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Massachusetts Avenue, the main arterial through Cambridge, is lined with retail storefronts and parallel parking over most of its length.. Bike lanes are shoehorned in against the parking spaces, in the door zone, where it is unsafe to ride at speeds above 5 miles per hour. Illegal parking in the bike lane is common; truckers making deliveries have no alternative but to park illegally, because there are no loading zones or back alleys where deliveries might be made. To the degree that the bike lane installation involved narrowing the inner travel lanes, there is  more room for motorists to overtake bicyclists; but bicyclists do best simply to ignore the bike lane stripe.

You don't have to go looking for scenes like those below. All you have to do is ride along Massachusetts Avenue, any day. Fortunately, most bicyclists are clever enough to understand that they must ride the very left edge of the bike lane, or stay out of it. Often, bicyclists have no choice but to leave the bike lane wen it is blocked by illegally-parked vehicles. My photos are from two days in the spring of 1999, one sunny, the other cloudy.

Traveling east...

West of Inman Street, Mass. Ave. doesn't try to be anything it isn't. There's no designated bike lane here, only a guide stripe. The bicyclist is staying out of the door zone.

9907N11B37Stripe w-o desig mid.jpg (19442 bytes)

9907N11B03Mass Ave Pepsi Truck med.jpg (17495 bytes) Approaching Central Square. Name your poison: Pepsi on Mass. Ave., or Ben and Jerry's on Mt. Auburn St.

The door is open, feel free to crash the party, Central Square.

9905N11R36Cambridge Bike Lane med.jpg (21486 bytes)

9905N11R37Cambridge Bike Lane med.jpg (18377 bytes)

You have passed beyond your mundane existence in the door zone and you are about to enter... the taillight zone! Approaching Brookline Street.

illegal curbside parking, approaching Lafayette Square.

cambtruk med.jpg (17564 bytes)

Traveling west...

9907N11B16Mediaone med.jpg (16023 bytes)

MediaOne cable TV installer's truck in bike lane, east of Central Square.

Taxi, and passenger alighting from car,  at Norfolk St.

cambtaxi med.jpg (20779 bytes)

9907N11B18Bus and bikelane horiz mid.jpg (18281 bytes)

Bicyclist overtaking bus in the bus driver's right side blindspot, while motorist in background pulls out. Approaching Inman Street.

Car in foreground and Cambridge municipal truck in background double-parked in bike lane, approaching Inman Street. Other vehicles at right parked in door zone.

munitruk med.jpg (21442 bytes)

What should be done here?

Massachusetts Avenue is an important through route and the location of many trip generators. It is always to be expected that bicyclists will ride on Massachusetts Avenue despite its crowded condition. Narrowing the inner lanes did improve conditions, but the bike lanes only create confusion. Guide stripes without a bike lane designation would have been more appropriate.

For riding on a crowded, main artery like this one, bicyclists need to have the skill and knowledge to operate correctly in mixed traffic. The illegal parking might be reduced somewhat but much of it is unavoidable barring a very major urban reconstruction.

There are alternate, parallel streets which could serve very well as through bicycle routes more suitable for children and novice bicyclists, if conflicting one-way signs were replaced as a traffic calming measure by more modern treatments. An example of a conflicting one-way signs is shown on another page.

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