Help win Protected Bike Lanes on the Longfellow Bridge!





You may have heard that Gov. Baker
announced the Longfellow Bridge connecting Cambridge and Boston is scheduled to be reopened this May. This is an important opportunity for Massachusetts and the Governor to live up to promises to reduce traffic fatalities and be a leader in safe transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, current plans for Longfellow bridge, on which cars regularly speed at 35 mph or faster, will have no protected bicycle lanes. This would create unsafe conditions comparable or worse than the Mass Ave Bridge, except with the Red Line in the middle, two lanes on the Longfellow feels even more like a highway, and drivers treat it that way.

While the Longfellow Bridge is currently uncomfortable to bike on, if MassDOT adds a second travel lane back, without physical separation for people biking, it will be even less safe and comfortable, with conditions more like the Mass Ave Bridge.  


SOME HISTORY of the Redesign Process:

Throughout the redesign process from 2009 to 2011, and as a final effort in 2012 when the Longfellow bridge rebuilding plans were finalized, the Boston Cyclists Union, LivableStreets Alliance, MassBike, WalkBoston, and the Charles River Conservancy (and you, our members) pushed for protected bicycling infrastructure on both sides of the bridge to provide a safe route for bicyclists between Cambridge and Boston and to keep in line with local and state Complete Streets and bicycle mode shift goals. The state met advocates halfway and designed a buffered bicycle facility on the Cambridge-bound (“outbound”) side and reduced capacity to a single outbound travel lane for motor vehicles.  However, MassDOT determined, through the “public process” and via traffic projections, that having a single lane for people driving cars going inbound to Boston would not provide enough room for cars (more technically: for “car storage”, a term for backed-up traffic), and that a five-foot-wide bike lane next to two lanes of traffic was all that could be spared for people biking.


Longfellow -- Planned

Without our action, the Longfellow Bridge will look like this — two motor vehicle travel lanes and a narrow painted bike lane!


Since then, the bridge has been under construction. For the past five years, there has been a single lane of traffic inbound from Cambridge to Boston. Traffic, as modeled by MassDOT, was projected to be apocalyptic. It hasn’t been: people have found different routes and chosen different modes. Many have chosen to bike. According to bike and motor vehicle counts recently published by the Boston Transportation Department, in 2017 bikes comprised 34.9% of the inbound traffic on the bridge during morning peak rush hour, up from 25.2% in 2016, despite the lack of a safe bicycle lane during construction. Data is already telling us that mode share is rapidly changing: 60% more bicyclists used the Longfellow in 2017 compared to 2016. We should be planning for the future, not 2011. Kendall Square is still one of the hottest real estate markets in the country, and the City of Cambridge has been making great strides in achieving their motor vehicle trip reduction goals in Kendall Square. The City of Boston and City of Cambridge have also adopted Vision Zero over the past few years, making clear their priorities of creating safe passage for people on bikes on both ends of the Longfellow.

In 2018, we’re requesting that, when the bridge is completed this spring, we keep the single lane of traffic for inbound vehicles—no different than what we’ve had since mid-2013—and devote the extra space to a safe, separated bike lane on the Longfellow Bridge. This only requires changes in paint and addition of plastic flexposts, and would not delay completion.

The Longfellow Bridge is one of the busiest bicycling corridors in the state: during the morning peak rush hour, more than 400 cyclists cross the bridge between Cambridge and Boston, as many people as cross the bridge by car (although far fewer than the Red Line).

Since the bridge contains a significant grade, it is important for cyclists to be able to safely pass each other without having to swerve in to travel lanes: we propose a two-lane bike lane for the bridge, similar to infrastructure in place in Seattle, Portland, Chicago (see above) and other cities. In the current plan, 22 of the 28 feet available are devoted to car lanes: 80% of the bridge for 60% of the traffic. We can do better.

In addition to being an important bicycling and transit route (the Red Line carries far more people across the bridge than any other mode), the Longfellow Bridge is an important route for emergency vehicle access to Massachusetts General Hospital. When every second counts, we can’t put emergency vehicles in a position where they have to try to part a sea of cars to get across a gridlocked bridge: sirens can only do so much. That’s why our plan calls for a bicycle lane which would double as an emergency vehicle lane.

When an ambulance needs to get a patient to life-saving care at MGH, it’s much easier for a cyclist to dismount and clear the bike lane than it is for a car to clear space. When seconds count, this will give emergency vehicles a clear path to the doors of MGH from Cambridge and communities to the north and west.

The track record is clear: the Longfellow Bridge is a major bicycle connection between Boston and Cambridge, and streets in both communities are programmed for safe, separated bicycling infrastructure in city master plans, in addition to many changes already on the ground (including state-of-the-art protected bike lanes on Beacon Street in Somerville—funded by MassDOT—bringing hundreds of cyclists to the Longfellow daily). We call on MassDOT to make sure that this critical link is as safe as possible, with a single travel lane for motor vehicles (achieving safety improvements and speed reduction for motorists) and a wide bicycle lane suitable for two cyclists to travel side-by-side, or for an ambulance to bypass a queue of traffic to get a patient to MGH.

Leaders of the local advocacy organizations, including the Boston Cyclists Union, Livable Streets, WalkBoston, Cambridge Bike Safety, MassBike, and the Charles River Conservancy have been in touch with MassDOT with this request.

The stakeholder process that led to two lanes of inbound traffic with a striped, unprotected five-foot bicycle lane began in 2009. Since then, transportation modes have shifted dramatically (bicycle counts in Cambridge have doubled), and Massachusetts has been lauded as a safe bicycling leader, but the plans for the Longfellow Bridge remain woefully inadequate. Now is the time to pilot a one-lane inbound with two-lane protected cycletrack (see above image). Striping and adding flexposts for separation require no lengthy delays in construction.  

Please help us tell the Governor and Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation that they MUST prioritize safe passage for people biking, the Charles River Bridges are barriers for safe biking but could be gateways, and we need them to show leadership NOW on the Longfellow Bridge, where they are faced with an opportunity.  

YOU can help us tell the leadership that there is strong demand for protected bike lanes on the Longfellow Bridge.  Sign our petition today, and share it with everyone you know!  Time is of the essence. Don’t delay!



Written by Michael Davidson, Ari Ofsevit, and Becca Wolfson


  1. Roberto de Oliveira on February 28, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Please make the bridge safe for cyclists

  2. David Chase on February 28, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    I endorse this proposal, especially the dual use by emergency vehicles. I bike to work every day, several times I’ve been on the road when an ambulance needed to pass, and I always get completely off the road, and other people on bikes (that I’ve seen) do the same. On Fresh Pond Parkway, I’ve seen emergency vehicles use the cycle track to get past the ridiculous traffic there; it clearly works well.

    I currently don’t often bike into Boston; I find the configuration of the bridges to be thoughtless, uncomfortable, perhaps dangerous, and insulting. Unless I need to go to Boston, given the existing rotten infrastructure (Boston’s no prize either), I don’t. I’m an upper middle class old white man; my pockets are deep, I could empty them in Boston, or stay in Cambridge and Somerville.

    I also think it’s insane that the best use of an expensive bridge is traffic storage. Try making the bike lanes actually be nice, and see what you get. When the MBTA added nice bicycle parking at Alewife, it filled up in a few weeks, with no reduction in the other bicycle parking as near as I could tell.

  3. Emma Meyers on February 28, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    I bike across the Longfellow bridge daily on my commute from Cambridge to MGH, and I can attest to the fact that it is a major thoroughfare for cyclists coming between Cambridge and Boston. To say that the current conditions are dicy is an understatement, and it’s impossible to pass other cyclists if necessary to maintain momentum on the uphill due to trucks barreling by. Boston is quickly becoming a city of cyclists, and it’s time to adapt to make this clean, healthy, and fun mode of transportation safe.

  4. Rebecca Albrecht on March 1, 2018 at 5:42 am

    I want to travel from Kendall Square into Boston on the Longfellow Bridge. Right now I am afraid to do so. Please install a two-way protected bike lane on the in-bound side of the bridge. If I or a loved one were in an ambulance rushing to the hospital, I want to know that the ambulance will not be impeded by car traffic but can travel in the bike lane. Thank you.

  5. James Sparks on March 1, 2018 at 7:12 am

    Please consider the plans to add a bike lane to make travel on the bridge safer for cyclists and cars. As a frequent cyclist through Boston and Cambridge since 1990, I can attest to the bike lanes making the cyclists and cars adhere to the rules of the road more closely and greatly improves the ability to ‘share the road’ because it is much more clear where each can be on the road. The Boston Metro area is well know in part because we have made it easy for people to move around by means other than cars.

  6. Joseph Goldbeck on March 1, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Making biking safe on the Longfellow bridge would meaningfully change my daily commute

  7. Anya Vedmid on March 1, 2018 at 10:36 am

    Thank you!

  8. Lisa Coen on March 1, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    We have all these bike lanes along the Charles River, but no safe way to get across! The original design seemed to have promised real and safe bike lanes, not just another narrow shoulder to ride on. Changing the plan to add the 2nd car lane does little to help traffic but really destroys the usefulness of this bridge for bike traffic, which ends up adding more cars. Come on! We live in a totally flat city! Let’s not have the nightmare for bikes that we ended up with on the BU bridge.

  9. Katherine Eshel on March 1, 2018 at 4:39 pm

    Moving the vision for the Longfellow Bridge into the 21st century with a separated bike lane is key to promote non-motorized commuting across the Boston area, and supports the Boston Climate Action Plan and a better quality of life for Bostonians!

  10. Kindle Williams on March 1, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    The only thing I worry about with this petition is cyclists obeying the law and pulling over for the ambulances. I would hope that if such a redesign goes through, there would be more than adequate signage to remind cyclists of the emergency lane status and laws surrounding it.

  11. Peter Lyons on March 2, 2018 at 7:07 am

    The Longfellow Bridge is the main route I ride into Boston. I’m often riding with my 5 year old in tow. We remain a one car family because of the new protected bike lanes in Cambridge. Please consider making the Longfellow safe for both cars and those who commute on their bikes.

  12. Sylvia Hurlimann on March 2, 2018 at 9:14 am

    I bike in Cambridge/Somerville year round in all kinds of weather. I avoid biking on Longfellow Bridge because I consider it to be too unsafe, which as a result restricts my access into Boston.

  13. Dana Busch on March 3, 2018 at 11:30 am

    Thank you for advancing a last-ditch effort to redeem the poor 2009 design. It was a horrible disappointment at the time but our leaders are capable of human-centered decision-making now.

    Is the concrete barrier still going to protect only the pedestrians but not the bike riders? What are the barriers to moving this barrier to an appropriate position to protect all of the vulnerable road users from dangerous, law-breaking drivers? Remember, we need to design for the road users we want to attract.

    Will there be sufficient space for me, a disabled person, to comfortably pull over for an ambulance with my cargo trike? This is the measure of a humane and equitable city. Not everyone is able to ride a two-wheel bike. We want to encourage more families to use cargo bikes. We need to plan our infrastructure for more and more last-mile delivery happening by cargo trike.

    The concrete barrier appears to be an impediment to comfortable and safe use. It should be moved to protect all vulnerable street users.

    • Becca Wolfson, Union Director on March 12, 2018 at 1:17 pm

      We were incredibly disappointed in 2012 when the design was finalized, too. Since we now have 5 years of observations and data from the construction period, and bike mode share has dramatically increased and Boston and Cambridge have since committed to Vision Zero, we are very hopeful that we will appeal to common sense, and with a strong push and encouragement from so many engaged citizens, the state will have to do the right thing.

      As for a barrier, at this time we are saying that this can be done at effectively no increased cost or time. Since the project is so advanced and all that’s left is striping the lanes, no new concrete barrier would go in at this time. However, we can continue to advocate for upgrades into the future, including potential quick-curbs or other physical barriers that are more immovable than flex posts.

      Because transforming a travel lane gives so much new width, the buffer zone should be wide enough (4.5 feet) to comfortably pull over in a trike. The double lane itself would be 10 feet, so more than the width of most emergency vehicles, too.

  14. Rachel Cohen on March 12, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    As long as this guarantees that bicyclists will STAY off the sidewalks!

    • Becca Wolfson, Union Director on March 12, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      This is one important measure to help! Without the protected lanes, there is basically a guarantee that many people will ride on the sidewalk, as they do on the Mass Ave Bridge. We are looking for allies in the walking community. WalkBoston has been working with us and is in strong support of the proposal!

  15. Rachel Cohen on March 12, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    vision zero is also supposed to protect pedestrians. I see bikers riding on sidewalks in Kendall Sq. ALL the time, despite having bike lanes! It is my understanding that the upriver sidewalk was already narrowed a bit to accommodate a 5 ft. bike lane.

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