Somerville To East Boston (+Logan Airport) 100% by Bicycle: Detailed Trip Report + Future Outlook
In my first ever Medium post, I shared some cool walking / cycling paths near Logan airport that are very accessible to any casual traveler who wants to stretch their legs for 20 min after a long flight. I also documented my experience traveling to the airport via bicycle + one stop on the Blue Line.
While the current global pandemic is keeping many of us away from airports, it is also inspiring a wariness about close-quarters public transit and a wave of appreciation for bicycle transit.
A few readers from Reddit and Facebook wrote to me about the alternative East Boston <-> Somerville route through Everett/Chelsea, which is indeed 100% by bicycle. I was aware of this route but was also concerned about travel on notorious truck-filled Beacham street. On a Sunday morning when trucks would be most scarce, I gave it a try! Here is detailed intel for other intrepid cyclists researching the possibility. First I talk about the lead up from Somerville to Beacham, then the trek down Beacham, and then I mention two alternative routes that keep you off of Beacham.
TL;DR: Having tried a number of options, I believe that as of 2020, connecting from Everett to Chelsea via 2nd street (purple line on the overview map below) is the most sane thing to do, even if slightly longer. You can still detour briefly along the scenic boardwalk off of Commandants way even if you opt for the 2nd street route.
An exciting note is that it seems like Chelsea has been planning a significant redesign of Beacham to be more favorable to cyclists and pedestrians.
- June 2018: Here’s a 186 page Beacham St. Redesign report from Chelsea, MA published in June, 2018.
- May 2019: Here are tons of support letters received through May, 2019 for the project from city officials and organizations like the Boston Cyclists Union and Livable Streets (see page 30–37 for relevant public comments)
- February 2020: Here’s an article from streetsblog.org suggesting that the City of Chelsea has requested grants from the Gaming Commission to fund the Beacham St redesign. Grant announcements are expected Spring, 2020. Trading casino development for bicycle infrastructure funding is the game that cities must play these days.
Copying again the main map for reference: here’s an overview of my research trip. (To orient you: to the left is East Somerville, top is Everett, right is Chelsea, and the McArdle Bridge on the lower right feeds into East Boston)
From East Somerville to the Start of Beacham Street
Starting in East Somerville, as you head along Broadway towards the Alford St. Bridge, you will notice Schraffts historic landmark (a former candy company). Everett recently installed protected bike lanes in the roundabout. The bridge itself has a buffered bike lane, but cars speed pretty quickly so I personally feel better on the (almost always empty) sidewalk.
Once you’re over the bridge, you’ll immediately notice Encore casino development in the distance. The buffered bike lane turns to just a line at this point, but the sidewalks remain barren so it’s pretty easy to ride them.
As you approach Encore, you have two choices: you can either take a right onto Dexter St/Robin St, or continue straight a bit more and take a right directly onto Beacham. (You can also continue still more straight and take a right on 2nd St, which I mention later on as a Beacham St. alternative). Initially, I opted for the Dexter St/Robin St detour.
Dexter St is calm. When you see James E Kiduff Quality Produce, take a hard left onto Robin Street, which has a small sidewalk on the left that you can ride on. The right side of Robin street has a weird fence blocking off what looks like it’d make a really nice bike lane ;) As you approach the end of Robin Street, you’ll be facing Beacham for the first time.
Beacham actually started out kind of tame — there was a lame but existent sidewalk. I definitely had a ‘well this isn’t so bad!’ moment. However, it turned out I hadn’t yet entered the ‘zone of insanity’ as marked in the overview map. Soon enough, the sidewalk disappeared, blocked off by that oversized vehicle in the picture below, and transformed into an extremely bizarre, desolate and hyper-industrial chunk of land.
As visible on the photo below and to the left, there were no street lights, no sidewalks, and not even any lines on the pavement. There were a few weekend trucks passing by, and probably a great many more on weekdays. This single intersection of Beacham is probably the principle reason why I WOULD NOT recommend the ride. Crossing from where I took this photo to the opposite corner (Behen street) totally sucked. But continuing straight on Beacham street sucks more. Once I made it across to Behen Street (with a great deal of caution), the road quieted a bit, and I passed by an Amazon fulfillment center to the left. Still no sidewalks/street lines though, and every reason to believe this street is mobbed with trucks on weekdays.
Heading along Behen/Market street, there’s such an expanse of wasted land, including a seemingly abandoned train track. Could this be the site of a future tree-filled rail trail? We can dream !
Rounding onto Market street, you enter another sidewalk-less, truck-lined expanse that must suck a lot on weekdays. I hugged that dirt patch lining the left of the street, and popped out at a surprisingly well manicured post office.
Hovering on the post office lawn and looking out at Beacham street, I was surprised and somewhat relieved to see another cyclist. Looking right along Beacham (which morphs into Williams soon after this point) there was something that you could maybe call a sidewalk if you squinted. It didn’t last the whole way though. I carried on as best I could.
Eventually the end of Beacham/Williams arrives, and infrastructure improves dramatically. PHEW! There was so much grit and air pollution from the streets I’d just covered that it felt like I’d just smoked a pack of cigarettes.
Beacham Street Alternatives
If you want to skip the last part of Beacham/Williams, and if you’re willing to walk your bike for about 45 seconds over a heavily littered water pipe and through a bit of unmarked trail (it’s not too bad, but unfortunately I don’t have a picture) then you’ll trade that weird couple of minutes for a shockingly nice treat:
Navigating to this boardwalk still requires some time on Beacham. If you want to 100% skip Beacham Street, another possibility is to continue on Broadway in Everett even further until you hit 2nd Street, which will take you all the way to Commandants way. 2nd street is still industrial, but is tamer than Beacham. In exchange for the extra bit of mileage, you gain sidewalks the entire route to ride on. I’ve copied the overview map again below for reference — 2nd street is the purple line.
Things get a lot better in Chelsea. Commandants way feeds into Mary O’Malley State Park, which is a hidden gem. That “No Trucks Allowed” sign was especially relieving coming off of Beacham St just moments before.
The path feeds you out of the park and under Route 1. There is a tiny park that has been recently built under the bridge with bike parking, exercise equipment, and various paths. Once you’re on Broadway in Chelsea, there are lots of reasonable streets to travel on. There are also a few very picturesque Brownstone-lined streets that you can explore (not pictured here). One way or another, you’ll hit the Andrew MacArdle Bridge, with a clear pile of salt(?) as a landmark. The bridge has sidewalks on both sides to ride on, but the side to the left if you’re facing towards East Boston (on the side of the salt pile) is slightly wider.
After passing across the bridge, you have made it to East Boston, and can continue on quieter streets to the airport! If you choose to hug the coast, you’ll also get to enjoy Lopresti Park in East Boston. Alternatively, you can find your way to the East Boston Greenway Connector. See my other guide for a few more details here.
Hope this guide is helpful to some of you out there. If you are looking to avoid public transit, especially during the era of the pandemic, why not give some variation of this route a try.