Bike Lanes Update

I wanted to bring this issue forward to advocate for convening a working group to evaluate the Cambridge Street bike lanes, so that members can come away from the table united by recommendations for a smarter, safer, and more equitable design. I appreciate the City Manager reiterating the City’s commitment to these bike lanes, and I share that commitment. However, the Cambridge Street lanes were presented to the neighborhood and stakeholders as a pilot project and that evaluations would be made in the Spring. This policy order asks the Mayor’s Office and City Manager to convene a group of stakeholders to evaluate the successes and safety challenges that these lanes pose, and how to best address them. The beauty of doing a pilot or demonstration project is that you can listen to feedback and adjust as you move forward.

This order lines up well with the spirit of the City’s Vision Zero action plan unveiled last week in which every speaker stated the underlying premise of the plan is “EQUITY, ACCESS AND INCLUSION”

Asking for a working group to assess these lanes provides this equity, access, and inclusion by bringing all stakeholders to the table.

I received many emails this weekend talking about reviving the stakeholder group that met this summer to discuss the implementation of the bike lanes, but I would be so bold as to say not all groups were well represented, attendance varied, some left mid process in frustration, and it was not given the weight and ability to make recommendations. At the first meeting of that stakeholder group, the City Manager stated this was a “bold plan and that the success of future projects hinge on our ability to “get this project right”. Getting this project right means gathering feedback from the users of Cambridge Street, whether they be cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, residents who live in the neighborhood, high school students and their parents, senior citizens, or patrons of the local small businesses affected.

Since I assumed this position, the Council has received many, many emails from residents who say that the bike lanes have made them unsafe, including pedestrians who are having trouble crossing the lanes with cyclists at high speeds, and elderly or disabled drivers exiting their cars into the narrow travel lanes and more. There has been tremendous support for the lanes from the cycling community, but if we are really talking about equity, access, and inclusion we need to ensure these voices are also heard.

This policy order has generated quite a lot of communication this weekend, and I would like to highlight what some residents have suggested for possible updates and tweaks – feedback that is exactly what I am hoping is generated by the working group:

  • Install the kind of signals that allow bikes to cross first, before cars, to avoid right hook accidents.
  • Using other methods of protection besides bollards, such as planters or pre-cast curbs which would enhance livability and make the streets nicer, and provide better protection.
  • Implement pedestrian improvements with new or enhanced crossings, or new pedestrian cemented refuges
  • Several people commented that the Felton St/Cambridge St intersection is a conflict site that should be looked at.
  • At the corner of Trowbridge and Cambridge Streets, the bike lane curves out to accommodate the sidewalk, with no warning to those on bicycles – could something be done to eliminate this conflict?
  • Add a designated drop off zone and publicize it.
  • Add more short term parking, perhaps only during business hours.
  • Including public transit users and senior citizens in any conversation moving forward.
  • Lots of people talked about better education for ALL modes of transportation as well as better enforcement of traffic laws and better signage in the lanes where pedestrian conflicts come into play.

These are the types of conversations we SHOULD be having as we look towards the future and creating a connected network of bike lanes for safe passage through the City. This idea of equity, access, and inclusion should guide this work. But if we don’t start having this conversation in a healthy way we will continue to widen the divide. I thank my colleagues Mayor Marc McGovern Cambridge City Council​ and Councillor Craig Kelley​ who have joined me in this effort, and I thank my colleagues who supported the important step forward in this conversation.

People are asking: “what’s next?” I know everyone is eager to come to the table and begin the review process, which will begin after the order goes through both the City Manager and Mayor’s Office. They will begin to assemble the working group, taking into account the feedback outlined in the order. This time, the working group will be more representative, have clear evaluation criteria, and the added task of making concrete recommendations to the City for improvements to the Cambridge Street bike lanes.

I will be working closely to see this working group come to fruition, so please get in touch with me for more specific questions or updates.