Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

February 16, 2018

A look at the Brattle Street bikeway

In 2017, Cambridge installed a two-way separated bikeway on Brattle Street between Mason Street and Brattle Square. In the video here, I take a look at part of that bikeway, from Church Street to Brattle Square.

This is a high-definition video. For best viewing, start the video playing, click on “Youtube”, and then click on the Full Screen Icon — the square at the lower right.


  1. Video seems pursuasive until you listen again.
    1) just like cars, bikes must stop at stop signs, before the crosswalk and after, thereby allowing a safe view of cross traffic.
    2) the bike lane serves as a connection to beyond Harvard Square, not just for the historically common two way use by bicyclists and jay walkers.
    3). It’s an urban square, all are welcome, especially those Unarmored by: crush zones, air bags, cushions, and seat belts.

    Comment by Arthur Strang — February 17, 2018 @ 10:48 am

  2. 1) There is no safe view of traffic. A bicyclist who has passed the crosswalk far enough to see past the subway headhouse is already in the path of turning cars, as I indicated, starting from the wrong side of the street — an unusual and unexpected movement. (Imagine a pedestrian running out into the intersection from the middle of the crosswalk — same thing). And, having entered the intersection, a bicyclist still has to yield to vehicles in the second lane, which can be overtaking vehicles in the first lane and hidden by them. Any movement when entering the intersection from the location of the new bikeway could be safe only with traffic signals.

    2) The legal routes to Harvard Square from Brattle Square by bicycle are to dismount and walk on the sidewalk, as I indicated (riding on sidewalks is illegal in this business district), or by crossing onto Mt. Auburn Street, involving the hazards I’ve described in replying to your point #1 and the challenge of riding on roadways shared with motor traffic, exactly what the bikeway is supposed to eliminate.

    3) Of course, bicyclists are welcome. A hazardous route does not provide a proper welcome. Because bicyclists do not have crush zones, air bags, cushions and seat belts, we should welcome them to take risks which are worse because of not having them? Your logic here escapes me.

    And — what actually might improve the situation? I said in the video: one-way bikeway on the south side of Brattle Street for eastbound travel. Shared roadway for westbound travel, and with traffic calming. Traffic signal at Brattle Square. That is the best that I can think of short of a grade separation like the Cambridge Street Tunnel, which would be expensive and disruptive. Or do what some Dutch cities have done and prohibit motor traffic entirely in this zone of heavy pedestrian use, except for deliveries in the wee hours. But how would motorists then get from Massachusetts Avenue to the North Harvard Street Bridge? Unfortunately, the street layout here dates back to the 1600s and no good solution would be easy or cheap. As things stand, bicyclists should preferably use the alternate routes I showed in the video, but the bikeway invites them not to.

    Comment by jsallen — February 17, 2018 @ 10:02 pm

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