Responding to Recent Killings, Cambridge Fast-Tracks Traffic Calming Through Harvard Square

Harvard Square, looking west. The City of Cambridge plans to eliminate one of the two lanes on Massachusetts Avenue (right) to shorten crosswalks and add separation to the bike lane where a truck driver killed a bicyclist earlier this month. Courtesy of the City of Cambridge.
Harvard Square, looking west. The City of Cambridge plans to eliminate one of the two lanes on Massachusetts Avenue (right) to shorten crosswalks and add separation to the bike lane where a truck driver killed a bicyclist earlier this month. Courtesy of the City of Cambridge.

The City of Cambridge will use temporary “quick build” materials to reduce the number of travel lanes and delineate protected bike lanes through Harvard Square after a truck driver killed a Darryl Willis, 55, while he was riding his bike in the square’s unprotected bike lane last week.

“These quick-build improvements will improve bike and pedestrian facilities in the immediate area by reducing travel lanes on each side of the (former Out of Town News) Kiosk, and implementing a quick-build separated bike lane on the Harvard Yard side of Massachusetts Ave. in the vicinity of the Kiosk,” according to a City of Cambridge press release issued this afternoon.

The lane reduction through Harvard Square had been part of the city’s plans since last fall, after the driver of another large truck struck and killed Sharon Hamer, 67, a retired Boston Public Schools librarian, on the other side of the square.

A sketch of the City of Cambridge's proposed plans for the Harvard Square plaza, presented in a public meeting on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, would remove car lanes from both Brattle Street and Massachusetts Avenue.
A sketch of the City of Cambridge’s proposed plans for the Harvard Square plaza, presented in a public meeting on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, would remove car lanes from both Brattle Street and Massachusetts Avenue.

The changes were originally to be implemented as part of a larger reconstruction project for the Harvard Square plaza around the former Out of Town News kiosk.

That project has yet to start construction, though, and after last week’s killing, the city determined that the new traffic pattern could be implemented sooner, using temporary materials.

According to the city’s announcement, the lane reduction and installation of a separated bike lane on the northbound side of Massachusetts Ave. will be implemented within the next two weeks, and the lane reduction on Brattle Street, in front of the Harvard Coop, will be implemented shortly thereafter.

The city is currently soliciting construction bids for the plaza reconstruction project, and expects to select a contractor this fall.

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