Opinions collide over bike and bus lanes in Malden

Biker in traffic along Route 60. (Photo by Kim Brookes)

By Sabrina Monteiros

“For years I’ve biked and one of the advantages is not being stuck in traffic. I only started owning a car at 50 because my wife needed it,” stated City Council member Stephen Winslow in a recent interview for Neighborhood View. Winslow has been a Malden resident since 1989. 

Traffic is only one of a variety of issues that were presented to City Council members at their meeting on September 5, 2023. It was a long night for those who attended as Council members addressed an issue that had been weighing on everyone’s mind: the bus and bike lanes. Many residents voiced their opinions on the matter. More speakers supported the bike lanes than opposed them, though both sides were vocal. 

One of the many supporters was Malden High School student Nicholas Duggan who spoke on behalf of the Malden Youth Civics Council. “These lanes represent progress, safety, and equity…” said Duggan, “it’s about leveling the playing field ensuring that bike riders and bus commuters and drivers all have equal access to our roads.”

A biker rides in traffic on the bike lane along Route 60. A bus up ahead is using the bus lane. (Photo by Kim Brookes.)

As a frequent driver and cyclist, Patricia Fonseca sees “both sides” of the argument. She did not attend the meeting, but shared her perspective. “From the driver’s point of view, it takes up too much space. But from the bikers, it’s the best thing they could have done due to safety but I am scared of bike riding sometimes because I never know if the person that’s driving is paying attention to traffic.”

Another point is that whether it be a biker or driver, some people simply don’t follow the rules of the road. “If we as drivers have to pay attention to traffic then they as bikers have to too,” said Fonseca. “If we stop on red then they do too. And a lot of people don’t.”

Many residents feel their voices weren’t heard prior to these major changes. Janice Rice, who spoke at the Sept. 3 meeting, states, “It would have been nice to have people that actually live in the city, in the neighborhoods, have a say.” 

A challenging spot for the bike and bus lanes is at the intersection of Florence and Main St. Residents have complained that cars need to go into the bike lane to make a right turn, which is unsafe for bikers. (Photo by Kim Brookes)

Billy Spadafora posted a photo to the Malden Politics page on October 25th, of members running for city council who he thought should be voted against due to this issue. “…We should have been allowed to have a voice with the non-binding ballot question that every one of the councilors below voted against,” Spadafora stated in the caption, then listing the Malden councilors he referenced. 

Similar to Malden Politics is the Keep Malden Moving facebook page. Whereas the politics page is more general, both pages are heavily utilized for posting and arguing about the lanes. On September 2nd of 2023, William Spadafora, Sr. constructed a public petition online called “Keep Malden Moving – Put The Brakes On Bus And Bike Lanes.” So far, it has received 325 signatures and the next goal is to reach 500. Amongst those who were contacted from these typically vocal groups, some were unresponsive and others declined to comment for this story. 

One of the driving factors leading up to the bus lane project was when the MBTA installed GPS systems onto buses. It was built to track their real time and determine how quickly they were moving. Route 60 in Malden was one of the many locations experiencing delays in the Boston area. As a result, roughly five years ago, the MBTA requested something be done about it. The City of Malden declined at the time but later on agreed to discuss options upon their second request in 2021. 

A major concern, however, is how the current design of Route 60 is affecting other moving parts in Malden. “I am not opposed to bike lanes or bus lanes,” states Rice, “but that is the most unsafe place, and I wouldn’t let my family go on that bike path.” 

Residents on both sides of the issue agree that this busy location along Route 60 is among the most problematic. Cars turning into the Stop & Shop parking lot need to turn into the bike and bus lanes.

As much as Duggan supports the lanes and feels most of them are reliable, he also emphasizes a need for changes. “Quite a few aren’t built properly. Having the bike lanes in the streets doesn’t really solve the problem of bikers needing a place to bike because it’s not safe.” 

Fonseca emphasizes the need for these lanes as it is helpful for those utilizing public transportation. She does however make a suggestion that “if there’s no bus at that moment, they should let cars use it. But when buses are coming, cars should move for them. Especially on Route 60 and Center Street.”

Winslow confirms that Route 60 is an issue. “It’s really a challenge because we only have $1 million to do something, so cities and towns are spending that amount to see what works and what doesn’t before a full $50 million. This is just a trial.” 

It’s taking roughly two years to implement these lanes, which began by striping and updating old technology. The new boxes were just re-timed and optimized three months ago. Traffic is really dependent on the amount of moving cars at that given time, regardless of the implementation in new technology. 

Another perspective to consider is the voices of those who have not been accounted for throughout these years. “There are many renters and they tend not to be active voters,” Winslow explained. This is an issue because renters tend to utilize bikes and public transportation more frequently in comparison to active voters, so the majority of voters tend to be car owners and are therefore, “voting in their own interest.”

A bike lane along Exchange St. (Photo by Sabrina Monteiro)

Residents supporting the bike lanes underscore the need for alternative methods of transportation to limit the number of cars on the road that create traffic, cause air pollution, and burn fossil fuels. Biking is also viewed as a healthier lifestyle than using cars, especially for short commutes. Other communities across the country and around the world have created a culture that is less car-centric.

“Bike lanes encourage more biking,” says Malden resident Karen Phillips.

The question remains whether or not the lanes will be redesigned for improvements or if they’ll ultimately be discontinued.

“If we don’t change the roads,” said Winslow, “then we’re stuck in the 1970s when we should be building for the 2070s.” 

About Sabrina Monteiro 4 Articles
Sabrina Monteiro is a senior at UMass Lowell, majoring in English with a concentration in Journalism and Writing. She is also currently interning as a news reporter for UMA. As someone who grew up in Malden, she is very involved and passionate in writing about events that occur in the Malden community.

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