Cambridge Officials Encourage More Bike Infrastructure

City officials and bike safety activists explored ways to make Cambridge a more bike-friendly city at a meeting at City Hall meeting Wednesday.

City Councillor Nadeem A. Mazen opened the meeting by applauding Cambridge’s efforts to make bicycle travel safe in Cambridge.

“The city has made such great commitment to looking at the bicycle master plan,” Mazen said. “There has been a great commitment to proactively reaching out to leaders from all modes of transportation advocacy.”

Following calls from residents to develop new infrastructure like bicycle lanes and parking stations, City Manager Louis A. DePasquale and Director of the Traffic, Parking & Transportation Department Joseph E. Barr spoke about previous bicycle initiatives in Cambridge and outlined changes to improve bike safety going forward.

“We are making significant adjustments to the five year plan,” DePasquale said. Cambridge’s “5 Year Street and Sidewalk Plan” looks to “design streets for all users,” including cyclists and pedestrians, and rebuild the city’s streets, sidewalks, and bike paths.

At the meeting, attendees spoke about creating separated lanes for cyclists throughout the city. Previously, Cantabrigians have argued that the separated lanes reduce the risk of cyclists being hit by the doors of parked cars and having automobile drivers park in bike lanes.

Attendees lauded successful installations of separated bike lanes along portions of Massachusetts Avenue and in Lafayette Square and encouraged the development of more. Construction of Cambridge’s current lanes came after several bicycle accidents in the city; some of the accidents were fatal.

The updated plans also city efforts to improve “urban mobility” around Cambridge, including improving signage and traffic lights, painted bike lanes, and new turning restrictions to protect cyclists in Inman Square and Porter Square.

Another change to the five-year plan includes collaborating with the Department of Public Works and the Cambridge Police Department on bike safety. A Department of Public Works official said that Cambridge will place more focus on properly maintaining bike lanes, even in colder months, while police department officials suggested putting forth a system to ensure that drivers and pedestrians refrain from obstructing bike lanes.

The new “focused enforcement” efforts are based on recommendations from a recently-hired “crash analyst,” and enable officials to track areas of the city where accidents are more likely.

City Councillor Dennis J. Carlone supported the efforts to ensure safety across the city and encouraged officials to continue enforcing traffic regulations, on drivers and cyclists alike.

“We have to really do something about this, because the end result is a disaster,” he said.

Also at the meeting, city officials asked residents to be lenient when demanding deadlines for future bike safety developments and requested they look at improvements already in place.

“We want to make sure that these improvements are a win for everyone.” DePasquale said. “We are asking for a little good faith.”

The meeting was held by Cambridge’s Neighborhood and Long Term Planning, Public Facilities, Arts and Celebration Committee.

—Staff writer Nicholas W. Sundberg can be reached at nicholas.sundberg@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickWSundberg

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