With the discussion at last night's Harvard Task Force meeting and the recent Globe Watch column about getting from North Brighton and North Allston to Herter Park along the Charles River, I thought it would be interesting to compare the level of access here with the opportunities to cross to the Charles from the Back Bay.
These two areas are comparable in their length (a bit less than 1 mile) and that they are two of the only areas of Boston where a residential area is in close proximity to the river. Elsewhere there are large institutional landowners (Harvard, BU) or industrial owners like CSX (Beacon Yards railroad).
In the Back Bay, crossings to the river (going from east to west) start at Mass Ave with the ramp that leads down from the Mass Ave bridge to the river. Traditional overpasses cross near Fairfield and Dartmouth Streets. The fourth bridge over this one mile stretch of road is the iconic Arthur Fiedler Footbridge near Arlington Street. A 5th overpass is just a 1/3 of a mile away at the end of Charles Street. As a result, one need walk no more than 1/6th of a mile to get to a bridge that provides access to the Charles.
There is only one safe option to get from North Allston and North Brighton to the river, the overpass at Telford St. Perhaps because of its awkward location and uninspired design, people seem to rarely use it. Most people, even if their trip is quite short, seem to drive their cars and park in the 200+ car parking lot (by far the largest parking lot along the river).
Western Ave and Everett St make a lot of sense for safer pedestrian connections to the river. The back of Smith Field is also a possibility and Cambridge St is an important connection to the river, either for people biking to downtown or crossing into Cambridge heading towards Central Sq, MIT, or Kendall Sq.
New overpasses could cost at least a couple million dollars and as walkinginfo.org explains, pedestrian overpasses should be a "measure of last resort". Improving the at-grade crossings would be a great place to start.