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New Harvard Students to Receive City-Mandated Bike Info

Ed School student Justin C. Hauver bikes along Massachusetts Avenue toward Harvard Square Monday afternoon. The Cambridge City Council plans to approve initiatives for bike safety around college campuses.
Ed School student Justin C. Hauver bikes along Massachusetts Avenue toward Harvard Square Monday afternoon. The Cambridge City Council plans to approve initiatives for bike safety around college campuses.
By Joshua J. Florence, Crimson Staff Writer

New residents of Cambridge, including incoming Harvard students, will receive information on local bicycle regulations, the Cambridge City Council ordered at its weekly Monday night meeting.

A trio of resolutions, all focused on increasing knowledge about bike laws in Cambridge, passed unanimously. The resolutions, sponsored by Mayor E. Denise Simmons, requested that the City Manager’s office work with the city and local colleges to provide new residents and students with relevant bicycle safety information.

Ed School student Justin C. Hauver bikes along Massachusetts Avenue toward Harvard Square Monday afternoon. The Cambridge City Council plans to approve initiatives for bike safety around college campuses.
Ed School student Justin C. Hauver bikes along Massachusetts Avenue toward Harvard Square Monday afternoon. The Cambridge City Council plans to approve initiatives for bike safety around college campuses. By Timothy R. O'Meara

“There’s a good deal of volume of bicycles in the area, and people may be coming from areas where there aren’t as many,” said Sandra Clarke, Cambridge’s deputy director of community development. “[The resolutions are] intended to reach out to folks who may be new to the community.”

Bike safety has been at the center of many City Council discussions after June 23, when Amanda N. Phillips ’10, formerly of Lowell House and student at MGH Institute of Health Professions, died in a bike accident in Inman Square.

Following the accident this summer, the Council passed a resolution ordering the City Manager’s Office and the Cambridge office of community development “to fast-track plans to completely redesign and reconstruct Inman Square’s dangerous 5-street intersection, prioritizing the safety of people who bike and walk.”

Local bikers and residents of Inman Square flooded the June City Council meeting by the dozens, expressing dissatisfaction with Cambridge’s current biking conditions during the public comment period.

According to Clarke, the departments of Community Development and Parking, Traffic and Transportation are jointly considering the Inman Square proposal. However, she also pointed out that Cambridge is considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in America.

“Certainly safety is important to the City of Cambridge and there are some measurements of that in terms of rank,” she said, referring to bicycling.com’s recent ranking of Cambridge as eighth in the nation for best bike cities.

While the bike safety votes were unanimous, Councillor Craig A. Kelley expressed concern over the Council’s current discussions about bike safety and the its ability to target everyone who uses the roads.

“There are a lot of people in the world who aren’t cyclists who don’t even come close to following the rules of the road. Pedestrians, drivers, dog-walkers, you name someone and a big chunk of them are doing whatever seems convenient to them at the same time,” Kelley said. “I think these three orders indicate just how broken our transportation discussion is.”

Charles T. James ’09, founder of Crimson Bikes, a local bike-sharing startup, said he supported the Council's decision.

“I think this is a great idea that will depend on execution to make sure it's effective,” James said in an email. “We'll see how it plays out.”

The move to restructure Inman Square’s intersection follows similar efforts to make the busy streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts’s fifth most populous city, even more pedestrian and biker-friendly. At last week’s meeting, the City Council ordered the City Manager to begin the process of lowering Cambridge’s speed limits. At Monday’s meeting, City Manager Richard C. Rossi reported that the conversion to lower speed limits would begin on Nov. 7, when new state laws go into effect.

While the Council had requested many roads lower their speed limits to 20 or 25 miles per hour, Rossi and Cambridge Director of Parking, Traffic and Transportation Joseph E. Barr reminded the Council about the importance of enforcing the new law.

“I think we want to be careful of sort of putting up a sign and people thinking ‘oh problem solved,’ when in fact it doesn’t really solve as much as we would think,” Barr said.

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