Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

July 12, 2016

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 155-156: July 12, 2016 – featuring Cambridge Water

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge InsideOut,Fresh Pond,water — Tags: , , , , , — Robert Winters @ 11:53 pm

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 155 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 5:30pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]


Cambridge InsideOut Episode 156 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 at 6:00pm. The hosts are Judy Nathans and Robert Winters. [On YouTube]

Much of the discussion in both episodes focused on the Cambridge Water System.

July 16, 2015

Cambridge Animal Commission Advises Precautionary Measures due to Rabid Raccoon Finding

Filed under: Cambridge,Fresh Pond — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 12:00 pm

Cambridge Animal Commission Advises Precautionary Measures due to Rabid Raccoon Finding

raccoon and skunk (Wikipedia)July 16, 2015 — On Monday, July 13, Cambridge Animal Control Officers picked up a raccoon at Fresh Pond Reservation that has tested positive for rabies.

Earlier this month, a skunk and a fox found in Belmont tested positive for rabies, though they were not found in very close proximity to Fresh Pond. The skunk was found towards the center of Belmont and the fox was located in the area of Belmont Hills.

At this time, Cambridge Animal Commission has received no reports of any person or animal having contact with a rabid animal, but advises that people take precautionary measures, especially at Fresh Pond Reservation. Dog owners should maintain their pets in clear view and keep them from running in brush areas where they cannot see if something occurs.

Tips for Protecting Against Rabies

  • Avoid direct contact with wildlife, dead or alive. Never touch any wildlife with your bare hands.
  • If you find a sick or injured wild animal, call Cambridge Animal Commission at 617-349-4376.
  • Avoid animals displaying unnatural behavior. Wild animals that are unusually friendly or displaying other unnatural behaviors may have the rabies virus.
  • Discourage contact between pets and wildlife. Don’t let your pets roam or keep them in clear view.
  • If you are scratched or bitten by any animal, either wild or domestic, consult your physician immediately.
  • If your pet receives a suspected bite wound from an unknown animal or if your pet comes in direct contact with any wild animal, even if no wounds are evident, consult your veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian may recommend a rabies booster.

Please notify the Cambridge Animal Commission if you see a potentially rabid animal or come in contact with one at 617-349-4376. If you get the voice mail, please try to convey the time and location of the siting and your contact number.

May 23, 2015

Catching Up on the Cambridge News (May 23, 2015)

Filed under: Cambridge,Fresh Pond — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 12:19 pm

Catching Up on the Cambridge News (May 23, 2015)

Memorial Day Parade and Observance May 25

Memorial Day ParadeThe Cambridge Veterans’ Organization (CVO) and Cambridge Veterans’ Services will hold their annual Memorial Day Parade and Observance on Monday, May 25, 2015. The Parade will begin with a cannon salute by the MA Bicentennial Battery at 9:30am, on the Cambridge Common and proceed through Harvard Square, up Mount Auburn Street to Coolidge Avenue, and conclude at the Cambridge Cemetery on Coolidge Avenue. Cambridge Mayor David Maher and CVO President Philip Anderson will serve as parade commentators.

Parade participants will include: veterans’ groups, elected officials, police and fire personnel, color guards, bands, drill teams and youth organizations.

Following the parade, a Memorial Day Observance will be held at the Cambridge Cemetery. (Approximate start time: 11:00am) CVO President Philip Anderson will serve as Master of Ceremonies. CVO Chaplain Paul Kim will give the Invocation and Benediction and City of Cambridge Police Sargent and Massachusetts Army National Guard Veteran Maj. Thomas Glynn will deliver the keynote address.

Mayor David Maher will give the greetings of the city and City Councillor Marc McGovern will read the City Council’s Memorial Day Resolution. Amigos School 4th graders will lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance and a CRLS Drama student will read the Governor’s Memorial Day Proclamation.

In addition, a CRLS student vocalist will sing the National Anthem, America the Beautiful and God Bless America. Bagpiper, Edward O’Callaghan will Play “Amazing Grace.” The CVO Rifle team along with the Massachusetts Bicentennial Battery will render a rifle salute, and Bugler, Robinson Pyle will blow “TAPS.”

Following the memorial observance, the Women’s Auxiliary of the Veterans’ of Foreign Wars accompanied by local elected officials will hold a brief memorial ceremony at the Weeks Bridge in honor of the Cambridge servicemen and women who were lost at sea.

The public is cordially invited to attend all of the Memorial Day events and activities.

Immediately following the day’s events, a collation, hosted by the Cambridge Veterans’ Organization will be held at the VFW Mt. Auburn Post, #8818, located at 688 Huron Avenue.

THERE IS VERY LIMITED PARKING AVAILABLE AT THE VFW. COLLATION ATTENDEES ARE ENCOURAGED TO RIDE THE VETERANS TROLLEYS THAT WILL BE LOCATED AT THE CEMETERY. THE TROLLEYS WILL RETURN YOU TO THE CAMBRIDGE COMMON OR THE CEMETERY AFTER THE COLLATION.

For further information, please call Cambridge Veterans Services at (617) 349-4761.


Exhibit: Magazine Beach – A Place Apart – On View at City Hall
Where & When: at City Hall, May 11-June 4

Magazine BeachSee how Cambridge’s second largest park came to be, from an island surrounded by marshes to a gunpowder depot and, later, a favorite Charles River swimming beach. As a public space, the site has inspired many plans and schemes. Consider the courses taken and passed by as we plan for the park’s future – this year.

Magazine Beach – Its History and Your Stories!
When & Where: Cambridge Sr. Center, 806 Massachusetts Ave. on Thursday, May 28 at 1:00pm

Magazine Beach Park, at the bottom of Magazine Street, is Cambridge’s second largest park, and it has long been a favorite swimming and picnicking site. Hear about its long history, about Captain’s Island and its powder magazine, and its becoming a popular beach for Charles River bathers. We’re eager to hear your stories, too!

Library Program: Renaissance on the Cambridge side of the Charles
Where & When: Main Branch, Cambridge Public Library on Thursday, June 11 at 6:30pm

While the Esplanade has long been the jewel on the Charles, the Cambridge river parklands, at long last, are beginning to receive their due. Hear the latest about North Point Park’s skate park and Magazine Beach and Greenough Boulevard improvements. Presenters from the Charles River Conservancy, Solomon Foundation, Cambridgeport Neighbors Association’s Magazine Beach Committee, Mass. Dept. of Conservation & Recreation (DCR), and the City of Cambridge will share current projects.

Magazine Beach


Cambridge Fire Department Receives American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline EMS Silver Award

Cambridge FireCambridge Fire Department, along with PRO EMS of Cambridge, have jointly received the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline® EMS Silver Award for implementing quality improvement measures for the treatment of patients who experience severe heart attacks.

Every year, more than 250,000 people experience a STEMI, or ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction, a type of heart attack caused by a complete blockage of blood flow to the heart that requires timely treatment. To prevent death, it’s critical to restore blood flow as quickly as possible, either by surgically opening the blocked vessel or by giving clot-busting medication.

Unfortunately, a significant number don’t receive this prompt treatment. Mission: Lifeline seeks to save lives by closing the gaps that separate STEMI patients from timely access to appropriate treatments. Mission: Lifeline’s EMS recognition program recognizes emergency responders for their efforts in improving STEMI systems of care and improving the quality of life for these patients.

Emergency Medical System providers are vital to the success of Mission: Lifeline. EMS agencies provide access to 12-lead ECG machines (devices that measures the electrical activity of the heartbeat and can help medical personnel determine if a heart attack has occurred), and follow protocols derived from American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology guidelines. The correct tools and training allow EMS providers to rapidly identify the STEMI, promptly notify the medical center, and trigger an early response from the awaiting hospital personnel.

Agencies that receive the Mission: Lifeline Silver award have demonstrated at least 75 percent compliance for each required achievement measure for the entire year, and treat at least eight STEMI patients for the year.

“EMTs and paramedics play a vital part in the system of care for those who have heart attacks,” said Nancy Brown, Chief Executive Officer of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. “Since they often are the first medical point of contact, they can shave precious minutes of life-saving treatment time by activating the emergency response system that alerts hospitals. We applaud Cambridge Fire Department and PRO EMS for achieving this award that shows they meet evidence-based guidelines in the treatment of people who have severe heart attacks.”

“Cambridge Fire Department and PRO EMS are dedicated to making our units among the best in the country, and the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline program is helping us accomplish that by implementing processes for improving STEMI systems of care with the goal of improving the quality of care for all STEMI patients,” said Cambridge Fire Chief Gerry Reardon. “We are pleased to be recognized for our dedication and achievements in emergency medical care for STEMI patients.” For more information, contact Assistant Chief Gerard Mahoney, Phone: 617-349-4970. For more information about the program, visit: heart.org/missionlifeline.


Cambridge Public Library Awarded Six Prizes by Massachusetts Library Association

Children's Room, Cambridge Main LibraryMay 21 – The Massachusetts Library Association (MLA) presented the 22nd biennial public relations awards to the winning applicants at the Association’s Annual Conference at the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts. Winners were chosen by a panel of independent judges from the public relations, advertising, press, and graphic design fields. Evaluation criteria included messaging, originality, and presentation. Entries were submitted for 20 categories, including brochures, community reading programs, social media, and Websites.

The Cambridge Public Library received five awards in the logo, booklist, community reading program, summer reading program, and newsletter categories. The Library also received first prize in the merchandise category for its tote bags promoting library confidentiality.

Library graphic designer, Luke Kirkland was presented with the awards by the MLA Public Relations Committee at the 2nd Annual Awards Gala and Dinner.

"The Cambridge Public Library is proud of Mr. Kirkland’s work which is visually engaging and representative of the highly professional programs and services offered to our community," said Susan Flannery, Director of Libraries.

Last year, the Cambridge Public Library checked out 1.4 million items and offered 3,000 programs to more than 87,000 individuals.

The Massachusetts Library Association advocates for libraries, librarians, and library staff, defends intellectual freedom, and provides a forum for leadership, communication, professional development, and networking to keep libraries vital. MLA has been working libraries for over 100 years, representing members from all library types in the Commonwealth. For more information visit www.masslib.org.


Mayor David Maher Announces 25th Anniversary of Cambridge Pride Brunch

May 21 – Today, Mayor David P. Maher announced that 2015 marks the 25th Anniversary of the City of Cambridge’s Pride Brunch, a tradition that honors the service of individuals working toward equal access and social justice for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people.

This year, Mayor Maher, along with the City Administration and the Cambridge GLBT Commission will hold the event in the Sullivan Chamber in Cambridge City Hall on Saturday, June 13 at 9:00am, at 795 Mass. Ave.

Refreshments will be provided and the annual program celebrating the progress for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people in Cambridge will begin at 9:30am. The program will include a ceremony presenting the annual Bayard Rustin Award to a person of color with an outstanding history of service to the Cambridge GLBT Community. Community recognition awards as well as the Rose Lipkin award to a Cambridge Rindge and Latin School student will also be presented.

Bus transportation will be provided to the Boston Pride Parade after the Brunch, departing Cambridge City Hall at 11:15am.

RSVPs to this event are appreciated (but not required) and can be made to Mayor Maher’s Office at (617) 349-4321 or mayor@cambridgema.gov.


StoryWalk Cambridge – Can You Find all the Pages?
Friday, May 29, 5:30-7:30pm, Donnelly Field

(Behind King Open School, between Willow and Berkshire streets).
Rain Location: King Open School Cafeteria

The Agenda for Children, the Center for Families and the Cambridge Health Alliance invites families to come and join us for a reading adventure at Donnelly Field.

Pages from the children’s books Forest Bright, Forest Night and One Hot Summer Day will be posted along the field. Parents and kids can enjoy free pizza, books, arts and crafts, along with a special performance by Silly Sally.

For more information about StoryWalk, contact Priscila de Calvache at 617-665-3825 or pcardoso@challiance.org.


Community Preservation Act Committee Public Meeting on Project Recommendations June 16

The Community Preservation Act Committee will hold a public meeting Tuesday, June 16, at 6:00pm, at Cambridge City Hall, Sullivan Chamber, 795 Mass. Ave. The meeting agenda will include providing the public an opportunity to suggest and recommend projects for CPA funding for Housing, Open Space and Historic Preservation in FY16. For more information, contact Karen Preval at 617-349-4221 or kpreval@cambridgema.gov.


Cambridge Announces Formation of Foundry Advisory Committee
City Manager seeking volunteers to serve on committee

City of CambridgeThe Cambridge City Manager is seeking volunteers to serve on a new Foundry Advisory Committee that he is establishing. This group will advise and provide regular updates to the City Manager as well as providing regular updates to the Executive Director of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority (CRA) on proposed uses within the Foundry building, which will be redeveloped and operated consistent with the vision and objectives that grew out of an extensive community planning process.

In evaluating potential uses, programs, and use of shared spaces for creativity and innovation at the Foundry, the Committee will take into account the interior configuration, ongoing operations, changing demand and market forces, updates in technology and innovation, and other outside impacts. The Committee will also review any proposals for significant capital changes to the building as they affect the Foundry’s objectives.

Meetings are anticipated to occur quarterly, although more frequent meetings may be required in the initial stages of the redevelopment process. The Committee will provide annual updates to the CRA Board at regular Board meetings, which will provide the public with information regarding its activities and provide a forum for input. Members of the Committee will be initially appointed by the City Manager to staggered terms of 1-3 years.

The City Manager seeks individuals with demonstrated ability to work effectively on a team with diverse opinions to craft consensus recommendations. The City Manager’s intention is to create a committee that includes experience and expertise in related topic areas, as well as representation from various neighborhoods within the city, and local non-profit and community organizations.

Additional information regarding the Foundry building is available on the project webpage: www.cambridgema.gov/foundry

To apply, please send a letter by June 12, 2015 describing your interest in the Foundry Advisory Committee as well as any relevant experience and qualifications to:
Richard C. Rossi, City Manager
City of Cambridge, 795 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139
Email: citymanager@cambridgema.gov
Fax: 617-349-4307


City of Cambridge Announces Safer Truck Partnership with Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

DPW TruckMay 18, 2015 – Today, Mayor David P. Maher and City Manager Richard C. Rossi announced a partnership with the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to install truck side guards on city-owned trucks in order to enhance safety for pedestrians and bicyclists traveling in Cambridge. The city intends to install these side guards on heavy-duty vehicles in an effort to lead by example in Massachusetts and to encourage private entities to do the same.

These efforts dovetail with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Mayors’ Challenge for Safer People and Safer Streets, which was launched on Jan 22, 2015, by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

“Cambridge has always led the way with progressive multimodal transportation options for our residents. Now we are stepping up once again to lead the charge to make our streets safer and to mitigate the deadly consequences of common traffic collisions,” said Mayor Maher.

“The Mayors’ Challenge was designed to help small and large cities increase the safety of all bicyclists and pedestrians,” said Secretary Foxx. “These truck guards are another safety feature that can help save lives in Cambridge and other communities around the country.”

“Cambridge has decided to quickly and definitively make changes to its fleet to establish a new standard for safety in our community and the private sector,” said City Manager Rossi. “I’m immensely proud of how the city and federal government have come together to work to protect our residents.”

Side guards, which are installed on large trucks to protect bicyclists and pedestrians from falling underneath the vehicle, helped reduce bicyclist fatalities by 61 percent and pedestrian fatalities by 20 percent in side-impact crashes with trucks in the United Kingdom after side guards became required, starting in 1986. Side guards are devices intended to sweep aside a pedestrian or bicyclist in a side-impact crash, rather than being swept underneath the vehicle.

Volpe and the City of Cambridge are jointly working on a vehicle redesign strategy that will establish recommendations for implementing truck side guards, blind spot mirrors, and other vehicle-based technologies on the city-owned truck fleet. In addition to reviewing international best practices and safety data for developing the recommended technical specifications, operational and human factors issues will also be considered, such as:

  • Installing additional blind spot mirrors, lenses, or cameras intended to increase a driver’s field of view and situational awareness of bicyclists and pedestrians in the vicinity of a truck;
  • Posting educational messaging inside and/or outside of large trucks intended to increase awareness of all road users about avoiding blind spots and other specific hazards; and
  • Integrating the recommended safety countermeasures into the vehicle bodies and operations of the city’s truck fleet, on up to 50 identified vehicles starting in the fall of 2015, to lead by example and to encourage the private sector truck fleets to follow.

DPW Truck“I see Volpe’s first partnership with the City of Cambridge as an exciting opportunity to bring together the complementary strengths of our two government agencies,” said Dr. Alex Epstein, the Volpe team lead. “Even more importantly, this partnership is likely to save lives if the side guards and other truck-based safety initiatives succeed as expected, advancing transportation innovation for the public good.”

This initiative was brought to the attention of the City of Cambridge from social media. By coincidence, a member of Mayor Maher’s staff was walking by the scene of a crash sometime after a bicyclist had collided with a garbage truck. Thanks to the quick response of emergency personnel, the young father who had been on his bicycle was already being treated at a local hospital. Crews had started to remove the twisted frame of the bicycle from underneath the truck when Alanna Mallon, from the Mayor’s Office, walked by. She posted a picture of the bicycle frame on social media, which happened to reach Alex Epstein at the Volpe Center.

Within an hour of the picture being posted, Dr. Epstein was on the phone with the Mayor’s Office to arrange a meeting about the potential to work with Volpe on installing truck side guards. Not only was a meeting arranged with the City Manager, Deputy City Manager, Commissioner of Public Works, and Police Commissioner about this effort, but Dr. Epstein also testified at a Cambridge City Council meeting shortly after speaking with the Mayor’s Office to expand the dialogue about implementing truck side-guard solutions.

“Accidents between trucks and cyclists are unfortunately not out of the ordinary for urban communities in Massachusetts,” said Mayor Maher. “What is unique, however, is the speed with which Cambridge was able to engage with the talented folks at Volpe and to help institute a solution for our city in record time.”

DPW Truck


City Council Committee Hearing on the Net Zero Action Plan
Tuesday, June 9th 4:00pm to 6:30pm
City Hall, Sullivan Chamber, 795 Mass. Ave.

The City Council’s Health and Environment Committee, chaired by Councilor Leland Cheung, will be holding a public hearing on Tuesday, June 9th from 4:00pm to 6:30pm in Sullivan Chamber, City Hall. The purpose of the hearing is to discuss a proposed framework for the goal of setting Cambridge on the trajectory to becoming a “net zero community.” All are invited to attend this hearing. [more information on the Net Zero Action Plan]


Celebrate Cambridge Water, Sustainability and Community at Fresh Pond Day May 30

Join the Cambridge Water Department at its 8th annual Fresh Pond Day on Saturday, May 30, from 11am-3pm to celebrate Fresh Pond Reservation, Cambridge’s in-city drinking water reservoir and urban wild. This event is free and open to all; all dogs must be leashed.

The festivities are held around the Water Treatment Facility at 250 Fresh Pond Parkway. Use of public transit and bicycles to get to the event is strongly encouraged, especially for those wanting to participate in the bike parade! Visitors arriving by car are asked to park at the Tobin School on 197 Vassal Lane.

Fresh Pond DayFresh Pond Day is an occasion for all ages to jubilate in honor of Fresh Pond Reservation, which protects the City’s drinking water supply, is critical wildlife habitat, and provides Cantabrigians with a green, recreational oasis.

The day’s schedule of events includes:

  • Stories with Doria – 11:30am
  • Wildflower Walkabouts – 11:30am and 1pm
  • Wildlife Parade – 12:30pm (feel free to bring a costume – sign and mask making will be offered all morning!)
  • Live Wildlife Demonstrations – 1pm to 3pm
  • Treatment Facility Tour – 1pm (Open House all day)
  • Bee Hive Talk & Tour – 1pm
  • Bicycle Parade – 1:30pm (decorate at the flair station!)
  • Kingsley Park Restoration Tour – 2pm
  • Nature Drawing – 2pm

All-day highlights include: live music by Lux, Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band, and the Wicked Pickers; kids’ activities, StoryWalk and book giveaway; face painting; truck climb-aboards; bike tune-up and flair stations; dog training clinics; pedi-cab rides; a chance to meet and greet with City staff and community groups; and more!

Feel free to bring a picnic. Rain does cancel the event. For schedule and weather updates, and to get involved, visit www.cambridgema.gov/freshpondday, or contact Kirsten Lindquist at 617-349-6489, klindquist@cambridgema.gov.

June 4, 2014

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 61 and 62 – News and Commentary

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 61 – News and Commentary (Part 1).

This episode was broadcast on June 3, 2014 at 5:30pm. Co-hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. The main topics we touched on were (1) upcoming events [including the Cambridge River Festival in Central Square (June 7) and the Citywide Dance Party (June 27)], (2) a proposal “to prohibit the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling shows and circuses”, (3) the migration of fish in the Charles River, (4) the upcoming Democratic convention, (5) updates on several municipal election reform proposals). [On YouTube]

Cambridge InsideOut Episode 62 – News and Commentary (Part 2)

Broadcast June 3, 2014 at 6:00pm. Co-hosts are Susana Segat and Robert Winters. Topics include (1) “Cambridge Conversations” conducted by Community Development prior to future “master plan” process, (2) a variety of matters relating to Central Square including the possibility of pushcart vendors and food trucks, (3) proposal to build low/middle income housing on a Central Square parking lot, (4) possible future uses for the Cambridge DPW Yard, (5) updates on the disposition of the Sullivan Courthouse and the prospect of future lawsuits, and (6) the approval of the FY2015 Budget and upcoming City Council meetings. [On YouTube]

May 13, 2014

Fresh Pond Day – Saturday May 31, 11am-3pm

Filed under: Cambridge,Fresh Pond — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:01 pm

Celebrate Our Reservation and Cambridge Community at Fresh Pond Day – Saturday May 31, 11am-3pm

Water Department logoJoin the Cambridge Water Department in celebrating the land, water, wildlife and people that make Cambridge’s Fresh Pond Reservation in Cambridge a unique and vital oasis at the 7th annual Fresh Pond Day. The festivities, hosted on the Reservation at 250 Fresh Pond Parkway will run from 11am-3pm and are open and free to all. Parking will be very limited at Fresh Pond Reservation; all visitors arriving by car are strongly encouraged to park at the Tobin School, 197 Vassal Lane.

Fresh Pond Day is for all ages. Highlights of the celebration will include: live music, children’s StoryWalk and storytime, face painting, stilt-walking, kids’ sing-along, wildlife and bicycle parades, container gardening, a live owl demonstration, fire truck and Reservation utility vehicles on exhibition, Reservation and water treatment facility tours, and a chance to meet and greet with City departments and community groups. Feel free to bring a picnic. Rain does cancel the event. For schedules, updates on weather, and volunteering, visit the Public Programs page at www.cambridgema.gov/water, or contact Kirsten Lindquist at (617) 349-6489, klindquist@cambridgema.gov.

Fresh Pond Reservation is readily accessible by public transit and bicycle; these “green” transportation options are strongly recommended. Bus routes #72, 75, 74 and 78 all stop within a 10 minute walk of the Reservation. To arrive by subway, take the Red Line to Alewife Station and walk down Alewife Brook Parkway past Fresh Pond Mall, then cross Concord Avenue into the Reservation. Ride a bicycle here by taking a right on Lakeview Avenue off of Brattle Street, crossing Fresh Pond Parkway to reach the bike path on the Reservation’s perimeter.

Fresh Pond Day!

October 6, 2013

Cambridge at cross purposes about traffic

Readers of the newsletter of the Belmont Citizens Forum will find much news there about neighboring North Cambridge. Editor Meg Muckenhoupt’s lead story in the September-October 2013 issue is about major, new housing developments planned for the part of Cambridge west of Alewife Brook Parkway and north of Fresh Pond Park. The article expresses concerns with traffic which is already approaching gridlock and affecting access to the Alewife T station.

Quoting from the story:

The decision document issued by Cambridge’s Planning Board for the 398-unit 160 Cambridgepark Drive, which is predicted to cause 1,324 new trips, states, “The project is expected to have minimal impact on traffic and will not cause congestion, hazard, or substantial change to the established neighborhood character.” Ominously, the decision continues: “It is also noted that the traffic generated by the project is anticipated to be less than that associated with the office/research and development project on 150, 180 and 180R Cambridgepark Drive for which entitlements currently exist under a previously granted special permit.” In short, if the city of Cambridge accepted a potential increase in traffic for a special permit in the past, the city should accept that increase in traffic for all future permits—no matter how much the population has increased in the meantime.

[…]

Concord Avenue and the Alewife Brook Parkway rotary won’t escape traffic woes. Cambridge’s 2005 Concord Alewife Plan included a “critical movement analysis” of the area. Critical movements are conflicting traffic movements. They are the times when vehicles block each other from moving, such as when a car turns left and crosses a lane of oncoming traffic. The Concord Alewife Plan reports that for the area roughly bounded by the Route 2/Route 16 intersection, the Alewife Brook Parkway, and Concord Avenue, service starts to deteriorate when a roadway reaches the “critical sum” of 1,500 vehicles per hour, or 1,800 vehicles per hour for rotaries. Below those numbers, and most motorists can get through an intersection in two or fewer light cycles. Above those thresholds, you’ll wait at that light a long time. As of 2005, the Concord/Route 2 rotary was already operating at 1,880 critical interactions—80 above the threshold—with a total traffic volume of 4,300 trips per day, while Concord Avenue at Blanchard Road had already reached 1,400 “critical sums” per hour, with 2,460 trips per day.

The report also predicted vehicle trips per day for 2024 for the area after Cambridge’s rezoning (which Cambridge enacted in June 2006.) The permitted 70 Fawcett Street development, which will be located between these two intersections, by itself promises to add enough vehicle trips to reach the predicted 2024 buildout trip level by 2014—and there’s plenty more space for apartments and garages alongside between the Concord Avenue rotary and Blanchard Road.

Also:

Of course, some of these buildings’ residents will take the T to work—if they can fit on the T…The Red Line is already “congested” and running at capacity, according to a June 2012 study by the Urban Land Institute titled Hub and Spoke: Core Transit Congestion and the Future of Transit and Development in Greater Boston.

So, Cambridge publishes a plan for the Alewife area which reports that traffic congestion is already a problem, but then it permits several large housing developments which will worsen it. The Belmont Citizens Forum article does report that design study has been funded for a new bridge over the commuter rail tracks west of Alewife Station, connecting it with Concord Avenue. That will relieve some congestion near the Alewife Brook Parkway/Concord Avenue rotary but will have little effect elsewhere. And this is still only a design study.

As a bicycling advocate and repeated critic of Cambridge’s treatment on Concord Avenue — see summary of my comments here — I have found another major inconsistency with the 2005 Concord-Alewife Plan: the recent reconstruction of Concord Avenue so as to maximize the number of conflicts between bicyclists and motorists. The new traffic signal just west of the Concord Avenue/Alewife Brook Parkway rotary backs up traffic into the rotary whenever a bicyclist or pedestrian actuates the signal to cross. The westbound sidewalk bikeway installed on the north side of Concord Avenue crosses a driveway or street on average once every 100 feet, requiring motorists to stop in the only westbound travel lane, blocking traffic, to yield to bicyclists overtaking on their right. Buses traveling both ways on Concord Avenue must stop in the travel lane, where their doors open directly into the bikeway. The conflicting turn movements between motorists and bicyclists, and bus passengers discharged onto the the bikeway, pose serious safety concerns too.

In previous posts on this blog and elsewhere, I recommended a two-way bikeway on the south side of Concord Avenue next to Fresh Pond Park, where there is only one signalized intersection, and maintenance of the previous roadway width and bike lanes.

The 2005 Concord-Alewife Plan contains no mention of the Concord Avenue bikeway — see recommendations for Concord Avenue on page 80 of the report. The plan therefore does not account for the congestion caused by the bikeway, on which construction began only 4 years later.

The overall impression I get is that Cambridge’s planning is disorganized, but also, Cambridge’s bicycle planning occurs in a fantasyland where the well-known conflict situations which cause crashes are greeted with a claim that the goal is to make bicycling more attractive, then, poof, when there are more bicyclists, by magic, bicycling will become safer. I call this the “Pied Piper” approach to bicycle planning. Well, actually, Cambridge is reporting a steady level of bicycle crashes in spite of an increasing volume of bicycle traffic. Some decrease in risk with increasing volume occurs with any mode of transportation as its users gain longer experience. The issue I have is with using this as an excuse for wishful thinking and crap design, and writing off the victims of preventable crashes as expendable. Cambridge has had some gruesome preventable crashes, and has intersections with the highest volumes of bicycle crashes anywhere in Massachusetts.

Another overall impression which I can’t shake is that Cambridge is very selective about reducing traffic congestion. The Concord Avenue project; the residential developments planned for the Alewife area; the Western Avenue roadway narrowing and sidewalk bikeway; and the proposed bikeways along Binney Street increase congestion at the portals to the city. It all strikes me as rather desperate and underhanded way to decrease congestion in the core of the city, but there you have it, as it appears to me.

[Added paragraphs, October 7, 7:40 AM] Residential development close to the urban core is certainly preferable to sprawling suburbs to minimize environmental impacts and traffic congestion, but resolving the traffic problems in the Alewife area would require major investments to increase Red Line and bus service, and disincentives (read: high cost) for single-occupant motor vehicle travel. The public resists all of these. If there is a logic to the City’s approach to these challenges, it is to break down resistance by making the problems so pressing that the pain becomes intolerable.

Bicycling and walking can make some contribution, but the plans for the new housing developments describe it as small. Quoting again:

To be fair, the developers of these various projects are attempting to make car-free commuting more attractive to their residents. Several of these buildings have extensive bicycle-parking facilities, including the Faces site and 160 Cambridgepark Drive. But the city of Cambridge doesn’t anticipate that those bicycles will get much use. For 398-unit 160 Cambridgepark Drive, for example, the city estimates the residents will make 1,324 daily car trips, and 202 pedestrian trips, but just 98 journeys by bike.

Most of the traffic in the area in any case is to or from more distant locations, or is passing through. Bicycling and walking may serve as feeder modes for these longer trips but don’t compete well with motorized modes to cover the distance.

December 3, 2012

Enjoying? the Concord Avenue “raised bike lanes”

The Cambridge City Council meeting on December 3, 2012 is to address issues of debris on the Concord Avenue “raised bike lanes”. These replaced conventional bike lanes at street level. I put the term “raised bike lanes” in quotes because a bikeway behind a curb is not a bike lane. By definition, a lane is at street level, so it is possible to merge to and from other lanes. Rather, this is a nonstandard bicycle path.

This post supplements comments which I posted on my own blog before Concord Avenue was reconstructed. The photos here are stills from video shot during a ride westbound at mid-day on November 20, 2012, with moderate motor traffic and very light bicycle traffic.

First photo: Crosswalk just west of the Alewife Brook Parkway rotary is backing up motor traffic. This already generates traffic jams with light bicycle traffic. The City expects the bikeways to attract more cyclists and to lead to a major increase in bicycle traffic.

Crosswalk backs up traffic on Concord Avenue

Crosswalk backs up traffic on Concord Avenue

Next photo: The westbound bikeway crosses 24 streets and 8 driveways in 3000 feet. The most persistent hazard on the westbound bikeway is of “right hook” and “left cross” collisions. The van in the photo not only is turning across the bikeway; it also might be hiding another vehicle preparing a left turn from ahead. The bikeway places bicyclists where they are defenseless against these threats. I say more about them, and how to avoid them, in my earlier blog post.

Right hook and left cross threat on Concord Avenue bikeway

Right hook and left cross threat on Concord Avenue bikeway

Next — bus stop. When the bike lanes were at street level, bicyclists could pass a stopped bus on the left, or wait behind it. Motorists also usually could pass a stopped bus. Passing would have been even easier with bus turnouts on the westbound side, where there is only one travel lane. Now that the roadway has instead been narrowed, converting the conventional bike lanes into “raised bike lanes”, buses must completely block the travel lane, and passengers getting off a bus step down directly into the path of bicyclists. A 2007 research study in Copenhagen showed an increase in bicyclist-pedestrian collisions of 17 times, and of injuries of 19 times, when bus stops were placed outside bikeways like this. More about that study.

Bus stop on Concord Avenue, with green paint

Bus stop on Concord Avenue, with green paint

That study was published well before construction on the Concord Avenue bikeway began. Not only that, the City’s bicycle coordinator repeatedly points to Copenhagen as a model of what Cambridge should do.

To resolve conflicts between bicyclists and passengers descending from buses, the City first painted bicycle markings. Those markings, however, suggest that bicyclists have priority, and these markings also may not be directly in front of a bus’s door when it opens, to warn the passengers. At some later time, green carpet painting was added. This is normally used to indicate where motorists yield to bicyclists (see Federal Highway Administration interim approval), but here it is intended to indicate where bicyclists must yield to pedestrians, a confused and contradictory message. This bus stop is at a driveway. Traffic has worn away some of the green paint and you can see the bicycle marking which was painted over.

Bicycle marking under green paint at bus stop on Concord Avenue

Bicycle marking under green paint at bus stop on Concord Avenue

One problem to be discussed at the City Council meeting is that snow clearance is not practical on the westbound bikeway, because of its repeated ups and downs. Ice also puddles there. Here’s a photo from another blogger, dr2chase, showing winter conditions on the westbound bikeway. dr2chase’s blog has many more photos.

dr2chase's photo of winter conditions on the Concord Avenue bikeway westbound

dr2chase’s photo of winter conditions on the Concord Avenue bikeway westbound

dr2chase also has made the point that snow clearance is much more practical on the eastbound bikeway, which has only one driveway entrance in its entire length. Here is his photo illustrating that:

drchase's photo of the eastbound bikeway in winter

drchase’s photo of the eastbound bikeway in winter

The bikeway on each side is designated as one-way. People are likely to use both of them for two-way travel, and not only in snow season, because a cyclist must stand in the street to lift the bicycle over the curb of the eastbound bikeway at most locations. Also note the seam between asphalt and concrete running down the middle of the photo above. It is intended to separate bicyclists from pedestrians. It won’t, especially with two-way bicycling, and over the years, it will deteriorate so it traps bicycle wheels. dr2chase and I have both made the point that a properly-designed, designated two-way bikeway on the south side of Concord Avenue, adjacent to Fresh Pond Park, would have made good sense, connecting with the existing bikeways in the park and crossing only one driveway in its entire length — at a signalized intersection. I also would have liked to keep the street at its previous width, with street-level bike lanes, to allow efficient through travel and make it possible to reach the eastbound bikeway without lifting a bicycle over a curb.

The next photo illustrates the crossing-the-street issue. Note the driveway at the right rear, and that there is no break in the curb on the far side of Concord Avenue. To cross without stopping in the street, and to avoid having to double back, cyclists will most likely ride eastbound in the westbound bikeway. That is illegal and hazardous: motorists pulling out of side streets and driveways look in the opposite direction for traffic.

The mailbox adjacent to the 5-foot-wide bikeway adds a nice touch as well. Nick it with your handlebar, and you go down hard. Even without such obstructions, 5 feet is minimal for one-way travel. This mailbox is one of a large number of fixed-object hazards adjacent to the bikeway.

Mailbox, and curb on far side of Concord Avenue

Mailbox, and curb on far side of Concord Avenue

Not all hazards are fixed-object hazards. There are these trash barrels.

Trash barrels on westbound bikeway on Concord Avenue

Trash barrels on westbound bikeway on Concord Avenue

Behind the trash barrels, you may have noticed a car discharging passengers. A cyclist who regularly rides Concord Avenue reports that delivery vehicles also now stop in the bikeway.

Car stops in bikeway to discharge passengers, on Concord Avenue

Car stops in bikeway to discharge passengers, on Concord Avenue

My next photos show what I call the X-merge, or double-cross merge.

Normal traffic law requires a driver to maintain a constant lane position when another driver is overtaking. Here’s an excerpt from the Massachusetts law:

Except as herein otherwise provided, the driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction shall drive a safe distance to the left of such other vehicle and shall not return to the right until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle; and, if the way is of sufficient width for the two vehicles to pass, the driver of the leading one shall not unnecessarily obstruct the other.

Bicyclists may overtake on the right, according to another section of the law:

…the bicycle operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane of the way…

When a bicyclist is directed to cross from the right at an arbitrary location, and a motorist to cross from the left at the same location, they are both violating the law. Green paint here is used to direct cyclists and motorists to operate illegally.

X-merge on Concord Avenue

X-merge on Concord Avenue

I avoided right-hook threats by merging in behind the stopped car so the next vehicle turning right could safely pass me on the right.

Avoiding the X-merge on Concord Avenue

Avoiding the X-merge on Concord Avenue

Before Blanchard Road, a traffic island narrows the roadway. The bike lane, between the through travel lane and right turn lane, is too narrow to allow safe clearance on both sides. Note in the photo below that the narrow median on the far side of Blanchard Road allows much more room to the left of the bike lane. The traffic island predates the reconstruction: the bike lane has been shoehorned in by narrowing the other lanes. Concord Avenue is wide enough to accommodate turning traffic without the island’s being so wide.

Wide traffic island at Blanchard Road narrows bike lane on Concord Avenue

Wide traffic island at Blanchard Road narrows bike lane on Concord Avenue

Well, enough. You get the idea. I’ll finish with a couple of quotes. Here’s one from MarkS, commenting on dr2chase’s blog post:

I don’t know why they wasted the time and money to put these tracks in in the first place. I find a bike lane much more convenient, and in some ways safer — clearly safer than that abomination on the north side of Concord Ave — the “outgoing” side. And, if ever we decide to re-design the situation, the expense of doing so will be significantly — and that’s an understatement — more than it would be to just re-paint the lines where the bike lane would have been.

Here’s another quote, from dr2chase:

…the west-bound side is about the most ineffective botch I have ever seen. But the eastbound side is quite nice (with the exception of the scary-high curbs). One extremely-low-traffic intersection, no driveways, hence none of those risks, and so wide that (with current bike/ped traffic levels) there is little harm in riding the wrong way on the good side. Technically illegal, but vastly safer, and I cannot fault someone for making the safer choice.

I agree! And have a look at the video online!

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September 15, 2011

Concord Avenue, Under Construction

I just rode Concord Avenue last Sunday to see what was happening there.

I had thought that the construction project would have been completed by now, but it isn’t.

The image below is of the east end of the section under construction. I find a bit of irony here in that the “Bikes May Use Full Lane” sign is placed at the start of a project which intends to get bicycles off the road, and also it is nonstandard — diamond-shaped like a warning sign which is supposed to be yellow, but white like a regulatory sign, which is supposed to be rectangular (as with speed-limit and no parking signs). The message is a regulatory message: it is law.

Looking west at the east end of the Concord Avenue section under construction

Looking west at the east end of the Concord Avenue section under construction

Construction barrels divide the narrowed roadway into two lanes, rather than the three planned for when construction is complete. As the westbound bikeway is incomplete, I rode west on the roadway. Motorists still were able to overtake me without leaving their lane, as they were when the roadway was wider, with three travel lanes and a bike lane on either side. I was passed by a number of cars, no problem. I had one conflict with a driver who moved out of a side street into my path. Such conflicts will be much more common when bicyclists are riding in sidewalk space.

The road surface was very bumpy because the street has not yet been repaved. The effort is going into construction of the bicycle sidepaths at this time.

I shot video of my rides. It’s HD video and you will want to view it full screen to get all the details. This is the link to the video of my westbound ride. And here is my eastbound ride.

One other thing I hadn’t expected is that the south-side (eastbound) path was almost completely empty, except for me, though it was nearly finished, and unobstructed — on a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon when there was heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic in Fresh Pond Park and on the Minuteman path.

I can say that if much traffic does appear on the south-side path, the situation will be very confused. There is no buffer between the 5′ wide bikeway (closer to the curb) and the wider walkway away from the curb. There was supposed to be a 2-foot-wide buffer, as I recall. Also, the concrete pavement of the pedestrian section, farther from the curb, is smoother. The bumpier asphalt pavement adjacent to the curb is supposed to be for eastbound bicyclists, in defiance of AASHTO guidelines, which require a 5′ spacing or a barrier, and also in defiance of normal path and road rules, which require riding on the right side. The City’s scheme would have eastbound bicyclists riding on the left side of the combined bikeway and walkway. Meanwhile, there also will be westbound bicyclists using this path to avoid the much worse path on the other side of the street, and probably keeping to the right as is usual.

As the path is behind a high curb, bicyclists who want to cross Concord Avenue will have to wait at the crosswalks rather than to merge into the roadway. At the few crosswalks, there is no waiting area (for example, at 1:24 in the eastbound video). Because the bikeway is between the walkway and the street, bicyclists and pedestrians who are waiting to cross the street will block the bikeway, and other bicyclists will have to divert onto the walkway.

As the concrete pavers of the pedestrian section and the asphalt of the bicycle section age and settle, a step could develop between them, just as on the parts of the Charles River paths, widened with asphalt next to the old stone retaining wall along the riverfront. Many bicyclists have gone down as a result.

Many aspects of the Cambridge bicycle program can be described as ideologically driven, and defying national and state design standards. Placing a longitudinal seam along a bikeway, and directing traffic to keep left, are merely incompetent.

Other than what I have described in this post, the project looks as though it will turn out as I expected, with the foreseeable problems I’ve already described in my earlier post; the right hook and left cross conflicts, inability to cross to the south side at most locations without dismounting in the street to lift the bicycle over a curb; resulting wrong-way riding on the north side, etc.

The party line about the Concord Avenue project, which I have in writing from two City employees (here and here) and verbally from a member of the Cambridge Bicycle Committee, is that “bicyclists will be riding in exactly the same place as they are now.” This statement turns a blind eye to the encouragement of wrong-way riding, and the keep right/keep left confusion. It ignores bicyclists’ crossing and turning maneuvers, and motorists’ being trapped by the curbs and forced to turn across the path of bicyclists; it denies that motorists block sidepaths so they can see approaching traffic in the street. Saying that “bicyclists will be riding in exactly the same place as they are now” is like saying that a bird in a cage, hanging in a tree, is in exactly in the same place as a bird sitting in that tree and free to fly off.

What really burns me up is that the City employees designing bicycle facilities appear to have no concept of how bicyclists actually are going to use them, or of the potential hazards. It’s all about “build it and they will come” and that means, build just anything they think will attract novice cyclists and children, and to hell with design standards and safety research. I see shoddy and incompetent mimicry of European designs, and astonishing hubris. So far, the Concord Avenue bikeway is half built with one side completely open, and very few bicyclists have come, except for me, and I was there on a discovery tour.

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