City crews were in Charlestown early last Friday, grinding down the bicycle lanes that were painted along the length of Main Street this fall.
It seemed the lanes vanished just as quickly and mysteriously as they had arrived, but, in fact, their removal was a direct response to complaints from the Charlestown Neighborhood Council.
Main Street, according to members of the council, is not the ideal place for bike lanes. And, what's more, the community had not been properly involved in a discussion about where city crews should put the lanes — and if they should put them in Charlestown at all.
"We realized there wasn't enough community process before hand," said Christopher Loh, a spokesman for the mayor's office. "Input from the community is very important to us."
The white lines that had been painted to mark the bike lanes on both sides of Main Street are now only barely visible.
Three years ago, Mayor Thomas Menino pledged to install 20 miles of bike lanes around the city by 2010. The lanes in Charlestown marked the tail end of that initiative; there are stretches of lanes now in every Boston neighborhood.
This is the first time the city has been asked to remove bike lanes, Loh said. Overall, the response to the mayor's bicycle program, Boston Bikes, has been positive, he said.
Loh was unable to say what the cost was for installing and removing the lanes.
The mayor's office may revisit the installation of bike lanes in Charlestown, according to his spokesman. Though there is no immediate plan for that, Loh said the mayor would be certain to solicit the neighborhood for comment.
Response from community, bike advocates
The city's quick response was seen as a win by members of the Neighborhood Council.
"Until we find out what the community really wants, I'm happy about this," said Council President Tom Cunha. "The [mayor's office] has always responded well to us, as long as we have legitimate concerns."
Although the council was pleased to see the lanes removed from Main Street, bicycle advocates were dismayed by the decision. On Boston Biker, a popular web site for the cycling community, a blogger called the action "short-sighted."
David Watson, the executive director of MassBike, said he hoped that the city was able to understand what went wrong with the installation of bike lanes in Charlestown in order to prevent this kind of situation from occurring again.
Watson also offered praise for the mayor's work bringing bike lanes to business districts around the city.
"People who bike are like everyone else," he said. "They want to go the same places that everyone else wants to go as fast and directly as possible. … Bike lanes don't just make it safer for bikes, they help create a more livable neighborhood. They increase safety for everyone."