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Cambridge bike lane construction causes conflict

The bike lanes were expected to be constructed in accordance with a cycling safety ordinance passed two years ago, but local outcry is causing the City Council to reconsider.

A protected bike lane near Porter Square in Cambridge. Small businesses on Massachusetts Avenue have recently expressed concern over how the bike lanes will affect parking availability for their customers. Gwen Egan/Boston.com

Cambridge’s expected bike lane construction is creating a divide between cyclist safety and local businesses in the name of an essential Boston resource —parking.

The bike lanes are being constructed to align with a cycling safety ordinance passed by the City Council two years ago. The ordinance required 25 miles of bike lane to be built, including along Massachusetts Avenue. Construction is expected to be done by 2026 and has bikers’ safety in mind.

“This particular section of the road is a place where many bikers have died and gotten seriously injured, and I myself have a pair of jeans from when I almost got hit on this section of the road,” said Cambridge City Councilor Burhan Azeem.

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However, local businesses are concerned the construction will negatively affect their customers by removing parking spaces to create separated bike lanes.

“About 70 to 80 percent of our customers come by car,” said Guitar Stop manager Anette Osgood in an interview with Boston 25 News. “We sell things that are heavy. We sell during the winter. We sell during the rain. People are already kind of hesitant to take home a nice piece of a wooden instrument on a rainy day. If you add in trying to transport it on a bicycle, you’re just not going to make the sale that day.”

Some businesses around Massachusetts Avenue display signs to express their dislike of the construction. Citizens are concerned the construction of the protected bike lanes will dispose of essential parking.

“City of Cambridge plans to give away Porter Square,” reads a sign at a local business in Cambridge. Gwen Egan/Boston.com

Beth Gamse, who has been a resident of Cambridge since 1985, said she wishes the City Council had consulted all possible perspectives, not just that of cyclists.

“I want the perspective of all residents to be taken into account in the decision-making process. (I) feel that the Cambridge City Council has not sought that perspective and has made a decision based on incomplete information,” she said.

Gamse is an “avid pedestrian” and occasional cyclist. She said she can’t wait for when Cambridge has ample space for those who want to bike in, out, or through the city. However, she said the council did not consider the magnitude of the cost or the effect this project would have on residents who are disabled and small businesses.

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“I think it would look like, ‘Let’s take a pause for a moment to have the information we need to make a sound decision.’ … As an occasional bicyclist, I want a safe space. I would really like the City Council to pause and make sure the economic analysis is complete,” she said.

Activist group Save Mass Ave is also putting their bid in against the construction.

“The City needs to implement a design that preserves parking, prioritizes public transportation, and provides safe conditions for people of all ages and abilities traveling by bicycle and foot,” reads their website.

However, city officials say the support of the large cycling community in Cambridge is substantial enough.

“Out of the nine city councilors in office now, seven ran on building these bike lanes and won,” said Azeem.

The City Council is set to vote on the continued construction next week.

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