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Cambridge bike policy is confused

December 15, 2013

Cambridge is taking the somewhat bold step of continuing Hubway rental bike service through the winter. Unfortunately, they failed to get the message through to enough people in public works to be sure that good places to ride these bikes will exist. There’s a cycletrack on Concord Avenue from Belmont to the Fresh Poond rotary that curves on around Fresh Pond. They plowed one side pretty well (and it was nasty snow; first it snowed, then it rained, then it turned really cold and a little windy; anything not removed in a very timely fashion got very hard to remove.

First, a plow driver clearing the Burger King parking lot found a convenient place to dump his snow. The wide lanes that cars use would have been most convenient, of course, but instead, he chose the cycle track:

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Further on, they did a moderately good job of clearing the snow off the path, and left a nice hard surface to ride on. Unfortunately, it was nice hard ice:

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Yay studded tires, today they were useful and not just a noisy morale and power suck.

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Crossing Fresh Pond parkway, I stopped to take a photo of something that has recently puzzled me — the curb cut for the crosswalk is tiny. Why? What’s the point of making the pedestrians (and bicycles) fit through such a tiny space?

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My crossing experience was enhanced by some bozo in a car (but I repeat myself) attempting to make a prohibited right turn on red, right across the crosswalk that I was ready to use (making my way on foot across the uncleared-and-partially-frozen piles of snow that had been left for my enjoyment). When I pointed out “no turn on red, the sign, right there” he, instead of responding with the eminently sensible “oops, sorry”, asking if I had been looking where I was going. Well duh, yeah, I saw him not turning, and I thought I should make it clear that I knew what my legal rights were.

Then, time to ride on the less-awesome side of the Concord cycle track. Oops.

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So, I rode in the street, and because the frozen ice wall is not that safe for me, I ride a good distance from it. I also didn’t ride that fast (didn’t know it would be a problem when I left, I planned to use the cycle track) because I spent a good chunk of the morning shoveling snow and scraping ice. It was hard work, I ache in a lot of places, I was actually riding the bike to help give my joints some low-intensity recuperation (sitting still afterwards, I just get stiff).

If Cambridge wants to show that they’re serious, instead of setting things up for failure by leaving no place for anyone except the boldest cyclists to ride, they need to find someplace other than their shiny new cycletracks for storing snow, and they need to ding plow drivers just as hard for dumping on the bike facilities as they would for dumping in the street, and they may need to look into selective use of chemicals and/or sand on bike paths (Arlington and Lexington seem to leave their paths untreated, but they also appear to use a real plow and scrape it down to the asphalt). I realize that Fresh Pond is both a park and a reservoir so that may limit use of chemicals, but it’s a big reservoir and it’s one little cycle track — it might not require that much salt, it might be small enough to allow the use of more expensive chemicals (calcium chloride, magnesium chloride). Even a little sand embedded in the ice is a surprising help (perhaps because of the relatively high pressure of bike tires, I’m not sure why) — I was out a few days ago on normal tires in the first cold weather and experimentally tried to break the rear end loose on some dirty frozen surfaces, and there was enough traction to go, stay upright, and stop (which is all you should expect in the winter, even with studs).

2 Responses to “Cambridge bike policy is confused”

  1. anon Says:

    What’s even worse: the Concord Avenue sidewalk bike paths replaced perfectly good on-street bike lanes. After the reconstruction, the roadway is narrower.

    What do you do if there’s snow in part of an on-street bike lane? Merge left and go around it. But if you’re riding in a narrowed road with no bike lane, this happens more often, and you delay other traffic more.

    And if there’s snow in part of a sidewalk bike path, the entire segment of path is basically useless.

    • dr2chase Says:

      I would not call the prior road “perfectly good”; the road itself was in terrible condition (I know, repaving is a separate issue, and that happened) and there was a marked gutter, not really a lane. Cambridge is doing a pretty good job on the “good” side, and lots of people just salmon. That icy section parallels Fresh Pond Parkway, and I’m not really excited about riding in the road there at all — I’ll leave that to Lucas Brunelle.


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