Thursday, June 13, 2024

A screen capture from a Superior Court hearing Thursday about new Cambridge bike lanes.

In the latest skirmish in litigation over bike lanes in Cambridge, on Thursday afternoon Superior Court Judge Maureen B. Hogan heard oral argument on whether to grant an injunction stopping the city from proceeding with bike lane deployment on Brattle and Garden streets. 

“When I think about Brattle Street having a bike lane on it, and the other street being a one-way – it’s probably pretty good – those streets are so small,” Hogan mused. “And … I don’t know what I’ll decide. I’ll look at the history.”

Ira Zaleznik, representing Madeleine Aster and others opposed to the installations, said the work was complete except for adding flexible posts that delineate the bike lanes, but that he wanted to stop further work. He objected to the city proceeding when 50 residents had petitioned the city’s now-defunct traffic board to reverse the plans.

“Maybe the city should not have gone forward with it without having these lawsuits straightened out, right?” Hogan asked. “Without having a traffic board that could review the claims of the city?” 

City of Cambridge attorney Elliott Veloso did not explain the city’s position on the traffic board, but gave a lengthy response about community meetings and the city’s budget process. City Manager Yi-An Huang told the City Council in an Oct. 21 email that “it is the city’s position these petitions do not prohibit proceeding with the Garden Street project which is planned to start on Monday, Oct. 24.”

“I will decide the matter on the papers; if I need to hear you, I will bring you back in,” Hogan said after half an hour of the hearing, cutting off Veloso.

Hogan did not say when she would rule, but a hearing on whether to dismiss the earlier case is on her calendar for Monday.

Veloso and Zaleznik are the lawyers for this case, Madeleine Aster v. City of Cambridge, as well as the earlier case, Cambridge Streets for All v. City of Cambridge.

The Thursday hearing began with confusion over whether the cases should be consolidated, and it’s not apparent that the attorneys conveyed their positions clearly about whether the cases were similar and should be handled together. Zaleznik objected to consolidation, saying he was happy for the court to hear the cases together, but that there should be separate filings in each case.

Hogan said that “clearly” she tried to get Judge John Pappas to take the case. “He wouldn’t.” He is the judge who denied a preliminary injunction in the Cambridge Streets for All case on June 30.

Overall, the judge seemed to expect both attorneys to summarize the issues in the case in a few seconds, and the attorneys seemed to expect to talk for hours. The mismatch made it hard to evaluate the hearing, and difficult to tell whether the issues raised in the motion papers were adequately briefed for the judge.