Snowbank becomes accidental hero for area cyclists
Cyclists have long yearned for better bike infrastructure in the Greater Boston area.
In Cambridge this week, it seems nature was on their side.
A bike lane along a sometimes treacherous portion of Massachusetts Avenue in Central Square got a wall of ice and snow between it and nearby car traffic when crews clearing the street happened to plow the snow into a conveniently protective knee-high ridge. A little light rain and a few warm-and-freeze cycles since then have hardened it into a seemingly formidable blockade.
“I like this snowbank-protected cycle track,” Ari Ofsevit, a local cyclist, said on Twitter.
Ofsevit shared a photo of the icy divider, prompting some people to call for a real barrier at the location once the snow melts.
The bike lane in Central Square, which is separated from the road by flexible posts, is on the northbound side of the avenue between Sidney and Douglass streets. It was one of two such lanes implemented in early December in Cambridge, as part of the city’s “protected bike lane demonstration project.”
Joseph Barr, Cambridge’s director of traffic, parking, and transportation, said in an e-mail that snow removal from the bike lanes has been going better than expected this winter.
He said the city was worried that plows would destroy some of the flexible posts used for the pilot project, but so far they haven’t.
He credited snow-clearing equipment that is small enough to fit in the bike lanes.
“Part of the reason this has been successful is that the pilot lanes are in locations where they already have this smaller equipment in use for clearing parks, plazas, and bus stops,” he said.
Barr acknowledged that the snow mound separating the bike lane and the road has offered a sense of protection to cyclists, but he said it could also be masking damage to the base of the flexible posts.
“We won’t know that until we get some more melting. But it certainly looks good on the street,” he said.
Richard Fries, executive director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for safer streets, said in an e-mail that snowy weather often works in favor of riders.
He said the unintentional creation of a snow barrier makes clear to drivers that people still commute by bike during the winter. The mound will also condition drivers to remember the lane is there, even when the snow is not, he said.
“It’s great. It won’t last that much longer, but it does help to hammer into people’s heads [road] patterns and driving habits,” he said. “Because it’s there, it makes the existing bike lane more visible to drivers and more prominent.”