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Cambridge Residents’ Division over Bike Lane Expansion Continues

Bike lanes line Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square. The debate over bike lane expansion continued to swirl in Cambridge following the release of a long-awaited economic impact report conducted by the City Manager's Office.
Bike lanes line Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square. The debate over bike lane expansion continued to swirl in Cambridge following the release of a long-awaited economic impact report conducted by the City Manager's Office. By Elias J. Schisgall
By Ayumi Nagatomi, Crimson Staff Writer

The debate over bike lane expansion continued to swirl in Cambridge following the release of a long-awaited economic impact report conducted by the City Manager’s Office.

During a City Council meeting earlier this month, the office of City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05 presented a study on the economic impact of the Cycling Safety Ordinance — a local law requiring the construction of a 25-mile network of separated bike lanes throughout Cambridge by 2025.

The results of the study were largely inconclusive due to limited access to the information necessary to analyze the economic impact, as well as difficulty in distinguishing other macroeconomic factors from the impact of bike lanes.

The qualitative survey results in the study revealed that more than 60 percent of the business owners believe their revenues declined following the installation of the bike lanes.

“That is what they’re feeling. That is what their experience is. And even though it couldn’t be matched up with financial data, it’s still a great concern as to what is happening with our businesses,” Councilor Joan F. Pickett said.

John Hanratty, a member of the Cambridge Streets for All, a transit advocacy group, said that the real problem is congestion and parking for the small businesses.

“We don’t know whether traffic is more congested or not as we push traffic off of certain streets. We don’t know anything about the shop owners, or the traffic that they’re seeing,” Hanratty said.

“Whether they’re pedestrians or handicapped or they’re bicyclists or cars, we need to collect more relevant data to this problem,” he added.

Councilor Burhan Azeem said the city should focus on how it can continue to support Cambridge residents through the change, citing the various city-led studies, as well as discussions between officials and small businesses.

“All of us care about small business owners, and we’re trying to figure out what exactly the middle ground looks like for everyone,” Azeem said.

Itamar Turner-Trauring, a member of Cambridge Bicycle Safety, a volunteer organization that has advocated for the construction of separated bike lanes, said that the goal of the ordinance is to build a network that allows bikes to safely travel anywhere in the city.

“If you have just random stretches of dangerous streets, then people can’t bike, which means biking is a less useful form of transportation,” Turner-Trauring said.

Janie Katz-Christy, another member of Cambridge Bicycle Safety said that bike lane expansions are “better for the people who really want to be driving.”

“It doesn’t hurt anyone. It helps everyone,” she added. “It helps pedestrians by slowing down the cars, by narrowing the space allotted to them, and it helps the people who really need to be driving.”

The economic impact report recommended the city establishes a systematic way to evaluate the impact of future projects, including collecting and comparing baseline information before and after the implementation of the bike lanes.

According to Pickett, the Council will hold a follow-up meeting to further discuss improvements for future bike lane expansion early next month.

While McGovern said that the Council has to “continue to engage our business community,” he said that it needs to be clear that the city is going forward with the Cycle Safety Ordinance.

“The question is about how we do the implementation and not if we do the implementation,” he added. “We should be working together to come up with the how.”

—Staff writer Ayumi Nagatomi can be reached at ayumi.nagatomi@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @ayumi_nagatomi.

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