With the installation of protected cycle paths comes a quick problem for the board race

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A cyclist rides on a protected, fast-construction cycle path in the central square. (Photo: MassAve4 impact analysis)

A spring study of bicycle lanes replacing on-street parking continues to send shockwaves and is now playing a role in the November election.

Citizen groups have been formed, petitions are circulating, and candidates are getting approvals around the MassAve4 impact assessment report and other issues relating to the city’s bicycle safety ordinance. Adopted by City Council in 2019 and updated in October 2020, it provides for the installation of around 40 km of protected cycle paths throughout Cambridge within five to seven years.

When released in April, the MassAve4 report sparked panic among business owners and residents who feared that nearly all street parking would be removed in favor of fast-constructed protected bike lanes along the road. Massachusetts Avenue, from Harvard Square to Dudley Street, including Porter Square. . The city was quick to assure that it was only studying the effects of meeting the ordinance’s goals with quick-build options such as flexible poles, signs and road markings rather than cuts. curb, sidewalk and road surface modifications that would require more planning, costs and resources and be less likely to meet the legal schedule.

The city has not released a plan, but by May the city manager plans to identify where the high-speed bike lanes will operate and get city council approval for a schedule for further installation. types of cycling infrastructure, according to the MassAve4 project page. Awareness and community engagement will be part of the process.

Avenue Mass. 4 All

In the meantime, the Porter Square Neighborhood Association, several businesses along the corridor – including The Abbey, Guitar Stop and Ward Maps – and the Cambridge Bicycle Safety Group have joined together to form the Mass Ave group. 4 All, which is sponsoring a petition to dismiss the impact assessment report and urge the city to try to reinvent Massachusetts Avenue again. Members posted alternative design suggestions on the site and encouraged residents to contact city council members and project planners.

Cambridge Bicycle Safety lobbied for the ordinance but found the MassAve4 report troubling.

“Our vision is that there are continuous protected cycle lanes along the entire length of Massachusetts Avenue,” said Member Nathanael Fillmore, “as well as improvements to ensure efficient and reliable bus service, a safe environment for pedestrians, a thriving commercial corridor and a pleasant and welcoming place for all residents to spend time.

Cyclists mobilize for safe infrastructure at a rally on October 17, 2016, at City Hall, before the creation of an ordinance on bicycle safety in the city. (Photo: Marc Lévy)

Fillmore praised the town for its change of approach as it kicks off the northernmost stage of the Ordinance Charge, with protected cycle lanes from Dudley Street to the town’s border with Arlington to Alewife Brook Parkway. For this, the city did not publish an impact report, but held an online community meeting to share design concepts – which also showed that a majority of on-street parking was eliminated, but with areas 15 minute pickup and load and metered parking moved to side streets in key locations. Ahead of the September 14 presentation, the city reached out to businesses along the stretch to get their views and hear their concerns.

Andreas Wolfe, the city’s street design project manager, said on Friday that “targeted outreach is taking place as part of the Dudley Street-to-Alewife Brook Parkway section for businesses along this section,” and the Porter Square awareness would follow before this project took place. .

Some feel the process is inadequate. “As a business owner who will be directly affected by this rushed and poorly planned project to install much-needed protected bike lanes, I have never been given a real voice,” said Robert Harris, owner of Season to Restaurant. Taste at 2447 Massachusetts Ave. “Instead, there was a virtual meeting to talk about thoughts and feelings, with 99% of decisions already made, which only highlights the flawed process of this project.”

Save Avenue Mass

As a result of this meeting, the Save Mass Ave group formed and launched a website with materials that extolled the approach taken by Mass Ave. 4 All but are also promoting city council candidates who have not signed a Cambridge Bicycle Safety pledge to support the Bicycle Safety Ordinance. This includes an incumbent, E. Denise Simmons, and several candidates for board seats.

Save Mass Ave also has its own petition calling for “meaningful engagement and planning with all stakeholders”.

“There are multiple petitions,” said Ruth Ryals, president of the Porter Square Neighbors Association, referring to the online and print versions of the overlapping groups. “It’s a mess.”

On social media site Nextdoor, some North Cambridge residents and others unhappy with the loss of parking and a process say they feel they have no voice, while advocates for the bikes such as CBS disproportionately exploit their power to control and influence elections and politics. . Boston-area cycling advocacy groups, such as the Boston Bicycle Union, promote and solicit city council members and candidates who primarily support bike safety policy and cycling infrastructure.

Commercial concerns

This is not the first time that the deployment of cycle lanes has been controversial. In 2017, businesses and residents of Cambridge Street pushed back the installation of protected cycle lanes which eliminated on-street parking. Although the city says companies have been successful in changing bikes in Harvard and Central squares, some have seen drops of 80% due to lack of parking, Guitar Stop’s Jeanne Oster said in a meeting on Wednesday. of the North Cambridge Stabilization Committee.

The data can be confusing, however. City surveys show that in Porter Square, for example, the No.1 item businesses said would help them was more parking, while 62% of those polled said they had come to the area to shop on foot. , with cycling accounting for 19% and MBTA for 16%. Motor vehicles registered at 33 percent.

And for all the infrastructure already deployed, the outdoor dining spaces on Massachusetts Avenue have been retained in their entirety, Fillmore said.

The pledge, which was signed by seven councilors vying for re-election and six board challengers, “is important to ensure the continued implementation of the ordinance on time and without delay, which will lead to further injuries. or death, ”Fillmore said.

“Certainly, the bicycle promise has an impact [politically], especially among the challengers who have to publicly decide which side they are on – we already know where the incumbents are, ”said Councilor Quinton Zondervan, who signed the pledge.

Political overlap

But it can be difficult to draw lines around the policies of politicians. In addition to first-time contestant Tonia Hicks appearing on the two new band lists, there are contestants such as Paul Toner – who didn’t sign the pledge but doesn’t oppose bike lanes or the overall objective of the ordinance to separate cycle paths and safety for all. “I agree with the goals of the Cambridge Cycling Safety Ordinance,” he said in an email, “I think there needs to be flexibility on the construction schedule in order to collect the feedback from relevant stakeholders, such as neighborhood residents and businesses. “

Separate cycle lane infrastructure continues to be implemented – last month it ran along the Mid-Cambridge section of Massachusetts Avenue, from City Hall to where Massachusetts Avenue and Mount Auburn Street meet in Harvard Square.

Zondervan believes there is going to be a natural move away from single-driver journeys with the arrival of self-driving vehicles and microtransit options such as bluebikes and electric scooters. “As we’ve always said,” Zondervan said, “if you build it, they will come. As we make it safer and easier for people to ride bikes instead of driving, more and more people will choose to do it, and that’s exactly what we need. The clearly marked bus stop lane is also exciting about Massachusetts Avenue across from City Hall. It’s exciting to see us give priority not only to bike lanes but also to bus lanes. We are really going in the right direction by favoring public transport over transport by private vehicle, and I am really very happy about that and I look forward to more future.

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