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Some Cambridge business owners sue to block bike lanes; ask their names be kept secret so bicyclists don't come after them

A group calling itself Cambridge Streets for All today sued to block the city from putting in any more bike lanes, accusing the city of recklessly ruining storeowners' livelihoods with plans to create the lanes.

In a suit filed in Middlesex Superior Court, the group also asks a judge to keep affidavits by group members explaining in more detail how bike lanes will mean the end of everything they hold dear member names in secret, out of fear that bicyclists would come after them and harass them and their customers, both in person and on social media.

Cambridge Day has more, including how the group hired a Washington, DC PR firm before filing the suit.

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Comments

Longtime civic and environmental activist and mid-Cambridge resident John Pitkin said, “For years I’ve witnessed how reductions in street parking have drained diversity and local business activity from Harvard Square, Inman Square and Cambridge Street. Streets make city life possible. They are essential infrastructure for residents and businesses.”

Ah, yes, Harvard Square has seen its diversity drained off because it's too hard to find a parking space. Too bad there's no other way to get to Harvard Square. I remember the halcyon days when you could drive to Harvard Square and park wherever you wanted to go to the Tasty or to grab a magazine from Out of Town News. But now that you have to walk, bike or take the T there, it's completely dead. Who would want to go to one of the most walkable parts of the region without being able to bring two tons of metal along.

I know this kind of "environmental activist." It's an old white guy who bought a house in mid-Cambridge for $23,000 in the early 1970s and complain about anything changing but are perfectly happy when their property value goes up.

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Voting closed 153

Exactly. Giving customers an alternative way to arrive at your business instead of them driving around the block looking for parking until the give up and leave. Providing better options will likely result in more customers and calmers customers because they didn't have to white knuckle it to get to you.

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Voting closed 15

Some people would have you believe that biking to Harvard Square was a death wish before, but now it’s perfectly safe since the bike lanes are tucked out of sight behind parked cars.

People have always biked to Harvard Square.

Meanwhile, as a daily cyclist, I find the new cycle tracks to be so dangerous as to be unusable. I do my best to avoid them, but it’s getting harder in Cambridge.

On a recent ride down Mass Ave between Harvard and Central, I took it really slow to avoid the multiple hazardous right hook locations, as well as the possibility for pedestrians to step into the bike lane from a hidden spot. Someone in front of me on a Blue Bike was not aware of these hazards, and I saw him get in several near misses which were prevented by car drivers paying extra attention. I had white knuckles at the end of this ride.

I hope the city is honest with their crash statistics, and is willing to admit their design was a mistake if that’s what the evidence shows.

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Voting closed 32

This is the most utterly ridiculous and brazen lies I have ever seen on Universal Hub. Is the Mass Ave / Harvard infrastructure perfect? Hell no.

But it’s just sad seeing NIMBYs like you sockpuppeting as cyclists and still being utterly unable to hide your contempt for people on your roads as you pretend to be someone you are not. Try harder.

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Voting closed 36

I've been by commuting here for over 20 years and I read that comment and completely agree. Things got much better went by lanes were painted on the roads and more cyclists appeared. But the protected lanes I've come across are terrible.

Vassar Street for instance is awful to ride on when there are any pedestrians around. The new lane on Beacon Street in Somerville has given me more near misses per ride than any other place I've ridden. I carefully choose my commute to avoid any of the protected lanes.

Meanwhile I'm told by self-appointed cycling advocates that painted lanes beside car lanes are almost useless and any objections about protected lanes are invalid. I find that nonsense. Protected lanes are useless if they have a lot of side roads cutting through them without careful planning of how that's going to work. Even simple lanes in the door zone are better than that.

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Voting closed 21

As someone that is a fair-weather bike commuter, yeah the protected lanes are sketchy throughout Boston (I can't speak for Cambridge, I don't bike through there much).

With the protected bike lanes, especially ones that have parked cars on the left, there's a much higher instance of cars parked half-inside the lane, delivery drivers blocking the lane "exits" between streets, doors opening into the lane, people just hanging out there for some reason, and in the winter there are large ice patches or non-plowed areas. The most dangerous part is that when there are cars parked along the edge, a car turning into a street can't necessarily see an upcoming cyclist.

Simple painted lanes provide that much needed visibility and also an escape route if I need to dodge something quickly.

My preferred solution to all of these issues is the painted lane with reflectors to provide good visibility and some level of distinction from the rest of the road.

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Voting closed 3

to a large degree. It seems that in an effort to minimize lost parking spots, they have spots *way* too close to turns, so it's difficult for turning drivers to see cyclists, and vice versa.

Beacon St. also cracks me up because of the couple places where it just dumps you back out into a regular bike lane for a bit, then back to cycletrack. I'd generally prefer cycletracks be street level (agreed on Vassar), but I don't think Comm Ave is much better in that respect.

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Voting closed 3

Actively works to keep "those people" out of his environment - while saying he believes in fairness as long as it stays in the redlined areas.

Speaks for the trees, even if they are invasive, for the above reasons.

Loves to conflate whatever he is aggrieved about today with whatever has happened in the past, even if they have nothing to do with one another. Cyclists didn't cause Harvard Square to become a corporate mall with lots of banks - greed did.

Nearly every evaluation of cycling amenities in core urban areas that I have seen has shown an increase in activity due to ability to bike somewhere and stay and spend money - but facts don't matter to Mister NIMBYHIPPY.

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Voting closed 61

Harvard Sq. is a lost cause: empty storefronts and bank braches. Harvard kicked out long-standing businesses in favor of corporate chains. May as well hand the streets over to cyclists passing through.

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Voting closed 28

Harvard? Or the person (or people) who have bought up much of the commercial real estate in and around Harvard Square?

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Voting closed 16

Harvard DOES own most of the real estate. Also, Harvard Square is fine, though, if you're the kind of dummy who expects to drive there and find free parking, you'd certainly never know it.

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Voting closed 5

Per the Massachusetts Interactive Property Map (zoom in on the area you want to see, click on the parcel, and it will reveal who the owner is), Harvard doesn't own much commercial space in Harvard Square at all. It owns its campus, of course, but I counted three parcels on Church St, and five on Mass Ave between Putnams Corner and the main square, one of which is the Holyoke Center.

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Voting closed 10

is the real reason "nobody goes to Harvard Sq anymore." What's left that's really worth it besides Charlie's? Not nothing, but not that much.

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Voting closed 3

Pah!

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Voting closed 8

Isn't this almost precisely the type of decision, the use of public space, that we elect our governments to make? Let's say bike lanes do destroy these businesses (spoiler: they do not), how can this generate a lawsuit?

The claims here are laughable (font size in the requisite notices) and stink of someone unhappy with the government elected by their fellow citizens.

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Voting closed 64

If the bike lanes are actually going to put you out of business, would you take your last few dollars to try to shore up your business, or to pay an attorney to generate a completely frivolous lawsuit.

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Voting closed 58

For some of people they get so clouded with disgust of the change that they can’t see anything else. Every decrease or change in business is linked to the lanes even if it has nothing to do with it. Their costs will go up due to inflation but they’ll strain the logic to conclude it’s all due to traffic pattern change.

At the same time I don’t think people should be blind to the fact that some businesses probably will loose customers who find the new layout confusing or slow enough that they’ll stop going to the store. I don’t it’s a majority of businesses nor do I think it’s a reason to block the lanes. But, yeah, this will probably help some stores and hurt others.

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Voting closed 17

Get rid of the Sacred Concrete Divided Highway Jaywalking Launch Platform or lose parking.

They thought they could have both if sufficient tantrums were thrown, and found out.

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Voting closed 36

I'm saving "Sacred Concrete Divided Highway Jaywalking Launch Platform" for future use (with attribution, of course).

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Voting closed 11

There are many studies out there that for years have been showing that people who walk or bike spend now on local businesses than drivers. Here are two.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/carltonreid/2018/11/16/cyclists-spend-40-mo...

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01944363.2019.1638816

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Voting closed 23

Davis Square.

Most motorists were passing through or would ditch the car to dive into someplace, then dash off.

Cycling lends itself to daisychaining errands - making multiple stops in multiple places - and hanging out.

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Voting closed 11

A StreetsblogMASS analysis of six recent broadcast news stories about bike lanes in Cambridge found that just two sources took up the majority of airtime: the owners of Fast Phil’s barbershop and the owners of the Guitar Shop, the two businesses leading the new “Save Mass. Ave.” organization that opposes new protected bike lane projects.

https://mass.streetsblog.org/2022/05/24/windshield-bias-afflicts-broadca...

And at the ballot box, too, voters have consistently elected Councilors who support initiatives like the Cycling Safety Ordinance.

If nothing else, I think its a weak attempt to hide just how small this vocal minority of opposition actually is.

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Voting closed 73

No comment, since all reactions to the subject will prove my point.

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Voting closed 25

You mean someone might write a mean tweet? My stars!

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Voting closed 43

Then why is there an entire Congressional Committee parsing the tweets of one man? Because after all, who cares if someone writes a mean tweet, no?

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Voting closed 6

Avoiding the inconvenient parts once again yeah?

Call me when cyclists start storming the Capital/State House and I guess we can form a select committee to parse through Lucas Brunelle's social media.

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Voting closed 19

Yes, sometimes people "mean tweets" can have consequences.

I'm surprised Jeffrey Ferris survived his view that the Casey Overpass should have been replaced in kind rather than with what actually happened. And he's definitely a bike guy, along with being a barefoot runner (ew.) If, heaven forbid, he spoke up in opposition to that plan for Centre Street in West Roxbury, he'd be out of business by now most likely, thanks to "mean tweets."

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Voting closed 1

what? Why yes, it has everything to do with mean tweets and absolutely nothing else.

C'mon man, I know you aren't *that* dense.

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Voting closed 11

A couple of 20-something’s on the BlueBikes enjoying the nice weather must be terrifying to you inside your two and a half ton box of metal and plastic.

The horror of needing to share the road and, gasp, the idea people might get worked up when it is unsafe for them to use the infrastructure designed for them.

Climb down from the windmill. No one is coming for you with torches and U-Locks just because you’re annoying and wrong. We’re too busy enjoying the freedom and convenience cycling offers us in a city that is increasingly realizing that.

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Voting closed 21

What happens if someone crosses the bike lobby?

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Voting closed 18

Strongly. Worded. Letter.

Quiver in fear of the lobby, for they fear no man.

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Voting closed 10

AKA Anticah

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Voting closed 30

anticah?

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Voting closed 3

Highly organized and dedicated to eliminating cahscism.

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Voting closed 9

It is just one of your many excuses for snotty incorrect snap judgements

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Voting closed 9

THE EVILE BIG BIKE IS GONNA GET ME! OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG

You are a sad little person if that's your "fear". Maybe go get some UV exposure where the sun don't shine to make you feel more like an adult?

Receiving blowback in the form of boycotts, bad reviews, and civil action is a natural consequence of being a selfish asshole.

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Voting closed 11

The gluten-free bakery evidently has a bee in its bun about cyclists. Their insane ranting at bad reviews is a source of comedy gold. I always wondered what happened to the cat cafe lady after she closed up shop in Brighton...

Google Reviews

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Voting closed 20

Worries about gluten*, huffs the car exhaust like a popper!

If you are going to run a car-oriented business, then, well LOCATE IN THE SUBURBS.

(*yes I know that celiac is about 1 in 140 in the general population and 1 in 20-30 in the local population, but there are a lot of "believers" out there, too)

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Voting closed 12

The first rule of creating a NIMBY group is to give it a name that is the exact opposite of the group's goal.

"Cambridge Streets for All": Created to prevent travel in public street space that they believe should be reserved as storage for only themselves and their customers.

"West Roxbury Safety Association": Created to block the implementation of any safety improvements to the lethal mess that is Centre Street.

If you are too ashamed to admit what you are trying to get away with, maybe you shouldn't be doing it.

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Voting closed 82

"Citizens For Responsibly (And Inscrutably) Routed Bicycle Corridors"

"Organized Harvard Square Cyclists (Who Demand More Automobile Parking To Keep All Of Those Pesky Cars Out Of Our Way)"

"Bicycle Alliance For An Accessible Harvard Square For All (Motorists)"

"Cantibridgians For Bike Lanes (That Are Fairly Close To Harvard Square, But Not Necessarily Through The Center Of Harvard Square Because Maybe A Time Traveler From 1931 Will Land In 2022 And Think That Driving A Car Within A Mile Of Harvard Square Is Remotely Logical, And Also They Might Want To Buy One Of My Artisinal Dog Biscuits For $5.99, Not That I Own An Artisinal Dog Biscuit Bakery, Who Said Anything About Dog Biscuits, I Am A Fellow Cyclist Like You Guys, I Mean Like US GUYS, Right Guys? Totally Unrelated: Would You Like To Buy One Of My Artisinal Bog Biscuits? They're $5.99 Each And We Offer Free Off-Street Parking For Your Driver) Everywhere"

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Voting closed 3

are bad for businesses. Never mind the parking spaces they take away.

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Voting closed 22

Put up or shut up.

Meanwhile for those living in reality where bike lanes have been shown to be beneficial to business districts study after study has shown the opposite is true:
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01944363.2019.1638816
https://nitc.trec.pdx.edu/research/project/1031/
https://www.cambridgebikesafety.org/2021/09/22/bike-lanes-and-local-busi...

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Voting closed 33

That won't make them true, but your friends love to hear their stupidity in an echo chamber!

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Voting closed 11

Now that wouldn't be any fun.

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Voting closed 5

33 Duster
Atrium Cafe
Baskin Robbins
Bertucci's
Brew Moon
Cafe Algiers
Tommy's Lunch...

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Voting closed 12

Strikes me that this group could save itself a lot of bellyaching if they asked their customers to fill out a simple questionnaire:

1. How did you get here?

A. Walked
B. Bicycle
C. MBTA
D. Automobile

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Voting closed 29

I'm a semi-regular at Fast Phil's, and although I have troubled mixed feelings about their vocal opposition to the changes on Mass Ave, they have in fact been keeping a clipboard on a table in the store for months now asking people to sign in and indicate how they traveled to get there. I'm not sure what it has ended up telling them.

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Voting closed 14

"if they asked their customers to fill out a simple questionnaire"

The question air will not be filled by those potential customers who did not visit the establishment due to absence of parking. Just not worth the infinite time on abissmal local public transportation (I am originally from Europe) or biking in MA weather. And, by the way, I was hit by a car while biking in Cambridge. No. Thank you.

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Voting closed 17

There’s literally hundreds of places to get a hair cut in the Boston area. No one needs to drive a huge vehicle to Cambridge to get a haircut. Storage of a vehicle is not more important than someone’s life.

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Voting closed 37

The funny thing, for us Cambridge was not a place to cut hair. When we moved to suburbs, we brought our little kids to town. To visit "mom's school" ,"dad's school", go to schools correspondent museums. Harvard Nat History was a hoot with the little ones. Then would go to old food faves, try new ones, may be drop onto cute shops, our bank (Harvard credit). The parking was tough,but we knew the places to park from our years in the town.

Now, we go to Cambridge on business only. We would not be the ones filling in the questionairs: no parking, no leasure trips. Discovered more comfortable pastures elsewhere.

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Voting closed 15

Cambridge is one of the most accessible cities via public transit in the country. There’s also several paid parking lots. If you can’t figure out how to use either of those despite going to school here? You’re probably better off in whatever suburb you’re living in. Definitely never try to get into Boston, or worse New York City perish the thought

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Voting closed 25

Getting hit by a car on a bike is an argument for better bike infrastructure that makes that less likely, not to prevent it. Come on…

-someone who has actually been hit by a car on a bike.

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Voting closed 13

It’s possible some of them already did and choice D was the predominant method.

You can be in favor of the lane change and still acknowledge some businesses have a majority of customers driving.

I go to a barber on Mass Ave in Arlington. The barber said most costumers had been coming to the shop for 25 years, many lived further away, and most drove. I have no reason to doubt him. He was opposed to the Arlington revamp of Mass Ave although not to the point of filing lawsuits.

The Arlington revamp is old news now and he’s still doing good business so his fears didn’t come to fruition. But I understand why he was worried at the time. Given the clientele I suspect most still drive.

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Voting closed 16

Transit advocates have pushed back against claims that the bike and bus lanes are hurting local businesses. Nonprofit Livable Streets’ executive director Stacy Thompson said on Boston Public Radio last week that bike- and bus-focused projects typically boost business.

“The data shows that two-thirds or more of people going to these businesses live in that community, walk, take bikes there or take transit,” Thompson said. “Where we’ve put down bus priority projects and bike projects, business has gone up for a lot of folks, because you have more people who can get to that business.

“I don’t know this business owner, but it’s also January,” she added, referring to Hughes and her barbershop. “The project actually hasn’t been down that long, so it’s a little tough for me to comment on that specifically. But the data by and large shows across projects in the whole region that it’s actually better for businesses.”

https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2022/01/11/bike-lane-backlash-pushe...

I think there should also be question of the business impacts that various articles are quoting.

In one article, a business owner said this:

Hughes said her business is down between 40 and 50%. She blames it on the removal of parking spots for the installation of bike lanes along a two-mile stretch of Massachusetts Avenue.

https://www.wcvb.com/article/bike-lane-backlash-lack-of-parking-spaces-c...

But in the GBH article, they are quoted with this:

Hughes said that while small business owners are not against the bike lanes themselves, they are worried about business going down when new lanes take over parking spaces. Business at Fast Phil’s, she says, has gone down over 70% in the last few months.

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Voting closed 20

But just because a majority of shoppers don’t drive doesn’t mean it’s evenly distributed. Some stores are going to have 80% drive, others much less.

I’m in favor of the change! But I’m not going to pretend the impact on businesses is going to be uniform. I also think quality of life of residents outweighs the needs of businesses owners.

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Voting closed 23

In addition, even if two thirds of customers get to a business without a car, if a business lost 33% of their customers they would probably go under. Especially if they’re trying to compete with Target and Amazon.

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Voting closed 10

free parking isn't enough to compete with lower prices. Street parking is used up by people commuting to work or residents storing their cars. Unless every city spot is 30 minutes there is not enough turnover.

Hiding the names of this suit isn't protective, its fraud.

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Voting closed 13

I mean, I used to drive to Harvard. It was 20 mins of driving vs over an hour on transit, I'd drive. We would go for a couple hours and walk around and then get dinner.

Now obviously there's no real reason to go to Harvard because it's a corporate outdoor mall, and I support the residents/neighborhood doing whatever they think is best in regards to parking/bike lanes/whatever, but it's kind of a stretch to say people who drive places NEVER spend money at local businesses. We can have an honest conversation here.

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Voting closed 2

There is no place where you live 20 minutes by car but over an hour on transit from Harvard Sq in the afternoon.

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Voting closed 3

You are theorizing where there is data present, and where that data has been presented by other posters.

Unless you have some hard evidence of impact from actual studies of bike lane installation, please sit back and read.

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Voting closed 6

replicator gnomes be replicating again

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Voting closed 3

Genuine points of concern for sure but I think as you've noted elsewhere on this thread, there are some who are just against it in bad faith.

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Voting closed 5

… used to driving to get someplace and it has worked for them up to now, when it stops being easy to do and public transport, cycling and walking become easier instead, these same people adapt and start using them.
They may grumble about making a change, but they will change. Then when they’ve gotten used to using the new, community friendly means of transportation, they wonder why they grumbled so much.

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Voting closed 20

But I don’t think my barber is ever going to acknowledge Mass Ave is better now than it was in the past.

But whatever. He’s an excellent barber and gives me a great cut knowing full well I ride to his shop.

So long as people are polite I don’t really care what they think. We each get a vote and the policies enacted should represent the majority view, whatever that is.

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Voting closed 7

I don’t think walking or cycling are any better on North Mass Ave.

Transit is marginally faster northbound, but it’s still much slower than driving for most people when you factor in waiting for the bus and getting to the nearest bus stop from where you’re starting.

The southbound bus lane ends at 9 am. Not many shoppers do their business that early. After 9, the bus is stuck in the one general lane, so it’s worse than before this project.

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Voting closed 13

How is that possible? It's all public record! City of Cambeidge business ceetificates, Secretary of State Corporations Division, Notice ofLease of record with Middlesex Regiatry of Deeds or District of the Land Court if it is registered land, Cambridge Assessor Records of owner of property. How can it possibly be anonymous??

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Voting closed 11

…. but I seriously wonder if some of the funding and guidance for mounting this suit doesn’t come from the automobile industry.

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Voting closed 11

The Violette Bakery owner posted a screed online where he claimed the bike lanes are part of a conspiracy by Big Developers to drive everyone out of business so they can knock down the one story buildings and put up condos. https://violettegf.com/we-urgently-need-your-help/

Unrelated, but of interest: Violette Bakery has a parking lot available for customers behind the building, and they're still whinging like children denied a second ice cream cone.

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Voting closed 38

particular place, but its neighbor Chalawan is awesome: https://www.boston.com/food/restaurants/2019/12/13/restaurant-review-cha... (The review is pre-Covid, but I've been back a couple of times since the lockdown ended, and it has held up.)

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Voting closed 7

A lot of the anti-change funding was from a few retired curmudgeons who wanted Arlington to remain a suburb and didn’t like anything that made it seem like a city.

I’m sure there are a few in Cambridge opposed because they don’t like anything that appears to be specifically helping people who are not them.

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Voting closed 21

They were screaming about "losing travel lanes" on Mass Ave.

Except the city was very clear for decades that they didn't stripe Mass Ave as two lanes in East Arlington because it was officially only one lane - and it was because they didn't want it to be "too urban".

One generation's NIMBY twits screwed over the next generation's NIMBY twits. Can't make this shit up.

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Voting closed 12

The vocal minority wants to shut down a project that is popular with the citizens AND they don’t want anyone to know their names. Losers.

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Voting closed 8

Though I don’t bike I think it should be safe for biking - I don’t think the changes are great for safety. Maybe as a compromise we should make some of the streets pedestrian only?

As I have said many times, it is cyclists who have run through walk signals on crosswalks and nearly run me or my kids down, not cars, when I am crossing at the walk signal. Being screamed at by someone in tight hugging shorts is something I reserve for weekend nights, not taking the kids to Newbury comics thanks,

Now when are we going to solve the homeless and drug addict problem in Central Sq or just ignore that for another 8-10 years till more chains move in?

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Voting closed 8