Overview of Cambridge Bicycle Projects in 2021

Cambridge Bicycle Safety is an all-volunteer advocacy organization in Cambridge, MA, organized in 2016 in response to the death of Amanda Philips in Inman Square. Our goal is to make streets safer and more enjoyable for people of all ages and abilities, with a particular focus on a city-wide network of protected bicycle lanes. We have built political support across the city and on the city council for deploying a city-wide network of protected bicycle lanes, and work closely with city transportation staff to assure a workable schedule to build the full bike network as laid out by the groundbreaking Cycling Safety Ordinance. Read on to learn more about what we have accomplished, and what we are working on for 2021.

What we’ve accomplished

Cycling Safety Ordinance

Following years of efforts by community members, the Cycling Safety Ordinance became law on October 5, 2020. The law, initially passed in April 2019 and amended to include firm deadlines in 2020, sets May 1, 2026 as the deadline for completing a 22.6 mile network of protected bike lanes, using either permanent construction or quick-build approaches. 

The Ordinance will require the installation of protected bike lanes on key high-risk streets, including Massachusetts Avenue, Broadway from Quincy St to Hampshire St, Cambridge St from Oak St to Second St, Hampshire St from Amory St to Broadway, Garden St eastbound from Huron Ave to Berkeley St, and westbound from Mason St to Huron Ave, as well as 11.6 miles of separated bike lanes in other locations that are part of the Bicycle Network Vision


Bike delivery program

A bike volunteer ready to head out with a trailer of groceries. Photo credit: Arah Schuur

Throughout COVID-19, we have mobilized a team of bike volunteers to help deliver groceries and other essential items from local businesses to seniors and other vulnerable residents in the Cambridge and Somerville area. This program has been met with great success. Originally conceived as a way to help high risk individuals get groceries without going to the store, the program has evolved to include collaborations with local community centers, food pantries and mutual aid organizations. We currently have over 280 volunteers on our mailing list, and 145 of those volunteers have delivered food from a food pantry at least once. Between May 2020 and June 2021, we’ve completed over 1600 food deliveries, and we continue to work with food pantries, like the Cambridge Community Center, to stock local community fridges.

While it is becoming increasingly challenging to find enough cyclists to make these deliveries as people transition back into the office, it is clear that Cambridge has a wealth of cyclists who are eager to get outside and support the community. We plan to continue doing weekly food deliveries as long as the need exists and we have the volunteers, and would consider exploring other opportunities to mobilize Cambridge cyclists. If you are interested in volunteering, please fill out this form to be included in our database.

What we’re watching in 2021

City Council Election

The Cambridge Municipal Election is on November 2, 2021, and the deadline to register to vote is October 13! An assertive city council can do a lot to make biking safer in Cambridge. While the Cycling Safety Ordinance is now law, there is a lot more that needs to be done, and we need to move much more quickly. By electing an assertive city council who does not take no for an answer, we can move our city closer to rapid construction of its network of protected bike lanes. We will ask current Councilors and candidates to sign on to a pledge to affirm their commitment to the successful implementation of the Cycling Ordinance, and prepare a voter guide. Stay tuned for more details.

In addition to voting in the election on November 2, please sign up to receive action alerts and news about bicycle infrastructure in Cambridge. With your help we can hold the city accountable to provide safe bike infrastructure for all ages and abilities. As in years past, we will be asking candidates to sign on to our election pledge, and we will create a voter guide. If you are interested in helping out with canvasing, email us at info@cambridgebikesafety.org.

First and Second Street, East Cambridge

The City of Cambridge is currently working with a stakeholder group to identify improvements that can be made to First and Second Street in East Cambridge, between Binney Street and Cambridge Street. Currently First Street has paint-only bike lanes, which are frequently obstructed by vehicles, and Second Street does not have any bike lanes. 

We believe First Street is a critical north/south travel connection between the new Community Path Extension and Kendall Square /  Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path along the Charles River. Additionally, as it is a street with many businesses, we emphasize the need for protected bike lanes on First Street, to allow people to feel safe biking to and patronizing local businesses.

A map of the area around the First Street corridor with First Street and Second Street between Cambridge Street and Binney Street highlighted.

Furthermore, there have been discussions about designating bus priority lanes on First Street to facilitate transit connections along the corridor, which we have evaluated and believe do not conflict with protected bike facilities. We strongly support design options which include both transit and bike facilities on First Street, even prioritizing those transportation modes over private motor vehicles, to promote equitable and environmentally-friendly transportation.

The first stakeholder meeting was held in April 2021. There are two stakeholder meetings and two community meetings planned for summer 2021. It is anticipated that by Fall 2021, the city will have a 10% Conceptual Design Plan, which will provide high-level plans, sketches, and drawings for the preferred street design.

IQHQ Alewife, North Cambridge

The IQHQ-Alewife Park development is a 27 acre site with a proposed 745,000 square foot lab development project. Part of the development plan has included proposals to make the Jerry’s Pond area publicly accessible, as well as options to make a more direct connection between the Linear Path and points west (Alewife Station, Minuteman, and Fitchburg paths) for people walking and biking. We have been working with the developers and other stakeholders to come up with a plan that would improve safety and comfort for people traveling through Alewife park, on foot or bike. Details of our proposal can be found here.

Memorial Drive

In 2019, the Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR), a Massachusetts state agency, held two public meetings related to improvements to Memorial Drive between the BU Bridge and Mt Auburn Hospital. Initial proposals left the roadway completely unchanged, locking in another generation of highway traffic and dangerous conditions on the riverbank. Our recent review of all public comments determined that:

A photo of a 4 lane road that is shaded by large trees and is empty of cars. It is a sunny day, there are 4 people biking on the road, and 1 person walking on the sidewalk.
  • 88% of people demanded a safer parkland for people who bike
  • 81% of people demanded a safer parkland for people who walk or run
  • 45% of people demanded tree canopy protection and expansion
  • 97% of people demanded change along Memorial Drive citing one or more of these priorities

In response to overwhelming public feedback, the DCR made some improvements to their original design, including major safety improvements to the BU roundabout and a road diet adjacent to Mt Auburn Hospital. However, since June 2019, there have been no project meetings, designs, or solicitation of public feedback. CBS has joined forces with the Memorial Drive Alliance to push the DCR and call for more space for pedestrians, cyclists, and trees along our waterfront. For more information, visit the Memorial Drive Alliance webpage.

Mid-Mass Ave, Mid-Cambridge

On May 26, the city presented plans for a quick-build project to install protected bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue, between Trowbridge Street and Inman Street. This project will provide an important connection between Harvard Square and Central Square. 

A PDF and recording of the May 26 presentation is available on the City of Cambridge website. The city is soliciting comments via their online feedback form. Implementation of the protected bike lanes is expected to begin this summer, pending resolution of supply chain issues. 

North Mass Ave

On April 30, the city released a Mass Ave impact study which focuses on four segments of Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard Square and Porter Square, which they term, “MassAve4.” These segments are Massachusetts Avenue from:

  • Plympton St to Dunster St;
  • Church St to Garden St, in the northbound direction (this segment is Peabody St);
  • Waterhouse St to Roseland St; and
  • Beech St to Dudley St.
A map of Cambridge, with the 4 segments comprising the “MassAve4” highlighted in teal. These segments run between Harvard Square up to towards Davis Square. Photo from the MassAve4 Impacts Analysis

Currently this section of Massachusetts Avenue, between Harvard and Porter Squares, only has painted “door-zone” bike lanes, or no bike lanes at all. Safer bike lanes are needed throughout this corridor in order to increase safety and comfort for people bicycling, since there are no good alternative routes for most of the segment. Additionally, the corridor hosts heavily used bus routes, including Route 77, and bus priority improvements would increase speed and reliability for thousands of transit riders.

While this report was stated to analyze the impacts of quick-build separated bike lanes along each of the four segments, the report primarily analyzed only one specific quick-build design, not the full range of quick-build options. The report did not engage with context-sensitive design options, including ones that we at Cambridge Bike Safety have proposed (and likely additional options that have yet to be considered). The report also only described negative impacts of the quick build design, specifically loss of parking, without also describing benefits of a safer more comfortable central business district for people walking, biking, and using transit. The city’s report is frustrating because it focuses on one extreme design which is likely to upset multiple stakeholders, including advocates for improving bike safety, rather than a realistic, context-specific, nuanced design.

Get involved

We’re always looking for more people who are interested in making Cambridge a safer place to live and move. Subscribe to our mailing list to receive important calls to action and news about bicycling-related policies and infrastructure. We’ve also got lots of ideas and projects in mind and need YOUR help to implement them. Outreach and fun events, communications, data analysis, graphic design, and more! Email info@cambridgebikesafety.org for more information!