Making Our Streets Safe and More Enjoyable for People of All Ages and Abilities

Our streets must be made safe for everyone — for ourselves, our children, our friends, our neighbors, and in the name of those pedestrians, bicyclists, and occupants of cars who have tragically lost their lives on our city’s streets.

Cambridge has adopted a Vision Zero policy and begun installing protected bike lanes to address the public safety epidemic that exists on our streets. Every year, far too many pedestrians, cyclists, and people in cars are injured or even killed as a result of of poor road design in combination with human error. These new protected bike lanes are based on best practice designs that have been successfully implemented by cities across the world.

Our streets aren’t safe for pedestrians or bicyclists:
  • In the last three years, 2 pedestrians and 3 cyclists have died on Cambridge streets. Of the 19 traffic fatalities over the past 10 years, 9 were pedestrian fatalities and 4 were bicycle fatalities.
  • First responders are called to a crash involving a vehicle and bike every other day.
  • Each year, around 100 pedestrians in Cambridge, as well as around 160 bicyclists, are in a crash involving a motor vehicle that is serious enough to be reported to the Cambridge Police.

Protected bike lanes are overwhelmingly popular and they’re effective at creating safe streets and more vibrant neighborhoods for everyone on our roads:

  • Over 3,000 people signed a petition calling for a protected network in Cambridge and hundreds more have sent thank you notes after new lanes were installed.
  • Participatory budgeting has consistently shown broad support for these types of safety improvements through a democratic process.
  • According to preliminary data from the city, there has been an 82% decrease in number of cyclists riding on the sidewalk along Brattle St since the new two-way lane went in and about a 30% increase in daytime bicyclists riding along Cambridge St since the protected lanes were installed.
  • Protected bicycle lanes are widely accepted and mainstream practice for streets with high volumes of vehicles and bikes, and have been proven to reduce speeding, result in higher numbers of new bicyclists, and will help the city achieve the mode shift necessary to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in our neighborhoods according to NACTO.
The Cambridge Bicycle Safety Platform

There are over 200 miles of streets in Cambridge. The 2015 Bicycle Plan calls for protected bike lanes on approximately 20 miles of major thoroughfares to create a safe, city-wide protected network that serves residents of all ages and abilities. Approximately 4 miles of these protected bike lanes have been installed. We’re calling on the city to install at least 4 miles of pop-up protected bike lanes each year until the city-wide protected network is complete and to install permanent protected bike lanes when the streets specified as part of the city-wide protected network are reconstructed.

The facts about common misperceptions

  1. “The pilot protected lanes were rushed through quickly with no public feedback” –– There were two public meetings held for the Cambridge St pilot protected lane that were attended by many area local business owners and residents. Nearby residents and business were informed of the changes in advance and invited to at least three additional stakeholder meetings with city staff. A meeting with local stakeholders was also held prior to the Brattle St project being implemented. City staff have been extremely responsive and moved quickly to make several adjustments to both the new protected lanes based on feedback from businesses, including new parking on side streets and expanded loading zones. In addition, the lanes all have to conform with state and federal roadway design guidance, and were reviewed and signed off on by a range of city departments, including emergency responders and the disability commission.
  2. “The lanes only help bicyclists” – Protected bike lanes have been consistently shown to make streets safer for all road users. For example, by narrowing streets, they have reduced speeding, which improves safety for all users, according to NACTO. By providing a safe place for cyclists of all ages and abilities to ride, they have reduced the number of bicyclists riding on the sidewalk, according to preliminary data from the city. An article by the AARP highlights a range of benefits bicycle infrastructure has for everyone, not just bicyclists.
  3. “There’s no snow removal plan” – The City’s professional DPW crews have experience clearing lanes like this and have purchased smaller, narrower snow plows that can keep the bicycle lane clear of snow. They successfully tested and demonstrated effective snow clearing in the popup lanes that were put into place during Winter 2016 in Central Square and on Mass Ave in front of Harvard Law School.

    Example of smaller equipment: A street sweeper, adequately-sized for a bike lane  (taken Nov 14, 2017)
  4. “Emergency vehicles will get stuck or delayed because of these new lanes” – The City has continually checked with the Police and Fire Departments to ensure their satisfaction with the design of these news lanes. Fire Department leadership has repeatedly approved of them (including during design well before installation) or city staff made adjustments based on their feedback. Our emergency responders are professionals and are trained to drive on our narrow city streets. The new lanes have been demonstrated to accommodate all emergency apparatus that Cambridge uses and they are no different than any of the other narrow streets in the City. Vehicles responding to a call can also safely run over the flexposts in the new lanes to get around traffic and move down the street.
  5. “Bicyclists are dangerous and police should enforce the rules of the road equally” – Everyone on the road has a responsibility to follow the law and be polite. CPD does do bike enforcement and, in 2016, the proportion of bike tickets (6.7% in 2016) matched almost exactly the percentage of residents who commute by bike (7%). The number of bike-on-pedestrian crashes that result in a first responder call is extremely low. National studies increasingly show speeding and distracted driving are serious and growing issues and the City’s crash data shows that by far that people driving vehicles pose the greatest danger to people walking and biking.
  6. “Cyclists don’t pay their fair share” – Many cyclists own cars and pay all the same fees and taxes other car owners do. The reality is that road revenue in MA comes from a variety of sources, including a large amount from the state’s general revenue coffers, which includes property and state taxes that cyclists also pay, according to US PIRG.