Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 30, 2017

Wishin’ & Hopin’ & Thinkin’ & Prayin’ – Oct 30, 2017 City Council meeting agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 12:05 am

Wishin’ & Hopin’ & Thinkin’ & Prayin’ – Oct 30, 2017 City Council meeting agenda

City HallWith the 2017 municipal election just a week away and the Volpe Petition settled last week, it’s doubtful that more than a handful of people are even paying attention to this meeting. Here are the items that piqued my interest:

Charter Right #1. Right of first refusal 2 [Charter Right exercised by Councillor Cheung on Oct 23, 2017]

This was one of three interrelated Orders submitted last week. The first, Oct 23 Order #6, was a statement of support for House Bill 3017 that would give tenants the Right of First Refusal in the event that a property is put on the market for sale. The second, Oct 23 Order #7, is a proposed Condominium Conversion Ordinance that would, among other provisions, also grant a right of first refusal to existing tenants. Both of these Orders were referred to the Housing Committee. The third, Oct 23 Order #8, calls for Home Rule legislation to adopt a local Right of First Refusal Ordinance in Cambridge independent of any action the State may or may not take. Order #7 and Order #8 both appeared as Late Orders at the Oct 23 meeting.

Personally, I believe any longtime-owner-occupied property should be exempt from any such proposed regulation. Such homeowners may choose to offer long-term tenants a chance to own, but that should be their choice and not a government mandate.

Order #1. That the regular City Council Meeting scheduled for Mon, Nov 6, 2017 be changed to a Roundtable/Working Meeting to discuss the Comprehensive Housing Policy that was forwarded to the Housing Committee on Sept 18, 2017.   Mayor Simmons

Honestly, few if any of the six councillors who are seeking reelection will be focused on this topic or any other topic unrelated to their reelection, and that’s perfectly understandable.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the appropriate City Departments to develop a document explaining how to ride a bike safely in Cambridge, and post in visible locations, on every Hubway station in the city.   Vice Mayor McGovern, Councillor Devereux, Councillor Kelley

That’s a document I may wish to write. I would make it a multi-part project with several sections: (1) How to Drive Safely in Cambridge (and elsewhere); (2) How to Bike Safely in Cambridge (and elsewhere); and (3) How to Walk Safely in Cambridge (and elsewhere). The City’s answer to all of these questions during the past year generally involved white plastic posts, minimal public process, and segregation. Judicious use of green paint on the pavement in Inman Square, in contrast, has done more to enhance safety than any of the "demonstration projects" or future proposals to relocate cyclists onto busy sidewalks.

Order #4. That the City Manager is requested to convene a Comprehensive Arts Working Group, comprised of people from across the broad spectrum of ethnic, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds in our community, in order to begin drafting a Comprehensive Arts Planning Framework that shall help better incorporate the Arts into City planning and update the City Council on progress made toward appointing the members of this working group by the final City Council meeting of this term.   Mayor Simmons

Art by committee is unlikely to inspire anyone, but it would be good to give more thought to the aesthetics of new and reinvented urban spaces from the very start along with the function of those spaces. I don’t mind all the murals, but we could do a lot better than just murals. – Robert Winters


  1. An interesting question is how to educate drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians about safety. Just writing a document won’t do much.

    I see so many people doing dumb things: bicyclists wearing dark clothes with no reflectors or practically invisible lights at night (and no helmets), pedestrians who just cross the street without looking at anything – except perhaps their phone screen, drivers on the phone or worse. It is amazing that there aren’t more accidents.

    Comment by John Gintell — October 30, 2017 @ 12:45 pm

  2. The city’s response to “How to bike safely in Cambridge” has been appropriate. I disagree that green paint in Inman Square has done more to enhance safety than the physical separation of cyclists. Several studies (see the American Journal of Public Health) show the importance of physical separation of cycling facilities from motor vehicle traffic on heavily traveled roads. The studies show that the safest kind of bicycle lanes that those are physically separated from motor vehicles – like those using “white plastic posts.” Teaching people to ride safely also needs to include providing them a safe place to ride.

    Comment by Tim Russell — November 2, 2017 @ 12:02 pm

  3. Nobody will argue that riding on the Minuteman Bikeway is safer than riding along a busy arterial roadway, nor will anyone argue that bike traffic along Memorial Drive is best done on a sidepath. You don’t need a study to make those conclusions. The issue here is whether a relatively low speed straight road with one lane of traffic each way and frequent cross streets and bus stops is made safer for cyclists by moving them (and in some places obscuring them from view) behind parked cars. I am not convinced that there’s a net safety benefit, and if there is any it’s very marginal. On Cambridge St. it’s now more dangerous at intersections, and any change along the straight sections is more in comfort than in safety. The single best things cyclists can do on straight sections is to maintain a safe distance from parked cars (and of course maximize visibility, especially after dark). For those of us who prefer to ride in the normal travel lane, that has been made more difficult by the narrowing of the roadway and it now being no longer straight.

    Comment by Robert Winters — November 2, 2017 @ 2:23 pm

  4. Follow-up Note: Yesterday (Nov 2) a motor vehicle crashed into a MBTA #69 bus on the obstacle course section of Cambridge St. The bus was at a bus stop when the vehicle was passing it. The zig-zag nature of the new road configuration contributed to the crash on this now-narrowed and shifting road. Fortunately the crash was witnessed by two Cambridge police officers. Later in the evening I was taking the #69 bus home from Harvard. As the bus was pulling into my stop, a cyclist with no lights and obscured by the new configuration passed the bus on the right. It was a close call and a crash was avoided only by the quick reactions of the bus driver. Next time it may not end as well. So much for the theory about “providing them a safe place to ride”.

    Comment by Robert Winters — November 3, 2017 @ 11:59 am

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