Cambridge Leads the Way for Increasing Bicycle Use in the Boston Area

Ed Greable Blogger May 19, 2019

The use of bicycles is becoming increasingly popular throughout Boston and its neighboring cities. As such, it should come as no surprise that new laws, ordinances and movements have been developing on a fairly regular basis as they relate to the use of this eco-friendly mode of transportation. Here are some of the chances you may be starting to notice.

Cambridge Passes First-of-its-Kind Bicycle Laws

Following a law that was passed last month, Cambridge became the first city in the United States with a municipal law mandating the construction of a network of permanent, protected bike lanes. Known as the Cycling Safety Ordinance, the new law requires the city to install these permanent bike lanes whenever a roadway within the city’s bicycle plan is reconstructed. This goes along with the city’s five-year plan for upgrading it streets and sidewalks.

Spurred by a desire to increase safety within the city’s streets, the new law is expected to translate into a 20-mile network of bike paths delineated by vertical barriers. The law also reinforces the idea that major areas and destinations in Cambridge will be connected via bike lanes in the same was as they are connected via motor vehicle lanes. Some areas expected to be within the protected biking network include Concord Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, Mt. Auburn Street, Central Square, Harvard Square and Kendall Square.

Lime E-Bikes Become Boston Official

About a year ago, California bike- and e-scooter-share operator Lime deployed hundreds of bicycles in 15 Boston-area suburbs to test out their popularity among residents. Several months later, the company introduced its battery-powered, pedal-assist electric bikes, which are capable of going as fast as 14.8 miles per hour. After receiving positive feedback, the company has decided to phase out the pedal bikes in order to go all-in with the electric version.

As of spring 2018, Lime had between 1,200 and 1,500 pedal and electronic bikes available in the area. Unlocked with the use of an app, the e-bikes are bit more costly to rent than the pedal bikes. Whereas the pedal bikes could be rented for $1 for 30 minutes, the e-bikes cost $1 to start and an additional 15 cents per minute of use.

Brookline Pilots Electric Battery-Powered Scooters

Last month, Brookline became the first city in Massachusetts to test out electric battery-powered scooters on its city streets. Currently, e-scooters are illegal under a state law that dates back to the rise of the moped many years ago. Attempts to introduce mopeds in places such as Somerville and Cambridge failed, but other area cities have been taking baby steps toward approving the regulations that would allow e-scooters to be used. In addition, there is a strong movement underway to legalize e-scooters at the state level.

Of course, all of these changes beg the question: Are Boston and its neighboring cities ready for the micromobility wave that is currently underway? Cambridge seems to be addressing possible concerns with its new legislation, but additional legislation is likely to be necessary in order to foster a smooth transition.

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