Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

October 29, 2010

Burning bridges

I have removed my most recent post.

Though it was factual — and passed muster with Robert Winters, who manages this forum — it did not address the main issue that motivates me to post here: my intense frustration with some directions which the Cambridge bicycle program is taking. My post was an expression of frustration rather than a description of current issues, and as such, it created more heat than light.

In the post, I asked whether Jeff Rosenblum was a builder of bridges. I think that was a fair question, but on the other hand I have burned some, and not only with him. I am no longer a member of the Massbike Technical Advisory Committee. Executive Director David Watson had already explained to me that my presence on that committee was getting in the way of Massbike’s work with governments. My recent post was the last straw for him.

I had already considered resigning for a couple of months. I regret that I did not have the courage to ask for a resignation. Instead, I backed myself into this situation. In the light of some of my posts in this forum, it may come as a surprise to my readers, but confrontation does not come easily for me. Sometimes I do not manage it well, and it bursts out.

Massbike and its predecessor organization, the Boston Area Bicycle Coalition, have been a major part of my life over the years. I have been on the Board of Directors, been President, attended hundreds of meetings and public hearings, written large reports under contract. I part from Massbike with considerable regret. On the other hand, I am also feeling much relief with this change. I had become increasingly frustrated with some directions Massbike is taking. I was increasingly uncomfortable as a member of the Technical Advisory Committee, and Massbike leadership was increasingly uncomfortable with me.

My underlying drive, my lifetime quest, as I must acknowledge to myself, is as a journalist. When I see something that disturbs me, my primary instinct is to provide information, to explain my concern, to try to make it understandable to other people. I am highly uncomfortable with biting my tongue in the interest of political expediency and compromise.

I have now freed myself from that obligation as it involves bicycling issues in Massachusetts, and so I think I will now be able to do a better job here on this forum. I offer my heartfelt thanks to Robert Winters for hosting this forum and for his support.

I’ll sign off with a quote, which I think is apt:

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.” –Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, 1787. ME 6:57

October 27, 2010

Western Avenue proposal: ill-considered

Cambridge has posted its preferred design proposal for Western Avenue.

Conceptual Design Selection booklet, October 2010. This NEW booklet details the current draft proposed conceptual design. Online/ download:

Conceptual Design roll-plan. This shows the draft proposed conceptual design in plan form.
Online/ download:

Neighborhood Walk this Thursday, Oct 28, 5:30pm, Andala Cafe, 286 Franklin Street

Community-wide Public Meeting, Wed Nov 3, 7:00pm (open house 6pm), Cambridge Senior Center, 806 Masssachusetts Avenue.

Cambridge continues with its plan to slow traffic by making streets narrower, and so more stressful and hazardous for motorists, while moving bicyclists onto glorified sidewalks where it is difficult or impossible for crossing and turning motorists to see them. The repeated invitations for right-turning motorists to turn across the path of through-traveling bicyclists in this proposal leave me breathless, especially where groups of pedestrians will wait on a bulbout, concealing through-traveling bicyclists. Also, the proposed cycle track will greatly encourage contraflow bicycle travel without making any reasonable or safe provision for it. If you have any doubt about the hazard of contraflow travel on a bicycle sidepath, here’s a link to a study which addresses it. There also will be the same issues of snow clearance as already occur on Vassar Street. It is predictable that bicycle-pedestrian collisions will be a problem, as they have been on Vassar Street.

The word “protected”, in traffic engineering used to mean, for example, a left-turn traffic signal phase where opposite-direction traffic had a red light.

Now in the Cambridge proposal it is being used to mean “motor traffic turns right across through bicycle traffic, with interrupted sight lines and no traffic signal.”

The word “protected” sure sounds good, if you don’t know that the treatment under discussion results in increased crash rates.

“Traffic calming” in very ancient times (50,-100 years ago) used to mean traffic-law enforcement. Despite the availability today of efficient tools such as license-plate cameras to record speeding and traffic-signal violations, Cambridge chooses a hardware solution — narrow lanes, which make for more stressful, difficult and dangerous driving conditions — to address the software problem of poor motorist behavior, and emphasizes the point by using bicyclists as obstacles.

Cambridge’s message to its motorists, delivered by creating an obstable course: drive real slow, and look back over your right shoulder when you turn right, or you might kill one of our highly valued and highly vulnerable bicyclists, and it’s all your fault if you do, because, you see, they are protected.”

Please don’t peg me as a naysayer. I made suggestions for alternative treatments in an earlier post, which led to a lively and welcome discussion.

Also see Paul Schimek’s post on this blog.

I hope to see good citizen participation at the public events.

Your comments on this post are welcome too.

May 4, 2010

Jessica Eckhardt’s conversation with Nicole Freedman and Jeff Rosenblum

Following the Urban Revolutions event on April 28 (see previous post on this blog), Cambridge resident Jessica Eckhardt spoke with Boston’s Bicycle Program director, Nicole Freedman. They had known each other as members of the bicycle racing community. Eckhardt also spoke with Jeff Rosenblum, who works in the Cambridge Community Development Department and who was a co-founder of Livable Streets. Following (you may have to click on a “more” prompt just below this) is Eckhardt’s account of the conversation.


Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: