There's been a battle over bicycle lanes along a one-mile stretch of Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington  since the Massachusetts Department of Transportation floated the prospect of nearly $7 million in federal and state aid to repair the deteriorating corridor.

For those unfamiliar, Mass Ave. is a heavily traveled, unmarked four-lane road lined with mostly businesses. If you're a motorist and want to make a left during rush hour, you've got to risk collision as you inch into oncoming traffic or wait for 15 minutes with your blinker on until a beneficent driver allows you to make your turn. If you're a cyclist traveling the road, be prepared to dodge cars backing out of parking spaces. Pedestrians have been injured and even killed trying to cross the wide street, which has few signaled crosswalks.

It's clear that Mass Ave. needs improvements, but forming a plan that will satisfy pedestrians, cyclists and drivers has proved difficult. In order to win the $6.8 million in federal and state funds, Arlington must submit a final plan to Mass DOT by September that includes accommodations for cyclists.  

This is where the town has hit a road block.

The town's plan would turn Mass Ave. into a three lane road instead of a four lane road in order to create a bicycle lane. This plan was put to a nonbinding vote last month, and though Arlington residents  narrowly voted to keep the road at four lanes for vehicles, the Board of Selectmen decided to support the town's three lane plan.  

Those against the creation of a bicycle lane along Mass Ave. say it would create more traffic congestion and make the road more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists.

A WGBH poll found that the majority of Massachusetts residents believe bicycle lanes are an effective way to prevent accidents, but many towns- much like Arlington- are grappling with how to safely create bicycle lanes without interrupting already congested roadways.

Boston Public Radio's Jim Braude and Margery Eagan spoke with two people who stand on either side of the issue of bicycle lanes. Both have a vested interest in improving Mass Ave., but different approaches for doing it.  

Eric Berger, of the East Arlington Concerned Citizens Committee:


Adam Auster, of the East Arlington Livable Streets Coalition:

There's lots of elements to consider when undertaking road improvements: safety, traffic analysis, sustainability. Is your town considering similar bicycle lanes? Does your town need to improve bicycle safety along major roads? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section. 

Right of Way is a news partnership between ​WGBH News and GateHouse Media's Wicked Local network that examines, from the view of bicyclists, drivers and pedestrians, issues surrounding the sharing of our roads.