Southwest Corridor Park



Southwest Corridor Park - Parkland Management Advisory Committee (PMAC)

Southwest Corridor Park Path Survey
Winter/Spring 2015

In February 2015, PMAC’s bicycle-pedestrian path ad hoc committee launched a survey about the Southwest Corridor Park path.  We publicized the survey via various neighborhood and bicycle or pedestrian-related email lists and social media pages.  We encouraged people to share the survey with their own networks, striving, not necessarily for a random sample, but for a broad selection of path users with a variety of viewpoints.

We received 595 survey responses. Many different organizations and people were very supportive of the survey, and sent it out to their email lists and/or posted it on organizational Facebook pages or Twitter feeds.  It is great to see that, based on the large number of survey results and the extensive comments, many people clearly care a lot about the SWC and think deeply about how to improve the SWC.

Summary/Analysis of Results

What do people say about the Southwest Corridor Park?

  • It's a place where you meet people.
  • I bike, jog or walk my dog in the park every day
  • It's the best part of my commute to work
  • I love the gardens

Q1: How do you usually use the Southwest Corridor Park paths? (Check all that apply)

When asked how they generally use the Southwest Corridor path, about 75% of survey respondents said bicycle, an overlapping 73% said walking, and another overlapping 30% said jogging/running. Smaller numbers chose walking with stroller, skateboarding, rollerblading, working along the corridor or other responses.  Among those who said “other,” most mentioned walking with dogs.

Q2: About how often do you travel on the Southwest Corridor Park paths?

Most survey respondents are regular users of the corridor – four in ten reported that they use the corridor 5-7 days per week; another three in ten said they use the corridor 1-4 days per week.

Q3: Do you live and/or work near the Southwest Corridor Park?  (Check all that apply)

57% of survey respondents live or work in Jamaica Plain, 23% in the Back Bay or South End, 16% in Roxbury, 5% in the Fenway neighborhood and 14% in other neighborhoods or cities. Among the other neighborhoods and cities, Roslindale was the most frequently mentioned.

Q4: In the past 12 months, have you encountered issues regarding communication, courtesy and civility among bicyclists, pedestrians and others on the path that affect your use and enjoyment of the SWC pathways? If yes, describe.

Over half of respondents say that they "rarely or never" encounter issues about civility or courtesy on the path.... and another four out ten say "yes, sometimes," and only about one out of ten say "yes, frequently."

Q4: In the past 12 months, have you encountered issues regarding communication, courtesy and civility among bicyclists, pedestrians and others on the path that affect your use and enjoyment of the SWC pathways? If yes, describe.

Answer Options

Response Percent

Response Count

Yes, frequently

9.8%

57

Yes, sometimes

33.4%

194

Rarely or never

54.0%

314

Unsure

2.8%

16

These responses are somewhat correlated with location and mode of travel.  Respondents who live or work near the Back Bay/South End (where the park has only is a single path) are most likely to say they "rarely or never" encounter issues and Roxbury area respondents (who often mentioned issues related to walking on the bike path vs. on the sidewalk along the street near Roxbury Crossing and Jackson Square) slightly more likely to say "sometimes" or "frequently."   Joggers, walkers and people who both walk and bike are most likely to report that they rarely or never encounter issues. 

Q4: In the past 12 months, have you encountered issues regarding communication, courtesy and civility among bicyclists, pedestrians and others on the path that affect your use and enjoyment of the SWC pathways? If yes, describe.

By Mode of Travel

Rarely or never

Jog

63%

Walk-Jog

61%

Walk-Bike

60%

Walk

59%

Bike-Jog

52%

Walk-Bike-Jog

50%

Bike

44%

By Neighborhood

Rarely or never

Back Bay/South End

67%

Fenway

55%

JP

51%

Roxbury

50%

 

Q5: The Southwest Corridor Park bike path was created as a dual path system from Forest Hills to Mass. Ave. But while the path was designed as a dual path, people often walk on the bike path, especially where the walking path is a concrete sidewalk near the street and less desirable than the bike path.  Which of the following three options do you support?

One of the core questions in the survey presented three options about sharing the path, asking whether the dual path should be generally acknowledged as shared, or whether the bicycle path should be kept for bicycles only, or to vary the treatment depending on the layout of the path.

Q5: The Southwest Corridor Park bike path was created as a dual path system from Forest Hills to Mass. Ave. But while the path was designed as a dual path, people often walk on the bike path, especially where the walking path is a concrete sidewalk near the street and less desirable than the bike path.  Which of the following three options do you support?

Answer Options

Response Percent

Response Count

Option 1: Acknowledge that this is a shared path (bike/pedestrian).

26.8%

152

Option 2: Keep the bike path for bicycles only.  Pedestrians should consistently be directed to the walking paths.

29.6%

168

Option 3: Vary the treatment:  When the pedestrian path is a sidewalk near the street, treat the bike path as a shared use path.  Where the pedestrian path is in the park, direct pedestrians there.

43.7%

248

Overall, about seven in ten respondents favor some level of sharing (Option 1 plus Option 3) and three in ten prefer that the bicycle path be kept for bicycles only (Option 2).

What did people say is most important in creating a positive bike-pedestrian culture?

  1. Signaling when you pass using voice or bell.
  2. Yielding to let others pass by.
  3. Traveling on the right-hand side of the path and moving toward the right to let others go by.
  4. Traveling at a comfortable, safe speed.
  5. When walking with dogs, choosing a leash that keeps your dog safe and out of the flow of bicyclists and others.
  6. Being mindful of time of day - such as expecting lots of bicycle commuters during commuting hours.
  7. Being aware of the "mixing areas" where different paths/modes come together at intersections, T stations, playgrounds, etc.

Artwork by a Wake-up-the-Earth festival attendee.

In comments, many of those who chose Option 2 pointed out that the SWC is the only dedicated bike route from the south side of the city into downtown.... a rare and valued piece of bicycle infrastructure. Some mentioned the environmental benefits of bicycle commuting. And many mentioned that they feel it is dangerous to have pedestrians, children and dogs in the path of high-speed cyclists. They also mentioned that pedestrians often blocked the path, either unaware of their surroundings or deliberately refusing to move for bicyclists.

But other commenters -- from both bicyclists and pedestrians (and, most typically, people who both walk and bike) -- said that a minority of bicyclists travel too fast and are aggressive. And many said that it's natural that people will want to walk, jog, bike with children, walk with strollers, skateboard, etc., on the path that is inside the park and not on a sidewalk that is next to the street. Many said that problems among park users are rare, and that common sense and courtesy were most important.  

Many commenters also mentioned the challenge of jogging on the sidewalk, noting that it is much safer to jog on the bicycle path in those areas where the alternative is a sidewalk along the street.

Bicycle speed was a central issue.  Some respondents cited the desire for high-speed bicycle travel, while other respondents said that high-speed bicyclists created a danger.  Some bicyclists described accidents or near-accidents that happened when they or a friend stopped suddenly or veered off the path because a pedestrian didn’t move out of the way or because a child walked into their path.  These incidents raise the issue of speed (as well as path usage).  As one commenter noted,  

“It seems to me that option 2 [keeping the bicycle path for bicycles only] is not a viable alternative.  It doesn’t seem enforceable in terms of keeping pedestrians off the more desirable route. Additionally, bicyclists need to have a reasonable expectation for acceptable travel speeds. We cannot create an "expressway for bikes" as there will inevitably be serious accidents / injury for pedestrians unfamiliar with the area.”

Responses on this question were correlated with responses to Question 4 about issues of civility and communication.  Respondents who said they “rarely or never” encountered issues were more likely to advocate some level of sharing along the path.  Responses were also correlated with mode of travel and neighborhood as shown below.

Respondents

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Some level of sharing (Option 1 + Option 3)

All

27%

30%

44%

70%

 

 

 

 

 

Mode of Travel

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

(Option 1 + Option 3)

All Joggers

36%

18%

47%

82%

All Walkers

30%

24%

46%

76%

All Bicyclists

24%

34%

42%

66%

 

 

 

 

 

Mode of Travel

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

(Option 1 + Option 3)

Jog

86%

0%

14%

100%

Walk-Jog

42%

6%

53%

94%

Walk-Bike-Jog

33%

19%

48%

81%

Walk

31%

19%

50%

81%

Walk-Bike

26%

32%

42%

68%

Bike-Jog

26%

32%

42%

68%

Bike

12%

51%

37%

49%

 

 

 

 

 

Neighborhood

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

(Option 1 + Option 3)

Roxbury

31%

19%

49%

81%

Back Bay / South End

32%

21%

47%

79%

Jamaica Plain

27%

31%

43%

69%

Q6: When you walk or bike along the Southwest Corridor Park (in the sections between Mass Ave and Forest Hills), which path do you generally choose?

When asked about whether, as a pedestrian, they currently use the path designated for pedestrians, or, as a bicyclist, the path designated for bicyclists, responses confirmed that pedestrians (and joggers) often choose to use the bicycle-designated path where it is the preferable option, while bicyclists typically keep to the bicycle-designated path.

In the section from Mass. Ave. to Forest Hills….

Yes

No

Varies

Q6a.) [For pedestrians] As a pedestrian, I generally walk on the path designated for pedestrians.

201

28

217

 

Percent

45%

6%

49%

Q6b.) [For bicyclists] As a bicyclist, I generally bike on the path designated for bicyclists.

425

1

19

 

Percent

96%

0%

4%


Q6a: As a pedestrian, I generally walk on the path designated for pedestrians.

By Mode of Travel

Yes

Varies

No

Walk-Bike-Jog

32%

62%

5%

Walk-Bike

46%

46%

6%

Bike-Jog

41%

45%

14%

Walk-Jog

37%

60%

3%

Bike

71%

24%

2%

Walk

42%

44%

6%

Jog

29%

43%

29%

 

 

 

 

By Neighborhood

Yes

Varies

No

Jamaica Plain

39%

52%

8%

Roxbury

43%

51%

5%

Back Bay/South End

51%

40%

2%

Q7: Please rate each of the following statements:

The next question asked about current signage and messaging.  These responses, along with some related comments, indicated that there is some confusion (or lack of clarity) about path designations, about guidelines for civility, courtesy and communication, and about how to proceed around intersections and playgrounds.

Answer Options

Yes

Somewhat

No

Unsure

a.) Current signs and path markings make it clear which paths are designated for bicyclists and which are designated for pedestrians.

146

312

95

20

 

Percent

25%

54%

17%

3%

b.) Current signs and path markings are clear around intersections, playgrounds or other park features.

118

253

157

40

 

Percent

21%

45%

28%

7%

c.) Current signs and path markings communicate clear expectations about how to share the path among bicyclists, pedestrians and others.

51

183

290

43

 

Percent

9%

32%

51%

8%

d.) There is a "culture" in the Southwest Corridor Park that promotes good communication, civility and courtesy among all modes of transportation.

87

288

123

73

 

Percent

15%

50%

22%

13%

 

Open-Ended Comments

Throughout the survey results, there were numerous comments about specific improvements that would be helpful in the park, including improvements to signal timings, ramps and crosswalks at intersections; surface improvements; trimming shrubbery to improve sight lines near intersections, and other improvements.  There were many suggestions about widening the path or re-designing the pedestrian path in order to have equally desirable routes for pedestrians and bicyclists.  There was praise for snow removal over the winter, commonly mentioned since the survey was launched in February after the many Winter 2015 blizzards. 

Respondents offered a variety of suggestions about signage.  Many comments focused on how to improve signs and markings to provide clarity around which path is which and to provide signage around playgrounds. Comments mentioned the importance of minimizing the potential "clutter" of too many signs, and many commenters said they prefered path markings, when possible, rather than signs.   Some ideas included:

One of the themes throughout the comments was person-to-person civility and communication, often seen as important as signage.  Negative communication is mentioned – but also the overall climate of friendliness.

Social media was mentioned, especially with respect to reports about path conditions, but also as a means of promoting the park, publicizing park events and sharing best practices.

Comments from a wide variety of park users expressed a call for civility in bike-pedestrian culture. 

 

About the Open-Ended Comments

Because there were such extensive comments, all very thoughtful, but with so many opposing points of view, it was important to find a way to analyze the comments to look for areas of agreement. Committee members and DCR staff reviewed the comments, using text analytics to analyze frequently-mentioned words and ideas.

Throughout the survey analysis, the committee studied results looking at areas of agreement among respondents. We noted that most bicyclists and pedestrians recognize common ground, sharing an appreciation for healthy, environmentally-friendly modes of travel. Some survey respondents connected the current bicycle-pedestrian issues to the park’s history, noting that in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a growing awareness of the way that highways and high-speed traffic through urban areas isolated people from the communities they passed through and created safety and health issues. There was then, and is now, an interest in slowing down and encouraging bicycling, walking and other means of active transportation.

Areas of agreement and shared values across responses and points of view included: