This post attempts to shed some light on agenda items on tonight’s City Council agenda.
The quoted sections are from another commenter. I’m not sure I know how to reach him, and time is pressing. I don’t know whether I have permission to use his name, so I won’t. The unindented paragraphs are my own. We’ll start with the other person who commented.
Two of the three items on the city council agenda are interesting examples of problems related to bicycle infrastructure that has been implemented over the past several years. The third is simply a request to fill potholes, but includes an ignorant comment about bicycles needing to ride near the curb (not true according to Massachusetts law or Cambridge ordinance).
The first bicycle facility problem is a contra-flow lane through a blind corner where motorists have no expectation that there will be contra-flow traffic of any sort as they round the corner on a one-way street.
The street view is looking south on Follen Street as it intersects (Little) Concord Avenue. The bike lane crosses in a contraflow manner from left to right, and then continues across the small brick plaza to the right to join with Garden Street and the continuation of Concord Avenue. The intersection just beyond the plaza is the same one where Cambridge has installed a bike box critiqued by John Allen
The contraflow bike lane is adjacent to wrong-way parking, another odd feature of this installation — see this for a description and explanation of wrong-way parking:
Upon reaching the corner, bicyclists have to ride out past a stop bar and stop sign before they can see around the corner. A stop sign requires two actions, a stop and a yield. The yield is what actually prevents a collision — but it is only possible where you can see conflicting traffic.
Many if not most of the bicyclists approaching this intersection are Harvard students headed up to the Radcliffe quadrangle. Are we to assume that they aren’t bright enough to figure out that they must yield? The problem is that nobody ever instructed them, and many have little bicycling experience as they suddenly find themselves dependent on a bicycle for transportation. Also, the stop bar isn’t where there’s anything to yield to unless a pedestrian happens to be crossing — it encourages running the stop sign, sort of like traffic ju-jitsu: aha– fooled ya!.
See Google Street View looking toward the stop sign:
I have a discussion of this contraflow bike lane in the page linked below this paragraph. The third photo down the page shows the stop sign. I prepared the page linked below years ago, shortly after the installation. This was clearly going to be a problem location.
The curb ramp on the far side of the intersection is located at the end of the crosswalk rather than in line with the bike lane. Bicyclists must ride toward approaching traffic to reach the ramp.
Bicyclists coming in the opposite direction off the little pedestrian plaza are hidden by a wall and subject to similar risks. This entire treatment is a prime example of Cambridge’s principle of Design by Wishful Thinking.
The second problem is at a rather unremarkable intersection, so it is not clear to me why there would be issues.
The street view is looking south on Ellery Street as it approaches Broadway. Ellery is a narrow one-way street with a bike lane. Traffic is typically slow, but can be heavy at rush hour. Broadway is a two-way narrow connecting through street with parking and no bicycle infrastructure in this area. Traffic typically runs about 25-30mph, slower and heavier at rush hour. The intersection is also at the corner of a local public high school campus. Neither street is difficult to cycle on if you have at least modest traffic experience.
There is a flashing yellow and red overhead signal indicating a stop sign for Ellery Street entering from the north. I tried to find data related to the several accidents cited, but did not see anything apparent on the Cambridge city web site. I can speculate that most of the car/bike accidents are probably due to scofflaw behavior — either bicyclists in the Ellery bike lane not heeding the stop sign as they continue across Broadway, or wrong-way riders in the Ellery Street bike lane illegally approaching Broadway from the south. Also likely would be standard right hook, left cross, and failure to yield collisions caused by motorists, but I don’t see why those would be any worse at this intersection.
I see a double-whammy right-hook provocation for bicyclists headed south on Ellery Street, in that the bike lane on the far side of the intersection is to the left of parking (and in the door zone, as is usual in Cambridge), while the bike lane on the near side is at the curb and carried all the way up to the intersection. So, bicyclists are encouraged to overtake motorists on the right, then merge left inside the intersection where motorists turn right. I think that the high traffic volume and prevalence of high-school students probably also account for the number of crashes. There probably are scofflaw crashes too. Yes, it would be very interesting to see details so as to get a handle on what is actually happening here.
I’m not looking for any answers, but I thought people on this list might be interested in what Cambridge lawmakers are thinking.