With three bike lane projects on Mass Ave in the next year, it is exciting to see the real impact of the Cycling Safety Ordinance, which was many years in the making.
The Cycling Safety Ordinance was first passed by the elected City Council in April 2019, and then amended in October 2020 to define a timeline for completion. Both processes involved multiple public meetings and votes, and were covered in local media, and in the case of the first ordinance, its passage was covered in national media as well. The first ordinance also inspired ordinances in other cities like DC and Seattle (the latter literally copy/pasted some of the Cambridge ordinance language). Both ordinances were written in part based on significant feedback from city staff to ensure realistic timelines and general feasibility. There were two elections, in 2017 and 2019, in which a super-majority of elected city councilors explicitly supported these plans and timelines.
In 2018, the Cambridge residents survey showed that 60-64% of residents supported installing more bike lanes, and overall, bicycle traffic in Cambridge has been growing 8% a year, highlighting the need to build protected bike lanes that are safe for people of all ages and comfort levels. Read on to learn more about what’s coming to Mass Ave.
After a community meeting, two community feedback periods, and a summer of supply chain delays, the city has finally put down the paint and put up the flex posts along this stretch of Mass Ave! Now, cyclists biking between City Hall and Harvard Square have curbside bike lanes separated from traffic by a buffer and flex-posts. As you’ll see, in response to community and local business feedback, the bike lanes on this stretch have accommodated outdoor dining patios. Additionally, in accordance with the Cycling Safety Ordinance which exempt accessible parking spots from the requirement of physically separated bike lanes, curbside accessible parking has been maintained in front of the Cambridge Senior Center.
While you’re checking out these new lanes, stop by one of the local businesses and let them know how much you appreciate having a safe route to their shop. Show them that bikes mean business!
In September, the City of Cambridge held a community meeting where they presented plans for quick build bike lanes, as well as a bus priority lane in the inbound direction, on the northern section of Mass Ave, near the Arlington border. The town of Arlington has already implemented bus priority lanes on their section of Mass Ave, and have seen significant improvements in bus travel time, with time savings of 5-10 minutes per bus trip! Continuing the bus priority lane on the Cambridge section of Mass Ave will be an enormous benefit to people who ride the MBTA Route 77 trolley bus, by reducing transit delays and increasing reliability. Travel time consistency and reliability are major factors in encouraging more people to take public transit.
In preparation for the September 14 public meeting, Andreas Wolfe from the Traffic, Parking and Transportation department went door to door to gather feedback from business owners. Due to the width of this segment of Mass Ave, and the existing concrete median (median removal would constitute a capital, or major construction, project), in order to accommodate a bus priority lane and protected bike lanes, metered parking and loading zones currently on Mass Ave would be relocated to adjacent side streets. Metered parking encourages turnover, which is necessary for customers who may be traveling to the area by car to visit local businesses. The city has stated they are open to feedback regarding the location of metered parking and loading zones, as well as adjusting the hours and duration of the metered spaces. Additionally, during off peak hours, the bus priority lane would be a legal loading zone, meaning that delivery trucks and other customers can park for up to 15 minutes for deliveries and order pick-ups.
Implementation of these lanes is planned for November 2021, before it becomes too cold to install new pavement markings.
MassAve4 (approximately between Harvard Square and Davis Square)
In April, the City of Cambridge released an impacts analysis for quick build bike lanes along 4 segments of Mass Ave (“MassAve4”): 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. This analysis applied one design to the entirety of the corridor, failing to consider more context-sensitive design options.
In response, CBS began collaborating with businesses owners and residents in the Porter Square neighborhood to form the Mass Ave For All working group. The goal of this group is to come up with design ideas for the section of Mass Ave between Harvard Square and Porter Square and Porter Square and Dudley Ave that makes the streetscape a better place for all users, including cyclists, pedestrians, transit users, and local businesses. Check out the Mass Ave For All website for more information. We hope the city will take the ideas of the Mass Ave For All working group into consideration as we work towards making Mass Ave a safer and more accessible place for all.
Protected bike lanes encourage people of all ages and comfort levels to travel around our city safely by bike. With proper road maintenance such as plowing and salting (i.e. the same road treatments that drivers have come to expect), people can travel by bike all year round in all weather conditions. While there is certainly a strong seasonal pattern, the Broadway bike counter still shows thousands of bicyclists passing through even in the coldest months; pre-pandemic there were 12-13,000 riding in each direction every month in both January and February 2020. Furthermore, bike lanes improve pedestrian safety, by reducing sidewalk cycling, and calming traffic by narrowing the streets (which also reduces the number of general traffic lanes that pedestrians need to cross). For example, on Cambridge St. the installation of protected bike lanes reduced the 85th percentile speed from 31mph to 25mph. This reduces the chances of severe injuries by 40%, per Nilsson’s formula.
In the midst of our climate crisis, we need every tool to transition towards more environmentally-friendly forms of transportation. Bus priority lanes reduce travel time and increase bus frequency and reliability, improving the travel experience for people who rely on public transportation. Protected bike lanes allow more people to feel safe biking in Cambridge. In Massachusetts, over 65% of greenhouse gas emissions come from cars, trucks, homes and offices. The more car trips that can be replaced by public transit or bikes, the more we can reduce our emissions and work towards making our city and state a safer, healthier, and more resilient place to live and work.