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Eyes On the Street: Downtown Boston’s New Cambridge Street Protected Bike Lane

11:48 AM EDT on October 21, 2022

Boston Transportation Department workers in bright yellow vests install flexible-post bollards for the new Cambridge Street bike lane next to an empty Bluebikes dock.

Boston Transportation Department workers install new flexible-post bollards along Cambridge Street near the West End branch of the Boston Public Library. The Bluebikes dock in the foreground is slated to be relocated to make room for the new protected bike lane.

Over the last few days, Boston Transportation Department crews have been striping new lane lines and installing new flexible-post bollards on the northern edge of Cambridge Street in the West End to complete a protected bike route from City Hall Plaza to Cambridge via the Longfellow Bridge.

As of Friday morning, it's still a work in progress – crews were installing new bollards near Blossom Street and working their way west towards the Charles River, and some pavement markings remain to be painted.

Even without any dedicated bike lanes, between 14 and 17 percent of all vehicles counted on Cambridge Street were bikes in the morning and evening rush hours, according to the City of Boston's official bike counts.

So it's no surprise that, even before the new lane has been fully installed this week, dozens of bicycle users were already using the new facility on Thursday afternoon.

A bicycle user enters a bike lane in front of an illegally-parked car along City Hall Plaza in downtown Boston next to an otherwise-empty street. In the distance, two cars wait an a red traffic light.
The new flexpost-protected bike lane on Cambridge Street along City Hall Plaza. This lane connects directly to the Court Street protected bike lane, which was installed in 2020.
The new flexpost-protected bike lane on Cambridge Street along City Hall Plaza. This lane connects directly to the Court Street protected bike lane, which was installed in 2020.
A bicyclist rides in a bike lane between a sidewalk and a row of white flexible-post bollards. A sign on a lampost in the foreground reads "tow zone - no stopping bike lane." In the distance, cars wait at a red light.
The newly-installed Cambridge Street bike lane just west of Sudbury Street in Bowdoin Square.
The newly-installed Cambridge Street bike lane just west of Sudbury Street in Bowdoin Square.
A bicycle rider coasts through an intersection in a bike lane next to two cars and a pickup truck waiting to turn left from the oncoming direction. In the foreground, a row of flexible-post bollards separates the bike lane from the car lanes. A group of pedestrians on the opposite corner waits to cross the street.
A bicycle user rides through the intersection of New Chardon Street on downtown Boston's new Cambridge Street bike lane. The City of Boston has also installed flexible-post bollards in intersections near crosswalks to force turning vehicles to slow down and watch for bikes and pedestrians.
A bicycle user rides through the intersection of New Chardon Street on downtown Boston's new Cambridge Street bike lane. The City of Boston has also installed flexible-post bollards in intersections near crosswalks to force turning vehicles to slow down and watch for bikes and pedestrians.

For various technical and political reasons, the City of Boston has no immediate plans to install a protected bike lane on the other side of Cambridge Street, from the Longfellow Bridge to City Hall Plaza.

Bike safety advocates are hopeful that the city could fill that eastbound gap in the downtown bike network with a new protected bike lane on Charles Street, which isn’t a parallel route, but could provide an attractive route from the Longfellow Bridge to downtown Boston via the new bikeways around the Boston Common and Public Garden.

However, proposals to add safe bike facilities on Charles Street through Beacon Hill, where nearly one out of every three vehicles on Charles Street is a bicycle, according to official city traffic counts, have languished thanks to objections from a small group of wealthy Beacon Hill home and business owners, as we reported last year.

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