CAMBRIDGE - Thanks to a speed tracker placed on Somerset Avenue over the summer, the Cambridge Police Department recently recorded a vehicle traveling at least 90 mph, according to a statement from the city government.
Not surprisingly, local residents have expressed concerns about children, cyclists and others on the street. As a result, there is now a proposition for a temporary traffic circle near the YMCA and School Street Athletic Fields to slow things down.
The concept publicized by the City Council shows that the circle itself would be filled with milling material and have a rubber curb.
Additionally, there would be rubber curbs on two sides of the circle, and Somerset Avenue would feature curb extensions known as bump-outs. The milling material is designed to allow large vehicles, such as fire trucks, to drive directly over the circle if necessary.
City Commissioner Brian Roche has stated that the goal is to force drivers to around 20 mph.
The City Council has sought input from Somerset Avenue residents, Rescue Fire Company, CPD, Public Works, and the Traffic & Safety Committee. Some community leaders have voiced their support for the project. Some citizens have done so, as well.
“I heartily support the demonstration circle to allow everyone to experience how it could work to slow down traffic on Somerset and other streets where the problem is worse,” said Ken Smith, a School Street resident who added that “drivers forget they’re on residential streets and don’t realize the impact speeding has on residents.”
Others are not convinced.
“It is not clear to me why the City Council is considering a traffic circle rather than a four-way stop at School and Somerset,” said Sharon Smith, also of School Street. “A traffic circle requires the use of a good bit of real estate and costs a lot more money.”
Commissioner Roche believes the circle would allow for better traffic flow than a complete stop would. But some vocal residents take issue with other parts of the plan, such as the bump-outs, which one person called “more of a hazard than a help.”
Still, there is no agreement on the right alternative solution. Some suggest speed bumps as a cheaper option, while others say the bumps damage cars and create excessive noise. There are those who want speed cameras, but others insist they are distractions.
Mayor Stephen Rideout takes issue with one aspect of the traffic circle plan. He is convinced that not only will larger vehicles pass straight over the circle, but “our daredevils” will, as well.
There is one question that comes up again and again in discussions about the proposed project. As John Hansen of Longboat Estates put it, “Don’t we have other things to spend tax dollars on?”
However, Ken Smith thinks that, “Combined with signage and crosswalks, a circle conveys the message: be careful around here.”
“The real goal is to make Cambridge a safer and more pleasant place to live by leveling the playing field between cars and people,” he said. “Cars don’t have to run roughshod in our neighborhoods as they do today.”