Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Muddy River Crossing at Route 9

By Nick Germany-Wald

Between Huntington and Brookline Avenues on Route 9, the Muddy River Path from the Riverway meets the Jamaicaway to travel out to Forest Hills. This bicycle and walking path spans from Franklin Park in Dorchester all the way to the Public Garden. To traverse this span, bicyclists and pedestrians both must cross Route 9. This crossing is less than acceptable.

Route 9 is a major route to and from Boston for vehicular traffic. The span of Route 9 (Google Maps) that path users must cross includes an on-off ramp to the Jamaicaway, a turn onto Pond Ave and six lanes of Route 9 traffic. In the following image, I’ve marked vehicular movements in blue, cyclist/pedestrian movements in red and crosswalks in pink.

Rt 9 traffic movements

users crossing Rt 9

As you can see, there is a lot for non-vehicular traffic to contend with.  Coming from Jamaica Plain (to the right in the image), users of the path must first cross the Jamaicaway on-off ramp (crosswalk 1) to wait at the end of crosswalk 3. Then, users must wait to cross eastbound Route 9’s three lanes of traffic. If they’re lucky, they can cross Route 9 westbound in a single trip, but the unlucky must wait on the median between for safe passage.

biker waiting at median
The width of the median is barely large enough to accommodate two bicycles side-by-side, although there are frequently many more cyclists attempting to cross. The median is also too narrow to protect an average sized bicycle from traffic on both sides, so cyclists are left exposed to the traffic.

biker crossing on foot

While the median is a bit of refuge from the traffic, many cyclists are intimidated by the large amount of traffic and dismount from their bikes to cross on foot. 

Here is a video of a biker and pedestrian attempting to cross Route 9. 

Note that for nearly the entire duration of the video, both the pedestrian and biker are waiting for a safe gap in traffic so they can cross.

This crossing has many problems from a safety and infrastructure perspective:

1.   Users must cross turbulent traffic
                  a. 6 Lanes of Route 9
                  b. Jamaicaway On/Off Ramp
                  c. Pond Avenue Traffic 
2.   The median between eastbound and westbound Route 9 traffic is too small to inspire safety in crossers.
      3.   No indication to vehicular traffic that pedestrians or cyclists will be crossing Route 9
a.       Unless familiar with the area, vehicular traffic has no idea they’re crossing over a busy path
      4.   No signage for path users
a.       No sign indicating where to cross
                                                               i.      Median gap is only indication
b.      Jamaicaway users headed towards the Muddy River Path are dumped into a grassy area with only a trodden path to guide them
c.       Muddy River Path users cross Route 9 and must find the Jamaicaway roughly 130 feet away, across the Jamaicaway on/off ramp

Although there are a multitude of problems, they are not difficult to solve. In the next image I’ve drawn my solution to the problem with 5 fixes.

improved Rt 9 crossing

1 & 3. Add high visibility crosswalks, painted with zebra stripes and on field of the green paint Boston uses  for bike lanes, with shark teeth.
2. Add an asphalt path indicating the continuation of the bike and walking path
4. Add an asphalt path on the Muddy River Path to remove bicyclists from River St and strongly indicate the continuation of the path.
5. Widen the median on either side to create a safer refuge.

These fixes would make for a much safer and more usable crossing than is currently present: a notch in the ground.


  1. made by a friend

  2. I think your analysis of the ideal future crossing over Rt 9 is sound. However, your interpretation of the current crossing misses a key fact. This isn't a badly marked crosswalk. It's an informal crossing. Pedestrians and cyclists coming from Jamaica Pond are expected to cross Pond Ave and the on ramp, then turn left and not cross Rt 9 until they get to the marked crosswalk at the corner of Brookline Ave. It is a design that favors the convenience of drivers over the safety of pedestrians, as pedestrians will of course find a direct route. Seems very similar to the crossing of Southwest Corridor Park at Mass Ave before its redesign.