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Cambridge Becomes First U.S. City to Make Protected Bike Lanes Mandatory

This kind of thing (an off-road bike path) is really safe. Photo: Cambridgema.gov

The Boston-area city of Cambridge is poised to become one of the most-progressive safe-biking cities in the country, thanks to the passage of a bill requiring protected bike lanes on all city streets.

The "Cycling Safety Ordinance" requires city streets to be upgraded to include the safest bike paths whenever a roadway is reconstructed. Advocates hope it to secure a 20-mile network of protected bike lanes in five years for the city of 113,000.

The ordinance, which passed 7-0, with one voting present, will bind the city to provide protected bike infrastructure for streets that are included in its bike master plan except in "rare" circumstances, which city officials will be required to justify. The ordinance requires that vertical physical barriers be included.

"With the Cycling Safety Ordinance, the Council codifies a lasting commitment to the users of our roadways that Cambridge intends to have a modern, safe, and accessible network of separated bicycle lanes for all residents regardless of their age or ability," Mayor Marc McGovern said in a statement.

The bike advocacy group Cambridge Bike Safety plans to lobby the city to adjust its construction schedule to increase the pace of change on streets included in the city's bike plan. Unde the city's normal construction schedule, sometimes streets go decades between full reconstruction.

"Increased bicycle use is most appropriate in our city, which is the fourth-densest city in the country," said City Councilor Dennis Carlone in a statement. "This emerging way of travel promotes personal health, a cleaner environment, and even greater retail sales."

Some observers say the ordinance will put the city on par with some European leaders on infrastructure and ridership.

Portland is the only city we are aware of that has a similar policy. In 2015, the city made protected bike lanes standard on all "major streets." Progress has been slow, but the city's plan calls for protected bike lanes on 450 miles of streets.

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