More bike lanes, reduced speed limits on horizon in Cambridge

A man rides a bike on Harvard Ave. (Photo by Aaron Ye/BU News Service)

By Noelle Fallacara
BU News Service

Vice Mayor Jan Devereux is not completely happy with Cambridge’s bikeability and wants to see reduced speed limits in more parts of the city. At least one cyclists group hopes to see more construction for separated bike lanes and at a faster pace.

Devereux said at a recent Transportation and Public Utilities Committee meeting that Cambridge is not yet aligned with Vision Zero, an initiative Cambridge adopted in March 2016 to eliminate traffic fatalities and injuries.

“The most recent fatality is yet another wake-up call that this is a public health issue as well as a huge transportation issue,” Devereux said, referencing the Nov. 9 death of a 24-year-old cyclist. “But, we are making good progress on a vision we already have.”

Devereux said she would like to see reduced speed limits in more than just the five squares. The city-wide speed limit is 25 mph, but in those areas it is 20 mph. She would also like to see traffic calming measures, repaving of existing bike lanes, and more digital displays of speed limits.

Transportation Program Manager Cara Seiderman spoke about what she and her team are doing to inch closer to the goals outlined in Vision Zero.

Seiderman said new construction on the O’Brien Highway, Inman Street, Binney Street, River Street, and Lower Ames will focus on creating separate bike lanes in all areas, lowering speed limits for motor vehicles, and placing more separate bike signals at stop lights.

“The Kittie Knox Bike Path is going to make a really great connection between East Cambridge and River Street, which currently has a high crash rate,” Seiderman said.

According to Seiderman, the path will be named after African-American cyclist Kittie Knox because she was a pioneer in women’s cycling who deserves to be celebrated and recognized in the city.

Seiderman also gave an update on the city’s Blue Bikes – a greater Boston-wide bike-sharing system – noting that in 2018, 2,800 bikes and people have made over eight million trips between Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville.

In 2019, Cambridge hopes to make Blue Bikes even more accessible to cyclists by focusing on the youth, she said, noting that an initiative is in the works for students and youth in Cambridge. If someone is between 16 and 19, a Blue Bike membership for the entire year may soon only cost $25.

Seiderman wants to focus on younger riders through education in schools that focuses how to safely ride bicycles throughout the city.

Becca Wolfson, the executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, spoke about her concerns with construction. Wolfson said she doesn’t believe that there is enough “connectivity” for bikers. She explained that there are areas that are safe and accessible which suddenly end, dumping bikers into traffic.

“There is a critical gap between Kirkland and Inman Street,” Wolfson said. “How do we get people to Kendall Square safely, which is one of the biggest job centers.”

Wolfson added that she would like to see Cambridge have zero tolerance for cars parking in biking lanes. She said that a giant problem is Lyft and Uber vehicles parking in those lanes.

Ruth Allen, cyclist in Cambridge, said she had concerns about how much emphasis is being put on bikes.

“The rest of the community feels neglected because it’s been the ‘year of the bike,’” Wolfson said. “Deliveries for businesses need to continue, give them the ability to do that. I thought this bicycle plan was not concrete enough.”

This article was previously published in the Cambridge Chronicle.

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