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Cambridge Residents Slam Council Proposal to Delay Bike Lane Construction

A bike lane in Cambridge protected by flex posts adjoins the car lanes on Massachusetts Avenue. Cambridge residents denounced a proposal to extend the deadline to finish the citywide bike lane network during a Monday City Council meeting.
A bike lane in Cambridge protected by flex posts adjoins the car lanes on Massachusetts Avenue. Cambridge residents denounced a proposal to extend the deadline to finish the citywide bike lane network during a Monday City Council meeting. By Elias J. Schisgall
By Avani B. Rai, Crimson Staff Writer

The longstanding debate over bike lanes in Cambridge reignited Monday evening, as Cambridge residents lashed out against a proposal to extend the deadline to finish a citywide bike lane network by more than a year during a City Council meeting.

Under the city’s amended Cycling Safety Ordinance, finalized in 2020, Cambridge has to construct approximately 25 miles of separated bike lanes spanning the city. Though the original deadline to finish the network was May 1, 2026, just more than 13 miles have been completed, with nearly two more under construction.

The co-sponsors of the policy order — Councilors Paul F. Toner, Joan F. Pickett, and Ayesha M. Wilson — said the lack of data on the impact of separated bike lanes on small businesses as the key reason for the proposal, which would push the deadline to Nov. 1, 2027.

Though the city released a report in February in response to long-standing concerns from residents and business owners over the potential economic impact of bike lane construction, the results were inconclusive — adding further confusion to one of Cambridge’s most fiercely-contested political issues.

Toner said the city needed more economic impact data in order to “do the work well and do it right.”

“There are several businesses that are contemplating not renewing their leases and leaving the area because this just isn’t going to work for them,” Toner said.

Pickett — the former chair of Cambridge Streets for All, an advocacy group which unsuccessfully sued the city to overturn the CSO — said an extended timeline was necessary to help “businesses and residents adjust to a new environment where there will be significantly less parking.”

But nearly 100 residents and advocates spoke out against the order at the meeting, with many accusing the policy order’s sponsors of seeking to stall bike lane construction at the expense of public safety.

“I think that the councilors who support this want to take us backwards. And what awaits us there?” Cambridge resident Miles Robinson told the Council. “Exactly two weeks ago in Boston, a driver struck and killed a four year-old while their family watched on in horror. Days later, a senior in a wheelchair met the same fate.”

Other riders spoke from firsthand experience.

“I walk, bicycle, and drive throughout Cambridge,” Cambridge resident Norman Daoust said. “While walking and driving, I've been safe. While bicycling, I've been hit by cars twice.”

Jonathan Haber, another resident, said riding his bike down Cambridge Street was “one of the most dangerous and frightening parts” of his commute.

“How did we end up in a situation where housing for people is so unaffordable, but housing for cars is basically free? Imagine if we decided to reverse those priorities,” Haber added.

Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, a strong bike lane advocate, exercised his unilateral “charter right” to delay a vote on the policy order until next week’s meeting — where a split Council is likely to face a similar barrage of complaints about the proposal.

During the meeting, Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern encouraged his colleagues to “prioritize safety over everything else.” He said more than 60 bike crashes had been reported in Cambridge in the past two years — with more than 40 resulting in hospitalizations.

“I think 60+ people being hit by cars in a two-year period, to me, says that it’s necessary to take safety precautions,” McGovern said.

“If I think something is safer and necessary, how do I vote to delay that implementation for 15 to 18 months and then just keep my fingers crossed that nothing bad happens in that time?” McGovern added. “Let’s not pretend that a delay doesn’t cause risk to people.”

—Staff writer Avani B. Rai can be reached at Follow her on X @avaniiiirai.

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