Franklin Park gets bike paths

John Ruch

Add Franklin Park to the list of Jamaica Plain hotspots that are turning bicycle-friendly.

Two long loops of pavement through the park will become official shared-use paths for bikes and pedestrians sometime this summer.

The paths—one around White Stadium and one connecting Circuit Drive to American Legion Highway—are already used by bicyclists. But that was technically against park rules until the Boston Parks Commission made an exception last month for the new path plan, which was developed by the Franklin Park Coalition (FPC) in concert with Dorchester’s DotBike.

“It really was bringing park rules into alignment with the way people want to enjoy Franklin Park,” said Margaret Dyson, the city’s director of historic parks, in a Gazette interview.

Dyson said that the Boston Parks Department also has moved some large stones slightly at park entrances to allow bicycles to pass through easily.

The paved paths are the remnant of 120-year-old carriage paths that later were used by cars until around the 1970s, Dyson said. Since then, the paths have been used by pedestrians and also, against park rules, by bicyclists.

Talk of creating formal and improved bike access through Franklin Park came out of an official transportation study that began two years ago and is still unfinished, though some of its recommendations have been carried out, including the addition last year of bike lanes on Circuit Drive.

FPC Executive Director Christine Poff said that bike path planning began last fall with the measuring of the paths to see if they were wide enough to be safe for shared use. While DotBikes was a key partner, Poff said, volunteer help came from several other organizations, including JP’s Neighborhood School and JP Bikes.

The paths are 10 feet or more wide in many spots, which is enough for shared-use, and persuaded the Parks Commission to approve the plan. Next will come the painting of shared-use stencil markings on the pavement and some type of signage.

Poff and Dyson said that the signs will not only encourage cycling, but warn against it in danger spots where bikes still are not allowed, such as sidewalks and narrow paths where pedestrians could be run down.

“We still care about people being courteous to one another,” Dyson said.

A remaining issue for all users of the paths is their condition, which includes cracks and potholes in many spots. Poff and Dyson both referred to the shared-use path plan as leverage to put a repaving request into the next fiscal year’s capital budget.

Bike-friendly improvements are springing up around the neighborhood. They include new bike lanes on Washington Street near the Forest Hills T Station; a bike storage cage for commuters at the T Station; and plans for bike lanes or shared-use markings on all of Centre and South streets and in Jackson Square.

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