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. . . the classic Cambridge transportation policy mistake of confusing "bike paths" with "bike lanes" . . .
Bike paths vs. bike lanes
When B. Gear Jordan wrote of "taxi doors opening into bike paths," (Chronicle, 12 March 2003) the writer made the classic Cambridge transportation policy mistake of confusing "bike paths" with "bike lanes." This may sound like a minor semantic mistake, but having seen numerous people make the same mistake when talking of installing bike lanes in Porter Square and North Cambridge, it bears correcting.
Taxi's can't open their doors into bike paths for the simple reason that such paths, like the Minuteman, don't allow motor vehicle traffic. Unfortunately, taxis, along with police cruisers, delivery trucks and passenger vehicles, can, and often do, open their doors into bike lanes. Among cyclists, it is known as "dooring" and it is not only scary, it is deadly, as witnessed by the death of a young woman cycling in one of Central Square's city-designed bike lanes last summer.
Similarly, taxis, police cars and vehicles of all descriptions frequently block bike lanes, nicknamed "suicide lanes" by some cyclists for their tendency to push bicyclists into the deadly door zone. Add some snow and poor maintenance, and the bike lanes become even more impassible. Throw in some intersections, of which there are several in Porter Square where both drivers and cyclists will be confused by striped suicide lanes, and you have the makings of a real, and deadly, mess.
Yet, without any meaningful safety analysis (somehow CDD thinks that cycling in Davis, CA, a small college town surrounded by farmland is relevant to urban cycling in Cambridge!), Cambridge Community Development Department is pushing forward with a plan to run a suicide lane from Upland Road to Beech Street in Porter Square. This is a bad idea and CDD should abandon it immediately.
As evidenced by CDD's inability to fix Huron Village's recently implemented traffic calming even after a young boy was maimed in a sidewalk, the local neighborhood is stuck with whatever CDD forces on it. Should the current Porter Square redesign, with its deadly bike lane, reduced parking, and partially removed median strip, be implemented, it is the residents and businesses who live near or pass through Porter Square on a regular basis who will pay the price for the City's incompetence.