Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

June 6, 2019

Catching Up on the Cambridge News – June 6, 2019

Celebrate Fresh Pond Day Saturday, June 15

Fresh Pond sunsetJoin the Cambridge Water Department at its annual Fresh Pond Day on Saturday, June 15, from 11am–3pm, to celebrate Fresh Pond Reservation. Fresh Pond Reservation is truly Cambridge’s green gem – an urban wild that protects Fresh Pond, Cambridge’s in-city drinking water reservoir. Fresh Pond Day serves as an annual community tribute to this unique Reservation that is a vital natural resource, an invaluable sanctuary for wildlife, and a beloved recreational escape in the city. This event is free and open to all; all dogs must be leashed.

Fresh Pond Day events will be at and around the Walter J. Sullivan Water Treatment Facility, 250 Fresh Pond Parkway, Cambridge. Use of public transit and bicycles to get to the event is strongly encouraged. Bus routes 72, 74, 75, 78; & Alewife T are all nearby. Visitors arriving by car are asked to park at the Tobin School on 197 Vassal Lane.

Fresh Pond Day 2018Events Schedule
11:00am-2:00pm   Learn to Stilt Walk
11:00am-3:00pm   Open House of the Water Treatment Plant
11:00am-2:15pm   Live Music from Allston Rock Records
2:30pm-3:00pm   Global Water Dance Performance
11:00am-3:00pm   Free bike tune-ups and bike rodeo; learn about pond life animals with Nature Knowledge for Kids; Junior Ranger badge activities; learn how to fix a leak

Peruse our community tables to learn more from various city departments and local organizations involved in sustainability and outdoor recreation.

Please note that rain or extreme weather cancels this event. For more information, visit www.cambridgema.gov/freshpondday or contact Ranger Tim at 617-349-6489, tpuopolo@cambridgeMA.gov.


Future of First Street Garage Community Meeting, June 19

The City of Cambridge is holding a community meeting on Wednesday, June 19 at 6:30pm at the Kennedy-Longfellow School, 158 Spring St., Cambridge to provide the community with an update on the status of the proposed disposition of a leasehold interest in 420 unassigned parking spaces and approximately 9,000 square feet of ground floor area intended for retail use in the City-owned First Street Garage property located at 55 First Street.City Seal

The meeting will include a summary of the LMP GP Holdings LLC’s disposition proposal received by the city and an update on the First Street Area Parking Planning Study commissioned by the city’s Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation in connection with the proposed disposition. The city is seeking the public’s input on the proposed leasehold disposition of 420 unassigned parking spaces and approximately 9,000 square feet of ground floor retail space in the First Street Garage.

You can learn more or sign-up for email updates about the First Street Garage at CambridgeMA.gov/FirstStreetGarage.

Following the June 19 community meeting, public hearings will be conducted at the Planning Board and City Council in accordance with the provisions of the city’s disposition ordinance, Chapter 2.110 of the Cambridge Municipal Code. A City Council vote will be required in order to approve of the proposed disposition of the leasehold interest. State law (G. L. Chapter 30B) also requires that when public land or property is disposed of, proposals must be solicited from interested buyers prior to selecting a buyer. The city issued a Request for Proposals pertaining to the proposed leasehold interest, and conditionally awarded the proposed leasehold interest to LMP GP Holdings LLC subject to the process that must be conducted pursuant to the disposition ordinance and the vote of the City Council on the proposed disposition.

For additional information, please contact Lee Gianetti, Director of Communications, at 617-349-3317 or lgianetti@cambridgema.gov.


Cambridge Open Archives

Dive into the tangled history of Cambridge politics and social activism at 7 local archives from June 24-28, 2019.

Archivists at each site will share treasures from their collections – photographs, art, posters, letters – that tell complex and unique stories about dynamic politicians and dedicated activists; fights over highways and development schemes; a strong mayor vs. Plan E.

See what an archive is, find out what archivists do all day, and see how you can use these resources to learn more about your family and community.

This year’s participating archives:

MIT Museum

The Cambridge Room at the Cambridge Public Library

Harvard Semitic Museum

Harvard Art Museums Archives

Cambridge Historical Commission

Cambridge Historical Society

Mount Auburn Cemetery

REGISTRATION OPENS MAY 31

Info here: http://www.cambridgema.gov/openarchives

This event is free but registration is required.

Questions? 617-349-4070 or chcarchives@cambridgema.gov


City of Cambridge Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day June 8

The second Household Hazardous Waste collection day of 2019 will take place on Saturday, June 8, from 9:00am-1:00pm, at Danehy Park, Field St lot (enter at Field & Fern St). This event is free and open to Cambridge residents (proof of Cambridge residency required).

Proper disposal of materials helps protect public health and environment. A list of accepted items can be found at CambridgeMA.gov/hazardouswaste.

Not sure how to dispose of items properly? Download the “Zero Waste Cambridge” app for iPhone/Android or visit CambridgeMA.gov/TheWorks to use the “Get Rid of It Right” search tool.

Accepted Items:
Batteries: Vehicle & Non-Alkaline
Car Fluids: Antifreeze, Brake, Engine Degreaser, Transmission
Car Tires (max four per household)
Chemicals: Cleaners, Glues, Removers, Photography & Swimming PoolCity Seal
Fluorescent Light Bulbs
Mercury Items: Thermometers & Thermostats
Paints: Oil-Based & Latex
Poisons: Insecticides, Pesticides & Weed Killers
Prescription Medicines (also accepted year-round at Police Dept. 125 Sixth St)
Propane Cylinders (20 lbs. or less only)
Waste Fuels: Antifreeze, Gasoline, Kerosene, Sterno & Motor Oil (motor oil accepted year-round)

Items NOT Accepted:
NO Alkaline Batteries
NO Ammunition, Fireworks & Explosives (call Fire Dept. at 617-349-3300)
NO Asbestos (requires proper disposal)
NO Bleach or Ammonia
NO Commercial/Industrial Waste
NO Construction Debris
NO Empty Aerosol Cans
NO Compressed Gas Cylinders
NO Infectious or Biological Waste
NO Radioactive Waste
NO Smoke Detectors
NO Syringes (call Health Department at 617-665-3848)


Come help us celebrate the 40th Annual Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival on Sunday, June 9th, 2019, from 12:00-5:00pm rain or shine! The Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival is the oldest dragon boat festival in North America, founded in 1979.

Dragon BoatsLocated by John W. Weeks Foot Bridge on the Charles River between JFK Avenue and Western Avenue, this year’s festival will feature a record 76 teams, with over 1500 paddlers, from all over Massachusetts, New England the US and Canada, competing in ten categories designated with special races and medals for the Colleges including Financial Institutions, Corporate, Health Care, College, Chinese University Alumni, Women’s, Club, Community and Recreational and Cancer Survivors Divisions.

Spectators will be able to watch brightly colored, 39 foot, Hong Kong style dragon boats as they race on a 500-meter course up the Charles River from the Western Avenue Bridge to the Weeks Footbridge.

The Dragon Boat Races start in the early morning and the cultural programs and festival will begin at 12 Noon. All programs are free and family friendly for visitors. Sponsors, founders, dignitaries and committee members will dot the eyes of the dragon head on each boat in a traditional Eye-dotting Ceremony. This is an ancient Chinese ceremony that is believed to enable the dragon to soar with the utmost power. The Eye-dotting Ceremony will take place at Noon at the docks on Boston side with the accompaniment of a traditional Chinese waist drum dance that will progress over the John W. Weeks Footbridge to open the festival.

The Eye-dotting Ceremony will be followed by cultural programs, demonstrations and performances in the festival tent on the Cambridge side. There will be traditional Chinese music, Chinese Yoyo performance, Filipino, Chinese and Indian Dance performances, Korean Tae Kwon-Do presentation, as well as returning favorites such as Dragon and Lion Dances, Chinese martial arts and traditional Japanese Taiko drumming.

This year there is a special treat that cannot be missed. A special delegation from Longquan China, seven celadon masters with UNESCO intangible cultural heritage status, will demonstrate the making of this ancient ceramic art. This group has also donated a new Dragon Boat to our fleet.

We will bring to visitors interactive cultural demonstrations. Join in a Taiji demonstration on the banks of Charles by Storrow Drive, try your own lion dance with Gunkwok Lion Dance Troupe or give square-dancing a try.

Visitors young and old will find fun, inspiration and cultural engagement with beautiful hands-on Chinese arts and crafts. Come also to sample various Asian foods featuring Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and more lining the side of Memorial Drive.

The Boston Dragon Boat Festival is sponsored in part by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, State Street, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Eastern Bank and South Cove Community Health Center, Greater Boston Chinese Culture Association, Cambridge Arts Council, Longquan China and Boston Dragon Boat Festival Committee.

Traditionally held on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (late May to mid June on the solar calendar), the Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life and death of Qu Yuan (340-278 BCE). A political leader of State of Chu, Qu Yuan is recognized as China’s first distinguished poet. Qu Yuan lost the king’s favor and was banished from his home state of Chu because of his opposition to the prevalent policy of compromise to the powerful state of Qin. In exile, he wrote the poem, “Encountering Sorrow,” which shows a great loyalty to his state and its people. In 278 BCE, Qu Yuan learned the news that Chu had been conquered by Qin. Heart broken, he drowned himself in the Mi Lo River. The people of Chu rushed to the river to rescue him. Too late to save Qu Yuan, they splashed furiously and threw zong-zi (traditional rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves) into the river as a sacrifice to his spirit and to keep the fish away from his body.

Today, Dragon Boat Festivals and races are popular around the world. The first Dragon Boat Festival in the United States was held in Boston in 1979, the first in North America. It is now the largest Asian cultural festival in New England. The Boston festival is used as a vehicle to promote Asian cultures and dragon boat racing, as well as to bring diverse communities together in Boston and the surrounding areas. Every year, more than 20,000 people lined the banks of the Charles to enjoy the festivities and performances.

Website https://www.bostondragonboat.org

Dragon Boats


Friday, June 28

5:30pm   Tom Magliozzi Commemorative Plaque Dedication "Hahvahd Squayah"  (DeGuglielmo Plaza, 27 Brattle Street)

Following the unveiling of the plaque, Ray Magliozzi will be on hand to say a few words, along with Car Talk producer Doug Berman, and other Cambridge dignitaries. Denise Jillson, executive director for the Harvard Square Business Association said, “We invite folks to come for the commemoration and stay for dinner and an after-party. A complimentary Italian supper of pasta and meatballs will be served family-style on red and white checkered table cloths for as long as it lasts. In true Magliozzi fashion, dancing is encouraged and hip-swinging, toe-tapping, hand-clapping music will be provided by the Blue Suede Boppers! A festive beer garden sponsored by the Beat Brew Hall will add to the celebration. Brattle Street, between Eliot and Church will be closed for the event.  A vintage ’56 Chevy (Tom’s favorite vehicle) will be on hand for viewing and photo-ops and for those who dare, an open mic will be available for sharing favorite Car Talk stories!”

7:00pm-11:00pm   City Dance Party  (Mass Ave. – from Prospect St. to Lee St.) will be Closed to Traffic (6pm to midnight) but Open for Dancing!)


City Dance Party, Friday, June 28 7-11pm

Mass Ave. will be Closed to Traffic but Open for Dancing!

Join thousands of Cambridge residents and visitors who will gather on Massachusetts Avenue in front of Cambridge City Hall (795 Massachusetts Ave.) for the city’s annual Dance Party Friday, June 28, from 7-11pm. This event is free and open to the public. Take MBTA Red Line to Central Square and a short walk to City Hall!

The annual dance extravaganza with DJ spun music is a special opportunity for the entire Cambridge community to celebrate summer. After dark, colorful lights will be launched, adding to the magic of the evening.

Originally conceived in 1996 as part of the 150th anniversary celebration of Cambridge, the Dance Party returns each year attracting young and old to join in the festivities! The event is free and open to the public.

TRAFFIC IMPACTS: Massachusetts Avenue will be closed to traffic, from Prospect St. to Lee St. from approximately 6pm – Midnight. MBTA #1 Bus Line will reroute between Central Square and Harvard Square from approximately 6pm – Midnight and there will be no stop at City Hall.

For more information, contact Maryellen Carvello at 617-349-4301 or mcarvello@cambridgema.gov.

City Dance Party - photo by Kyle Klein


July 17, 2018

Cambridge InsideOut Episodes 325-326: July 17, 2018

Episode 325 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 17, 2018 (Part 1)

This episode was broadcast on July 17, 2018 at 5:30pm. The topic was “a few of our favorite things” in Cambridge – with pictures, including Magazine Beach, Sacramento Field and the community garden, Fresh Pond Reservation, and Mount Auburn Cemetery. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters
[On YouTube]


Episode 326 – Cambridge InsideOut: July 17, 2018 (Part 2)

This episode was broadcast on July 17, 2018 at 6:00pm. The topic was “a few of our favorite things” in Cambridge – with pictures, including Mount Auburn Cemetery, North Point, and the annual Old-Time Baseball game at St. Peter’s Field. Hosts: Judy Nathans, Robert Winters [On YouTube]

[Materials used in these episodes]

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.

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 8 streets and 24 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 merge from right to left at an arbitrary location, and a motorist to merge from left to right 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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