CitySmart Program Promotes Getting Around Carless

CitySmart Program Promotes Getting Around Carless

By Karen Klinger

While in recent years Cambridge has been named as "America's walking city" by one national publication and given high marks as a town for bicyclists by another, city officials are hoping to give people another reason to get around without cars through a pilot program that aims to use social marketing techniques to promote the virtues of moving on two feet, two wheels or public transportation.

Called "CitySmart," the grant-funded initiative is in its second year and based on similar programs that have shown success in Europe, Australia and some other American cities. In an effort to maximize awareness within a smaller subset of the population, the program administrators decided to focus last year on Cambridgeport and this year on North Cambridge. A brochure the city is distributing headlined "Hello North Cambridge, Meet CitySmart" explains that all North Cantabrigians can receive kits with information about transportation alternatives and goodies such as stainless steel water bottles and pedometers by contacting the program and providing some basic feedback about their needs and interests.

The program's point person at city hall is Jasmine Laietmark (jlaietmark@cambridgema.gov), who recently co-led a beginner's bike ride around North Cambridge and Fresh Pond with the aim of encouraging people, even those with young children (and the children themselves), to get out and pedal and to observe the rules of the road while doing so. Her co-leader was Dan Pugatch, a mechanic at the Broadway Bicycle School in the city, who said he started leading similar rides on a monthly basis when he heard people say they'd like to ride, but were so fearful they were inclined to stay on sidewalks--never a good idea.


Doubtless with good reason, drivers in Massachusetts have been criticized for often not knowing that under the law, bicyclists have just as much right to the road as they do. But the bikers have also been taken to task--again with good reason--for failing to obey traffic rules such as stopping for red lights and stop signs and not using their arms to signal left and right turns. Before the start of the recent ride, Pugatch carefully went over those rules and some others, such as pointing to potholes or other hazards to the bikers behind you.

The bicycle ride was just one of a number of events CitySmart has participated in this year, including a two-wheeling tour in May sponsored by the Cambridge bicycling committee and a "family day" last month at Rindge Field behind the Peabody School on Rindge Avenue. On August 3, CitySmart will be at the "National Night Out" neighborhood party, also at Rindge Field and on September 16 is slated to take part in a "story walk" with a back-to-school theme at the Peabody.

From now until October 1, North Cambridge residents who want any or all of the transportation kits CitySmart is offering can do so by going online to www.cambridgema.gov/citysmart or calling 617-349-4631. The program brochure says they can receive as many as they'd like, and everyone who signs up gets a basic kit. The choices include:

Basic Kit: Information about getting around in Cambridge and coupons from local businesses, packaged in a reusable CitySmart shopping bag.

Transit Kit: MBTA schedules, maps, business coupons and a free Charlie Card holder.

Bicycling Kit: A Boston Bike Map, reflectors, a tire patch kit and coupons.

Walking Kit: A pedometer, water bottle, walking guides and coupons.

Ridesharing Kit: Information about how to start or sign up with a carpool or rideshare program.

Kids' kit: Stickers, stick-on tattoos, chalk, crayons and activity books on safe walking and bicycling on neighborhood streets. Each book has information for parents about teaching kids safety tips.

The kits will be delivered by the Somerville-based Metro Pedal Power bicycle delivery service.

CitySmart says its primary goal is to "achieve a shift of approximately 10 percent of single-occupant vehicle trips to more sustainable modes, such as walking, bicycling and transit." Based on what an expert panel for "Prevention" magazine found in 2008 when it proclaimed Cambridge the nation's premiere city for walking, that should not--theoretically--be hard to do. Among Prevention's findings: a higher percentage of Cantabrigians walk to work than in any other U.S. city; Cambridge ranks seventh in use of mass transportation and is the 12th lowest in ratio of cars to households; and the city has more parks per square mile than anywhere else in the United States.


The Prevention experts also gave the city credit for its section of the Minuteman Bikeway, a "rails-to-trails" path that is the nation's best known and most utilized former railroad track converted into a bicycling and walking path. The Minuteman--which calls itself "America's most celebrated bike path"--has been inducted into a rails-to-trails hall of fame.

In addition to Prevention's accolades, "Bicycling" magazine has given Cambridge an "honorary mention" on its list of best cities for biking (while consistently criticizing Boston as one of the worst, although conditions for two-wheelers across the Charles River have improved markedly in the last couple of years since Mayor Thomas Menino discovered the joys of bicycling).

With all that Cambridge has going for it, the folks at CitySmart are hoping that more and more people will start thinking, as their literature says, that "Biking, walking and transit take you where you need to be. Whether it's a trip to the grocery store or a day at the beach--getting there really can be half the fun."

Organizations providing partnerships and resources for CitySmart include: Livable Streets Alliance (www.livablestreets.info); Green Streets Initiative (www.gogreenstreets.org); WalkBoston (www.walkboston.org); Cambridge Health Alliance (www.challiance.org); Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (www.massbike.org); Zipcar (www.zipcar.com); MassRIDES (www.commute.com); and MBTA Trip Planner (www.mbta.com/rider_tools/trip_planner).

To see a map with the boundaries of what the city considers North Cambridge (Neighborhood 11), go to: http://www.cambridgema.gov/~CDD/cp/neigh/maps/neighmapindex.html

Comments

Great informative piece, Karen. Programs like CitySmart, plus all those organizations you listed, are doing some good things.
MHolbrow