Cambridge is a great bicycle city. We have more bicycle lanes per square mile than neighboring communities. We have protected cycling lanes, Hubway bike stations, designated parking areas, public repair stations, even a bicycle jug handle in Harvard Square. I remain alert when cycling in Cambridge, but I don’t fear the sharp cutoffs I’ve experienced in Quincy or Everett, or the confusion created at some of Boston’s amorphously marked intersections.
In a city with more bicycles than people, where nearly 10% of us bike to work, cyclists are pretty much accepted. Except when we’re not.
The first interchange I encounter every morning is a T-shaped affair with carefully controlled lights two blocks from my house. I am scrupulous in attending to the system, yet I still get honked at least once a week. Getting beeped is an unpleasant way to start the day, so I’ve tried to figure out what’s amiss.
Here’s the layout. The bike lane on Huron Avenue eastbound disintegrates approaching Aberdeen Avenue to create a right turn lane for cars. If the arrow is green to continue straight, I have to move to the left side of the cars waiting for their right signal (no right on red in pedestrian friendly Cambridge). The cars going straight don’t like me in their lane, and so they beep their horns. If I approach the intersection and the right turn lane has a green arrow, I stop until the straight arrow signal comes round. I stay just right of cars that want to go straight, but drivers making the turn honk despite the fact that I’ve allowed plenty of space for them to turn. The third condition, westbound vehicles turning left onto Aberdeen, requires everyone in my direction to stop. I position myself between the cars going straight and those turning right. This seems to aggravate everyone.
The other day, as an SUV honked at me while making a right turn, I finally realized where the drivers want me to be at this intersection. Just like the bike lane itself, they want me to disappear. Before bicycles became ubiquitous, cars and trucks had the entire road to themselves. Why should they have to share their big machines with my puny one?
Even in a city as bike friendly as Cambridge, many motorists just want us gone. Fortunately, time, health, and energy are on our side. Bicycles are here to stay. Most cyclists are trying to find the best way to share the road with our gasoline-powered companions. Honking won’t make us go away, and doesn’t help us get along either.