Official Proposes Ban On Bikes in Commons

Vice Mayor Responds to Complaints

Quad residents and Cantabrigians who bike through the Cambridge Commons might be forbidden from doing so, if Cambridge Vice Mayor Sheila T. Russell has her way.

Russell has again proposed a city ordinance that would ban all bicycle riding through the Commons, "in response to many complaints that people are being hurt" in collisions and accidents.

Russell's first proposal to prohibit bikes from the Commons failed before the full City Council two years ago.

The City Council's ordinance committee voted last night to postpone the proposal until June 1, but several councillors have voiced support for the proposal--which would complicate the travels of many Quad residents who bike to the Yard.

At yesterday's hearing, city officials voiced concerns about the feasibility of the proposal.


A ban would be "somewhat difficult to enforce," Deputy City Manager Richard C. Rossi told the council.

"We will not have personnel stationed at the Commons at all times to enforce it," Rossi added. Instead, he asked for more time for the city's Bicycle Committee--a group of residents appointed by the city manager--to design structural improvements to accommodate both bicyclists and pedestrians.

Currently the paths in the Commons are shared by both bicyclists and pedestrians. By city law, bicyclists are required to yield to pedestrians and to provide an audible signal and to slow down when approaching them, according to Elizabeth Epstein, director of the city's environmental program.

"I believe there is a way to create properfacilities that would not take away from thehistorical significance of the Commons," Rossitold the council. The Commons," which was used inthe 17th century as a common grazing field, islocated at the present-day intersection of GardenSt. and Mass. Ave.

New Pathways

The city is slated to receive $500,000 from thefederal Department of Transportation in fiscal1996 to design new pathways to separate bicyclepaths from pedestrian walkways, according toEpstein.

Epstein said Cambridge could being the projectas early as October, if recipients of otherfederal grants are not able to start on time.

The city would also change some landscaping andimprove sign postings in the Commons, Epsteinsaid. The new bicycle paths would be paved with"materials that will reinforce slow travel," notthe asphalt commonly used, she added.

But other councillors criticized the proposedimprovements, calling them a potential waste ofmoney.

"Are we really talking about spending $500,000on the Cambridge Commons for bicycle paths?" askedCouncillor Francis H. Duehay '55. "It's too smallan area to be having bicycles on."

Duehay said the improvements might attract evenmore bicyclists, those who usually ride on theside walks of Garden St. and Mass. Ave. Instead,he recommended that a bicycle path be constructedwhere cars currently park, on the eastern sided ofGarden St.