Kicking Complete Streets up a notch for bikes

One Massachusetts city is making good on its promise to improve its roads for active transportation. Cambridge this week passed a local ordinance (PDF) that requires protected bike lanes be built on its major roads.

There’s a good summary over at Streetsblog and lots more detail at Cambridge Bike Safety.

Most Complete Streets policies are rather wishy-washy in their commitment to adding walking and biking facilities, with lots of outs for politicians and engineers to avoid adding safe bike infrastructure. Implementation often means making trade-offs between improving safety and leaving a street configuration as-is, and politics can get in the way as favors get traded behind the scenes between elected officials and constituents. Complete Streets policies usually include language like “when feasible” that don’t actually mandate removing on-street car storage to build better sidewalks or bike lanes. So any road redo becomes a political football and safety falls to the wayside, trumped by likes, dislikes, and stereotyping of the character and number of people who walk and bike.

Separated bike lane in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photos courtesy of

Here in Provincetown, the Select Board adopted the Outer Cape Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan that was developed over years of public meetings and workshops between the three Outer cape towns, the Cape Cod National Seashore, and the Cape Cod Commission. Plans like that one often sit on a shelf gathering dust. Provincetown is fortunate that its Public Works department has actually been following the master plan guidelines and included new or wider sidewalks, bike lanes, and wide shoulders in projects they’ve built since its adoption.

Large-scale road reconstruction projects are rare in small towns, but growing cities like Cambridge are constantly rebuilding and have huge opportunities to make dramatic improvements. It’s great to see they’ve agreed on a way to actually implement the recommendations of their bike master plan in the near-term. And it’s a great model for other cities and towns to follow.