Council Updates, Cycling Safety Ordinance, And More

Extraordinary views of the solar eclipse from Burnet, TX. (Photo: David Rabkin)


I hope you have all been enjoying the wonderful blooms on the trees around Cambridge. It seemed like everything really “popped” the last two weeks. And, I have to give a shout out to the news that popped up all over some news feeds: for the first time ever, the NCAA Women’s championship game had more viewers (I was one) than the Men’s! Now if we could get parity in salaries for the WNBA v. the NBA, life would be even sweeter.

It’s Earth month, and lots of activity related to the planet, the climate, and the environment are popping up. There are many upcoming events, and I hope to participate in some. One of the many local events I was able to attend combined two of my passions: women’s history and sustainability. I attended a panel hosted by the Museum of Science, Women in Science team. It was especially nice to connect with Maria Belen Power, who worked with me on regulating leaf blowers when she was at La Collaborativa and is now undersecretary of Environmental Justice and Equity for Massachusetts, and Johanna Jobin, head of environment at Takeda who used to serve on the city’s Climate Committee.

Two weeks ago I took some time to travel to Austin, Texas. I saw some net zero buildings, a geothermal site, and took a look at how Austin is building more units of housing. The climate work is inspiring. The housing opportunities in Austin are fundamentally different from Cambridge – the density of that city is about 3,000 people per square mile, compared to ours of over 18,000. I learned a lot and was happy to go. I was also able to extend the trip for family vacation to be on the line of totality for the solar eclipse!

Patriots’ Day and Marathon Monday were this week, a great day to be around Boston, and I love the marathon largely for the fact that every single runner is a winner, and is appreciated, supported, and encouraged by the crowds. Too often, we only celebrate the first place finishers in any event. The marathon, and especially this marathon, is different. And this year, the night before, I joined the hundreds of cyclists who did the midnight bike ride. Starting in Hopkinton, we rode the course at midnight. It was a lot of fun, and with much of the course slightly downhill it was very doable, albeit sobering that I was tired after it, and covered the course in the same time as the elite runners did it all on foot!

There is no regular city council meeting on Monday, due to the Passover holiday, which I will be marking with a small family seder. Our next regular meeting will be on Monday, April 29. Below are some comments on a few top line items from the last couple of weeks and a few quick notes. If you have questions or comments on these or anything else I’ve been working on, please feel free to reach out at any time.


Just before totality (Photo: David Rabkin)
A climate and environment panel hosted by the Museum of Science, Women in Science and Engineering team
Construction of a net zero house in Austin, TX using "rammed earth" walls.

Council Updates

CSO Policy Order
We have received a huge number of communications around POR 2024 #50, which asks for an extension to the timeline associated with the Cycling Safety Ordinance (CSO), and I have done my best to respond to as many emails as possible – and I will continue to respond to more. I have also been able to connect with dozens of residents via phone and zoom over the last week to hear different perspectives on the CSO, the delay, and how it would affect them. I held a small office hour session where I heard from several more residents as well, and I have appreciated a lot of the constructive conversations.

I appreciate that this issue is complicated, and I hope all residents recognize that. I believe that all folks weighing in on this issue have the best of intentions. People who have been pushing for a completed bike lane network do care about mitigating adverse effects on local businesses, and people who are advocating for an extension on the implementation timeline do care about street safety. And that’s true for the council as well. As the city staff said during the meeting last Monday, there are potential gains and drawbacks to both outcomes – we will have to consider the implications of no extension and an extension.

I was appreciative of the conversation last Monday night and I expect more detailed information from the city the next time we discuss this on April 29; namely, what we would be gaining from a delayed implementation on certain streets? Does 18 months give the city staff more flexibility with construction schedules? As was noted by the city manager, it’s a complicated calculus and there isn’t a perfect solution, but there are tangible pros and cons that we need to be honest about and cannot be afraid to discuss plainly. Will periodizing construction over different timelines in different areas better prevent pedestrian, bike, and car traffic obstructions that would occur with multiple ongoing projects that could impact short term street safety?

To be clear, I will not vote for a permanent stop to or moratorium on bike lane installation. As I’ve said, I believe we should continue to expand the network of separated bike lanes in line with the ordinance totals. And I expect the city staff to clarify whether a delay on one street may mean shifting construction schedules to other streets. That kind of schedule change may be an effective mitigation plan, but I need to see that more clearly outlined. And as the city staff said, there may be benefits to segmenting Cambridge Street into two projects – but I still need more clarity to determine if that will have any benefits on design or implementation.

I’m certain that folks on both sides of this issue will continue to advocate, and I appreciate the dialogue, but I do want to be clear that I am considering this issue with an eye towards safety. I bike around the city every day – I understand the on-the-ground reality of trying to navigate the city. And I also speak to residents and business owners who are also concerned with safety and see major issues with the tight implementation schedule and see how the city can benefit from more flexibility in terms of transportation safety, mitigation of construction impacts, and mitigation of business impacts. Now that it is certain that we have a couple of weeks for the city to present a full picture of the options I hope that we can all better understand the best path forward for the city. Thanks for reading, and for caring about this issue. The installation of a network of bike lanes is a net positive for the city and I continue to be proud of our plan even as I continue to criticize elements of the implementation.

Health and Environment Committee Updates
On March 27, I held a Health &Environment Committee meeting to discuss regional coastal flood resilience interventions required to address increased vulnerability due to climate change risk. It was a hugely important meeting which went into detail on many of the ongoing regional infrastructure projects and coordinated efforts being undertaken to protect our city and the surrounding region from the effects of climate change. We are doing a lot to mitigate stormwater and coastal flooding and are continuing to collaborate with regional partners from state agencies and regional non-profits like the Charles River Watershed Association and the Mystic River Watershed Association to get similar buy-in from municipalities in the region. I would urge you to take some time to watch the recording of the meeting to learn more about ongoing work.

Next Wednesday, April 24 from 11:00am – 1:00pm, I will be chairing a Health&Env. Committee meeting to review and discuss the Net Zero Action Plan (NZAP) annual report, including review of yearly action items, progress made, and next steps to reach annual goals. NZAP, as I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about before, was adopted in 2015 and is Cambridge’s roadmap to combat the climate crisis through reducing building emissions. It informs all of the administration decisions of the City and is the lens through which we set policy. NZAP is a framework that includes a suite of actions that work in unison, which we worked to update as part of a mandated 5-year review. In addition to the 5-year update, the city administration is required to submit an annual report to show progress on yearly action items and overall progress. The meeting next Wednesday will be a review of that annual report.

Finance Committee Updates
As co-chair of the Finance Committee, my co-chair Councillor Pickett and I will be leading the council through the FY25 budget process. As part of that process, we have been building on the work Councillor Carlone and I did last term to have earlier and more transparent discussions of the budget process. This term, we have held several council hearings to continue to gain more input throughout the budget process. Councillor Pickett and I want to use our position as Finance co-chairs to work towards increased transparency and accountability throughout the city budget. That means more regular input throughout the year from the council as well as from residents. Residents sometimes, or often, feel they don’t understand the city’s budget and/or don’t know how to give input. That is why Councillor Pickett and I have committed to reaching out to neighborhood groups to bring the budget process to them. We have already met with some neighborhood groups and we would like to continue to meet with more to discuss not only this year’s budget, but future planning as well. We want to share budget background information and hear from the community about our sense of the city’s priorities to bring our voices into the upcoming council discussions. We hope to continue these discussions throughout the year and continue to bring more people into the budget process for the city.

The Boston Common Ducks, decorated for Marathon Monday
From the finish line of the Boston Marathon, following the midnight ride

Local Events/Notes

Spring Classic 5K
The Cambridge Spring Classic 5K will take place on Sunday, April 21, at 9:30am. Starting at 65 Sidney Street, runners will turn left on Pacific Street, left on Albany Street, left on Massachusetts Avenue, left on Putnam Avenue, left on Brookline Street, and right on Franklin Street. Expect traffic impacts from 9:30am to 11:00am.

Cambridge HEART Spring Fundraiser
The Cambridge Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team (Cambridge HEART) is a community-led proactive public safety program that aims to address the immediate needs of people in conflict or crisis (at the moment of crisis). They are holding their annual virtual fundraiser on Thursday, April 25th from 7:00pm – 8:30pm. HEART does great work and I hope they will continue to work to improve our commitment to community response efforts. Non-police response alternatives are essential for our community and I urge you to support them as they continue to grow their operation.

Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP)
Do you have or know of a Cambridge teen interested in getting paid AND gaining valuable work experience this summer? Applications are now being accepted through April 26 for the Mayor’s Summer Youth Employment Program (MSYEP). Teens can apply to a variety of work experiences, ranging from arts and media, landscape and maintenance, work with children and seniors, and more. The program will run from July 1 – August 9. Teens will work 20 hours per week and will be paid $15 per hour. The goal of MSYEP is to serve as a young person’s first job experience and exposure to the world of work. The program is open to Cambridge residents ages 14 through the summer after completing high school.

Thank you all for supporting the North Cambridge Family Opera this spring! (Photo: David Rabkin)

Thank You

Thank you to everyone for reading. If there are any topics you want me to cover in future newsletters, I’m always happy for the input! As always, please feel free to reach out to my aide, Patrick (, or me for any of your City Council needs.

You can find all previous newsletters on my website. Please share with anyone you think would be interested:

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