[Table of Contents]
[Previous: Technical issues]
[Next: Letter from MIT planner]

Meeting about Vassar Street project

March 6, 2002, 11 AM
Notes prepared by John S. Allen

Present: Susan Clippinger, Kathy Watkins, City of Cambridge; Talitha Fabricius, Sarah Galub, MIT; Tom Murray, Consultant about Simmons Hall; John Allen, MIT '75, member MIT Bicycle Committee (1991); Prof. Emeritus David Gordon Wilson, another unidentified person (UP). Notes by John S. Allen.

SC: The city has been working with MIT which intended to create a bicycle facility, encouraging bicycle use and is encouraged that the project is going forward. Facilities on city streets are different from the proposed one because of what the City is able to do, but the city is interested in doing what is more similar to European practice (sidepaths). There was a discussion about the intersections at Massachusetts Avenue and Main street; the City would like to integrate with existing facilities (bike lanes) there. Bicyclists will still be allowed to ride in the street. The City is excited about this project. "The opposite [of what is done on other streets] works because of the character of the street...we may not agree 100% but it is important that we hear from all of you."

UP: Who provided consultations on traffic flow?

TF: Rizzo Associates working for Cambridge Associates.

UP: It's a very poor design for the majority of the population. There is a high volume of bicycle and pedestrian traffic. You are seeing up a bike path corridor for a higher accident rate than you expect. There is also a problem with inline skaters, who view the space as theirs; UP avoids riding on the Minuteman path on weekends because of the volume of inline skater traffic.

JA: I realize that there are measures which attempt to reduce hazards at some of the driveway crossings.

KW: There is metered parking, discontinued close to the driveways, and there are bulbouts to make the driveway crossings less hazardous. There are relatively few intersections.

JA: But the bulbouts are not present at the heavily-used intersection at the Building 39 portal, and actually there are quite a number of intersections, except on the south side between the Athletic Center and Westgate.

UP: It would be better to have bicyclists on the roadway and all others on the sidewalk. There is no good way to accommodate inline skaters; they are like bicyclists with very poor brakes. It is best just to let them make up their own minds on an individual basis depending on their skill and speed.

SC: Physical narrowing makes a contribution to getting people to go slower. "When we go to put bike lanes on the street, the perceived width is greater and people drive faster."

JA: There are many other means to get people to slow down, such as raised crosswalks (already used in this project), chicanes, law enforcement. Making the street narrower makes it bicycle-unfriendly and the overall crash rate will go up by putting bicycles on the sidewalks.

UP: The project is visually attractive, but look at it from an injury-prevention point of view. Are we putting MIT and Cambridge in an indefensible liability position?

KW: Looking at the crossing, thinks the design has made a lot of progress.

JA: People are going to ride against traffic because it is inconvenient to cross the street and go up the curb onto the sidewalk at the other side.

SC: "I think that's an assumption that we've made [that people will go against traffic]. We have thought about the strongest desire lines. The problem is with the small ones.

DW: The sidewalk is a dangerous place to ride [gives examples from his own experience].

JA: Snow clearance is a problem. It must be to a much higher standard for bicycles than for pedestrians.

UP: Why do you want to have a project that adds to maintenance costs, raises the injury rate and costs more to build? Why are you going against studies that say this is a hazardous design?

SC: We haven't looked at your studies. We have to look at them"

JA: The trees create a problem with root damage when close to a bicycle facility.

TF: We are using structural soil and irrigation to minimize this problem.

SC: These measures are important because of the pathways.

SC: Traffic counts were carried out for permitting for the Simmons dormitory. Also, crash data.

JA: Good before and after crash data could be collected here because most bicyclists and pedestrians are MIT students. The data can be assembled by reviewing MIT medical records.

[Table of Contents]
[Previous: Technical issues]
[Next: Letter from MIT planner]