By now you may have seen the two new signals at the Minuteman bike path’s Mill Street crossing. (They went up last week.)
But you may still have some questions: Why did they go up? Who paid for them? How do they work?
Well, we recently tracked down the people in the know, and here is what they had to say:
The developer of the new Alta Brigham Square apartments, Wood Partners, was required to improve this crossing as part of their special building permit with the town, according to the town’s engineer, Wayne Chouinard.
Wood Partners contracted Bill Scully, a planner now with Westford-based Green International Affiliates, to work on the crossing in conjunction with the town’s Transportation Advisory Committee.
“The overall objective was to continue to advance safety for the people on the bike path, whether pedestrians or bicyclists,” he said Wednesday. “We certainly want them to stop and look, and we wanted to give moving traffic more of a warning that there is a possible crossing. They’re really designed to enhance awareness.”
The signals flash yellow lights at vehicles on Mill Street when a pedestrian or bicyclist approaches the crossing, and red lights at the pedestrian or bicyclist. They use microwave motion detectors, which are powered by solar panels, Scully said. The signals were paid for in full by Wood Partners.
Who has the right of way?
Even though red lights flash at the bike-path travelers, pedestrians and bicyclists who have dismounted and are walking their bikes always have the right of way, according to the town’s Department of Public Works director, Michael Rademacher.
Scott Smith, a bicycling enthusiast who’s a member of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Transportation Advisory Committee, called the signals a “good solution” on Wednesday. He said the crossing poses two issues: It’s the first busy crossing on the bike path since Lexington Center, so it can catch bicyclists off guard, and it sneaks up on unfamiliar drivers turning from Summer Street at a decent rate of speed.
Why no stoplight?
Smith said a stoplight at the crossing was “not seriously considered.” A light would’ve been a “very involved” process, he said, as it would’ve had to have synced with the Summer Street light.
Scully also said the closeness of the Summer Street light posed a challenge in terms of putting in a stoplight at the crossing. He added that a stoplight would’ve affected traffic more than the flashing signals.
Scully said the flashing signals that were installed are “taking hold” in eastern Massachusetts.
“Do they solve every single problem? No,” he said. “But you don’t want to go overboard.”
Chouinard said the town is in the process of testing the signals to make sure that they are picking up pedestrians and bicyclists from the right distance and flashing for the correct amount of time.
If all goes well, Smith said he could envision similar signals at other crossings, such as the bike path’s Lake Street crossing.
What do you think of the new signals? Would you like to see them at more crossings in town? Let us know by posting a comment below.