February 15, 2018 BY Kathleen Ferrierin News, U.S. Vision Zero Cities

Cambridge Launches Vision Zero Action Plan, Reduces Speed to Save Lives


The City of Cambridge launched its new Vision Zero Action Plan last week and didn’t waste any time in kickstarting action to move from vision to action with strong implementation steps. As city officials released the plan, they also announced the implementation of 20 MPH Safety Zones in its five historic city squares, effective March 1.

"We know that lower speeds help save lives, and that pedestrians and cyclists are much more likely to survive a crash with a motor vehicle when speeds are below 20 MPH. Cambridge’s squares are the heart of our city, and we want to make sure that we support their economic vitality by making them safe for everyone who lives, works, and plays in Cambridge." - Joseph Barr, Director of Traffic, Parking, and Transportation

The speed reductions – lowering speed limits from 25 MPH to 20 MPH – will take effect on several streets surrounding each of this historic squares - Central, Harvard, Inman, Kendall, and Porter Squares - as illustrated in the City’s Safety Zone maps. Two primary factors motivated speed reductions in the squares: first, that they are active business districts and some of the busiest locations in Cambridge for people walking and bicycling, and, second, that numerous business associations made requests to lower the speed limits. City staff believe that the lower speed limits will better protect vulnerable roadway users and also promote the squares’ safety and economic development.

The reduction of speed in the squares is allowed through a change in Massachusetts state law made in 2016 that gives municipalities the ability to lower speeds and create 20 mph Safety Zones.  And the reduction of speed limits in public squares comes on the heels of a lowering of speed limits from 30 MPH to 25 MPH on all City-owned streets in 2016. With City Council approval, this allowed Cambridge staff to lower the speed limits on City-owned arterials and neighborhood streets.

Photo Acknowledgement: City of Cambridge Vision Zero Action Plan

Cambridge’s Vision Zero Action Plan was created by the Cambridge Vision Zero Working Group – a multidisciplinary team with representation from many city departments and numerous advocates from the area. Action items are clearly outlined with clear goals for the next three years – a practice supporting transparency and accountability the Vision Zero Network consistently promotes to Vision Zero communities. (Read more about the Network’s recommendations for Action Plans here.)

Cambridge’s new Vision Zero Action Plan prioritizes actions in the following important areas:

  • Design and operate safe streets
  • Improve large vehicle, taxi/ for-hire vehicles, and Transportation Network Company (TNC) Safety
  • Ensure equity in Vision Zero
  • Lead by example
  • Engage the public on Vision Zero
  • Create partnerships
  • Use data to direct efforts and measure our progress

In addition to the seven action steps above, the Action Plan outlines five cross-cutting themes, including:

  1. Data driven decision-making
  2. Equity
  3. Mode share shift
  4. Collaboration
  5. Public health

The Vision Zero Network applauds the City of Cambridge for its work on its Vision Zero Action Plan, the collaboration of a multi-disciplinary team – including community members and advocates – to create the Plan.

Most importantly, we lift up the City’s notable efforts already underway to move beyond words on a page to implement life saving strategies. The work in Cambridge to reduce speeds – especially in high crash areas where more people are walking and bicycling – is exemplary. And the work and multi-departmental collaboration from this City with a population of 110,000 demonstrates that Vision Zero is not just for big cities, and a lot can be done without enormous sums of money. Cambridge adopted its goal of Vision Zero in 2016, and in two short years, moved from vision to action in meaningful ways. To read more about Cambridge’s Vision Zero program, check out the City’s website.

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