Bicycling advocates plan to rally at Cambridge City Hall Monday night as officials convene to discuss proposals to make the streets safer in a city that has seen the deaths of two cyclists in recent months.
More than 100 people have committed to attending the “Rally for safe streets in Cambridge,” according to a Facebook event page. The protest aims to send a message “loud and clear” to elected officials that they’re “not moving fast enough to protect people who walk and bike.”
Organizers are asking the city to “open your purse strings” to fix roadways that have been perilous for both cyclists and pedestrians.
The protest is largely in response to the recent deaths of two cyclists in the city. In June, Amanda Phillips was killed after she made contact with an open car door in Inman Square, and then was pushed into traffic. On Oct. 5, Bernard “Joe” Lavins, of Lexington, was killed in a crash with a tractor-trailer while commuting through Porter Square.
Tom Meek, a Cambridge resident and one of the event’s organizers, said advocates are demanding greater attention for bike infrastructure and so-called bike “danger zones.”
“I hope that it turns into greater pressure ... to get city officials to move forward,” he said.
A list posted to the group’s Facebook page outlines a number of demands, including prohibiting 18-wheelers from driving through the city; reducing speed limits in some areas; and installing adequate bike infrastructure, like protected bike lanes, along busy thoroughfares.
Some of the group’s main concerns are on the agenda at the City Council hearing.
Several policy orders have been filed by elected officials who are seeking changes — whether permanent or temporary — to Cambridge’s streets.
One order calls on the city manager to work with departments to install protected bike lanes on Massachusetts Avenue, between Cedar Street and Harvard Square, as part of a pilot program. The order also calls for the installation of protected bike lanes on Cambridge Street between Inman Square and Quincy Street; and on Broadway between Prospect and Quincy streets.
A second policy order calls for protected bike lanes on both sides of Huron Avenue, which is currently under construction.
A third policy order calls for the city manager to form a Vision Zero Working Group to review traffic safety plans and street designs, with the “goal of eliminating crashes that result in serious injuries and deaths.”
Some councilors are asking the city manager to talk with staff about what can be done to “further restrict the routes” of oversized vehicles like tractor-trailers and 18-wheelers, according to yet another policy order.
A total of eight policy orders address bike infrastructure or safety on Monday’s agenda.
Vice Mayor Marc McGovern is a cosponsor of several of the proposals. He said the recent deaths of Lavins and Phillips have put a renewed focus on the city’s bike infrastructure needs.
“We have various plans around improving bicycle infrastructure and looking at adding designated bike lanes,” he said. “The problem is, a lot of that stuff is further out ... We have got to find a way to move these things along faster than we already are.”
“You really are talking about life and death situations here,” McGovern added.
McGovern said he believes many of the policy orders on Monday’s agenda will pass. The proposals would then go to the city manager for a response.
“It’s going to be hard for the administration not to get the clear message that we want to get something done now,” he said. “I think they will hear that message, and respond quickly.”
Meek, the bicycling advocate, said organizers of the protest are encouraging attendees to sign up and speak personally during the public comment period of the council meeting.
Speakers also plan to voice their concerns and deliver words “of empowerment” while standing on the front lawn of City Hall prior to the hearing.
“The dangers are known. People are dying,” said Meek. “I hope that city officials will listen to us.”
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