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One of the changes brought about by the pandemic has been the way we use our streets. With less people driving on the roads and a need for outdoor dining space, Boston and many other cities converted parking spots into more bike- and pedestrian-friendly spaces.
Survey results released Thursday by The MassINC Polling Group found that many Bostonians want to keep that going post-pandemic, with 83 percent of respondents saying they supported making more space for outdoor seating, and 75 percent saying they supported creating separated bike lanes even at the expense of cars.
We asked Boston.com readers if they would welcome modifying streets in their communities to better accommodate outdoor dining and biking and they were largely supportive of the idea. Of the more than 400 people who responded to our survey, 63 percent said they would give up street parking for permanent outdoor dining spaces.
What about giving up street parking for more bike and/or bus lanes? Readers were more divided on the issue — 48 percent would give up street parking, while 36 percent said parking spots should remain as they are, and 15 percent said they’d be okay with the change but only in select areas — with the number of cars already on the road in Boston as reason enough to give them priority.
“Bus lanes need to be only exclusively for buses in peak commuting times. So often bus lanes are empty while traffic is at a standstill,” said Geoff of South Boston.
Many readers, however, are ready to see some lasting changes to the way streets work in the city.
“More pedestrian-only streets with outdoor dining permanently, not just seasonally,” said Bryanne of Boston. “We’re new Englanders — put on a coat!”
Some of the ideas that readers shared for how to improve streets in Boston include marking traffic lanes and changing some four lane streets to two lane streets in order to widen sidewalks.
“More street closures in key areas on warm weather weekends,” suggested one reader. “This would come together a lot nicer with better rail service on weekends.”
Others, however, are hoping streets go back to their pre-pandemic state as soon as possible.
“The outdoor dining is cheesy and makes the neighborhood look like a carnival,” one reader said.
Below is a sampling of responses from Boston.com readers who shared their thoughts on removing street parking in favor of more pedestrian and public transit spaces.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
“Many streets, including Newbury Street, should be pedestrian-only except for emergency vehicles, with deliveries only allowed until the early morning. Retailers may fear they’d lose customers, but as someone who lives in the area, the overcrowding on the sidewalks caused by people needing to stay out of the way of car traffic is one of the big reasons I never go there. Banning cars could lead to more business, at least from people like me.” — Charlie, Boston
“One of the best outcomes of the pandemic is more livable vibrant streets with less emphasis on prioritizing cars.” — Mark, Arlington
“Other cities have closed streets and even small (or big) neighborhoods to traffic. Local residents have access and deliveries are tightly contained. It is really so much better! Go and see one. If you want to see it to believe it, go to Bordeaux, France. A major part of the city was traffic restricted. It pivoted a city in decline to a thriving city, demonstrating that fears of business decline are unfounded. Imagine what benefit it can bring to our already thriving city.” — Glen, Boston
“I’d like to see streets turn green, as in grass, with outdoor patios for restaurants, benches, walkways, etc. instead of streets for cars and parking lots. ‘Don’t it always seem to go/That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone/They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.’ — Tim, Wenham
“I totally support changing two-way streets with parking to one-way streets with dedicated bike and mobility lanes or outdoor space instead. Less cars on our streets, more people instead.” — Jason, Jamaica Plain
“Charge a fee for drivers who use the downtown streets like they do in London. Start to eliminate some of the parking garages in downtown Boston to use for other purposes. Open up more partnerships with bike and moped ride services. Move Boston into the 21st century and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.” — Anonymous
“How do you plan to make up the lost revenue from people avoiding Boston because it’s now a major headache to find parking or navigate because of street closures? I know I won’t be coming to Boston if it means having to use the filthy unreliable T.” — Anonymous
“Remove the bike lane around the Boston Public Garden. It causes major traffic and is not fair to those who live in the area. Parking is a premium here. Area residents, who also own cars, need to have their needs considered as well. It’s not just a city for bikers. Decisions are made by politicians…who don’t live in this area.” — Anonymous
“In the winter it snows and makes biking impossible. Factor in rain and other inclement weather and it does not work. Narrowing the roads for unused bike lanes creates more traffic, more grid lock and more carbon dioxide. Combining bike and bus lanes is probably the best compromise, as it helps public transit speed up and become more competitive while also creating safe biking lanes.” — Jay, Dorchester
“I feel there is enough space for bicycles. We don’t have the wide streets like New York City and many streets here in Boston are already narrow enough. Losing more driving space is just going to lead to confusion and road rage.” — Jocelyn, Boston
“Stop outdoor dining. The pandemic is over. Enforce strict rules against the Ubers and Lyfts blocking a lane waiting for customers or deliveries.” — Anonymous
“Bike lanes don’t work in Boston. They create more traffic congestion by taking away room used for cars. Cars are still the predominant mode of transport for the majority of people in Boston and this is not going to change until a decent subway system is made available. Have a look at the traffic around the Public Garden on a Saturday. The bike lanes are empty and the car lanes plugged. This never used to happen. Moreover, the people using Citi Bikes/Blue Bikes end up on the sidewalk and not in the lanes intended for bikes.” — Paul Lyons, Boston resident for 26 years
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.
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