Prospect Avenue is a narrow but busy street connecting the cities of Cambridge and Somerville in the Greater Boston area of Massachusetts. During peak hours cars, trucks and buses can be seen lined up for blocks in the two lanes designated for motorized traffic. Apart from these lanes, along much of the street only enough space is left for either a center turn lane or flanking bicycle lanes. Each of these appear and disappear without obvious rhyme or reason.
Where there are no bicycle lanes, cyclists sometimes use the center lane designated for motorized traffic making left-hand turns. Where there are no demarcated lanes for bicycles, cars often drive so close to the curb that there is no room for cyclists to pass. Though the city “discourages” it, cyclists are allowed to ride on sidewalks here. However, in addition to being narrow, the sidewalks are also full of foot traffic and trees, and the raised curb makes it difficult to move safely from street to sidewalk.
Each mode of transit has its advocates. Yet the question of which modes to favor, or how to balance them, is often determined by planners. Many of the decisions that led to the narrow streets of Cambridge were made long ago, such as the grid, which was set in 1631. Today planners are left to meet a changing, increasingly diverse set of needs within these rigid barriers.
Check out the previous contested space post: The Most Popular Colonnade in Milan.
Post and photos by Ruth Sappelt.