Cambridge Civic Journal Forum

March 14, 2018

The Marcia Deihl bicycling fatality

Cambridge City Councilor Craig Kelley has obtained a copy of the crash reconstruction report in Marcia Deihl’s fatal collision with a truck on March 1, 2015, and posted the report online. I thank Mr. Kelley for performing this public service.

My understanding is that a Freedom of Information Act request was necessary to obtain a copy. That is not as it should be. The public needs to know the how and why of crashes, to avoid them and guide policy.

Quick summary: Deihl rode out of the driveway on Putnam Avenue from Whole Foods, collided with the front bumper of the truck, which was headed east in the lane closest to the driveway, and went under its front wheels. Here. You can see the ghost bike in the image. (It is before the driveway but the crash occurred at or after the driveway.)

Half-trigger warning: this post isn’t relaxing reading and neither is the report, but they don’t include any gruesome images, or except for the last few pages or the report, descriptions more graphic than what you have just read.

So, what about the report?

Unfortunately, the investigation leaves questions unanswered, which it might have answered. Only in the synopsis at the start of the report does the State Police investigator repeat part of the report of Cambridge Officer Sullivan who interviewed the truck driver at the scene. Sullivan’s report says that the driver “checked to his right but didn’t see anything but snow so he started to pull over. He stated as he was pulling over he started to put on his hazard lights. He felt a bump and thought he ran over a snow bank.” He also said that he was pulling over to park and then walk to a construction site to see if it was ready for the dumpster he was carrying.

The report doesn’t raise, or answer, the question whether the driver was looking ahead prior to pulling over, as he was approaching the driveway. There was also no discussion of the role that snowbanks might have played in blocking sight lines. You will probably recall that the winter of 2015 was the snowiest one ever recorded in the Boston area. 94.4 inches had fallen from Jan. 24 through Feb. 22, 2015.

Deihl pulled out of the driveway either just as the truck was passing, or she passed it. The initial point of impact was the front of the truck and — as identified by a GPS recorder in the truck — it was going only 5 mph at that point (slowing to a stop).

One thing that calls out to me in the report is the intensive examination of the truck but cursory examination of the bicycle (p. 12 of the PDF, p. 7 of the report). What if, for example, Deihl’s brakes had failed? Were the steel rims of Deihl’s old English three-speed bicycle wet? Steel rims are as slippery as ice when wet, and rim brakes barely work then. The temperature reached 30 F on the day of the crash, which occurred at 3 PM, but snowmelt might have wetted the rims. Or did the bicycle have a coaster brake, in which case wet rims wouldn’t have been an issue? Did Deihl skid on packed snow or ice? Also the autopsy report is rather perfunctory. Medical condition leading to loss of control? — last page of the PDF. “Bicyclist rideout” crashes like this one are rare after childhood, suggesting to me that something unusual went wrong.

The key to this crash would seem to be why Deihl came out of the driveway and collided with the truck, rather than stopping to let it pass. But the trucker also pulled over to the right — Deihl may have turned right assuming that the truck would clear her. — page 9 of the PDF.

Deihl was required under the law to yield to traffic in the street before entering it from a driveway. If she pulled out of the driveway ahead of the truck, the trucker could have prevented the crash as long as it was not too late for him to avoid the collision by braking or swerving. He was at fault if he failed to look. If Deihl was passing him on the right, she would have been close to the side of the truck and probably in its right-side blind spot. And sight lines may have been blocked by a snowbank.

It’s incredibly frustrating that:

  1. The investigator didn’t know what he is doing in a bicycle investigation (scenario repeated with the Anita Kurmann fatality in Boston later the same year);
  2. It took a FOIA request to see the report;
  3. Advocates use these tragedies to justify whatever pet projects they have. (Sideguards, says Alex Epstein. They would be irrelevant in this collision with the front of a truck: more about them here. Separate bike traffic from car traffic, says Pete Stidman. Just how would a sidepath have worked on a day when the street was lined with snowbanks is another valid question. Most likely, it would not have been usable. Comments by Epstein and Stidman are here. Neither of them had seen the report when they made their observations.)
  4. Advocates are avoiding adequately informing bicyclists about the hazards of trucks and how to avoid them.

Well, the advocates at the American Bicycling Education Association are an important exception. I am proud to be an instructor in its program. An animated graphic on safety around trucks is here and if you click on the title at the top of the page, you can find out how to sign up for a course (online or in person) which will cover that topic and much more.

I thank Paul Schimek for many of the observations in this post, and for drawing my attention to the availability of the crash report.

And again, I thank Craig Kelley for making the report available.

January 22, 2018

Choice Bits from the Jan 22, 2018 Cambridge City Council agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , , — Robert Winters @ 1:34 pm

Choice Bits from the Jan 22, 2018 Cambridge City Council agenda

Peoples Republic of CambridgeHere’s my first pass at what seems interesting (at least to me):

Manager’s Agenda #4. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $23,000 from Free Cash to the General Fund Elections Commission Other Ordinary Maintenance Account to reimburse funds used for the 2017 voter guide printing and mailing. The reimbursement is necessary to cover other election related expenses.

Voter turnout went up in the 2017 municipal election by about 26% from 17,959 to 22,581. There were many factors – reaction to the 2016 presidential election, multiple vacancies and a large field of interesting new candidates, several issues whose flames were fanned by activists, increased use of social media and related tools to target voters, and the citywide mailing of the voter guide. It’s hard to say which factors had the greatest effect. I’ll add that the most well-funded campaign was unsuccessful while a new candidate soared over quota with relatively little campaign funding. Perhaps money is no longer, as Tip O’Neill used to say, "the mother’s milk of politics".

Manager’s Agenda #11. Transmitting Communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $5 million from Fund Free Cash to the Public Investment Fund Executive Department Extraordinary Expenditures account, for the City’s first contribution to the GLX project.

This expenditure has me thinking about the Mass Pike (I-90) realignment project now being planned for the Allston-Brighton area across the river, and the current omission of the proposed West Station that was to be part of it. I have been reading about suggestions that since the concurrent new development in that area would primarily be by Harvard University, then perhaps Harvard should be providing the funds for the new station. Could this be the new normal, i.e. that developers and host cities who would benefit by new transit should pay for the transit? The realization of the Green Line Extension seems to have been made possible, at least in part, by the promise of financial contributions from Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, and the developer of the NorthPoint area.

Manager’s Agenda #12. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a Planning Board recommendation to adopt parts of the Kroon, et al, Harvard Square Zoning Petition and to further study some parts.
[Original Petition Text][CDD Memo – Nov 8, 2017][Revised Petition Text][Planning Board Recommendation]

There is wisdom in the Planning Board recommendations (as usual). It is especially interesting to see the Board agreeing that the "formula business" regulations adopted not long ago for Central Square would also be appropriate for Harvard Square (and presumably elsewhere). The Board makes a special point regarding the review of signage which might be subject to review by both the Historical Commission and the Planning Board. [Frankly, I think the issue of signage is overstated. Some business districts, e.g. Central Square, would benefit from some additional "gawdy" and "spectacular" signage.] Despite some legal risk in moving toward "formula business" regulations, it is far preferable to some previous regulation such as the regulation of "fast food". One other positive recommendation from the Planning Board is for the exemption of below-grade space from floor-area limitations. This is consistent with the Barrett Petition of a couple of years ago. The Planning Board also cites the City’s recently completed Retail Strategy. Indeed, the whole matter of the table of uses in the City’s various zoning districts needs some attention.

Order #1. That the City Manager is requested to report back to the City Council regarding efforts to expand the number of electric vehicle charging stations, the feasibility of appropriately placing electric vehicle chargers on residential streets where there is need, the status of possible City fleet replacement to electric vehicles, expanded outreach and education on available rebates and incentive programs, and the feasibility of requiring developers to include a greater number of electric vehicle charging stations in new or substantially renovated multi-unit buildings.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan

It’s worth noting that Eversource doesn’t exactly have the best track record for proactive electric utility planning in Cambridge. They generally upgrade service only when new development requires it or if the service fails. If electric vehicle charging locations are installed on some Cambridge streets it seems likely that increased capacity will be needed and aging and failed service will have to be upgraded – like on my street where the underground service failed several years ago and where numerous "temporary" quick fixes are now the norm.

Order #2. That the City Manager is requested to work with the Department of Public Works to publicize and enforce a “zero tolerance” policy on space savers, working to remove them as quickly as possible following snow events.   Vice Mayor Devereux, Councillor Zondervan, Councillor Siddiqui

Is this really a widespread problem in Cambridge? The only places where I have seen this are on streets near public housing. A better solution would be to selectively have even/odd side parking restrictions during which all snow is pushed back all the way to the curb and/or consolidated – assuming there are no plastic "flexi-posts" there to prevent it.

Order #4. City Council support of the New York City climate lawsuit.   Councillor Zondervan, Vice Mayor Devereux

I’m starting to get the sense that every City Council meeting agenda is going to have several climate change-related Orders, and that this will become the universal public policy litmus test – even for things that have little or nothing to do with climate change.

Order #5. That the City Manager is requested to explore mechanisms for achieving greater levels of snow clearing by the city and increase the public response during major snow events or heavy snow winters.   Councillor Zondervan, Mayor McGovern, Vice Mayor Devereux

See above.

Order #7. That the City Manager is requested to confer with the Chief Information Officer for the City and report back with information regarding electronic device usage and current processes regarding the same.   Councillor Toomey

Did the exiting three councillors run off with their City-issued computers and phones?

Order #8. That the Mayor is requested to work with the appropriate City staff to establish a method of effectively communicating the new rules for the 2018-2019 City Council term with the members of the public.   Councillor Simmons

I’m on it.

Committee Report #1. A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, City Clerk, transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Devereux, Chair of the Ad-Hoc Rules Committee, for a public hearing held on Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018 to discuss and suggest changes to the City Council Rules and transmitting recommended changes to the City Council Rules.

Communications & Reports from City Officers #3. A communication was received from City Clerk Donna P. Lopez, transmitting a communication from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux regarding the outcome of the Ad-Hoc Rules Committee hearing.

There were some good ideas and some not-so-good ideas expressed at this meeting. It doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing any realignment of the Council committees. At some level it doesn’t really matter. The real question is whether or not the councillors actually show up for the committee meetings and if they decide to take up matters of substance. – Robert Winters

December 11, 2017

A Quick One – Featured Items on the Dec 11, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

Filed under: Cambridge,City Council — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 10:22 am

A Quick One – Featured Items on the Dec 11, 2017 Cambridge City Council Agenda

City HallHere are a few of the more interesting agenda items:

Manager’s Agenda #3. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to a legal opinion relative to the City Manager’s authority to make Historical Commission appointments.

This one was never in doubt. Councillors really should learn about the Plan E Charter.

Manager’s Agenda #4. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the Final Landmark Designation Report for the Harvard Square Kiosk.

Manager’s Agenda #5. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $444,534.67 from the Hubway Capital Projects Equipment Fund to the Community Development Department Public Investment Fund Extraordinary Expenditures Account. These funds will be used for the purchase and expenses of Hubway bikeshare equipment. These funds represent the donor agreement revenues and will contribute to the purchase, installation and maintenance of approximately 10 additional stations and bicycles, pending identification of acceptable locations.

Manager’s Agenda #6. Transmitting communication from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to the appropriation of $489,780 associated with the Hubway Bike Share Equipment from the Mitigation Revenue Stabilization Fund to the Public Investment Fund Community Development Extraordinary Expenditures account. These mitigation funds will be used for the purchase and expenses of Hubway bikeshare equipment.

That’s nearly a million dollars for Hubway.

Manager’s Agenda #10. A communication transmitted from Louis A. DePasquale, City Manager, relative to Awaiting Report Item Number 17-114, regarding a report on the plan for snow removal from the new bike infrastructure in the city.

Plow the streets from curb to curb. If any plastic posts get in the way, sharpen the blades on the snow plows.

Unfinished Business #8. An amendment to the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Cambridge on Beekeeping. The question comes on passing to be ordained on or after Nov 6, 2017. Planning Board hearing held on Oct 3, 2017. Petition expires Jan 3, 2018.

It’s very possible this will be ordained at this meeting. – RW

April 20, 2017

Sheet of ice draws praise from bicycle advocates

Snowmelt drains across "protected" bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

Snowmelt drains across “protected” bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

OK, spring is around the corner, so I’m a bit late with this post. But the issue I describe here will occur every year, at least until global warming puts an end to snows or converts central Cambridge into an extension of Boston Harbor.

The headline of the February 17 Boston Globe article with this picture is “Snowbank becomes accidental hero for area cyclists”.

The shiny area in the bikeway is meltwater from said snowbank. When the temperature drops below freezing, the meltwater becomes a sheet of black ice. This problem is unavoidable with a street-level barrier-separated bikeway. I discussed it at length years ago in connection with the 9th Avenue bikeway in Manhattan, a bikeway which, on the other hand, I have some nice things to say about.

Neither Steve Annear, author of the article, nor anyone quoted in it, makes any mention of the black-ice problem.

From the article: “’I like this snowbank-protected cycle track,’ Ari Ofsevit, a local cyclist, said on Twitter.” Ari usually ranges widely, imaginatively and thoughtfully in discussing transportation improvements his blog. I usually agree with him, but not in this case.

The article cites Joe Barr, of the City of Cambridge:

Barr acknowledged that the snow mound separating the bike lane and the road has offered a sense of protection to cyclists, but he said it could also be masking damage to the base of the flexible posts.

“We won’t know that until we get some more melting. But it certainly looks good on the street,” he said.

And Richard Fries, Executive Director of Massbike, commented: “It’s great. It won’t last that much longer, but it does help to hammer into people’s heads [road] patterns and driving habits,” he said. “Because it’s there, it makes the existing bike lane more visible to drivers and more prominent.”

Segregation promotes a sense of entitlement on the part of the majority group –in this case, motorists. How do I explain to horn-honking motorists that I have to ride in “their” travel lane, now narrowed to make room for the barrier, to avoid crashing on a sheet of black ice?

Or for that matter, to progress at my usual 15 miles per hour so I’m not stuck behind a cluster of bicyclists who are traveling at 8 miles per hour?

Or to avoid being right-hooked and crushed under the back wheels by a right-turning truck at Douglass Street?

Or that the rear-end collisions that this installation protects against are vanishingly rare on urban streets?

Or that parallel Harvard Street, Green Street and Franklin Street would serve admirably as low-stress through bicycle routes, if the city made the right kind of improvements?

March 13, 2017

City of Cambridge Declares Snow Emergency Parking Ban – to be lifted at 7:00am, Wed, Mar 15

Filed under: Cambridge — Tags: , , , — Robert Winters @ 6:24 pm

City of Cambridge Lifts Snow Emergency Parking Ban Ban lifted as of 7:00am on Wednesday;
Trash/recycling collection 1 day behind schedule

The Snow Emergency Parking Ban in effect will be lifted in the City of Cambridge as of 7:00am on Wed, Mar 15, 2017. Tow operations will continue until the ban is lifted.

Residents parked in one of the City’s Snow Emergency Off-Street Parking locations should exit within 2 hours after it has been lifted to avoid being charged. Residents parked at the 52 Oxford Garage must exit within 2 hours of the ban being lifted.City Seal

Due to icy conditions caused by the storm, people are urged to stay off the roads tonight. If travel is required, please use extra caution and leave additional distance between other vehicles and snow crews.

City of Cambridge offices, programs, and library branches will be open on Wednesday. Because curbside trash and recycling pickup was canceled on Tuesday, pickup routes will be delayed 1 day for the remainder of the week.

The Department of Public Works (DPW) will continue to clear streets throughout the night, starting with major arteries. Crews will also be working to remove downed trees. Your patience and participation in clearing sidewalks helps the City return streets and sidewalks to safe, passable conditions as quickly as possible. After major street clearing operations have been completed, crews will begin working on high traffic bus routes to clear snow from bus stops, ramps, and crosswalks.

City Ordinance requires property owners to remove snow from sidewalks next to their property or business within 12 hours of daytime snowfall and before 1:00pm when it has fallen overnight. Property owners must also remove or melt all ice within 6 hours of the time it forms. There is a $50 fine for each day of non-compliance. Property owners are asked that when shoveling their sidewalks to please maintain a minimum of 36 inches clear width, so that people who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices (also parents using strollers, etc.) can navigate the sidewalk. The Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) requests that a 48 inch clear width be created when possible – this gives an extra measure of safety. Additionally, CCPD urges residents and businesses to pay particular attention to the corners, where one sidewalk meets another – shovel the full length and width of curb ramps, so that pedestrians with disabilities can get to the crosswalks. Business owners are requested, if there is a disability parking space on the street near your storefront, to please take the extra time to shovel a clear path to that space, so that your customers with disabilities can visit your establishment. In particular, shovel a space wide enough so that vans with lifts can deploy the lift onto the sidewalk.

The City recognizes the effort that goes into shoveling out any vehicle parked on a city street during a snow event. However, residents may not use objects such as trash/recycling barrels, furniture items or any other item to save parking spots on public streets. These items will be treated as trash and disposed of by DPW.

The public can follow updates on Twitter at @CambMA and on Facebook at CambridgeMA.Gov. The City uses the hash tag #CambMASnow on Twitter to help the public follow the conversation. In addition to following updates on the City’s website and social networks, members of the public are encouraged to sign-up to receive notification of snow emergency parking bans at: CambridgeMA.GOV/Snow.


City of Cambridge Declares Snow Emergency Parking Ban
Ban goes into effect at 7:00am on March 14; Trash and Recycling Pickup Cancelled

Mar 13, 2017 – A Snow Emergency Parking Ban will go into effect in the City of Cambridge beginning at 7:00am on Tues, Mar 14, 2017. Vehicles parked on streets that are signed “No Parking during a Snow Emergency” will be ticketed and towed until the ban is lifted.Snow on Broadway

There will be no curbside trash or recycling collection on Tues, Mar 14 because of weather conditions. All curbside trash and recycling daily pickup routes will be one day behind schedule for the remainder of this week.

The Cambridge Public Schools will be closed on Tues, Mar 14, 2017.

Updated information will be available at CambridgeMA.GOV/Snow throughout the storm. In addition, the public is encouraged to follow updates on Twitter at @CambMA and on Facebook at CambridgeMA.Gov. The City will be utilizing the hash tag #CambMASnow on Twitter to help the public follow the conversation.

Below is important information from the City:

  • A Snow Emergency Parking Ban is effective as of 7:00am on Tuesday, March 14, 2017 and vehicles parked on streets that are signed “No Parking during a Snow Emergency” will be ticketed and towed at that time until the ban is lifted.
  • To assist residents in parking their vehicles, free parking is provided at a number of facilities beginning at 6:00pm on Mon, Mar 13, 2017. The 52 Oxford St. Garage will allow parking at 8:00pm. A listing of facilities that provide free parking during snow emergencies, is available at: CambridgeMA.GOV/Snow.
  • Always park at least 20 feet from the street corner. Parking this far away from the corner improves visibility and safety year-round and ensures compliance with Cambridge Traffic Regulations. In the winter, it also allows plows to push snow away from crosswalks.
  • Ice needs to be removed within 6 hours from the time it forms, per City Ordinance. Snow needs to be removed within 12 hours after snow stops falling during the day and before 1:00pm if it snowed during the night, per City Ordinance.

Please report any power outages directly to Eversource at 800-592-2000.

In addition to following updates on the City’s website and social networks, members of the public are encouraged to sign-up to receive notification of snow emergency parking bans at: CambridgeMA.GOV/Snow. As always, if you need immediate assistance, please contact the Police Department’s Non-Emergency Line at 617-349-3300.

February 21, 2017

Black ice blindness

Snowmelt drains across "protected" bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

Snowmelt drains across “protected” bikeway on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge

The photo is of a stretch of barrier-separated bikeway recently installed on the north side of Massachusetts Avenue between Sidney Street and Douglass Street in Cambridge. The headline of the February 17, 2017 Boston Globe article with this picture is “Snowbank becomes accidental hero for area cyclists”.

But — the shiny area in the bikeway is meltwater from said snowbank. When the temperature drops, the water freezes into a sheet of black ice. The usual drainage techniques don’t work here because, if you will excuse me for belaboring the obvious, the “hero barrier’ is uphill and water runs downhill. I discussed bikeway drainage issues in more detail recently in a post on another blog and years ago in connection with the 9th Avenue bikeway in Manhattan. Just to make it clear, I do have  nice things to say about other features of the 9th Avenue bikeway.

Neither Steve Annear, author of the Globe article, nor anyone quoted in it, makes any mention of the black-ice problem. They are all enthusiastic about the snow-barrier.

From the article: “I like this snowbank-protected cycle track,” Ari Ofsevit, a local cyclist, said on Twitter.

Ari is more than just a “local cyclist”. He widely, imaginatively and thoughtfully discusses transportation improvements his blog. I usually agree with him, except when he turns a blind eye to problems with barrier-separated on-street bikeways.

The article cites Joe Barr. Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation for the City of Cambridge:

Barr acknowledged that the snow mound separating the bike lane and the road has offered a sense of protection to cyclists, but he said it could also be masking damage to the base of the flexible posts.

“We won’t know that until we get some more melting. But it certainly looks good on the street,” he said.

And Richard Fries, Executive Director of the massachusretts Bicycle Coalition, commented:

It’s great. It won’t last that much longer, but it does help to hammer into people’s heads [road] patterns and driving habits,” he said. “Because it’s there, it makes the existing bike lane more visible to drivers and more prominent.

Segregation promotes a sense of entitlement on the part of the majority group –in this case, motorists. How do I explain to horn-honking motorists that I have to ride my bicycle in “their” travel lane, now narrowed to make room for the barrier, to avoid crashing on a sheet of black ice?

Or for that matter, to travel at my usual 15 miles per hour so I’m not stuck behind a cluster of bicyclists who are traveling at 8 miles per hour?

Or to avoid being right-hooked and crushed under the back wheels by a right-turning truck where the bikeway ends at Douglass Street?

Just asking.

January 26, 2016

Catching Up on the Cambridge News (Jan 26, 2016)

Filed under: Cambridge,Cambridge Redevelopment Authority,elections — Tags: , , — Robert Winters @ 11:15 am

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority announces the second year of the FORWARD FUND.

Forward Fund 2016This micro GRANT PROGRAM is intended to support civic improvement projects and creative physical interventions that better Cambridge’s built environment for the benefit of all the city’s residents, workers, and visitors by non-profit organizations, community groups, and small businesses throughout Cambridge, MA.

We’re awarding Planning & Design grants up to $5,000; Innovation & Experimentation Capital grants up to $10,000; and Infrastructure Capital grants up to $10,000 for a wide variety of projects that contribute to the civic and social capital of Cambridge. LEARN MORE


Cambridge Launches New Snow Center Website: www.CambridgeMA.gov/snow

Snow SidewalkJan 25, 2016 – The City of Cambridge has launched a new Snow Center website, www.cambridgema.gov/snow, to provide residents with timely updates on the city’s response to winter storms and to provide useful winter storm information that can be viewed quickly and easily in one location.

Through the online Snow Center, Cambridge residents can stay informed of when a Snow Emergency has been declared or lifted; register to receive emergency alerts; find out about Snow Emergency off street parking locations; or learn if city offices or programs have modified hours of operation.

“After last year’s record-breaking snow season, we made it a priority to learn lessons not only about how to improve our operations, but also about additional ways to communicate timely, useful information to residents,” said Owen O’Riordan, Commissioner of Public Works. “The Cambridge Snow Center website will be a great tool for helping the public access information about the city’s snow operations, parking regulations, and other frequently asked questions, all in one, easy-to-view location.”

The Cambridge Snow Center also includes a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section with helpful information on property owner responsibilities and the Snow Exemption Program, as well as a What’s Happening section displaying real time snow related social media updates and news stories; and finally a Useful Information section with additional resources and important phone numbers and websites.

Residents can also use the new City’s non-emergency reporting system, Commonwealth Connect, www.cambridgema.gov/CommonwealthConnect to report an icy or snowy street or unshoveled sidewalk. To receive voice, text, and email notification of declared Snow Emergency Parking Bans in the city, residents can sign up for receive CodeRed alerts directly from the City’s Snow Center.


Voter Registration, Absentee Ballots and Extended Office Hours for the March 1, 2016 Presidential Primary

Vote!The Presidential Primary will be held on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. For Cambridge residents not already registered, the last day to register to vote is Wednesday, February 10, 2016 until 8 p.m. The Office of the Secretary of State has developed an Online Voter Registration System at www.registertovotema.com. Individuals may use the online system to submit an online application, update their address, or change their party affiliation. You must have a valid driver’s license, learner’s permit, or non-driver ID issued by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). You must also have a signature on file with the RMV. If you do not have an RMV ID you can use the system to create an application. Print and sign the completed form and mail or bring it to the office of the City Cambridge Election Commission.

Absentee Ballots are now available at the Cambridge Election Commission office. Any voter who is unable to go to the polls on Election Day due to physical disability, religious belief, or absence from the City may request an Absentee Ballot from the Commission. The deadline to apply for an Absentee Ballot is Monday, February 29, 2016 at Noon. Absentee Ballots may be mailed to voters, or such voters may choose to vote at the Commission office during regular city office hours: Monday, 8:30am-8:00pm; Tuesday-Thursday, 8:30am-5:00pm; Friday, 8:30am-Noon. The office will also be open for Absentee Voting on Friday, February 26th from 8:30am until 5:00pm and on Saturday, February 27th from 9:00am until 5:00pm. The polls will be open on Election Day from 7:00am until 8:00pm.

For any additional information, please visit the Cambridge Election Commission office at 51 Inman Street, call (617-349-4361) or visit our website at www.cambridgema.gov/election.

February 21, 2015

Plowing, or sweeping under the rug?

The photo of the Western Avenue bikeway with this post has been making the rounds in bicycling advocacy circules, accompanied with praise for Cambridge’s plowing it.

You can praise the plowing all you like, but in terms of safety, it amounts to window dressing, distracting from problems which would not exist except for the segregated bikeway: with the snowbanks, bicyclists and motorists are both going to have to come nearly to a complete stop at every crossing to see each other in time to avoid collisions. Streets, on the other hand, even narrowed by snow, are wide enough that the cyclists can ride away from the edge, and motorists can poke out far enough to see approaching traffic without the risk of collisions.

The bikeway is also too narrow for one bicyclist safely to overtake another. The street is wide enough for anyone — bicyclist or motorist — to overtake a bicyclist, though maybe not always wide enough for one motorist to overtake another, what with the snow. It is narrower too because of the space that was taken out of it for the bikeway. The street also most likely is clear down to pavement within a day or two after a snowfall, and it is crowned so meltwater drains to the curbs. The bikeway is going to be a sheet of ice if there are thaw/freeze cycles, unless there is a very heavy application of road salt.

Bicycling is already difficult enough in winter without the added difficulties and hazards imposed by this bikeway.

western_avenue_winter

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