Eyes On the Street: Protected Bike Lanes Under Construction in Cambridge’s Inman Square

A bike rider rolls past a new protected bike lane under construction on Hampshire Street in Inman Square.
A protected bike lane under construction on Hampshire Street in Inman Square.

It’s been under construction for two and a half years now, but bike riders and pedestrians are finally beginning to see some above-the-ground changes in the street infrastructure of Inman Square near the Cambridge-Somerville city line.

The City of Cambridge’s Inman Square project will eventually reconfigure the wide, x-shaped intersection into two smaller intersections with physically-protected bike lanes, shorter crosswalks, and a new plaza on the north side of the square.

A comparison of Inman Square's intersection before (left) and after (right) a reconstruction project that's expected to be complete later this year. Images courtesy of the City of Cambridge.
A comparison of Inman Square’s intersection before (left) and after (right) a reconstruction project that’s expected to be complete later this year. The project will split the x-shaped intersection into two smaller T-shaped intersections, and add protected bike lanes between the two new intersections and to adjacent segments of Hampshire and Cambridge Streets. Images courtesy of the City of Cambridge.

In the fall of 2019, when the City of Cambridge signed a construction contract with Newport Construction of Nashua, NH, the city expected that the project would be finished by the end of 2021.

Last year, though, the city announced that the “overall construction schedule has been extended into summer 2022 due to COVID impacts on the contractor, accommodating outdoor dining throughout the pandemic and expansion of the project scope to include replacement of utilities and surface features on Oak Street.” 

Now that the summer of 2022 is here, we’re finally beginning to see some substantive changes on the streets and sidewalks around Inman Square, like the new protected bike lane on Hampshire Street pictured at the top of this article, there’s still a lot of work that remains to be done.

As of last week, Hampshire Street traffic still hadn’t yet been re-routed to the project’s new intersection near Antrim Street, which means that there’s been little progress so far on the planned new Vellucci Plaza, which will eventually occupy the former path of Hampshire Street in front of the Punjabi Dhaba restaurant (pictured below):

A protected bike lane and new sidewalk under construction on the south side of Cambridge Street in Inman Square.
A protected bike lane and new sidewalk under construction on the south side of Cambridge Street in Inman Square.

The streets that feed into Inman Square rank among the busiest bike routes in Cambridge and Somerville, and the construction project that’s now underway was fast-tracked after a truck driver struck and killed Amanda Phillips, a 27-year-old Cambridge resident, in June 2016.

At the city line just one block north of Inman Square, Hampshire Street becomes Beacon Street, which is one of Somerville’s busiest bike routes, according to the city’s bike count data.

Much of Beacon Street was reconstructed in 2019 in a project that created physically-separated bike lanes, but the half-mile section between Inman Square and Washington Street still has painted bike lanes with no physical protection.

Cambridge Street, which runs from Harvard Square to Lechmere, already has separated bicycle lanes west of Inman Square. But to the east, its bike lanes are delineated with paint only.

Under Cambridge’s updated Cycling Safety Ordinance, the city will be required to install separated bike lanes on the unprotected segment of Cambridge Street, and the rest of Hampshire Street, by May 2026.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG