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Following Fatal Crash, Cambridge City Council Asks for Intersection Audits

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The Cambridge City Council voted unanimously on Monday to ask City Manager Yi-An Huang ’05 to launch safety audits of intersections where collisions have resulted in serious injuries.

The vote follows the June 7 death of a female cyclist at the intersection of Mount Auburn and DeWolfe Streets after she collided with a truck making a right turn. The woman’s death sparked calls for change from transit advocates and an outpouring of grief.

The policy order asks Huang to develop a policy to conduct audits and consider intersection infrastructure changes after crashes. It also asks Huang to “develop a plan to implement needed safety improvements on an ongoing basis across other intersections.”

The policy order’s lead sponsor, Councilor Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, acknowledged that the city does already review intersections as it updates street infrastructure, but said Cambridge should “take this moment to be proactive” in examining the city’s most dangerous intersections.

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“We know there are sites where there are regular crashes, regular EMS transports, are serious injuries that occur,” Sobrinho-Wheeler said.

The policy order was initially sponsored by Sobrinho-Wheeler, along with Vice Mayor Marc C. McGovern, Councilor Sumbul Siddiqui, and Councilor Burhan Azeem. However, at the request of Councilor Paul F. Toner, the Council voted to add all its members as sponsors.

The moment was a show of unity after a brief discussion during which councilors roundly praised the policy order — but it skirted the cycling policy debates that have divided the City Council in recent years.

The policy order responds to transit activists’ calls for an intersection audit process. Ahead of Monday’s meeting, the City Council received more than 100 messages in support of intersection audits and the creation of protected intersections through a letter campaign organized by Cambridge Bicycle Safety, a local advocacy group.

While the order mentions a litany of potential changes to intersections — including street markings, traffic signal placement and timing, and traffic calming measures — it doesn’t commit the city to implementing any such changes, nor does it address the kind of modifications that have historically proved most contentious, such as separated bike lanes.

Though the Cambridge Bicycle Safety letter also urged the Council to “install separated bike lanes without delay,” referencing their controversial vote to extend the deadline for completing a 25-mile bike lane network,” the policy order makes no mention of bike lanes.

The City Council also has yet to publicly discuss Cambridge’s fourth annual Cycling Safety Ordinance progress report, which tracks bike lane installation over the past year. Discussion of the CSO report was initially slated for the Council’s June 10 meeting, but councilors opted to defer the conversation until the Transportation Committee’s June 25 meeting, citing the fatal collision.

On Monday, the Council also unanimously adopted a policy order requesting that the City Manager issue a report on how to educate residents about roadway rules and safety. The measure passed without discussion.

But later in the meeting, Councilor Ayesha M. Wilson noted that Cambridge is a major tourist draw — which, she implied, could complicate efforts to educate the city’s road users.

During the public comment period at the beginning of Monday’s meeting, seven Cambridge and Boston residents spoke in favor of requiring intersection audits.

Cambridge resident and cycling safety activist Kenneth E. Carlson said he saw the immediate aftermath of the crash as he biked down Mount Auburn Street. Witnesses of the collision had stopped at the intersection, he said, clasping their hands over their mouths as they looked on.

“Something clearly went wrong at this intersection, and it was harrowing, horrific, and frightening to observe this woman losing her life in front of us,” Carlson said. “I think a safety audit is vital to do, and I think it’s very important that we see what went wrong and try to fix it.”

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

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