Tag Archives: Safety

Battle Over Bike Lanes in Cambridge

3 Dec

 

Fritz Donovan, presiding officer of the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association, speaks at a Wednesday group meeting on bicycle concerns. (Photos: Tom Meek)

A neighborhood group gathered and voted Wednesday seemingly to form a committee urging city officials to reevaluate and fix recently installed bike lanes it felt weren’t addressing traffic-safety goals. It was similar to the conclusion of a Monday meeting held by a different group.

There was overlap in attendance between the Monday “Safe Streets for All” meeting in East Cambridge and the Mid-Cambridge Neighborhood Association meeting held Wednesday, but Fritz Donovan, the neighborhood group’s presiding officer, said this was “a neighborhood initiative that had been set up before.” More than 60 people attended the earlier meeting; nearly 100 gathered Wednesday at a Spaulding Hospital meeting room, including association members, bicyclists and other concerned citizens.

After many speakers and a near-unanimous association vote to set up a committee, there was little time to discuss how the two groups might collaborate or cooperate in getting more bicyclist traffic enforcement, “revisiting” the installed bike lanes on Brattle and Cambridge streets and playing a bigger role in future installations. Continue reading

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Inman Square Redesign

4 May
Plans for Inman Square add a plaza on Hampshire Street that bends it to the west where it meets Cambridge Street.

Just in time for National Bike Month – and almost a year after bicyclist Amanda Phillips was struck and killed – the city announced its redesign plans for Inman Square.

The chosen design revealed Tuesday is the “signaled” solution, also referred to as the “Northside Bend,” which splits one complex intersection into two, putting a bumpout (and public plaza) in front of where the Punjabi Dhaba restaurant is situated. That results in bending Hampshire Street to the west as it meets Cambridge Street.

The solution was met with mixed reactions, but most everyone was happy something was being done, city councilor Marc McGovern said.

Cambridge officials have felt pressure to make a safer, more bikeable city sooner, rather than later, since the death of Phillips and a fellow bicyclist only months later. Activist groups such as Cambridge Bicycle Safety and the Boston Cyclists Union have been among the most vocal in pushing for solutions – most hoping for a peanut-shaped “roundabout” solution considered to offer more safety benefits, said Michael Davidson of Cambridge Bicycle Safety, pointing to its “15 mph rated speeds and raised crosswalks.”  Continue reading

Make Way for the Bike Lane

27 Apr
Members of the Cambridge Bicycle Committee listen to Dutch transportation planner Jan Nederveen on Sunday on Cambridge Street, which is getting a protected bike lanes. (Photo: Michael Davidson‎ via Facebook)

The first public meeting on a Cambridge Street separated bike lane project drew some 150 cyclists, street residents and concerned business proprietors and others Tuesday, and the design – shifting the bike lane between parked cars and the curb – and summer timeline were received with overwhelming support.

The proposed lane passes by major city waypoints including Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, where high schoolers have been advocating for a safer way to bike to campus, Cambridge Hospital and the Cambridge Main Library. The meeting was held at the school.

“As the mom of a CRLS student who bikes to school, and as a bike commuter myself, I can’t wait for a comprehensive network that will allow us to get around the city safely and without polluting,” said Ruthann Rudel, a Rindge Avenue resident and Cambridge Bicycle Committee member.  Continue reading

19 Dec
One of Cambridge’s separated bike lane tests is along Massachusetts Avenue just north of Harvard Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

The City of Cambridge made good last week on a City Council order from October implementing two experimental, separated bike lanes along short swaths of Massachusetts Avenue – one in Central Square, along the northbound stretch skirting Lafayette Park; the other also northbound, just north of Harvard Square along the Harvard Law School campus. The Law School installation removed parking spaces; the Central Square setup shifted parked cars outward, so the bike lane runs between the passenger side of parked vehicles and the curb. Each section is about about a football field long.

The implementations are similar to ones installed in November along Massachusetts Avenue in Boston as part of the city’s pursuit of Vision Zero – a program aimed at achieving a rate of zero traffic fatalities. The October order was one of a series of bicycle safety orders pushed by cycling advocates and groups after the death of Amanda Phillips in Inman Square in June and Joseph Lavins, struck by a truck in Porter Square, three months later.

The separation device is a zebra-striped swath painted on the road with flex posts, and the raised structures are removable pylons. More permanent flex barrier posts have been ordered and should be installed in the next two weeks, weather permitting, said Joseph Barr, director of Cambridge’s Traffic, Parking and Transportation department.

Still, there is “no set date” for how long the lanes will be left up, Barr said. The primary purpose of the temporary measures is to garner feedback on safety and the feasibility of the solution for expansion. There are plans for similar protected lanes in Inman Square in the spring, but the loss of parking spaces is typically fiercely debated in traffic changes.

“Folks will realize the loss of some parking in some areas is less important than than creating safe streets for those riding bikes,” vice mayor Marc McGovern said.

The reaction from the bike community so far has been guarded elation. “The new protected bike lanes are a great start,” said Joseph Poirier, of the Cambridge Bicycle Safety group formed in the wake of Phillips’ death, “but we know that we won’t see the huge mode shifts to biking from driving until we have a complete network of low-stress, protected bike lanes throughout the city. Isolated segments are a helpful start, but people won’t start to replace driving trips with bike trips until their entire journey is protected and low-stress. The research is pretty clear about this.”

Cambridge can be a leader in rolling out a connected, comprehensive network of protected bike lanes, group members say. “Remember that all of the great policies in the Netherlands started with a single car-free day in Utrecht,” is how Richard Fries, executive director of Mass Bike, sums it up.

26 Oct
A “ghost bike” memorial is set up Tuesday in Porter Square in memory of bicyclist Bernard “Joe” Lavins. (Photo: Andrew Huang)
A “ghost bike” memorial is set up Tuesday in Porter Square in memory of bicyclist Bernard “Joe” Lavins. (Photo: Andrew Huang)

More than 200 cyclists, co-workers and friends gathered in Porter Square on Tuesday to hold a candlelight vigil for Dr. Bernard “Joe” Lavins, who was struck and killed Oct. 5 by an 18-wheeler while bicycling through the tangled intersection in front of Christopher’s restaurant.

Details of the accident have yet to be released, but his death marks the second cyclist in Cambridge killed in a little over three months after Amanda Phillips was doored and struck by a lawn service vehicle June 23 in Inman Square.

The ceremony, led by the Rev. Laura Everett, head of the Massachusetts Council of Churches and a cycle advocate, dedicated a “ghost bike” memorial in Lavins’ memory, and mourners recalled Lavins, a 60 year-old research scientist at Ironwood Pharmaceuticals in Cambridge.

The Rev. Laura Everett leads the Tuesday memorial ceremony in Porter Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)
The Rev. Laura Everett leads the Tuesday memorial ceremony in Porter Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

He was a cautious man, mourners said, who took a bike safety class put on by the company before he began commuting from his home in Lexington two years ago. (To get away from the frustrations of driving and to get more exercise, because he loved junk food too much, one friend pointed out.)

Ken Carlson, a colleague of Lavins’ at Ironwood who also chairs the Somerville Bike Committee, and Chris O’Dea, another co-worker who cycles, called for “something positive to come from the terrible tragedy” – namely to make Porter Square and all hazardous hotspots throughout the city safe for cycling.

Five city councillors attended the event – Craig Kelley, Leland Cheung, Jan Devereux, Nadeem Mazen and vice mayor Marc McGovern – and John Adams, proprietor of the Kendall Square pool hall Flat Top Johnny’s, gave a history of the ghost bike, a symbol of remembrance and a reminder to motorists to share the road. Peter Cheung, a video editor and cycling enthusiast from Jamaica Plain, painted Lavins’ ghost bike after it was found in the basement of Flat Top Johnny’s. Admiration of his work brought a sweeping response from Cheung: “No more ghost bikes.”

Lavins leaves behind a wife and a 13-year-old daughter – and a heartbroken cycling community that wants change now.

Bike safety

26 Oct

Flowers in Porter Square for cyclist killed by truck yesterday morning.

Sadly, this is the second time in a little over three months that I’m writing about the hazardous state of cycling in Cambridge, Boston and the surrounding areas – now after the death of Bernard Lavins, 60, who was dragged under an 18-wheeler in Porter Square this week. In June, Amanda Phillips was doored in Inman Square and killed by a passing lawn service truck. Both came after the conclusion of Bike Month, when I submitted a passionate callout of municipalities for their slack and slow response to perilous hot zones outlined in letters submitted to the respective transportation departments requesting their attention before something tragic happened. Continue reading