If you haven’t already, take a minute to read Streetsblog’s coverage of the on-going debate over the future of Beacon Street in Somerville. The City of Somerville is planning to build a protected bike lane on the street, which may be the busiest bicycle corridor in the state. Yet some in the community are opposed to the transformation. Angie Schmitt sums up the situation:
Somerville’s plan calls for eliminating about 100 on-street parking spots on Beacon for the mile-long stretch where the bike lane will be installed. Although a local parking study found that there was more than enough on-street parking capacity to accommodate the reduction, some local residents have been grumpy about the proposed change. At a recent preliminary design meeting with the community, one neighbor called the plan “discriminatory” (against drivers) and said it violates their “right to park” in front of their homes.
“I want my parking place; I think this is a dumb project,” said Somerville resident Marty Filosi.
Further complicating the matter is the fact that a handful of vehicular cyclists in the region have opposed the plan. One of them is John Allen, a prominent local follower of John Forester’s transportation theories, which — against the preponderance of evidence — argue that dedicated cycling infrastructure makes cyclists less safe.
Despite the best efforts of City planners and advocates, proponents of a livable Beacon Street have failed to frame the discussion in a way to curry popular support. It doesn’t help that traditional media outlets insist on the reductive he-said she-said approach to journalism. The Globe, for example, quotes Beacon Street laundromat owner Domenic Ruccio for his expertise on the economics of parking supply and property values: “If you take a neighborhood like this and it gets a reputation of being unparkable, the rents of these apartments go down, and then the value of the real estate follows it.”
Setting aside the Globe’s refusal to challenge this ludicrous assertion, reporter Jarret Bencks merely mentions the objective parking study as a counterpoint to Ruccio’s uninformed (and self-serving) opinion. This is as troubling as it is unsurprising. In its desperation to be perceived as impartial, news media are only able to present opposite sides of every issue in equal proportions, irrespective of facts and information available to reporters.
The question of cycle tracks on Beacon Street is whether we want to make relatively small sacrifices in the name of saving lives of people who walk, bike, and live along the street. It’s whether we want to commit resources toward giving people viable alternative options to driving polluting vehicles as our planet cries louder and louder for help. And it’s whether we want to make Beacon Street a place people can come together to shop, eat, commute, and relax.
It should not be a question of preserving the minority’s right to store their private property on public land.