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Cambridge rejects delays, continues with new Porter Square bike lane project

Porter Square Bike Lane City Council Meeting
Councilor Dennis Carlone during the April 25 Cambridge City Council meeting, where the Porter Square Safety Improvement Project was discussed. The Cambridge City Council held a vote during a Monday meeting which rejected delays to the “quick-build” construction of separate bicycle lanes in Porter Square. TAYLOR COESTER/DFP STAFF

An attempt to delay the creation of separate bike lanes in Porter Square in Cambridge was quashed following public disapproval. Cambridge City Council members voted against policies in a general meeting April 25 that would delay the “quick build” lanes. 

The Porter Square Safety Improvement Project will install two separate bike lanes from Beech Street to Roseland Street as part of its wider efforts to improve bus, biker and pedestrian safety in the area. It would also eliminate metered parking along Massachusetts Avenue in Porter Square.

However, the project has received opposition from city council members.

Speaking at the April 25 meeting, Cambridge City Councilor Paul Toner, along with Councilors Denise Simmons and Dennis Carlone, introduced resolutions that would delay the project so that it can be added to the MassAve4 project — which will see the construction of the bike line from North Cambridge to Harvard Square as one initiative.

The councilors introduced Policy Order 3 which would have allowed for the removal of catenary wires — that supply electricity to the T — which is necessary to move forward with the MassAve4 project. Another policy would have delayed the plans.

“We believe it is common sense to wait until the catenary wires are taken down all along Massachusetts Avenue and to do all of Mass Ave from North Cambridge and Harvard Square as one design,” Toner wrote in an email statement.

Another policy would have delayed the “quick build” project by four years.

The proposals failed 6-3, 7-2 respectively, and approximately 100 of the 140 people who joined the public comments session favored the original “quick build” plan.

Chris Cassa — a 41-year-old Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher and a Cambridge resident — said he was worried about delaying changes because Porter Square is currently dangerous for bikers.

“There are many incidents already where people have been injured, there have been fatalities,” Cassa said. “So I’m very supportive of seeing [Porter Square] have some work done on it immediately.”

The Porter Square Safety Improvement Project has received both support and disapproval from the Cambridge community. Some residents, such as shop owner Daniel Spirer, argued that the “quick build” plan could negatively impact the local economy and people with disabilities. 

Cambridge resident One Hwang, who has a disability, believes the bike lane project is beneficial for them.

“I am dismayed that a handful of people are trying to prevent bicycle lanes by invoking disabilities,” Hwang said. “I have disabilities and I want protected bike lanes, of course as soon as possible. My disabilities make it risky for me to drive and they also make it difficult for me to afford a car. I depend on the bicycle to move around.”

Another resident, Ruthann Rudel, said the “quick build” plan is beneficial to address public safety in the area.

“When neighbors say these changes are coming too fast, or when they worry about having to park a few extra blocks away, I ask them to recognize that the vast majority of the space in Porter Square is already dedicated to cars,” Rudel wrote in an email statement. “I wish they could acknowledge the urgency of these changes to address public health.”

Councilor Burhan Azeem — who said he supports aspects of both the partial and quick build options —  said there is widespread public support for the bike lanes, regardless of build preferences.

“Some smaller neighborhood organizations or things like that might be opposed to it,” Azeem said. “But it’s worthwhile saying that, by-and-large, Cambridge residents voted on this bill and strongly support it.”






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