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City of Cambridge Pitches an Expanded Bike Network Plan

1:20 PM EDT on October 2, 2020

A map of the City of Cambridge’s 2015 bike network plan showing proposed additions as dashed lines. Courtesy of the City of Cambridge.

The City of Cambridge is soliciting feedback on an update to its 2015 bicycle plan that would add several key streets to the city's planned network of protected bikeways and prioritize certain projects for "quick-build" bike infrastructure improvements.

The city's 2015 bike plan outlined a citywide network of protected bike infrastructure, and the Cambridge City Council later gave the plan teeth with its 2019 Cycling Safety Ordinance, which requires the city's Public Works Department to actually build those protected bike lanes when streets in the network were slated for construction projects.

The 2020 plan update would add several key connections to that network (mapped above, as dashed lines overlaid on the 2015 plan's network map). It also envisions a network of new rail trails in the Alewife area (dashed green lines).

One of the most significant additions in the updated plan is Broadway, the most direct route between the Longfellow Bridge and Harvard University.

"Broadway is a really important street that was left out of the last plan," said Nathaniel Fillmore, an advocate with the Cambridge Bicycle Safety organization, in a phone interview earlier this week. "Many people have commented on the need for greater separation there, and there are lots of destinations along the corridor there."

The new plan also includes a handful of new separated bike lane projects that are already in the works, like the Quincy-Bow-Dewolfe corridor east of Harvard Square.

Fillmore is also happy to see the plan include some shorter but crucial connections into adjacent cities, including Belmont Street in the Fresh Pond neighborhood and Webster Ave. near Inman Square.

The City of Somerville has already implemented protected bike lanes on its section of Webster Avenue (pictured below) from Union Square to the Cambridge city line; under the 2020 bike plan update, the City of Cambridge would finally extend these protected lanes to Cambridge Street.

Webster Street in Somerville, seen in October 2020. These protected bike lanes from Union Square towards Cambridge currently end at the Cambridge city line.
Webster Street in Somerville, seen in October 2020. These protected bike lanes from Union Square towards Cambridge currently end at the Cambridge city line.

Advocates do note one important gap, though. Fillmore and others are pressing the city to include the entire length of Kirkland Street, a direct link between Harvard Square and Union Square in Somerville, in the updated plan's protected bike lane network.

The current draft plan calls for protected bike lanes on Kirkland to end at Irving Street, leaving a three-block gap near the Somerville city line. Meanwhile, the City of Somerville is drafting plans to provide a mix of protected bike lanes and shared bus-and-bike lanes on its side of the border, where Kirkland becomes Washington Street.

According to the city's 5-year construction plan, Kirkland Street is also slated for reconstruction within the next two years, so if it were included in the protected bikeway network, high-quality protected bikeways could be installed there relatively soon.

While city staff solicit public comments on this plan, the Cambridge City Council is also expected to take a final vote Monday on an updated Cycling Safety Ordinance, which would set a 2026 deadline for a large suite of protected bike lane projects across the city.

The amended cycling safety ordinance would effectively amend the city's bike network plan by legislation: it specifies Broadway, Garden Street, and Hampshire and Cambridge Streets east of Inman Square as routes that the city must improve with quick-build protected bike lane infrastructure by 2026.

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