Where are the City Council candidates taking the side of pedestrians vs. bikes?

From James M. Williamson, Nov. 2, 2017: We desperately need candidates for City Council who understand the obvious: There’s a massive problem with the way people ride their bikes in this city. Just ask any senior, bus driver or resident who tries to walk anywhere safely in Cambridge. (Even some people who ride bikes seem to agree.) There just don’t seem to be any rules at all for those who bicycle, and where there are rules they’re simply not enforced – certainly with nothing like any sustained or effective focus. There seems to be an all-too-pervasive culture among bicyclists that boasts, “I can do whatever I want, wherever I please, and with whatever justification I declare, and if you don’t like it? Too bad!” (The rules are for thee, but not for me.)

Recent controversy over the poor design and terrible implementation of the segregated bike lanes on Cambridge and Brattle streets has highlighted the issue, but it’s not just about bike lanes. We shouldn’t ignore the overall problem of bicycle lawlessness while we work to make these two plans – and future ones – better. Pedestrians, and pedestrian safety, deserve at least as much care and attention as that of bicyclists, and besieged as we are on a daily basis, we shouldn’t have to prove serious injury to warrant serious attention to our concerns.

By ignoring pedestrian comfort and safety, bicycling advocates – together with their self-serving allies in the city administration – are generating widespread resentment, which is becoming an obstacle to further implementation of even sensible bicycling infrastructure.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like we’re going to get the kind of candidates we need in this regard. The so-called “progressives” are missing an important opportunity in this election to show us that they actually get it, and that they can and will manage government to successfully address and solve real problems of real Cambridge people, not just bicyclists (who are, of course, also people.)

Isn’t this what “progressives” are supposed to be all about? Ignore the concerns of your fellow residents – and voters – at your peril. The hoped-for ambition of electing a majority of “like-minded” progressives will not happen if “progressives” don’t start listening to the people.

We citizens will have to once again provide leadership on this issue, as we have with so many others.


10 Responses to "Where are the City Council candidates taking the side of pedestrians vs. bikes?"

  1. prc   Monday, November 6, 2017 at 8:57 am

    Exactly! When you see one of these bully bicyclists run a red light (that all the cars are sitting at – which makes it difficult to see over especially if there is a truck or bus) and hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk then you will be motivated.

    If cars ran red lights like these bicyclists they would be ticketed and or have a suspended license. For a bicyclist, at best you get a shrug of the shoulders. It’s just a matter of time before the CPD will start to enforce and ticketing these bullies. Thanks Jim!

  2. taguscove   Monday, November 6, 2017 at 9:20 am

    If only these opinions were backed with any form of data. Cars cause a disproportionately high number of injuries to pedestrians, bicyclists, and other cars. Yet, the author would make the reader believe that bicyclists are public enemy #1.

    As a Cambridge driver, bicyclist, and pedestrian, I welcome the visionary “progressive” bike changes.

  3. walter   Monday, November 6, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    There is no pedestrians vs. bikes problem in Cambridge. I walk 95% of the time; to Harvard sq, to Inman Sq, to Central Sq to Trader Joe’s and I definitely have more issues with cars ignoring walk signals than bicyclist! Let’s get real.

  4. TMJ   Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 12:04 am

    It is simplistic, and incorrect, say that there is no pedestrian v. bike problem in Cambridge. It clearly exists. In the last two weeks I have had two conflicts with people riding bikes on the sidewalks on Third Street. Both times I told the riders that the bike lane was in the street, not on the sidewalk. Both times my comment was met with an obscenity. Several weeks ago I was hit by a bicyclist riding on the sidewalk outside the Sweet Touch Cafe on Cambridge Street. The guy rode up the handicap ramp on Third Street and hit me while trying to avoid the dozen people waiting at the bus stop at that corner. With coffee dripping down my clothes, I pointed at the bike lane in the street (newly striped and painted green) and told him that the bike lane was in the street. He laughed and said “I ride where I want” as he rode away. At least he could have offered to replace my cup of coffee. I deliberately chose to ignore the comments about cars. That is a legitimate, but different, issue that should be addressed separately. The issue of irresponsible bike riders has no less significance just because car drivers act similarly. Both are legitimate, but separate, problems on the streets of Cambridge.

  5. prc   Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Correct TMJ – As i pointed out once you or someone you are with gets hit by one of the bicycle bullies then it becomes very real.

    With 1 child that has been hit in a crosswalk by a bicyclist what to do? You can’t take down a plate# or report the incident – they just rode away. No replacement coffee for you TMJ but for my children they are terrified of bikes in crosswalks and sidewalks.

    And yes before some bicyclist responds and says it was one bad apple or they shouldn’t have been in the crosswalk – give us all a break we are on these streets every day and see these egregious violations all over our city.

    I think the point is how to share the streets with pedestrians, cars and bikes. I would hope we all obey traffic lights, sidewalks, crosswalks etc. I have never seen cars driving on sidewalks or thru crosswalks or thru red lights – have you ever seen just one bicyclist do that…

  6. pdc   Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Bikes are allowed to ride in the bike lane, in the car lane, and on sidewalks. http://www.massbike.org/laws. If a bike does use the sidewalk, they need to yield to pedestrians and use a reasonable speed. The only time bikes are not allowed on the sidewalk is if it’s a business district and in Cambridge “No Bikes” signs are posted on the ramps in these zones.
    I bike my son home from school regularly. I do see a lot of riders running lights and stop signs, but fewer than I saw a few years ago. Personally I stop at lights and I signal every turn and slowdown, because I want to be predictable to cars and avoid an accident. I think this trend will continue as the number of bicyclists increases. When you’re the only biker, it’s natural to think breaking the rules only affects you.
    A few weeks ago I was on a rare, unavoidable ride on Mass Ave with my son on the bike. A delivery truck was illegally blocking the bike lane, and I had to make a split-second decision about whether to veer into traffic or take the sidewalk. This was an area with no posted signs prohibiting bikes. The sidewalk was empty. I was going slowly with my son visible, for about 20 feet to get around the truck. Yet a man decided to come out and yell at me about riding on the sidewalk. It was scary how angry he was yelling incorrectly about the law with my son there on the bike with me.
    Most of the complaints about bikers are driven by the same irrational impulse that creates road rage when someone passes us on the highway. Really it has zero impact on the person getting angry, but it’s hard to prevent it getting under your skin. As bikes become more common, I hope tempers cool and more bikers realize that they are traffic like everyone else and should follow the law.

  7. prc   Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    Just so you know “Mass ave” IS from Shepard to Russel st is a sidewalk bike free zone:


    The reason pedestrians are so upset is that the bicyclists are out of control and the pedestrians feel unsafe.

    What does bicyclists out of control =
    @Riding on sidewalks that they “think” they can ride on
    @Riding thru red lights and crosswalks
    @Riding outside of bike lanes
    @Riding at high speeds
    @Swirving to pass each other

    When pedestrians feel safe to be able to walk in a cross or sidewalk, you might get some sympathy. This is not a one-off rogue bicyclist – sadly it is the overarching culture of the Cambridge biking community. The sooner the better for the Cambidge Police to start enforcing and ticketing these bicycle bullies for everyone’s safety.

  8. taguscove   Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    With the example of the hyperventilation above, it’s no wonder that discourse is impossible. I agree that bicyclists should follow the current law.

    I live and work in Cambridge with a 2 mile commute. Yet, I choose to drive because i’m over three times more likely to be killed as a bicyclist. As a driver, biker, and pedestrian in Cambridge, I will support bike provisions any day, any way.

    Some people can’t be won over. It’s easier mobilize and vote in the city councilers to make the bike safety improvements happen.

  9. walter   Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    So much hyperbole! Bicyclist are my least concern while walking through the city. I detect another agenda here. Perhaps some feel a need to control the spaces in front of their businesses and home? Nothing is “out of control”.

  10. TMJ   Tuesday, November 7, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    I agree PRC. The coffee comment was just a humorous example of the lack of courtesy. If I bumped into another pedestrian outside a coffee shop, and spilled their coffee, I would walk back inside with them and buy them another cup. In this case, he just brushed me back and caused no injury. It could have been much worse, since there were people two feet away waiting for the bus, and most had their backs to him. They didn’t even know he was there until he hit me and I yelled. It was 8:30am on a weekday, and the narrow sidewalk was filled with people. The bike lane on the street was clearly marked, and clear. There was no logical reason for this guy to be on the sidewalk. It was just ione example of a total lack of courtesy and respect. I’m sure there are many examples on all sides of the situation. I just think it is not productive for anyone on any side to say that the issue does not exist. We all need to find a way to make cars, bikes, and pedestrians work together to make the streets and sidewalks safe for everyone.

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