Cambridge Bike Lanes Cause Tension

Ruri Duffy, Arts & Entertainment Editor

The city of Cambridge is continuing its strive for sustainability with the implementation of a new, far-reaching, safe bike lane initiative. For two years, separated bike lanes have been taking over Cambridge streets, encouraging bike travel and attempting to deter dangerous traffic accidents. Recently, however,  as the program has begun to reach major traffic areas, the plan has seen some major backlash. 

In April 2019, the City of Cambridge passed and implemented a bike lane mandate, requiring protected bicycle lanes on any city streets under reconstruction. While the ordinance brought Cambridge to the forefront of sustainable city progression, the proposed 26 miles of bike lanes have concerned local business owners and residents in regards to the cost, safety, and convenience of the new plan. Residents at city council meetings argued against the rapid continuation onto major streets like Mass Ave, partly due to the $400,000 in design fees for less than 10% of the planned bike route, and the rapidly approaching deadline for the addition of Porter Square segment. 

These worries are not without basis; Cambridge’s streets are often far from safe for bikers, with fatal crashes and white memorial bikes continuing to pop up in major intersections, even after the city manager revealed a price of $730,000 for the cycling safety ordinance (paid for by tax dollars, as brought up by numerous frustrated residents). A group called “Save Mass Ave”, who has been petitioning against new bike lanes, shared with Wicked Local their worries for local businesses that even an increase in bikers, and therefore bicycle customers, “would not compensate for the 50-60% of customers that we will lose because they’re not able to get there”. Even CRLS students who bike to school, like Jeremy Kravitz ‘23, see areas for improvement. He tells the Register Forum that some areas “don’t seem to get properly shoveled or properly maintained to make it worth riding.” 

I see the cons as simply the adjustment process and adapting to change

— Tobe Stomberg

As legitimate as these concerns may seem, Cambridge residents, especially students, must dare to wonder what these new bike lanes may be able to bring to the city. Ms. Tobe Stomberg, avid biker and CRLS Environmental Science teacher, weighs these consequences for the Register Forum. “I see the cons as simply the adjustment process and adapting to change. The pros are infinite: reduced carbon emissions, reduced pollution, decreased accidents, less traffic, more bike customers for local businesses. I could go on.” Even with his caveats, Jeremy Kravitz sees important shorter term benefits for students. “On the wider streets it definitely encourages biking and ensures some safety, especially on busy streets and at night”. 

Proponents of this ordinance, like Ms. Stomberg, consider this discomfort a necessary step to potential benefits crucial to a more sustainable Cambridge. With opposition growing, Stomberg argues, “They should be educated, they should be shown the possibilities of what this will mean for our local and global future.” Cambridge has the potential to lead the way in sustainable urbanity, and these bike lanes are an important step. As Stomberg puts it, “We need to be a model city for solving environmental issues, full stop.”