plan was for a dedicated bike lane along Hawthorne Street from Central Avenue to Bellingham Square which would have narrowed the two travel lanes on the street. The plan was modified to change the dedicated bike lane to a shared bike lane.

“We have explored now for a couple of years introducing bike share lanes or bike lanes in our city, and I am a proponent of increasing bike use, however strategically,” said Council President Roy Avellaneda. “Without knowing that at some point there had to have been a vote approved by this Council to implement a bike lane on Everett Avenue from Arlington Street to Broadway, and by doing so, particularly on Everett Avenue from Chestnut to Broadway, it took away a travel lane for a right-turn only lane. What we now see, what I’ve never experienced in all my years of living here in Chelsea, is a queuing up of cars and backing up from Broadway all the way to Kayem to Dunkin Donuts to Everett Avenue all the way to Second Street.”

Avellaneda said the backups are happening because the bike lane forces cars to move into a single queuing lane.

“I’m seeing this idea now, and I’ve since mentioned my objections to this to the planners, that we are now looking at Hawthorne Street,” he said. “This is, again, two lanes, to even think of introducing bikes along this road, I don’t think is a great idea. It would be horrendous to make that street one lane.”

Luckily, he said, someone did object to the dedicated bike lane and changed the plan to a shared lane. However, Avellaneda said the plan is still not optimal for the area.

“Basically, what they are going to do is draw those boxes for bike lanes on the left-hand side,” he said. “Still not a great idea.”

If the city does want to move forward with better access for bikes, Avellaneda said the alternative roads should be used, rather than the main roads where there are bus routes or roads that are used as snow emergency streets.

“If you want to do bike lanes, use Cherry Street, draw the lines down Cherry Street parallel to Broadway,” he said. “Use Chestnut Street, not Broadway. On the other side, use Division Street, which is a back street; draw the bike lanes down those alternative streets.”

District 6 Councilor Giovanni Recupero agreed with Avellaneda about the need for bike lanes, but not on major roads.

“You need to remember that our city was built over 100 years ago when horses were there; the roads are small,” he said. “When you limit the amount that a car can fit with a bike, you are going to create a major traffic jam. Before we think of putting more bike lanes all around, we have to think of the traffic that’s involved with it.”

District 8 Councilor Calvin T. Brown said the city needs to take a deeper look at the plans for bike lanes to make sure it is done right without creating more congestion and safety issues. 

Avellaneda also stated that the city should be able to accommodate bicyclists without causing bigger issues.

“Hopefully, we can come up with better routes for bikes that are not the same as bus routes, that are not on our busiest streets, and will not cause the backed up traffic that we are seeing already in certain areas of the city,” said Avellaneda.

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