Building bridges?

There’s lots of material about Boston in this League of American Bicyclists policy document about bridge access:

I regard the document as good in its recommendations on advocacy strategies. It does overemphasize separate bikeways over shoulder and bike lane treatments — less expensive, sometimes no-cost solutions, and more suitable for use through winter — though they often accommodate only bicyclists and not pedestrians.

But — see pages 7. 11, 12, 18: Praise is heaped on Livable Streets, which is not a bicycling organization, though it is listed on the League’s Web site and is presumably, then, as of recently, a League member organization. There is no mention whatever of Massbike, which has a 35-year history in advocacy, which has been involved in the same bridge advocacy efforts, and whose President is on the League’s Board of Directors.

What message is League President Andy Clarke trying to send?

3 responses to “Building bridges?

  1. Well, considering it would have been simple to include Massbike credit in the document, I’d say that it undercuts the theory of some of Andy’s opponents that he is an insanely clever evil genius.

    • I also sent the message in my blog post to David Watson, Massbike Executive Director, who replied as follows:

      “LivableStreets got an advocacy grant from the Alliance for Biking and Walking and the League last year for their bridge campaign. That’s why they are featured. I wouldn’t worry about it.”

      I thank him for the clarification, but I see it a little bit differently. I see the League as favoring Livable Streets, to the disadvantage of Massbike. I mean, for one thing, giving Livable Streets a grant — but also going back to the Boston Bicycle Summit in 2007.

      To organize that event, the City turned to the League, and the League hired Jeff Rosenblum, then with Livable Streets. Massbike was left out of the loop for planning of the event for weeks. At that time, I was the League’s Regional Director for New York and New England and also on the Massbike Board of Directors. I was in communication with both David and League President Andy Clarke, trying to get Andy to answer David’s phone calls and e-mails. This situation went as far as David’s needing to schedule vacation time so as not to conflict with the Summit, but not getting an answer about Summit dates until rather late, and from me, not directly from Andy.

      I suspect that the reluctance to involve Massbike originated with the City of Boston — which had had a poor relationship with Massbike over the years. I do not regard Massbike as responsible for this situation: Massbike had made very significant progress with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, its agencies, the MBTA (Metropolitan Boston Transit Authority) etc., just not with Boston. In any case, it was Andy Clarke who did not communicate with David. In the end, Massbike did participate in the Summit, though the atmosphere for participation had been significantly soured, and there continued to be misunderstandings and discord.

      The League’s Bridges policy statement goes so far in its coverage of Livable Streets as to wander off the subject of bridges into a discussion of Livable Streets’ after-the-fact opinions on the Central Artery-Third Harbor Tunnel project, (the famous “Big Dig”), which did not include any bridges of interest to bicyclists or pedestrians. Livable Streets was not founded until this project was largely completed; the one bridge in the project, the Zakim-Bunker Hill Bridge, a limited-access bridge, rises very high up at its north end; any of three other nearby crossings of the Charles River would be preferable. The Ted Williams tunnel, also part of the project, could on the other hand offer useful bicycle access via the MBTA Silver Line buses that run through it. Transport of bicycles on MBTA buses has been an ongoing issue with Massbike, and has met with real success in recent years; former Massbike Board member David Loutzenheiser deserves major credit in this work. As I write this, I don’t know whether Silver Line buses transport bicycles yet. There is no discussion of either the bridge or the tunnel in the League document.

      There has been very significant Massbike involvement in securing bicycle and pedestrian access across the limited-access Whittier Bridge between Newburyport and Amesbury, in Massachusetts, and this bridge is not even mentioned in the document.

      As the author of revisions to the League’s policy statements during my tenure on the League’s Board, I also wonder to what degree the Board presently is involved in crafting new policy documents such as the one on bridges. I would have expected and hoped that my successor on the League’s Board, John Siemiatkoski, also President of Massbike, would have asked for a fair mention of Massbike, if involved in crafting or review of the document. I wonder who did write it. It required a rather impressive amount of research and so, looks like the work of a staffer rather than a Board member, but as I write this, I don’t know.

  2. Not that anyone cares, but I left LAB due to unethical behavior. Observations like this simply support my status as a person who used to donate to the organization.

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