Opening of the first phase of the Grand Junction Path


On June 9, 2016, the ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the first phase of the Grand Junction Path, including a pocket park at the corner of Main Street & Galileo Way.

Grand Junction first section context

The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority led and executed the project, along with the Department of Public Works and significant support from CDD (planning and coordination) and MIT ($$$).

This is a major step toward building momentum for the overall Grand Junction Path, which will ultimately link with the Charles River Paths, the future multiuse path in Allston, and the future extension of the Somerville Community Path.

Grand Junction Path, zoomed map, intersections

As Cambridge City Manager Rich Rossi pointed out at the ribbon-cutting, the Grand Junction Path is always an uncontroversial 9-0 proposition at City Council with support throughout the community. As I pointed out, it still took 15 years to get this one small section built, with some planning progress made on the rest, but a long way to go. Since most of the path will be on property owned by either MassDOT or MIT, continuous engagement must take place with those entities. Agreements with developers to construct abutting path sections should be made, and the $10M request from the City Manager toward designing and construction the path north of Binney Street must be followed through proactively.

The Main Street to Broadway section now serves as a “demonstration piece” of what we could have along the entire Grand Junction corridor, and furthers the demand for making this critical walk/bike link between Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville. Urban pathways are central to shifting the mobility paradigm away from cars, complementing transit, and reshaping one’s everyday interaction with the urban environment. The Grand Junction Path is a unique opportunity that’s been studied in depth since 2001, gains universal support, and has momentum, yet it’s taken this long to do the smallest, easiest section. As I said in my remarks at the ribbon-cutting, it’s all about showing up: we have to keep showing up.

Friends of the Grand Junction Path on facebook

Opening of the first phase of the Grand Junction Path

Statement on the end of my campaign

I have ended my campaign for Cambridge City Council.

Recently, horrible things I said and posted online from my younger days have come into the spotlight and there is simply no political way forward for me as a candidate. [On Sunday], I was leaving a slate of great candidates who didn’t want me to leave, in order to join a slate of candidates who wanted me to join. By late Monday morning, I was political anathema. I am not a racist, nor homophobic, and am in fact firmly progressive and take these issues very personally and aim for a city government that takes them very politically. However, the revelations of these confused, misguided, nonsensical writings from my past—which I wholeheartedly own up to, and condemn—have made me untouchable.

I believe I had a great deal to offer this city in a great many ways, and would have been a passionate voice at the table for sustainability, livability, and equity, largely through the lens of transportation and socioeconomic justice. I would have worked tirelessly to craft meaningful, thoughtful policy for the city I have come to love deeply and intimately.

I am withdrawing completely from Cambridge public life, with a great deal of regret, because I truly feel I could have been a respectable public servant long into the future and helped create a truly special Cambridge. This is painful. There is much in my life that I wish I could undo, but alas even the pointless, terrible, and obscure can come back and wrench your very purpose of being. Over the last few years, I made Cambridge my everything, and whatever I was in my younger days has nothing to do with who I am today. I’m sorry I was not a better person.

(Originally released Oct. 27, 2015)

More information:

Statement on the end of my campaign

A Better Cambridge Forum: housing and development

I participated in three forums this week: Green Cambridge, A Better Cambridge, and Black Lives Matter in Cambridge.

Some thoughts after the A Better Cambridge forum.

On housing

Affordable housing, fundamentally. First, we need to be clear about what we are talking about. Generally these discussions focus specifically on public housing, subsidies, and other bureaucratic programs like inclusionary zoning. Frankly, though, I think the real theme, as it were, that concerns Cantabridgians, is the affordability of housing. That is, the cost of housing (buy or rent), at market rates (or otherwise).

That is, for the most part and for most people, the prevailing issue is that the market has appreciated at a dramatic pace and has hit levels that are unaffordable to a great deal of the economic spectrum.

Then there is affordable housing per se: agency owned/facilitated, subsidized units, etc.

Which means we’re talking about two general areas. One, affordability of housing in the market.* Two, publicly operated, or otherwise controlled, influenced, created, or managed, income-restricted housing units.

On the former, market-rate. Cambridge is a unique market in any global/national/regional market condition. This is acute and particular. Obviously, Harvard, MIT, and Industry (biotech plus), are the main reasons for this. A secondary reason, I suspect, is the unique interrelation with the Boston urban core, geographically — being a blurred yet distinct city, urban but suburban-ish.

Residential prices have kept a pace of at least +10 to +15% per season (Fall to Spring to Fall to Spring etc.) consistently since at least 2012, with the feeling of a slight (and quite high) plateau only very recently.

Obviously, it’s great to be in a position of investment, to the tune of hundreds of millions in residential real estate transactions (and the same for commercial), much of it in cash, and much of it foreign or corporate. I.e., Cambridge is a “good” investment. It is a seller’s market (Cambridge is great for sellers) and a successful buyer is a lucky buyer (Cambridge is a great, top choice for real estate buyers). We are a premier city. The name “Kendall Square” carries heft. Thousands of tourists, commuters, residents, workers, are coming and exploring and investing (in real property if they’re so lucky), every day. Our problem (too much investment) is a good one to have in many ways.

The problems do begin to unfold, however. 

(Note: I will avoid charged terms like “gentrification” and “luxury” but I will use others like “displacement” because it is descriptive and not incredibly charged.)

Displacement is a direct problem, particularly when it is on a dramatic scale.

Acute displacement is not happening because home sellers or the real estate market is inherently malicious or evil, but it is nevertheless an important problem because 1. It creates the immediate crises of upheavel, economic instability for lower socioeconomic status families, homelessness, etc., and 2. It can rapidly lead to the loss of something we should all value (and that I value as a person and candidate): inclusive, socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods and communities, by design.

We cannot let the market completely decide, nor have we. We also cannot ignore market forces, just as we cannot ignore the worthy goal of keeping people here, and even inviting new people in, from across the socioeconomic spectrum.

And a lot of the answer, I believe, lies in what we think of as housing, and the expectations and requirements we impart on the built and to-be-built stock.

A great deal of the answer lies in density. Smart density.

I consider the failure to build at Alewife/Cambridge Highlands at even greater heights and densities, virtually car-free, and with the Damn Overpass Already, is baffling. It’s a worthy enough failing to spur the citywide planning process along, and I think rightfully so.

We next look to e.g., Volpe, where we haven’t yet had real vision and thus are taking a back seat to the theoretical bureaucratic monster before we even have to yet. I want the wetland and the tower/s and the eloquent contribution to the Binney Street “biotech Champs-Elysées.”

We have many more areas that we might regrettably throw away to poor design, poor functionality, and if done badly, which will very poorly address our housing issues.

Addressing the housing affordability issue means, first, more units and smaller units.

Zoning reform and a predictable, cohesive special permitting/variance process has to be accomplished in these regards, because the immediate and long-term housing goals, and the grand vision for Cambridge, are more important than whatever sluggishness we are about to get thrown in the face with over the Barrett Petition (for instance). The Barrett Petition is the type of work our city councillors/working groups, and city staff, should be doing already, in overdrive. Capturing usability, value (financial and spatial), and general opportunity in our as-built environment and through appropriate infill, is plain and obvious.

Then we get into the managed stuff. We need Affordable Housing (as opposed to affordable housing), because there is indeed instance of crisis, because there is a worthy social goal of lifting people out of poverty and other circumstances that require stable housing, and because we indeed want diversity and the market isn’t perfect enough to meaningfully deliver it in an integrated way.

We need inclusionary zoning and it needs to be stronger. I see a great logic in tying it to zoning limits, like height.

Inclusionary percentages should be better reflective of context and density. They should be cognizant and have a great interplay with, again, unit sizes. We still build too big in a lot of ways, and have a late-century suburban attitude at what a “family” is and needs space-wise in order to live.

The linkage fee, CPA funds, etc. to fund the Affordable Housing Trust. I have generally supported the increase of these measures – fees and taxes – at a rate that outpaces the incumbent Council majority’s preferences, because I think we are under-recognizing our unique market position (“golden age” as Councilor Carlone puts it) and our unique and acute crisis. However, I have serious doubts about this being the Ultimate Achievement (getting more money to the AHT). That doesn’t mean I don’t think it should be basically doubled at all levels right now, because the market can take it (I disagree that a $24 linkage fee, a modest residential property tax increase, and other ideas like a sliding transfer tax, would kill Cambridge) and because there is indeed a significant wealth and opportunity gap chasm-ing open in Cambridge, whether it’s visible all the time or not. The least we can do is get a quick $50M to affordable housing which beside, isn’t a drain or outright cost, but an investment in less- or disadvantaged people.

However, I do think many of the the programs as they exist now are tactics and not strategies.

The citywide plan must (and certainly will) address the qualitative and statistical aspects of our housing issues. But it must have actionable outcomes, like inclusion by design – clear, and transparent. Incentives are a top-off and not a strategy. Zoning is a tool and so is visionary planning. Get buy-in via a great vision for Cambridge – evolve from extortion-style politics to a shareable set of goals.

Other items to go through, for another time

  • Graduate student housing, particularly at MIT
  • More attention to city-owned property (e.g., parking lots)
  • Contextual infill
  • Historic preservation and neighborhood conservation
  • Mixed-use density in commercial corridors (e.g., Mass. Ave.)
  • Regional planning – very important topic, worth its own series of articles (check out MAPC’s work)
  • Height, density
  • Traffic and parking (a favorite topic of those who show up to things)

*Affordability means other things too, like milk and sneakers, but that’s a less pressing and less politically prevailing issue. How much does gas cost these days? I have no idea.

A Better Cambridge Forum: housing and development

Green Cambridge forum

TONIGHT (Weds., Oct. 14)

 Green Cambridge Candidates Forum
YMCA, 820 Massachusetts Ave. (across from City Hall)


I hope to touch on a few topics:

Net Zero Transportation Task Force. Building on the success of the Net Zero Task Force’s Action Plan, which was adopted this year by City Council, the aim of the Net Zero Transportation Task Force concept is to identify how the city will reduce harmful emissions from transportation sources. I am fully on board with this Task Force and hope to help drive its formation, ensure that it’s fully-resourced, and that its Action Plan is adopted and implemented.

The vision: A ‘complete streets’ design standard & transportation network plan that prioritizes healthy, safe, active, and sustainable transportation; a system that achieves Transportation Justice.

The toolbox: 1. a complete transit network that integrates and enhances all bus and shuttle services within our city (integration of access to transit routes, bus priority signalization, rapid bus infrastructure including dedicated bus lanes and platform stations, 10 minutes to a transit seat), 2. implementation of a complete, protected bicycle network that allows all potential users of all ages and abilities to bike anywhere in the city, 3. aggressive and visionary regional planning (Red Line extension, Green Line extension, Indigo Line creation, Grand Junction Path, Cambridge-Watertown Greenway, Prospect Street Awesomecorridor, etc.), 4. electrical vehicle charging network.

Net Zero from buildings. This means continually furthering our building standards and an integrative approach to energy, waste, etc. The Net Zero Action Plan’s adoption signals a real political willingness to get out in front of building standards, but it must be followed with meaningful actions–even when it’s tough–and continued review to ensure we are ahead of every curve. There is no excuse in our investment boom to not have the finest net zero buildings in the world. Additionally (and this is the hard part) we have to think about energy priorities for existing buildings, which is the vast majority of our challenge…and it doesn’t just mean weatherstripping and blown insulation.

Toolbox: 1. progressive smart monitoring/metering, 2. solar panel standards, 3. heat island reduction via tree canopy, better paving materials, and green roofs, 4. integrated energy distribution, 5. programs to reduce perception of need for large amounts of energy consumption (temperature tolerance, for instance). Many more.

Zero Waste. The curbside compost collection rollout can’t come sooner. We need to continue to push the shift from waste to reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting. This means bans and penalties. We need to continually phase out wasteful and harmful packaging and throwaway materials like polystyrene foam/styrofoam, single-use plastics, harmful chemicals, etc.

Better building and transportation standards lead to vastly better externalities. The more we shift away from the domination of single-occupancy vehicles, the more the city grows in health and sociability, too. Reduction of space used for driving and storing vehicles means more space and money (private and public) that can go to better uses, like housing and open space. The subsidy given to driving, via space in particular, is inarguable, and comes with a laundry list of harmful externalities: unsafe and unwelcoming streets for all users, social draining, detraction from family time and active-recreational time, negative impact on personal and public health, incidental limitations on other activities, etc.

Cars and trucks aren’t going to be, and shouldn’t be, ‘banned.’ However, the paradigm as it’s been implemented over the past several decades, and as it exists now, is ~99% vehicle-oriented. Everything else gets a margin, everything else functions around vehicle Level of Service which dictates the highest possible volume and speed of vehicle movement on every street and at every intersection. We must fundamentally reclaim the public way. Anyway, as you know, I’ve talked about this to death.

Ecology. Often lost in the “but how does it reduce our costs?” conversation is the earth generally. Our citywide plan must include a comprehensive ecological rating system and a plan to achieve ecological health—meaning a vision of integrated, everyday ecology. Obviously, it’s tough in a city like ours that’s virtually completely built, but the necessity of the goal outweighs the hurdles to achieve it. I view the Volpe wetland, for instance, as a necessity for our resiliency and ecological and human health, not as a cute idea. Generally speaking, there is much more we can do with street and open space design standards.

Toolbox. 1. proactively unasphalting the city, 2. stormwater retention via bioswales, rain gardens, green roofs, etc. 3. wild species count/species diversity goals, 4. aggressive non-native removal and native restoration, 5. restoration of natural places and corridors, particularly wetlands, and comprehensive integration with the urban landscape (see e.g. Connect Kendall Square Open Space), 5. active and passive open space network connected by healthy and sustainable modes of mobility. Many more.

I recently read Pope Francis’ Encyclical, LAUDATO SI’ which advances the inherent purpose of creation as cause enough for conservation, care, and human action to reverse climate change.

Green Cambridge forum

Homelessness, Protected Bike Lanes in Cambridge

Cambridge Charrette on Homelessness

The City of Cambridge hosted a Charrette on Homelessness over a two day period last week. I attended part of the second day’s talk. Here are a few takeaways:

  1. The issue of homelessness is multi-faceted, and not limited to the unsheltered; in fact that’s only a small part of a broad and structural issue.
  2. We have great regional and local resources to address the three main areas (homelessness, those at-risk of homelessness, and substance abuse) with an array of dedicated, engaged, often overburdened, and often under-resourced public and non-profit service providers.
  3. This gives us a sprawling bureaucracy, which has two natural solutions to “deal with” the persistent problems of homelessness: more funding and more coordination.

More funding and more coordination are reasonable suggestions in a system rife with inefficiency, contradictions, and natural limitations. We can probably get guy A to talk to guy B, we can incrementally increase budgets here and there, and do the old pat on the back for achieving something on paper. However, this is deferring the maintenance (so to speak).

Substance abuse is a major contributor to homelessness and to general urban unpleasantness. It takes more than adding resource coordinators to solve addiction and abuse, not to mention when mental health is a critical factor. Most of the individuals we see around the clock in Central and Harvard Squares who are clearly intoxicated are in environments and social situations that provide neither stability nor hope—whether that’s a decent bed or bathroom, healthy peers, or gainful activities; these environments are the opposite. We’ve become accustomed to panhandling, public bodily fluid issues, street violence, intoxication, etc.—things which should never be normalized or acceptable in our city.

Maybe there isn’t a “magic bullet.” Nevertheless, I wonder if there is indeed a cartridge of magic bullet solutions to the general problem of people with nowhere to go and/or who face cycles of poverty, displacement, and addiction.

What about adding a certain quantity of housing units as a baseline? Open question: if the money and coordination could fall out of the sky and lead to 500 decent units tomorrow in Central Square (studio through 3 bedroom), for the homeless or otherwise, would that quantity-of-housing-units approach actually alleviate some substantial part of this problem?

Recognizing that this is not immediately feasible financially, and that it’s fraught with issues related to the concentration of poverty (e.g., the old and broken “project” approach), as well as various mental health and safety concerns, and further, that it’s not a comprehensive, long-term approach to a structural socioeconomic challenge…

…I look to additional tools, like planning/zoning reforms. We could better incentivize e.g., affordable and accessory units. From an urban planning perspective, I celebrate and guard contextual form and massing, but I also believe it’s worth challenging the notion that we continue to constrain and limit the number of dwelling units per building or parcel based on outdated standards concerning the appropriate size of a dwelling unit/family. There is a place for new/tall/dense construction; we also have many places in Cambridge where there isn’t that place. There is a place (and urgency) in our neighborhoods for this fundamental rethink of how we use our built spaces, and particularly to allow and encourage accessory uses and small/dense configurations. For one very intriguing solution, see this recently filed zoning petition.

We are indeed in a new era of tolerance for—and even preference for—small/tiny living, with rising generations that largely favor walkability, dense neighborhoods, simplicity, social engagement, and productivity, over arbitrary largeness and largesse, which are hallmarks of a quickly fading era of suburban preferences. We even have new ideas of what a “family” is; we cannot continue planning around the faux suburban ideal that was propagandized on network TV shows a few decades ago.

All in all, we have a responsibility to the least among us. In many ways, it’s our first responsibility before we get to other, preference-oriented questions in our city.

It’s not simply about fixing and expanding the bureaucracy; this is a social and moral ill. Our solution may be partly bureaucratic, but, we need look no further than the Cambridge Public School system where throwing more money and more jobs hasn’t led to proportional positive outcomes. It’s not just about smart spending either.

There is a fundamental problem: we separate homelessness from our everyday social responsibility by compartmentalizing it into bureaucracy. We don’t need to think much about it or do much about it, because there’s someone out there dealing with it.

This is an issue that requires confrontation and proactivity; it’s too easy to sideline this as an “icky” problem—metaphorically and literally—and thus to be passive in our “actionable” solutions and say, well, the same, but more.

Adding Outreach Coordinators and Program Administrators and ACRONYMS sound nice, but without direct social, economic, and environmental action, it is derelict.

Central Square, physically, is depressing even for the privileged. How can we expect anyone to be uplifted in this setting? Cleaning and maintenance matter. So does good, useful, attractive design of the public way. We fail badly in Central Square on all these fronts. We must provide hope for those among us, especially the least among us, and in many ways it starts with the physical environment we create and keep.

Protected bike lanes in Cambridge

Breaking this week: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announces that Boston will design Complete Streets by default everywhere in the city. This is huge. Cambridge does not do this, but must.

The Participatory Budgeting process (wherein citizens get to suggest and then vote on ideas for how to spend a chunk of the city’s budget, this year $600,000) once again features a great deal of suggestions for bicycle infrastructure. In fact, 6 of this year’s top 20 ideas (by # of support votes) are specifically for protected bicycle lanes/cycle tracks, and 15 of the top 20 deal with transit and/or bike infrastructure. Like last year, many of these highly favored ideas are not likely to make it into the actual voting rounds, because they are (1) outside of the budget limits, and (2) improvements that the city would/should do in theory anyway.

What’s most important here, though, is that we recognize this as yet another call for action, which falls on a city government that says, maybe/keep waiting.

We have heard that the reason we can’t have protected bike lanes is (if not free & unlimited street parking) that we have to wait for some unknowable and unknown future conditions–particularly when it comes to a road like Mass. Ave. (several of the most popular Participatory Budgeting suggestions specifically call for bicycle infrastructure on Mass. Ave.). Meanwhile street designs, street reconstructions, and major developments come and pass, yet these potential pieces of our ultimate network are not created.

My position is that this is a top issue with urgency that the city should be proactive about, starting with the many, many opportunities which exist that we don’t capitalize on.

Case in point: two major development parcels between MIT and Central Square are nearing completion. As part of those developments, the sidewalks and surrounding street infrastructure have been/will be extensively or totally reconstructed. No protected bike lanes on Mass. Ave., though, in either case, despite the fact that:

  • A private developer could build the protected bike lanes in these locations, integrated for the time being with “regular” bike lanes on either end, with negligible additional design or cost.
  • Utilities and e.g. water treatment were being dealt with anyway.

The reasons are simple: no specific policy and no real will. It’s not actually city policy to build protected bike lanes whenever possible, even in cases where it doesn’t get any easier to do so. Even when could potentially come at close to zero cost to the city. Even when it’s the city’s own policy to reduce vehicle miles traveled by increasing the usefulness of “alternative” transportation. Even when a street has been identified as in need of bike infrastructure treatment by the Cambridge Bicycle Network Plan. (This goes in many ways for transit as well: we don’t do nearly enough with the bus stops in our control, and we do virtually nothing for bus priority.)

This year on Main Street, major utility infrastructure was dug up cut-and-cover style along two blocks (specifically, between Windsor and Albany; the Kendall Square area is another story). The most thought given to bike infrastructure was…none at all. This, again, is an easily identifiable opportunity where we could have built protected bike lanes with immediate impact and as part of a future complete network, but we’re doing none.

These opportunities do not arise frequently. We must take them when they do, and it shouldn’t be a great effort. It should simply be default.

So often we don’t even study it or think about it. While there is some support from city councillors for progressive bicycle infrastructure design, there’s no proactive effort to create protected bike lanes—even when there is a simple path of no resistance, when they can be virtually fait accompli by simply asking for them, or even mentioning them. In the aforementioned cases, it’s not even a tough fight like it is in other areas. It’s only a matter of will and choice.

If there are more involved issues to consider case-by-case—and there will be—so be it. Today, though, in many, many cases, we aren’t even trying. Why did the city start with a watered-down temporary parking lane as a “bike lane” on Pearl Street? (No real bus infrastructure either, though there is an opportunity to build bus stop platforms and waiting areas. Nothing significantly ecological though the street will be comprehensively reconstructed).

The Participatory Budgeting process highlights the desperate appetite the public has for bicycle infrastructure. The public should know that the city is throwing away opportunities to get it.

Homelessness, Protected Bike Lanes in Cambridge

Policy updates, August 14

A solution – click through for more details

Cambridge woman killed at Mass. ave./Beacon St. in Boston


  • Harvard Bridge needs a multi-modal design fix
  • Cambridge should take a leadership role among the stakeholders
  • Design solution are evident, so this is about political will

Anita Kurmann, age 38.

First, obviously, this campaign expresses our condolences. Moreover, we are moved to action because this a place where design failure, in the context of high travel demand, is extraordinarily pointed and obvious.

While the specific intersection is more of a Boston issue, the Harvard Bridge (aka “Mass Ave Bridge”) is a highly visible and high-demand corridor for biking, walking, and transit serving both Cambridge and Boston. Today, it is engineered for one use only: driving, with everything else getting marginal design treatment. The landings and intersections on both the Boston and Cambridge sides are tangled messes. Users—residents, workers, students, and visitors—deserve better than bureaucratic carelessness.

If I’m elected to City Council, I will raise the City of Cambridge to a leadership role when it comes to improved design of places like this in our city that are caught in these bureaucratic tangles.

  1. Immediate Action. We should employ temporary, emergency safety measures for biking within the Harvard Bridge corridor within the next month, e.g. barriers, cones, lighting, and signage, to achieve real safety benefits right away and to send a strong message.
  2. Vision Zero model corridor. The Harvard Bridge between and including the Beacon Street intersection in Boston and the Memorial Drive intersection in Cambridge should be established as a Regional Vision Zero model corridor, where walking, biking, and transit are safe and encouraged.
  3. Accelerated longer-term plan. The City of Boston, the City of Cambridge, MassDOT, and DCR must coalesce behind an executable design and commit to implementing it within two years. The City of Cambridge can take the lead on this, and if we are waiting for someone else to, hint: they’re not going to.

This is not Big Dig stuff. This is not enormously difficult. Every day we don’t take action, we encourage more traffic and less biking, walking, and transit use, and we deprive people of a safe, healthy, and sustainable experience. The above image, a design proposed by The Amateur Planner, is bold and doable. It’s a matter of choice.

  • Better biking, walking, and transit infrastructure means a safer and better experience for all, including those driving.
  • More people biking and safer biking comes 95% from infrastructure and design, with enforcement and education being small factors, often within an already failed paradigm.
  • This anti-infrastructure strain has an influential voice in policy despite overwhelming data showing the primacy of design to accomplish safety and mode shift goals (lowering the %age of trips by car => reducing traffic loads), and the overwhelming preference of users and potential users for dedicated design.
  • Most people would bike (or use other non-automobile modes more consistently) if the infrastructure were comfortable and safe.

We failed on Pearl Street. When there was an opportunity for the Cambridge City Council to champion a protected bikeway on Pearl Street* several city councilors deferred to the status quo interests of maximized street parking. We heard (from city councilors) that bikes can go somewhere else, that nobody bikes on Pearl Street anyway (somewhat true, because it’s horrible), and “do you expect the handicapped and elderly to just hop on a bike?” as though the proposal were to ban cars and driving and parking from the city.

It’s a paradigm question. The mantra of better enforcement and better education is fundamentally a pretend solution, but even if we take it seriously, it’s a solution after the wrong problem. It reinforces the paradigm of streets existing for one purpose, and that there’s only one legitimate form of transportation: driving a car. In this stale view of mobility and spatial appropriation, everything else is secondary or marginal.

Enforcement helps tilt toward safer streets in theory, but even simple design fixes are massively more effective. When it comes to enforcement, nobody, including and especially the police, has put together a credible case for even prolonged and intense speed/rulebreaking stings to provide anywhere close to the safety and comfort that walk/bike infrastructure—even modest and temporary protections—can. After a recent death and serious injury at Memorial Drive near the MIT Sailing Pavilion, a police officer in a discussion with stakeholders offered a rather obvious logic about the ineffectiveness of enforcement: traffic is too varied, voluminous, and unpredictable for even a massive and highly visible enforcement effort to have any long-term effect, or to prevent someone driving Memorial Drive, for the first time, from out of the area, to have any idea what the appropriate and safe practices are. Design can make expectations of speed and yielding plain and be self-enforcing.

However, creating more and better complete streets and safe intersections is NOT a given: the incumbent elected leadership in Cambridge tilts AGAINST expanding this network of complete streets.

Case in point: recent grumbles over the barely-finished Western Ave.

We must decide and be explicit: are transit and biking novelties?

*A temporary or permanent protected bikeway, and bus stop platforms, were favored by the neighborhood on and surrounding Pearl Street by a substantial margin according to a public record request for emails and public comment statistics. The repurposing of one of the two parking lanes for a bike lane was also supported by a city-commissioned parking data study.

Policy updates, August 14