Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

December 29, 2012

On becoming a True Cantabrigian

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 8:03 pm

Dec 29, 2012 – A Facebook posting just now reminded me of the fact that on Valentines Day, 2013 I’ll be marking 35 years since I relocated to Cambridge from New York (via Flagstaff, AZ). I actually moved into a Cambridge apartment a week later and my address has not changed since then. I marked the occasion of completing my 20th year in Cambridge in a Foreword in the early Cambridge Civic Journal on March 8, 1998 like this:

CCJ Issue #6 (March 8, 1998)

I suppose it’s this way in most places, certainly in much of New England. I’m talking about the situation of moving to a city or town other than where you were born and raised and never quite feeling like one of the crowd. My birthplace was Astoria, a part of New York City, and I grew up in Whitestone, north of Flushing, in Queens County in NYC. On Valentine’s Day, I quietly celebrated the 20th anniversary of my residency in Cambridge. To some, I just arrived.

The way I see it, I’ve lived here longer than every student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. I’ve participated in civic affairs at all levels. I own a house in Cambridge. I’ve run for political office here. Yet in some circles, I just arrived.

I wonder if there is anything that one can do, an initiation rite of some sort, that will allow a neo-Cantabrigian to become a true Cantabrigian? Describe the tests of physical and mental stamina that are required and I’ll begin training. Perhaps a physical competition with someone named Sullivan, Greenidge, or Koocher. I am willing to attend all Sullivan "times" for the next decade, a small inconvenience in exchange for the right to be called a true Cantabrigian.

A former reporter for the Cambridge Chronicle once wrote an article describing the difference between a native of Cambridge or Somerville and a non-native. He said that if you ask a non-native what school he went to, he tells you the name of his college or colleges. When you ask a native, he tells you his high school, even if he has a college degree.

Robert Winters, Flushing High School, Class of ’73


Those remarks brought a few very memorable responses which I published in a follow-up article three weeks later:

CCJ Issue #7 (March 29, 1998)

On becoming a True Cantabrigian

In response to my remarks about living in Cambridge for 20 years and still being thought of as a visitor in some circles, I received some wonderful and greatly appreciated responses. Here are a few:

Peter D.: I’m reminded of a story of my father’s about small-town Vermont. It seems that someone moved to a little town from the big city somewhere else, and thought it quaint that he was always referred to as "the furriner". After a couple of decades, though, it began to bother him, especially now that he had lived in the town longer than many of the younger locals who called him that.

Finally, he flat out asked someone why they kept calling him the foreigner, and was told "well, if you put a mouse in the oven, it wouldn’t make it a biscuit, would it?"

Joanne L. offered the complete text of a City Council Order that would declare me to be a True Cantabrigian with all the rights, privileges and obligations associated with this new status (except for attending alumni parties at local schools).

Phil S.: As it is said in Charlestown: "How long does one have to live in Charlestown until you are a townie?"

"Until it says it on your birth certificate."

George M.: This point was driven home for me a number of years ago when I read about a long-time Jamaica Plain resident who was running for the City Council there. At one of her public meetings, a kid barely out of his teens asked her how long she had lived in the neighborhood. She responded by saying she’d been there for 20 or 30 years. He dismissed her experience by saying, "Well, I was BORN here."

Jamie S.: I do think I have determined another indicator of the native born and outsider, at least for those who have moved here from other parts of Massachusetts. When I turn to the obituary page in the Globe, I still first look to the town where I grew up. Perhaps when my eye is drawn to the Cambridge listings first, I will have arrived.

And the best response of all:

Glenn Koocher: Here’s how you, too, can become a lifetime Cambridge resident (a.k.a. ‘Cantabrigian’) just like some of the rest of us.

But first a caveat: not everybody can undergo the conversion from outsider to one of us. And, remember, that if you’re one of them, it’s even harder.

And the discrimination of who is what goes both ways. I’ve known lifetime Cambridge people who wanted to become one of them. They spend their lives denying their East Cambridge, North Cambridge, or Cambridgeport roots, going to prestigious colleges, and altering their dialects hoping to win acceptance (e.g., more than four #1 votes from Coolidge Hill) and CCA endorsements. It doesn’t work. When push comes to shove, they’ll always vote for one of their own as opposed to someone with an ethnic last name, a hard Boston accent, or blue collar parentage.

Moreover, if you’re associated with the Cambridge Civic Association or a left wing self-styled progressive group, your place of birth is irrelevant – unless it is Cambridge, in which case it is counterproductive to have been born here unless you fit into any five of the following:

  • your people came over on a sailing ship more than 150 years ago.
  • your name isn’t too ethnic.
  • your dialect isn’t too Boston.
  • you went to a prep school and a private college.
  • your parent(s) happened to live here because they’re on the Harvard or MIT faculty.
  • you were born here only because the Mt. Auburn maternity ward or Cahill House (the Cambridge Hospital’s maternity ward until the 1960s) was where your family’s obstetrician worked (e.g., in the case of actor Sam Waterston).
  • you’re willing to practice Catholic-bashing as the anti-Semitism of the left.
  • you are willing to practice political correctness as your substitute for organized religion.
  • you are a member of a politically correct racial, ethnic, or sexual preference constituency.

Note, just because you were "born here," or have deep roots doesn’t make you a Cantabrigian in everyone’s eyes. For example, former Assistant Superintendent Oliver S. Brown had Cambridge roots going back to the 1670s and had a grandmother on Craigie Street, but it wasn’t good enough. First, with a name like Oliver, you’re in trouble from the start. Second, his people came from the wrong part of town.

Still, you, too, can be part of the long time, good old boy/girl network, but you have to work at it. For example, Alice Wolf still hasn’t been able to break in. Back in 1975, she shot back at then-School Committee candidate, but current ESPN broadcaster/ sports talk show host, and Herald and Boston Magazine scribe, Steve Buckley (Fayette Park & Prospect Street) with, "I may not be a lifetime Cambridge resident like Steve, but I’ve lived here since before he was born." Consider the following:

1. Trace your lineage to a former (or better yet, prominent) Cantabrigian or family of the right political stripe. A lot of lifetime Cambridge people were actually born and raised in Arlington to which their parents or grandparents moved after selling the house in Cambridge for a killing. These Arlingtonians are instantly and permanently grandfathered in because their families were one of us. This works for Irish, Italians, Polish, Lithuanians, Portuguese, Armenians, and, if they have blue collar Cambridge roots, a few Jews.

2. Marry a local girl or boy. This automatically grandfathers you in. My mother’s family (and this was something of a secret) was actually from Winthrop and (even more of a secret) Chelsea. But after she married into the Koocher family in 1946, that was never an issue for any of us. Outsiders who married locals were welcomed in right away. Jimmy Tingle’s father had a southern accent, but he married a thoroughbred, blue collar Cambridge girl with strong roots in East Cambridge. He was always totally accepted and considered a native.

3. Get a blue collar city job and work it for a while. No matter what your roots are, if you’ve ridden shotgun on a public works truck, dug trenches for the Water Department, or washed the floor at the Cambridge Hospital, you can get special consideration. (Working at the library does not count). This takes a few months so you can be seen. Make sure that everyone knows you play the football card every week in season. This works fast.

4. Change your politics and practice it. Start going to times, and make contributions to our candidates. Perform your grassroots dues by standing out at visibilities, handing out poll cards, sending dear friend post cards, and….Spend some serious time at Charlie’s Kitchen, Guido’s Florida Cafe, Puglese’s, Joey Macs, the Druid, or the Windsor Cafe. If you get hungry, try the S&S, Frank’s Steak House, Cambridge Common, or any Dunkin Donuts. If you must go out of town to dine, Greg’s, an inch over the border into Watertown, is also acceptable. These tactics work, but they take a long time. Be prepared to wait as long as a generation.

5. Change your drinking habits. Switch to Lite Beer and never be seen with wine of any kind unless it comes out of a bottle costing no more than $1.99 and is consumed out of a brown paper bag.

6. Never buy anything but a newspaper in Harvard Square and, then, only from Nini’s.

7. Work hard at changing your dialect and knowing the local nuance. The Boston accent and the vaguely distinguishable Cambridge variation is a basis for discrimination by outsiders, but a sign of acceptability to us. Try to understand the very unique things that help us identify outsiders from the rest of us. For example, a real Cambridge person knows that Elm Street (e.g., intersects Broadway) is pronounced El-um, and that Elm Street near Porter Square is pronounced as a one syllable word. We also know the difference between the Kennedy School (emphasis on the first Ken) at Harvard and the Kennedy School (emphasis on the School) in East Cambridge. Refer to the Harvard Square theater as the University Theater and brag about how you don’t go there any more, but how much you miss the Central Square Theater or the Inman Show.

8. Read the obituary page daily. Know where all the bodies are buried, and who’s related to whom. Start going to wakes of people you really knew but whose family might not have been expecting you. This might not get you totally accepted, but will make you amply tolerated – even genuinely liked (e.g., Geneva Malenfant).

9. Have a basic level of political knowledge of our local leaders. Never use last names when referring to Walter or Michael and remember that it is always Edward, not Eddie, when speaking as an insider of the revered Sullivan family. Never refer to Al without mentioning the Vellucci. And, when you refer to the Maynard School, make sure you call it the old Roberts School first and then make a point to mention what a great guy Joe Maynard was (may his soul rest in peace).

10. When attending the count, hang out with us, not with them.

11. NEVER boast about how you loved the Yankees or Knicks as a kid, or how much you hate hockey.

12. And, most important, next time you’re in Charlie’s Kitchen, or Guido’s, or Puglese’s, the Druid, or the Windsor, and you see some local pundits, always buy a few rounds.


So, anyone want to meet me at Charlie’s Kitchen the 3rd week of February? You’re buying. – Robert Winters

December 24, 2012

Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 Recommendations

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,planning,transportation — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 6:45 pm

Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 Recommendations (Nov 28, 2012)

Introduction: Memorandum from the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 on its Final Recommendations
Full Report (reformatted in HTML) Goals
Public Places to Build Community Public Places elements
Retail, Cultural and Non-Profit Diversity Housing
Connecting People to the Square Foster a Sustainable Future for Central Square
Leverage Future Private and Public Investments Definition of Central Square Districts
Zoning Recommendations Transfer of Development Rights
Transportation Recommendations Location Specific Issues

December 19, 2012

City of Cambridge Seeks Members for Three Transportation Advisory Committees

Filed under: Cambridge,transportation — Tags: , — Robert Winters @ 2:13 pm

CITY OF CAMBRIDGE SOLICITING MEMBERSHIP APPLICATIONS
FOR THREE TRANSPORTATION ADVISORY COMMITEES

Application deadline is Friday, January 11.

BICYCLE COMMITTEE
This committee works to improve conditions for bicyclists in the City of Cambridge and promote bicycling as a means of transportation. Activities include organizing and participating in public events such as biannual community bike rides; reviewing plans for road construction; commenting on proposed development projects; creating promotional materials to encourage bicycling in the city; and working with City departments on network planning. This committee generally meets on the second Wednesday of each month from 5:30–7:30pm at City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway.

PEDESTRIAN COMMITTEE
This committee works to promote walking and to help create a more comfortable, safe, and pleasant environment for walking in Cambridge. It advises on the design of roadway projects and policies related to traffic calming, traffic signals, and sidewalk design. It also identifies intersections and other locations where it is difficult to walk, makes suggestions about proposed development projects as they affect people on foot, and undertakes other activities to promote walking. This committee generally meets on the fourth Thursday of each month from 6:00–8:00pm at City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway. (November and December meetings are on the third Thursday.)

PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE
This newly established committee will advance an agenda for a robust public transportation system for those who live and/or work in Cambridge. The committee will be composed of a cross section of stakeholders including businesses, large institutions, commuters, persons with disabilities, low income, elderly, youth, students, and advocates. The committee will guide city positions and policies regarding long term sustainable funding for transit by the Commonwealth, service planning for expansion or modification of bus routes, and service reliability and improvements including ways to better design our street network to prioritize bus transit. This committee will generally meet on the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30–7:30pm at City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway beginning in 2013.

Beginning in 2013, in place of individual committee meetings, these three committees will meet jointly on occasion to advise the city on higher level sustainable transportation policy.

APPLY
Applications are sought by dedicated individuals who live or work in Cambridge. Members are expected to attend monthly meetings as well as engage in projects outside of regular meetings. To apply, please prepare a cover letter indicating which committee you are interested in, a description of your interest in the topic, and any specific issues you would like to contribute time to working on. Please be sure to include your mailing address, phone number, and email. Send to:

Robert W. Healy, City Manager
c/o Jane Maguire,
Community Development Department
344 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139
Email: jmaguire@cambridgema.gov

Application deadline is Friday, January 11.

Appointments are made by the City Manager and are for two years of service. For more information, call 617-349-4610.

December 10, 2012

Prospect Pubs, Planning, and Pilot Programs – Dec 10, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,Central Square,City Council — Tags: — Robert Winters @ 11:36 am

Prospect Pubs, Planning, and Pilot Programs – Dec 10, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

It will be difficult to top last week’s excitement when the City Council voted 8-1 to appoint Rich Rossi to succeed Bob Healy as City Manager starting July 1, 2013. The only other point I’ll make about that excellent decision is directed to those who have suggested that the appointment be an "interim" or "acting" appointment. This is not the lifetime appointment of a Pope or a Supreme Court Justice. Just because Bob Healy has served for over three decades does not change the fact that for his entire term, contract or no contract, Bob Healy served "at the pleasure of the City Council." The same will be true of Rich Rossi. There is nothing interim nor permanent about the job. Unless someone is filling in due to an unexpected departure, you’re either the City Manager or you’re not. The public elects the City Council who then hires their choice of City Manager. The democracy part takes place every 2 years in November. If anyone is especially passionate about this, you can pull papers next July to be a City Council candidate or start recruiting candidates you can support.

Here are the items that I found interesting:

Manager’s Agenda #1. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation on the Patty Chen, et al Zoning Petition.

The Council has until Feb 12, 2013 to pass this petition that would slightly expand the set of streets on which bars and alcohol-serving entertainment venues may locate their entrances to include one block of Prospect Street north of Mass. Ave. The Planning Board supports it, and little or no objection from the public has been heard. It’s a good idea and should be approved forthwith. People are waiting to open for business.

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to a report from the Department of Public Works that summarizes the results from a feasibility study regarding a possible pilot program for curbside food scraps collection from residents for composting.

Honey WagonFrom the Executive Summary:
If implemented, the pilot will run one day a week for one year. We estimate 2 tons per day of food and 124 tons per year. This assumes 800 households generating 10 pounds of food scraps per week with an 85% participation rate and 70% setout rate. To ensure an efficient pilot route, we will choose a neighborhood within one collection day. We would target a range of housing types including single-family homes and residential buildings with up to 12 units… Households participating in the pilot will receive a kitchen scrap container and a year’s supply of 3-gallon compostable bags to line the container…. If the pilot is successful, a voluntary citywide program would be phased in by collection day to get enough participation among households to achieve minimum route density.

This is an exciting development. Many of us will continue to compost organics in our backyards, but if the pilot is successful and the program can eventually be expanded to a citywide program, this will be a great service to those who either cannot set up composting at home or who may prefer an organics collection service. Bring back the honey wagon! What was old is new again.

Applications and Petitions #2. A zoning petition has been received from Zevart M. Hollisian, Trustee of Garabed B. Hollisian Trust and L-Z Realty Trust and Seth D. Alexander, President, MIT Investment Management Company to amend the Zoning Ordinance and Map by extending the Cambridgeport Revitalization Development District from Green Street out to Massachusetts Avenue in the area adjacent to Blanche Street; said petition includes a map and a commitment letter.

This is essentially the same petition that was filed last March together with the committments subsequently made in July prior to the expiration of that petition. The main argument then for why the petition should be allowed to expire was that the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 was still in the process of formulating its recommendations. That process is now complete, so the time is right to revisit this proposal.

Memorandum from the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 on its Final Recommendations

Central Square and Osborn Triangle Plan & Recommendations

Discussion of Recommendations Presentation

Parking Lot Reuse Presentation

Communications #1. Open Meeting Law Complaint filed by Tom Stohlman.

Order #9. That the City Clerk, in consultation with the Law Department, draft a response regarding an Open Meeting Law complaint received on Dec 4, 2012 for the City Council’s consideration at its Dec 17, 2012 City Council meeting in order to meet the Dec 21, 2012 deadline.   Mayor Davis

It is doubtful that there is any merit to the claim that the Open Meeting Law was violated in the drafting of last week’s Order on the appointment of Rich Rossi as City Manager starting next July. As City Clerk Donna Lopez clearly explained last week, the Order was drafted by a minority of City Council members and was submitted to the City Clerk who then circulated the Order to provide other councillors the opportunity to sign on as cosponsors. This is standard procedure. There were neither meetings involving a majority of councillors nor were there "serial meetings." It is likely that some councillors had conversations on the topic, but the intention of the Open Meeting Law has never been to require elected officials to avoid all conversation except when meeting in a public session.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the cause and other details of the power outage on Nov 29, 2012.   Mayor Davis

The best report I’ve seen so far is by John Hawkinson of MIT’s The Tech.

Communications and Reports from City Officers #1. A communication was received from Mayor Henrietta Davis transmitting a copy of the Silver Ribbon Commission Report.

There report is available here. [Thanks to the Mayor’s Office for posting the 50-page original document!] – RW

December 4, 2012

Cambridge Common Tree Walk

Filed under: Cambridge — Robert Winters @ 9:57 am

Cambridge Common Tree Walk

Friday, Dec. 14th 8AM

Meet at Civil War Memorial

The purpose of this meeting is to view and discuss the tree removal plan for the Common in the context of the tree planting plan and overall landscape treatment for the Common as part of a planned rehabilitation project which could start as early as the fall of 2013.

Questions: contact Bill Deignan at 617-349-4632 or wdeignan@cambridgema.gov

For further information see: http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Transportation/cambridgecommon.aspx

Cambridge Common

The City of Cambridge does not discriminate on the basis of disability. The City will provide auxiliary aids and services, written materials in alternative format and responsible modifications in policies and procedures to qualified individuals with disabilities upon request.

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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The Apprentice, starring Richard Rossi – Dec 3, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:34 am

The Apprentice, starring Richard Rossi – Dec 3, 2012 Cambridge City Council Agenda Highlights

Everything else on the agenda pales in comparison to:

Rich RossiOrder #6: That the City Council appoint Richard C. Rossi as City Manager of the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts beginning on July 1, 2013 for a period of three years ending on June 30, 2016.   Councillor Maher, Councillor Cheung, Councillor Reeves, Councillor Toomey, Mayor Davis and Councillor Decker

Though some of the usual suspects are throwing fits about this sudden turn of events, it is neither surprising nor unwelcome. The only surprising thing about the City Council taking this action is how quickly they chose to do so. Several weeks ago I wrote on this page, "I would not be at all surprised if the whole process falls apart by next summer and 5 councillors just make a motion from the floor to hire someone they like." My estimate was perhaps a bit too cautious. The City Council should be congratulated for their wisdom and their decisiveness. The goal-setting and soul-searching will proceed as planned. This important crossroads in the life of the city will be more like a bend in the road, and that’s a good thing. The next steps for Kendall Square and Central Square are on the horizon, and it will be helpful to have competent city management firmly established as these waters are navigated.

Rich Rossi has been Deputy City Manager for decades. If serving as an apprentice prepares someone for a job, then there is no question that Rich is the most qualified person for this job at this time. An expensive intergalactic search could have been conducted, but it’s hard to imagine there being another candidate as well-prepared for the job and who knows Cambridge as thoroughly. As Bob Healy said several months ago, "He’s the best athlete in the draft."

Elsewhere on the agenda, there are these:

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting communication from Robert W. Healy, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 12-88, regarding a report on how the City plans to maintain grade separated bikeways and keep them free from sand, branches and other debris.

The report states, "Grade separate bikeways are being swept clear of debris at least as frequently as residential street sweeping, monthly from April through December. The City sweeps these areas more frequently, if time permits. During the winter months, cycle tracks are cleared of snow and ice as soon as practicable." For the proposed Western Avenue sidewalk track, it will lie precisely where winter snow is normally piled, and where rubbish and recycling will be set out for curbside collection. It is unlikely that salt or other substance will be spread on the sidewalk to keep the lane free of ice. Even if miraculously the track is kept clear, the number of poor-visibility intersections will make this boondoggle an adventure. It will also reduce cycling speeds and mobility, and the narrowed road lanes will be less safe for those of us who choose to travel in the road (as we do on every other street).

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council on the impact the recently passed medical marijuana referendum might have on Cambridge and provide any suggested zoning or local ordinance changes relevant to this new law.   Councillor Kelley

Many cities and towns in Massachusetts are now grappling with how this will be managed, and Cambridge is no exception. Zoning laws were originally designed to manage the conflicting interests of residents, businesses, and industry, but they are now used (rightly or wrongly) to dictate almost to a microscopic level what may or may not exist in every zoning district. It will be interesting to see what efforts will now be made to monkeywrench the result of the recent referendum. Where would you want this use permitted?

Committee Report #3. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, Interim City Clerk, transmitting a report from Councillor David P. Maher, Chair of the Ordinance Committee, for a public meeting held on Oct 3, 2012 to discuss the zoning petition filed by Patty Chen, et al. to amend the Zoning Ordinance in Section 20.300 Central Square Overlay District in Section 20.304.5 Use Limitations and Restrictions.

This is the zoning petition that would modify Section 20.300 to allow clubs to have an entrance on a portion of Prospect Street (and not just on Massachusetts Avenue or Main Street). This is a sensible modification that does not overreach what is needed to allow the All-Asia to relocate to its proposed new location on Prospect Street. The new name of the club was originally supposed to be Valhalla, but it is now being reported that it will instead be called the Prospect Lounge. Shades of the old Prospect Buffet that used to grace the east side of that formerly tough stretch of road.

On a related note, the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 just wrapped up its year-long process. The complete recommendations will have their initial presentation at the Planning Board on Tuesday (Dec 4). The members of the Advisory Committee drafted a Memorandum from the Central Square Advisory Committee 2011/2012 on its Final Recommendations. It’s worth the read. – RW


Addendum – After much public comment and some heartfelt statements by councillors, the City Council voted 8-1 to approve Order #6 appointing Richard Rossi as City Manager to succeed Robert Healy beginning July 1, 2013. Only Councillor Kelley voted in the negative. After the vote, Richie gave a marvelous speech about growing up in Cambridge, of his priorities, and of his great appreciation for being given this opportunity. It was a great evening.

The Public Comment period was predictable with the usual suspects flinging criticism based on their indignance at not being consulted. Perhaps the lowest of the commentary came from Pebble Gifford who wanted the Council to amend the Order to have Mr. Rossi appointed as Interim City Manager or Acting City Manager. It’s really so thoughtful of the Hilliard Street upper crust to make sure that people know their place. – RW

The City Clerks and City Managers of Cambridge

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