North Mass Ave Bike Lanes

From: Cambridge Bicycle Safety,

Re: North Cambridge Massachusetts Avenue Bicycle Lanes

Dear City Leaders,

Thank you for advancing the design of new painted bike lanes on North Mass Ave. They will be an important infrastructure improvement, even though they are mostly in the door zone, and we’re glad the painting will be done quickly, by the end of August.

Cambridge Bicycle Safety represents many residents in North Cambridge as well as cyclists that use this corridor daily and we are writing on their behalf with several suggested changes to the proposed design for you to consider to ensure a continuous bike lane throughout the project, keeping in mind that ultimately cyclists need a protected bike lane on this stretch of roadway whenever a full reconstruction is advanced.

Our primary concern is that the four short segments where bikes will need to merge into Mass Ave traffic with sharrows create a serious safety issue. Merging into Mass Ave traffic is already dangerous, intimidating and stressful. There are a lot of vehicles including large trucks and buses, moving at high speeds, and they can be coming from either of two travel lanes. Switching from a painted bike lane to sharrows and back on a short stretch confuses cyclists and drivers.

Two of these sections involve a tradeoff between an extra left turn lane (+ 2 travel lanes), and two involve removing parking in an area where there are some retail/restaurants. We believe there are a few quick redesign options you could explore to avoid these conflict sharrow sections and keep the project on track.

  • It was stated that between Harvey and Dudley the road isn’t wide enough to keep the parking (both sides), two travel lanes and paint on a 5 foot bike lane in each direction, plus keeping the median. However, there is an abundance of meter marking along this section of Mass Ave, so while customers who drive would have to walk an extra block or two, they should be able to find parking. Additionally, meters along Trolley Square are not necessary because the building has underground parking. There is also a large private parking lot behind the block between Harvey and Alberta Streets (2400 Mass Ave) that serves all the businesses in that block. Perhaps an arrangement could be made to bring it into use for businesses in the next block as needed? Metered parking could also be installed in the first few spaces on Dudley, Alberta, and Harvey, where they intersect Mass Ave.
  • In two other segments you propose sharrows to accommodate a dedicated left turn lane. Both are in the westbound direction, one at the Walden Street intersection and the second right before Alewife Brook Parkway.  In both of these sections the sidewalk is very wide and perhaps the bike lane could go onto the sidewalk for this short stretch. Alternately, the left turn lane could become a shared straight/left lane as is present at many other intersections along Mass Ave. 

In addition to encouraging you to replace the sharrows, we wanted to highlight a few other items:

  • We strongly support the buffered bike lane option, ideally with flexposts, in the stretch immediately west of the Cameron Ave intersection
  • We strongly urge you to address the approach to Cameron Ave heading westbound which is dangerous because drivers often use bus stop space and empty parking spaces for a right hand turn lane. We believe a shared bus/bike lane could be painted the entire block adjacent to Trolley Square with flexposts until the bus stop by removing parking spots not needed because the units have underground parking and those metered spots are often empty.  Right turn markers in the right travel lane can also clarify for drivers where they should be.
  • We would also like to see the city install stickers on the meters to remind drivers to be careful when opening car doors, since this entire lane puts people riding bikes in the position of being “doored.”

Finally, we encourage the city to move quickly to lower speeds through signal timing. Speeding on this stretch of Mass Ave is a serious safety issue for pedestrians and cyclists, having already resulted in many crashes. Improving the signal timing to slow down drivers must be a priority until additional traffic calming measures can be taken.

We appreciate the speed with which you are working to make improvements and want to support this work in whatever way we can as an interim step. Making these additional adjustments to ensure consistency throughout the stretch will dramatically improve the safety of these lanes.

Finally, we want to reiterate that these lanes are only a temporary “fix,” and that ultimately a fully protected and separated lane (ideally a cycletrack) must be installed – one that is consistent with Vision Zero. We look forward to continuing to work toward this outcome as quickly as possible.

Link to plan for bike lanes: