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Cambridge Officials Propose Protected Bike Lanes on Most of Mass. Ave. By 2026

New separated bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue in front of Cambridge City Hall.

Massachusetts Avenue in front of Cambridge City Hall. Under Cambridge’s updated Cycling Safety Ordinance, the segment of Massachusetts Avenue between Central and Harvard Squares gained protected bike lanes in the fall of 2021.

At tonight's Cambridge City Council meeting, city officials will consider a plan to build out physically-protected bike lanes on most of Massachusetts Avenue north of Harvard Square by the end of 2026.

The city's updated Cycling Safety Ordinance requires the city to install quick-build protected bike lanes on much of Massachusetts Avenue by May 1 of this year. In recent months, the city has opened up new flexpost-protected bike lanes in North Cambridge near the Arlington town line and between Harvard and Central Squares (pictured above), although the city recently conceded that it will miss the Ordinance's deadline for bike lanes through Porter Square.

Map of four protected bike lane segments proposed for construction on Massachusetts Avenue between Porter Square and Harvard Square
Courtesy of the City of Cambridge
Courtesy of the City of Cambridge

The Ordinance granted more flexibility in its timeline for four segments of Massachusetts Avenue between Harvard Square and North Cambridge, where busy bus stops, a concrete median, and the overhead wires from the MBTA's now-decommissioned trolleybus system required the city to conduct more detailed planning for bike facilities.

For those segments, the Cycling Safety Ordinance requires that city staff and City Council endorse a recommended plan and timeline for installing protected bike lanes (mapped at left) by May 1.

That implementation plan is on the City Council's agenda for its Monday, April 11 meeting.

"The recommendation is to implement separated bike lanes through partial construction for the segments of Massachusetts Avenue with overhead MBTA bus wires and median (Dudley Street to Beech Street north of Porter Square and between Roseland Street and Waterhouse Street south of Porter Square) and full construction for the Harvard Square bus stops (between Plympton Street and Garden Street)," wrote City Manager Louis A. DePasquale in a memorandum to the Council.

According to an accompanying timeline, the "partial construction" project on the two segments of Massachusetts Avenue between Dudley Street and the Cambridge Common would require the removal of the concrete median and removal of the overhead trolleybus wires.

The recommended design would retain on-street parking on one side of the street, and could also potentially accommodate dedicated bus lanes:

A cross-section diagram of the City of Cambridge's proposed new layout for Massachusetts Avenue north and south of Porter Square. The design would provide protected bike lanes on both sides of the street, one on-street parking lane, and four lanes for motor vehicles (with flexibility to create dedicated bus lanes for transit riders).
The proposed "partial reconstruction" redesign of Massachusetts Avenue between Dudley Street and Cambridge Common. Courtesy of the City of Cambridge.
The proposed "partial reconstruction" redesign of Massachusetts Avenue between Dudley Street and Cambridge Common. Courtesy of the City of Cambridge.

The City Manager estimates that that project would cost about $40 million, with funding that would be included in his recommended budget for the next fiscal year. A draft timeline calls for more outtreach and detailed design work over the next 18 months, followed by a two-year construction project that could start in 2024.

A second project would affect a much shorter segment in the vicinity of Harvard Square, where several busy bus stops accommodate transfers between MBTA buses, private shuttles, and the subway station.

There, city officials are recommending a full reconstruction of Massachusetts Avenue between Plympton and Garden Streets, where Massachusetts Avenue curves around the edge of Harvard Yard.

"Full construction will allow for bike lanes to be raised to sidewalk level and for bus stop islands to be placed next to the curb to reduce conflicts between bicyclists and boarding or alighting passengers at each stop," according to a design report included in tonight's City Council packet.

According to the city's proposed timeline, the reconstruction project could go under construction in early 2024, and be complete in the summer of 2025. Another project currently underway is also enlarging the Harvard Square plaza by removing adjacent motor vehicle lanes on Brattle Street and Massachusetts Avenue.


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