Cambridge was the first American city to mandate protected bike lanes. As that suggests, we take cycling seriously. Whether you ride, would like to, or wouldn't be caught dead on a bike, if you're thinking of buying a home in Cambridge, you should know that promoting cycling is just a current trend; it is integral to Cambridge's planning for the future.
Much of what you need to know is embedded in the Cambridge Bicycle Plan, developed in 2015, updated in 2020, and explained in detail on the Cambridge city website. The plan's goal is to enable people of all ages and abilities to bicycle safely and comfortably throughout the city. Everything flows from that, both physical improvements and supporting programs. The plan encompasses young children, people with disabilities and the elderly, commuters, and Sunday afternoon riders. It means providing easy access to bicycles, safe places to ride (and store) bikes, and education for people of all ages. Here are just a few highlights of the bike system in Cambridge.
- The Cycling Safety Ordinance mandates separated bike lanes on all street reconstruction projects.
- The city's Vision Zero Policy, aimed at reducing fatalities and serious injuries, has resulted lowering the speed limit to 20 mph on most Cambridge Streets.
- Access to a bicycle is easy and affordable with Bluebikes bike sharing, which lets you pick up a bike in one place and drop it off at a different destination. With hourly to annual plans and a variety of discount programs, it's a good deal.
- Every second grader in the Cambridge Public Schools learns about bicycle safety and can receive a free helmet as part of the Safe Routes to School program. In sixth grade, all students are eligible for on-bicycle training, and there are programs and events for adults as well, from group rides to bike maintenance workshops.
Why is Cambridge so intent on promoting cycling? For starters, it's a college town; students and bicycles go together. Also, our streets are becoming increasingly crowded with both more cyclists and more cars. This puts road safety on city government's radar. There are other good reasons for promoting cycling. Bicycles are good for the environmentno carbon emissions and pollution. Fewer cars mean fewer and less dangerous crashes. Bikes are easier on roads, lowering the cost and inconvenience of street repairs. On a personal level, cycling is a convenient, economical way to get around, not to mention good for your health... and fun!
I've been riding in Cambridge for more than 20 years, mostly for fun. It's great exercise and a great way to unwind. Thanks to our excellent network of bike paths and trails, I've found cycling a great way to socialize and meet people. Trails like the Charles River Bike Path and the Alewife Linear Park path connect to other trails that go on for miles. Needless to say, I'm a big supporter of the Cambridge Bicycle Plan.
But how effective has this focus on the bike system in Cambridge been? Very. More than 80 percent of the of Cambridge Bicycle Plan goals set in 2015 have been met, and work continues to make cycling here safe, easy, and enjoyable. Bike-friendly definitely belongs on your checklist of reasons to live in Cambridge.
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