Thursday, 4:30 PM
Back Bay bike parking gets tougher as meters disappear
By Donovan Slack
Bicycle enthusiasts have long thought of themselves as second-class citizens in Boston, a city whose pothole-plagued streets and limited number of bike lanes have earned it a perennial spot on Bicycling Magazine’s list of worst places in the nation for cyclists. But few expected the latest perceived snub of two-wheeled commuters.
When the city removed some 160 parking meters on Newbury Street and replaced them with 23 boxy, multiple-space, computerized meters, cyclists found themselves without their habitual, if illegal, locking posts. Cyclists are complaining that officials haven’t provided alternative places to park bikes, and now bicycles can be seen chained to trees, sign posts, wrought-iron fences and just about anything else skinny enough to get a bike lock around.
‘‘It’s horrible,’’ said Martha S. Folsom, sales director at Martin Lawrence Gallery, where three bikes were chained out front: one to a tree, one to a fence, and another to a sign post.
For their part, cyclists say they’d rather park in racks. MassBike, a cycling advocacy group, says the meter removal has exacerbated an already difficult bike-parking problem in the area and shows that the city still isn’t taking cyclists into consideration when it comes to many transportation projects.
‘‘They don’t involve transportation planners that think beyond the car,’’ said Andrew Fischer, a member of the MassBike advisory board.
City officials say cyclists aren’t looking hard enough. The city has installed 350 bike racks across Boston, including in every neighborhood business district, the officials said. On one side of Boylston Street between Arlington and Berkeley streets, there are four metal loops provided for bike parking.
‘‘Bikes are not supposed to be chained to parking meters,’’ said Tracy Ganiatsos, a transportation spokeswoman, who said it is against city law. ‘‘That’s not the purpose of parking meters.’’
The city’s Transportation Department has dealt with a host of complaints since the installation of the computerized multispace meters, including malfunctions. The city was forced to stop taking credit card payments at the meters Tuesday after officials learned they may be violating credit card company regulations by requiring a two-hour-minimum payment from card users. Those using cash were allowed to pay for less time. Ganiatsos said she has not received any complaints about the lack of bicycle parking.
Transportation planning officials say they are working to make the city more bike-friendly and that for the past few years they have included bicycling advocates in the planning process for all street reconstruction projects. They said they would like to install more bike racks in the Newbury Street area, but officials at the city’s historic preservation agency asked them three or four years ago not to put any new bike racks in the Back Bay.
‘‘We were all set to install them, but we were asked by the Landmarks Commission to hold off,’’ said Vineet Gupta, director of planning for the Transportation Department.
Officials at the Boston Landmarks Commission did not return calls for comment.
For now, it appears business owners and residents on Newbury Street may have something of an obstacle course to deal with on the sidewalks. At least when bicycles were locked to the old meters, some said, the bikes were closer to the street. And cyclists will continue to look for alternative places to park.
‘‘It’s a problem,’’ said Back Bay resident Andreas Goutopoulos as he unlocked his bike from an old-style meter on Boylston Street. ‘‘They need to put in bike racks.’’