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Slow, Safe Charles Street

We are working on design changes for Charles Street between Charles Circle and Beacon Street.

Since launching Connect Downtown in the fall 2019, we've heard from thousands of people about Charles Street. From those conversations, the City has developed guiding principles unique to Charles Street. Our design will aim to achieve these goals:

  • Celebrate Charles Street as a destination
  • Prioritize people who are walking, lingering, and enjoying Charles Street
  • Serve the operational needs of small businesses
  • Create a legible link in the bike network


We are hosting ongoing, in-person drop-in sessions on Charles Street. These outdoor events will run throughout the spring and summer. Drop by our table to share your comments, ask questions, and view project materials as our design work progresses. Outdoor drop-in sessions will be cancelled in the event of inclement weather. Please sign up for our email list to get notifications.

  • Still have questions? Contact:
  • Email Updates

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Upcoming Events


About Charles Street

The sidewalks and intersections on Charles Street bustle with people walking, gathering, and visiting local businesses. During peak travel hours, between 800 - 1,400 people walk through the intersections on Charles Street. 

Charles Street is a critical link in our citywide bicycle network. Charles Street is already well-used by people on bikes throughout all seasons. During warmer months, bicyclists make up about 18 percent of peak hour traffic on average, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though there are three travel lanes on Charles Street, vehicle volumes are moderate. The total number of vehicles on Charles Street on any given weekday is between 4,000 - 5,000.

Parking spaces are well-utilized, making it difficult to find available space at the curb to make deliveries or short stops. 

Read our "Understanding Charles Street" report for a detailed look at Charles Street.

graphic shows pedestrian volumes as they compare to other vehicle volumes and then compares those percentages to allocated space. Pedestrians are 70% of those traveling on the street, but only have 13% of the street space

Design Goals for Charles Street

Celebrate charles Street as A Destination
  • Charles Street is more than a street where people pass through, but a place in itself
  • Design changes should reinforce the feeling of a destination
Prioritize people who are walking, lingering and enjoying Charles Street
  • Explore replacing the brick on existing sidewalks
  • Add walking space at street level that is separated from moving traffic
  • Minimize the use of traffic signals in favor of all-way stop signs
  • Ensure slow, considerate traffic speeds to support a people-oriented street
Serve the operational needs of small businesses
  • Short-term spaces for quick stops
  • Flexible and informal space for deliveries all day
  • Seasonal use of street space for outdoor dining
Create a legible link in the bike network
  • People biking on Charles Street should have a clear place to be
  • Families should feel comfortable visiting Charles Street by bike

Connect Downtown

Image shows a map of downtown Boston with streets highlighted in light blue, and Charles Street between Charles Circle and Beacon Street highlighted in dark blue as the focus of this project.

The Slow, Safe Charles Street project is a part of Connect Downtown, a multi-phase project spanning several years. We launched Connect Downtown in the fall of 2019 with Charles Street as one of the focus corridors.


Walking will be pleasant and easy. Safe, separated bikeways will serve and connect residents, employers, and local businesses. Families will explore Boston's neighborhoods and iconic parks together, from the Esplanade to the Boston Common to the Southwest Corridor.

Through this project, we will:

  • improve pedestrian crossings along the route
  • provide comfortable, reasonably direct routes for bicyclists, and
  • enhance pedestrian access to the Public Garden and Common.

We plan to design the project in a way that allows for faster construction.

Project Updates


MAY 2023 Update

We are hosting ongoing, in-person drop-in sessions on Charles Street. These outdoor events will run throughout the spring and summer. Drop by our table to share your comments, ask questions, and view project materials as our design work progresses.

Drop-in sessions will be cancelled in the event of inclement weather.

February 2023 Update

Before we propose changes, we need to understand Charles Street better. In our initial outreach, the Beacon Hill community asked us to talk directly with each business on Charles Street and conduct a robust data collection and analysis effort. This month, we are sharing data and findings from our work to better understand Charles Street. 

  • We spoke with the majority of businesses on Charles Street to get a deeper understanding of their operational needs.
  • We looked at who is using Charles Street and how, using both traffic counts and observational studies.
  • We analyzed parking study data from fall 2019.

January 2023 Update

In 2022, we wrapped up our work to collect data and talk with you about curbside use on Charles Street. This included the following activities:

  • Charles Street Walk with City Leadership
  • Double Parking and Loading Study
  • Business Survey

We’re thankful to all the businesses who responded to our survey and to the City staff who helped us study loading and curb use activity. In the next month, we will share the results of our work and our analysis. Your input and the data we collected will inform design options. We look forward to beginning those conversations soon.

We sent an email update to the Connect Downtown email list on January 5, 2023. It included a recap of our work to date and information about next steps.

Read the email update

Summer 2022 Update

Starting in August 2022, we will meet with businesses along Charles Street. Our goals are to understand their needs and hear about their ideas. 

Meet City of Boston leadership. We will be visiting businesses on Wednesday, August 3. You will have the opportunity to meet with leaders from the Streets Cabinet, the Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion, and with Councilor Kenzie Bok. This is not the only opportunity for business owners and managers to talk with us. 

City staff will continue to visit Charles Street. We want to learn more about your needs and experiences with deliveries and transportation. We want to hear from every business. If you'd like to make an appointment for us to visit with you, please email us.

We held a series of virtual office hours during Fall 2020. You were invited to sign up for a 15-minute appointment during the listed hours with a member of the project team. Appointments were available online or over the phone. You brought your questions and reviewed information related to the project

Appointments were available on Wednesday afternoons during September and October:

  • September 16, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • September 23, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • September 30, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • October 7, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • October 14, 3 - 7 p.m.
  • October 21, 3 - 7 p.m. 
  • October 28, 3 - 7 p.m.

We hosted three outdoor information sessions. We shared information about the upcoming changes to traffic signals and new bike lanes. We answered questions and gathered your feedback. We engaged with people in English, Spanish, and Cantonese.

Meeting announcements were shared via a direct mailing, our email list, a press release, and City social media accounts. We followed state and City guidelines for meetings. All attendees wore a face covering and stood six feet apart.





Download FLieRS:



Four people wearing face coverings stand outside on a traffic island. Three people are holding brochures. A table has more materials and is covered with a blue tablecloth that says City of Boston Transportation department. One person stands near a cargo bike.

We planned a series of Open Houses in March and expanded Office Hours into the spring. We were able to hold one Open House before in-person meetings were suspended. More than 45 people stopped by the event on March 5 at the Central Library.

The content shared at this Open House is available to explore online.

Colorful sticky notes are attached to a poster.

You were invited to drop in any time during office hours and talk one-on-one with us. You could review project materials, ask questions, and share your feedback. We hosted Office Hours weekly between January 8 and March 4 at the Boston Public Library’s Central Library and West End Library. We talked with 257 community members during our office hours. You shared almost 200 comments with us. We suspended Office Hours in early March because of COVID-19.

View the project fact sheet (PDF)

Ve la hoja informativa del proyecto (PDF)

項目情況說明書 (PDF格式)

We hosted a series four of community walks during the fall of 2019. The walks covered neighborhoods and streets we are looking at as part of Connect Downtown. We invited community members to attend and share their experiences walking and biking in the study area.

Photo showing participants in the Back Bay Community Walk; about 15 people gathered in a group on a sidewalk.

Beacon Hill: Saturday, November 2, 2019
Beacon Hill Community Walk walking route map

We heard the following themes:
  • Intersections like Beacon Street at Charles Street and Charles Circle feel like barriers for people walking because of long wait times or unclear pedestrian signals.
  • Desire for more pedestrian space and pedestrian-only events on Charles Street north of Beacon Street.
  • Concern about excessive speeding on Charles Street south of Beacon Street and Beacon Street east of Charles Street.
  • Some people want to bike but don't feel comfortable with the busy streets and intersections. People who bike now sometimes use the Common and sidewalks because they don't feel safe on the street.
  • The curbside on Charles Street north of Beacon Street should be better managed to reduce double parking and provide space for commercial loading and passenger pickup and dropoff.
Quotes from participants:

"People come [to Charles Street] for the pedestrian experience."

"This [crosswalk between the Boston Common and Public Garden] is a special place, a major gateway between two iconic, historic open spaces—and should look like it!"

"Biking from the West End to Copley Square is easy but biking back is very hard because of one-way streets."

"I don't usually have sympathy for bikers, but this area needs bike lanes!"

  • Still have questions? Contact:
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    Sign up to receive email updates about Connect Downtown projects, including Charles Street.

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