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Cambridge bike-network ordinance first of its kind nationwide

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Boston neighbor mandates miles of permanent, protected bike lanes connecting major parts of the city

Three bikers rounding a corner in a protected bike lane. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Cambridge has become the first U.S. city with a municipal law mandating construction of a network of permanent, protected bike lanes. The City Council passed the law on April 8.

The Cycling Safety Ordinance requires Boston’s neighbor to install permanent, protected bike lanes whenever a roadway within the city’s bicycle plan is reconstructed under a five-year plan Cambridge has for upgrading its sidewalks and streets.

Concerns about safety spurred the law, which now means the regular addition of permanent, protected bike lanes in Cambridge as the larger sidewalks and streets plan plays out. Supporters of the law say it should translate into a 20-mile network—just for bikes and delineated by vertical barriers.

It also enshrines in local law the idea of connectivity: that major areas and destinations in Cambridge will be connected via bike lane as they often are via motor vehicle lanes.

For instance, thoroughfares such as Mt. Auburn Street, Concord Avenue, and Massachusetts Avenue—and areas such as Harvard, Central, and Kendall squares—are expected to be within the protected biking network.

“This ordinance gives the bike plan teeth,” Sam Feigenbaum, a volunteer with Cambridge Bicycle Safety, said in a statement. The advocacy group worked with Mayor Marc McGovern and City Manager Louis DePasquale on drafting the ordinance. “The intent of the ordinance is that when the bike plan says a street needs a protected bike lane, that street will get a protected bike lane.”