An Equitable Transit Response.

My transit priorities are improving safety for our most vulnerable road users and encouraging a just transition away from cars as quickly as possible. Too many of our friends and neighbors are being killed as we bend over backwards to prioritize the convenience of personal motor vehicles over everything else. We need to become serious about reallocating road space to make walking, biking, and public transit safer and more efficient for everyone. The city has not moved fast enough in this direction, and it is inexcusable. I am also a strong advocate for improvements to our public transit at the state level, including making it free for all riders.

I’ve been a bicycle commuter in Cambridge for over twenty-five years and it is remarkable how little progress we’ve made on bicycle safety in that time. Cambridge has only two substantial cycle tracks, Vassar Street and Western Ave. Major thoroughfares like Hampshire Street still have door zone bike lanes, just like they did when I was doored as a grad student (on Hampshire). Even though a majority of the council committed during the 2017 campaign to a rollout of four miles per year, only one major project has been completed and no more than 1 mile of protected infrastructure was built this entire term. The City Manager is out of step with the council and the people on this issue, and it is putting lives at stake. I am proud to have supported the first in the nation Bicycle Safety Ordinance which will require protected bike lanes whenever major road work is done on streets included in the city’s bicycle plan, but we have already seen the City Manager use that ordinance to justify the delay of a requested quick build lane in Central Square. In other cases, the City Manager has rejected necessary tradeoffs with car storage, for example, on Webster Ave. Next term I look forward to an updated bicycle plan and a stronger effort to fulfill our commitment to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Next steps: I will advocate to install protected bike lanes along the entire length of Mass Ave as soon as possible and to complete capital improvements and quick-build projects on Hampshire, Webster, Broadway, and in Porter Square. We must connect and expand protected bike lanes to ensure that riders are not exposed to heavy-duty traffic. These improvements must include bus transit priority and pedestrian safety.

Traffic laws should reflect that bicycles are very different from cars in terms of acceleration, speed, and mass. Our current one-size-fits-all approach outlaws what is often the safest option for getting through an intersection on a bicycle. We should allow cyclists to treat stop lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs, also known as the “Idaho Stop Law”. This change would legalize the way that most cyclists naturally choose to negotiate an intersection, lowering congestion and improving safety for everyone. Studies have shown that in the state of Idaho, safety improved and bicycle related injuries declined after adoption of the law in 1982. To be clear, cyclists should never blow through stop signs or red lights in an unsafe manner, and police enforcement against such reckless behavior should continue. But most serious crashes involving cyclists are caused by conflict created during turning movements, and this change would avoid many such conflicts by allowing cyclists to pass through the intersection before any motor vehicle has even begun making their turn. By changing the law, and communicating it clearly and often to drivers, we also reduce the potential for hostility from car drivers who currently resent bicycle riders doing what is safe but currently against the law.

Next Steps: I will begin a stakeholder conversation with the goal of introducing a home rule petition that would legalize the so-called “Idaho Stop” in Cambridge.

We need to take on rideshare services like Uber and Lyft that offer artificially cheap service on the backs of their workers, clogging our streets, bike lanes, and air with traffic and pollution. We can address the congestion while raising additional revenue for public transit improvements by implementing a surcharge on rides to, from, and through the city during peak travel times. Congestion pricing in various forms has been used successfully in large cities around the world including Singapore and London, and it is now being implemented in New York City. It works by shifting some rush hour street traffic to off-peak periods or to other transit modes altogether, improving efficiency and air quality. Cambridge passengers should be exempt, and the companies should not be permitted to deduct the fee from driver paychecks. We also need to push for state-level reform that ensures all rideshare drivers (and indeed, all workers) are paid at least a living wage for their work. By shortchanging their workers and operating at a significant loss, these companies are able to undercut public transit and taxis, worsening traffic and pollution. Ultimately, I believe we should make our public transit free for all riders, and we should ensure that rideshare drivers earn a living wage.

Next steps: I will file a home rule petition that would allow Cambridge to assess a congestion pricing fee on rideshare trips. I will also work with state legislators to push for universally free public transit, and to demand that rideshare companies pay their workers a living wage.

The major squares of Cambridge should be car-free on Sundays, especially in the summer. Moving in that direction would improve safety and encourage more cycling, walking, and public transit at immense benefit to local businesses. In order for this to be a success we will have to work with all stakeholders including neighborhood and business associations, and we will of course need to make accommodations for people with disabilities, emergency situations, and unavoidable deliveries. Our planning, traffic and public safety departments need to research solutions to these challenges that other cities around the world have come up with as they transition away from cars (I happen to have been born in Amsterdam, which is aiming to become a car free city), so we can ensure unique needs are met before any changes are made. A section of Memorial Drive is already car-free on Sundays between April and November, at great benefit to everyone in our city.

Next steps: I co-sponsored a recent policy order asking the City Manager to begin this work in Harvard Square in time for the summer of 2020. I will continue to meet with stakeholders and city staff to make sure we can begin the transition towards car free Sundays in all the major squares, starting with Harvard Square in the summer of 2020.

Vice Mayor Devereux and I have worked with various environmental & transit advocacy groups to form the Memorial Drive Alliance, a grassroots coalition pushing for a safer, more accessible parkway as part of DCR’s upcoming redesign of Memorial Drive from the BU Rotary to the Eliot Bridge. The community path along this stretch is one of the most cherished and widely used open spaces in the city, but anyone who uses it knows it is very treacherous. Spanning just four feet wide in some areas, the path forces a diverse array of users into constant conflict: bicycle commuters, casual cyclists, pedestrians, families with strollers, joggers, seniors, people with disabilities, and more. The path is cracked, poorly demarcated, and located inches away from what is effectively a four-lane highway. There are also several unmarked and unprotected intersections that force users into dangerous conflicts with motor vehicles.

As part of this project the Alliance would like to see a reduction in motor vehicle lanes, safe bicycle infrastructure, separated paths for cyclists and pedestrians, and mature tree preservation. This project needs to prioritize the safety and comfort of all park users without sacrificing any mature trees, including the iconic sycamores, which would not survive any expansion or major disturbance of the road bed because of their sensitive root systems. We will need a road diet (fewer motor vehicle lanes) to accomplish these priorities given the significant space constraints and safety concerns of the current configuration. One case study looked at over 100 locations that had experienced vehicular capacity reduction either intentionally or through a disaster and found not a single instance of long-term traffic chaos or prolonged gridlock resulting from such a change. This is remarkable and understandably hard to fathom, but we can choose a safer, more accessible parkland for all without making traffic any worse than current conditions. The best way to get people out of gas-guzzling vehicles and improve congestion is to actually make it safe and convenient to use alternative transit modes.

The city has very little control over the fate of this project, as the state owns the land, but our advocacy through the Alliance has gotten the attention of DCR and our State Representatives, and we will continue to push for these objectives. So far I’ve advocated for an expanded process, met with various state and local officials, and put the city council on record in support of our efforts.

Next steps: I will continue working with the Memorial Drive Alliance to advocate for a park with fewer vehicle lanes, safe bicycle infrastructure, separated paths for cyclists and pedestrians, and mature tree preservation.

The city should look into a municipal transit network on high demand routes. A municipal shuttle network could be free, electric, and trackless. Our public transit is broken and we cannot wait for the MBTA to prioritize and fund system improvements. The recent “Better Bus Project” was a revenue-neutral disaster that ultimately worsened conditions for riders on some routes right on top of a systemwide fare hike! Meanwhile the 68 bus is over capacity and children from The Port who rely on it are often late to school. Things are heading entirely in the wrong direction, and we don’t have time to wait: free and reliable public transit is within the city’s reach. We could partner with other municipalities to expand the network even further and make connections that don’t currently exist.

Next steps: I will continue to advocate for this approach as the city deepens its mobility planning efforts. And I will work with local transit and mobility advocates to organize and build momentum around this idea, because ultimately it will only happen if the people demand it.

As we encourage people to move out of their cars, we also need to electrify the motor vehicles that remain on our roads as fast as possible. I worked with Vice Mayor Devereux to secure 7 new electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at public garages throughout the city. The city has also agreed to my request to pilot the installation of publicly accessible EV chargers on residential streets, which is important because many residents who are interested in switching to an electric vehicle for necessary commuting cannot install their own charger due to space or financial constraints. I’ve also worked on a Right to Charge Ordinance with Vice Mayor Devereux, modeled after legislation first introduced in Boston by City Councillor Michelle Wu. This would prevent condominium or homeowner associations from objecting or banning individual property owners from installing electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Governor Baker has already approved Boston’s legislation, so I anticipate that ours will move forward as well. Finally, we need to electrify our municipal fleet as rapidly as possible. I have successfully advocated with the city to begin leasing new vehicles instead of outright purchasing them, so that we can keep up with this rapidly-evolving technology.

Next steps: I will continue to advocate for more publicly accessible charging stations in parallel to improving transit and incentivizing people to move away from cars altogether. I will also continue insisting that we electrify our municipal fleet as rapidly as possible.I’ve been advocating for climate adaptation in Cambridge ever since I joined the Climate Protection Action Committee in 2008 and began advocating for a climate vulnerability assessment. It took more than a decade, but that assessment was finally finished last year and shows that Cambridge can expect more extreme heat and flooding events caused by climate change in the coming decades. It also found that areas of the city where our most vulnerable communities live tend to be the areas that are most vulnerable to the worst effects of climate change. This is deeply concerning, and I strongly supported the citizen-initiated Climate Safety Petition last summer. Despite near-universal praise for many elements of the petition, which would have codified protections from heat and flooding in new construction, the council tragically voted it down out of concerns it would impact the rate of development, which means we won’t be able to re-file any similar petition for two years. Instead, the city has appointed a task force to discuss the issue. It should be noted that just 3 days after the climate safety petition was voted down, 11.9 acres in the Alewife Quadrangle were sold to a prominent developer (Cabot) for 79 million dollars. That parcel would have been impacted by the petition!

Next steps: As co-chair of the Health & Environment Committee, I will continue holding joint hearings with the city-appointed task force to monitor progress and accelerate any resulting proposals. Unlike the current council majority, I will never prioritize short-term developer profits over long term residential safety.

Dockless electric bikes and scooters have become very popular and companies would like to offer such services on Cambridge streets. Though I don’t see these devices as a panacea to our transit woes, I am highly supportive of piloting them in Cambridge. As we move forward though, we need to be careful of companies that rely on the “gig economy”. These companies often skirt labor and wage laws by classifying their employees as independent contractors, even though many of them are working more than full time. In many cases workers do not even take home the minimum wage, let alone a living wage. Job training is minimal, and the bar is so low to fill an important role like maintenance technician that I question the safety of the product, which sees quite a bit of wear and tear.

One alternative to freewheeling Silicon Valley startups experimenting on our streets is to use the City’s own bikeshare system, BlueBikes, to explore these transit options. Consumers having to use multiple apps, each with their own set of rules, is not conducive to successful deployment of this technology. It makes sense to use our municipally-owned infrastructure to pilot new approaches and technologies in a safe and controlled manner. Using Bluebikes also avoids the pitfalls of the “gig economy” and already operates a regional network which is critical to the success of these new modes. The Bluebikes operator, Motivate, has already implemented electric bike and dockless solutions in other systems it operates, including Citi Bike in New York City. Adding a scooter option doesn’t seem like a big stretch, once the state law has been updated to allow it.

Regardless of how we move forward, here are some concerns I have that need to be addressed as part of any pilot:

  • Workers need to be paid a living wage and trained adequately for their duties
  • There must be equitable rebalancing of devices to ensure all neighborhoods have access (using electric vans, as soon as possible!)
  • Electric devices cannot operate on sidewalks and cannot litter the right of way. The operator must actively prevent these situations, for example by safely disabling the electric motor if it detects sidewalk use, and quickly remedy inappropriate device storage

Next steps: I will continue to advocate with the City for a micromobility pilot through blue bikes next summer.

I am a champion for pedestrian safety. I pushed hard to lower the speed limit to 20 MPH citywide, a change that will roll out over the next few months. The chicanes on Cambridge Street lowered average speeds by 6 MPH, and I would like to see this type of design implemented wherever possible. We should also look at slowing traffic by reducing lanes wherever possible, with Binney Street being a great example. Our current laws enshrine car dominance. Until we admit that, and commit to changing it, we will continue to kill pedestrians on our streets every year, and blame them for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Large trucks are dangerous and truck design needs to be more tailored to the urban environment to reduce the risk of collisions with pedestrians and cyclists. We need to minimize when and how often they are permitted to drive in Cambridge. Sideguards are now required on municipal trucks, but we need to change the state law to require that all trucks have sideguards. Cambridge should work with Boston in at least three areas to advance safety:

  • Explore ways to incentivize new and smaller models for delivering freight in the city
  • Encourage use of truck new designs that reduce turning radius and blind spots
  • Employ emergency braking technologies that activate brakes automatically to prevent or mitigate collisions.

Next steps: I will continue to push back against federal efforts to allow increased truck size, and advocate for universal requirements that trucks install side guards to avoid worst-case scenarios if there is an accident with a pedestrian or cyclist.