Bicycling Policies

Bicycling through Porter Square

City, State, and Federal Policies all guide bicycle planning in Cambridge. Following please find many of the policies that guide planning in Cambridge. 

Cambridge Policies

1. Cambridge Vehicle Trip Reduction Ordinance

In 1992, Cambridge enacted an ordinance for the development of a more livable city through the reduction of automobile use and the promotion of non-polluting forms of transportation. The ordinance establishes the Bicycle and Pedestrian Mobility Program, which, among other things, is required to "design and implement a program to encourage greater use of bicycles as alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles within the city."

2. Cambridge Growth Policy Document

In 1993, the City of Cambridge created its Growth Policy Document, Toward a Sustainable Future.

Policy 23 states: "Encourage all reasonable forms of non automobile travel including, for example, making improvements to the city's infrastructure which would promote bicycling and walking."

3. Guidelines for Developing Bicycle Facilities

It is the policy of the City of Cambridge to promote bicycling as a form of transportation.

  • Facilities will be built to encourage primarily transportation and utilitarian cycling and secondarily recreational cycling.
  • The City of Cambridge will develop and support programs promoting safety, education and traffic law enforcement for bicycle users.
  • Facilities will be built to encourage more cyclists to ride, in addition to accommodating current levels of cycling more effectively.
  • Improvements for cycling shall be considered in all roadway projects undertaken in the city.
  • Bicycle facilities shall be built to support safe traveling.
  • Bicycle circulation should be managed so that conflicts with other modes of travel are minimized, and safety improved for all.

4. Cambridge Bike Regulations

State Policies

1. The Massachusetts Statewide Bicycle Transportation Plan (1998)

The Plan includes the following statement:

"The vision of the Statewide Bicycle Transportation Plan is recognition of the bicycle as a viable means of transportation and reasonable accommodation of the needs of bicyclists in policies, programs and projects. Greater recognition and accommodation of the needs of bicyclists will lead to a more balanced transportation system with greater modal choice and improvements in bicycle safety. Such actions will enhance the environment and quality of life in the Commonwealth, and improve personal mobility."

2. An Act Relative To Bicycle and Pedestrian Access in Construction of Public Ways

Passed by the Massachusetts state legislature, this law amends Chapter 90E of the General Laws to insert after section 2, as appearing in the 1994 Official Edition, ' the following section:

"Section 2A. The commissioner [of the Massachusetts Highway Department] shall make all reasonable provisions for the accommodation of bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the planning, design, and construction, reconstruction or maintenance of any project undertaken by the department. Such provisions that are unreasonable shall include, but not be limited to, those which the commissioner, after appropriate review by the bicycle program coordinator, determine would be contrary to acceptable standards of public safety, degrade environmental quality or conflict with existing rights of way."

3. The Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020

The goal to "Increase Efficiency and Diversity in Transportation Energy Use" includes a recommended action to "Encourage the Increased Use of Bicycling and Walking as Long-Term Alternatives to the Private Automobile":

"Walking and bicycling represent viable alternatives for short trips if the infrastructure exists to support and encourage non-motorized travel. Especially in suburban work, shopping and even residential settings, the land use and supporting urban design is too often oriented to support only automobile travel. Building surrounded by large parking lots are the current norm. DOER [Department of Energy Resources] will work with transportation and municipal agencies to provide a variety of infrastructure facilities and amenities that will promote the use of bicycling and walking and to encourage designated bicycle routes to bus, train and carpooling terminals. This will include evaluating the use of abandoned railroad beds as potential bikeway facilities."

Federal Policies

Through its several branches and agencies, the federal government has clearly articulated the mandate to promote bicycling in the United States:

  • "It is Federal Transportation Policy to promote increased use of bicycling and encourage planners and engineers to accommodate bicycle and pedestrian needs into designing transportation facilities for urban and suburban areas" (Moving America, US. Department of Transportation, 1990).
  • "The National Transportation Policy (NTP) states that it is federal transportation policy to promote increased use of bicycling [and] to accommodate bicycle needs in designing transportation facilities for urban areas" (Policy on Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects, US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, 1991).
  • Under the 1991 US Department of Transportation Appropriations Act, enacted by Congress, the Secretary of Transportation was directed to conduct a national study (The National Bicycling and Walking Study) that included "a plan for the increased use and enhanced safety of [bicycling]." The report presents a plan of action for activities at the federal, state and local levels for meeting the goals of doubling the current percentage of trips made by bicycle and by walking and reducing the injuries and deaths to bicyclists and pedestrians by 10%.
  • The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) affirmed the value of bicycling in the transportation system. Among other things, it requires 10 % of federal transportation funds be used for "enhancement activities," which include bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
  • The reauthorization of this legislation, the Transportation Equity Act (TEA21) was passed in 1998. It is even stronger in its support and encouragement of bicycling in the transportation system. Bicycle projects are broadly eligible for funding from most of the major federal-aid highway, transit, safety and other programs. Bicycle projects must be "principally for transportation, rather than recreation, purposes." Special provisions also protect cyclists and other non-motorized users; for example, projects may not have an adverse impact on the safety of non-motorized transportation.

For More Information

For more information about bicycling in Cambridge, please contact Cara Seiderman,, at 617/349-4629.