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Three things Cambridge bicycling needs

By Susan Clippinger and Cara Seiderman

[This document is in the public domain, having been produced by public officials while performing their duties. It was a response to a column by Boston Globe writer Michael Kenney which was critical of Cambridge bike lanes, and is published here complete and unedited, except for correction of a couple of unimportant typographical errors. Links labeled [comment] are to relevant sections of my response to this document, in my parting message to the Cambridge Bicycle Committee, distributed to the Bicycle Committee at its January 17, 1996 meeting.  -- John S. Allen]

Cambridge is proud to be the first municipality in the Commonwealth to create bicycle lanes on the existing street system. [comment]

Bicycling is an effective and efficient mode of transportation that should be encouraged as part of our efforts to make our cities cleaner and more livable.[comment]

People often tell us they would ride more often if they felt there was space on the street. We have taken a few pedals forward in that direction.[comment]

To increase bicycling and its safety we need education, enforcement and facilities. All three are important and all have to happen simultaneously. Among the most important facilities we need to create it the city are bicycle lanes on the street.[comment]

A bicycle lane is a space on the roadway designated for bicycles. It delineates why we are installing bicycle lanes and how they work, particularly in light of Michael Kenney's article in the City Weekly section of the Boston Globe [Oct. 15.] [comment]

As part of its 1992 Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance, the city of Cambridge established a program to support and promote bicycling and walking, including the development of physical facilities such as bicycle lanes. While new in Cambridge - and in Massachusetts - bicycle lanes have been a part of street networks in cities and states around the country for years.

Bicycle lanes in Cambridge are designed according to well-established federal guidelines. City staff and engineers. design bicycle facilities and work with the Cambridge Bicycle Committee to review projects affecting cycling. This year the city has installed bicycle lanes on seven streets; they are just the beginning of our long-term efforts to promote bicycling.[comment]

The rules that apply to bicycle lanes are straightforward and exclusively for cyclists; motorists may not travel in the lanes, although they may cross them to turn or park after yielding to cyclists.[comment]

In bicycle lanes, as elsewhere, bicyclists are to follow all rules of the road[comment]. The lanes are marked by solid lines that become dashed approaching an intersection to indicate that motor vehicles will be crossing the lane to make right turns (motorists must yield to bicyclists going straight through the intersection), and all road users should be especially cautious.[comment] The lanes are also marked by a diamond symbol, which indicates an exclusive use lane - you might also see them in bus or carpool lanes - a bicycle symbol, and an arrow indicating the direction of travel. A bicyclist is still permitted to travel in the motor vehicle travel lanes when the situation warrants (e.g., to make a left turn from the left lane or to pass another cyclist.)[comment]

Cyclists riding in the wrong direction - against the flow of traffic - are a problem regardless of bicycle lanes. Unfortunately, many were taught as children to ride against traffic and don't realize that wrong-way cycling is a major cause of motor vehicle-bicycle accidents. Where we do install bicycle lanes on one-way streets, they are also one-way, such as on the portion of  Mt. Auburn Street in Harvard Square. The street that flows the other way for traffic through this area is Massachusetts Avenue, and a bicycle lane will be included there next spring after the construction in Quincy Square is complete.

We are working to teach people that the safest way to ride is with the flow of traffic, following all rules of the road.[comment] Bicyclists may ride legally on all roads in Massachusetts, except for designated limited access or express state highways. Adult cyclists are safer on the streets than on side walks; when provided a designated roadway space, bicyclists will have less incentive to ride on sidewalks, which will be a benefit to pedestrians. [comment]

It is important to remember that bicyclists are merely people choosing a different form of transportation.: The cyclist using the lane could be your neighbor, your friend's child, or your grandmother; cyclists are people of all ages and experience. They want to travel to the store, to the library or to work, and the best way for them to do so is on the existing street network, which can pretty much get you where you want to go. By the same token, cyclists must understand that they have both a right to the road and a responsibility to obey traffic laws and ride carefully.

Education and enforcement are integral parts of any bicycle program.[comment] We have published and distributed 20,000 maps that contain safety information and have new brochures explaining the use of bicycle lanes. We are working with the police department on increased enforcement efforts; the police have the legal authority to issue citataions to cyclists. Experience in other cities and countries demonstrates that where bike lanes and other bicycle facilities are properly designed and installed, far fewer cyclists disobey the law and ridership increases.[comment]

It makes sense to encourage bicycling in Cambridge and throughout metropolitan Boston. The area is relatively flat and densely developed. Many people live near their work. Many stores, restaurants, and other attractions are close to residential neighborhoods. Thousands of college students, most without cars, live here.

Bicycling is healthy, creates no pollution and requires less space and fewer resources than the automobile. Given our crowded roads, we should be grateful to everyone who chooses to bicycle rather than drive and encourage others to join them.[comment]

Susan Clippinger is director of the Department of Traffic, Parking & Transportation for the city of Cambridge. Cara Seiderman is bicycle and pedestrian coordinator/project manager for the Cambridge Environmental Program.

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