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Cambridge City Councilors Debate, Delay Vote on Mass. Ave. Bike Lane Proposal

At Monday's meeting, the Cambridge City Council discussed a proposal to construct bike lanes on parts of Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard Square and North Cambridge.
At Monday's meeting, the Cambridge City Council discussed a proposal to construct bike lanes on parts of Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard Square and North Cambridge. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writer

On Monday, the Cambridge City Council discussed a proposal to construct bike lanes on parts of Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard Square and North Cambridge, ultimately delaying a vote until later in the month.

Councilors discussed a report from city staff detailing a proposal and timeline to construct bike lanes on four segments of Mass. Ave. The four segments, referred to collectively as “MassAve4,” share “unique complicating factors,” such as overhead bus wires and concrete medians, that make bike lane construction challenging, per the report.

Under the Cycling Safety Ordinance, a law passed by the Council in 2019 and amended in 2020, the city must approve a plan to construct bike lanes on the MassAve4 segments by April 30, 2022.

The report proposes building “partial construction” bike lanes — sitting at street level and separated from traffic by posts or a curb — on segments of Mass. Ave. between Dudley Street and Beech Street and between Roseland Street and Waterhouse Street. The report also considers “full construction” bike lanes — at sidewalk level — alongside the Mass. Ave. bus stops in Harvard Square.

According to the report, the installations would be completed by 2026 for an overall price of approximately $55 million.

During the meeting, Councilor Patricia M. “Patty” Nolan ’80 said the Council has received “hundreds of emails” from residents concerned about the economic impact the bike lanes might have on local businesses.

Ruth Ryals, president of the Porter Square Neighbors Association, called on the city to “work very hard with other property owners in the area to identify additional parking sources” during the meeting’s public comment period.

An economic analysis of the ordinance commissioned by the Council is currently underway. The Council also recently convened an advisory committee to propose improvements to the implementation of the CSO.

City Councilor Paul F. Toner called for the deadlines in the CSO to be revised, giving the city more time to deliberate with residents and local businesses before committing to a plan.

“We’re the one who made this policy and put this timeline on ourselves,” Toner said.

Last month, the city announced it would fail to meet a separate CSO deadline requiring the construction of quick-build bike lanes in Porter Square by May 1, 2022. At that time, the Council accepted the delay in construction to allow for further study and “meaningful engagement” with area stakeholders.

At the end of the discussion, Councilor Dennis J. Carlone tabled discussion on the proposal. The Council will reconsider it at the next full meeting on April 25.


—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at elias.schisgall@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.

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