Photo: Drivers parking their vehicles in the new parking lane in front of the Post Office on Concord Avenue.
If you were startled recently seeing cars and SUVs seemingly abandoned in the middle of Concord Avenue, no, it’s not evidence of the beginning of a zombie apocalypse or the Rapture. What you have come across is the new traffic and parking scheme for one of Belmont’s busiest thoroughfares to promote safe cycling for bike commuters and students traveling to the new Belmont High School.
As part of the Concord Avenue restriping project, the Transportation Advisory Committee, in conjunction with designer Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates and Belmont’s Office of Community Development and the Department of Public Works, has reorient the road lines so the bike lane is closest to the curb, separated by a three-foot buffer, then the parking lane and then the travel lane, according to the TAC.
“The Department of Public Works expects to finish the painting [Thursday, Aug. 18],” said Glenn Clancy, director of Community Development. ”There will be green colored crossings added at side streets but likely not until September given DPW workload and constraints.”
This new configuration is eastbound from the Unitarian Church to the Cambridge border at Blanchard Road and westbound from Underwood Street to just past the US Post Office.
The project came about when in 2021 the High School Traffic Working Group expressed a desire to explore the possibility of reconfiguring the bike lane and parking lane on Concord Avenue.
A deep dive into the year-long TAC process and the decisions made by the designers can be found here: Concord Avenue Striping Plan Briefing
With the striping complete, Belmont Police’s Traffic Division will now step in to help with the transition.
“In regards to enforcement, we have started educating drivers about the new pattern,” said Sgt. Paul Garabedian, supervisor of the department’s Traffic Divison.
“We will be giving out warnings and talking with people when we see a violation in hopes of people getting a better understanding. We will have officers on foot and bicycles to be able to talk with drivers over the new few weeks while people adjust to the new design,” said Garabedian.
So far, town officials have not heard much from the public on the new striping design.
“Other than occasional complaints that ‘Belmont is trying to look like Somerville and Cambridge’, I have not received any complaints about the new configuration,” said Clancy. In regards to inquires about the design, Garabedian directed those questions to the TAC Chair David Coleman “as they worked with the design team hired by the town on this project.”
Where the discussion has been lively is on-line with comments to Police updates or Facebook pages running about 50/50 whether they love the new setup or hate it. One resident made a short video outside the Concord Avenue Post Office reportedly showing the danger in exiting adjacent the travel lane. Some residents were annoyed no notice was provided by the town of the change while others believe the new standards are confusing and unworkable.
Supporters, on the other hand, welcome what they consider provides a safer way along Concord Avenue.