A brief from the bike safety group responds to a lawsuit seeking to roll back the installation of bike lanes in the city

Commuters speed down Massachusetts Avenue on Tuesday south of Porter Square where the concrete median was removed ahead of bike lane installations. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Lawsuit against city over bike lane facilities that cost parking spaces is based on flawed reasoning, and more cyclists will be injured or die if a judge grants an injunction to stop more lanes being added and existing ones removed , according to a brief filed Wednesday by the Cambridge Bicycle Safety group.

Businesses, dental and medical practices and landlords fail to demonstrate harm that would be remedied by an injunction to stop the installation of bike lanes, though an injunction would harm cyclists and the city, the brief says . And the lawsuit is based on a misreading of the law that is unlikely to succeed in court, as well as an error in saying that the amendment to the Cycling Safety Ordinance was sneaked in during the pandemic, according to the text.

“Where the plaintiffs have repeatedly failed to achieve their goals at the ballot box and before City Council, they are now attempting a mock final race to overthrow the will of the voters and elected officials of the City of Cambridge,” the filing reads.

The lawsuit was filed on Friday by a group of business owners and residents called Cambridge Streets for All; the city did not comment on its merits, but its spokesperson said the legal department would “diligently represent the city’s interests in this matter.” The bike safety group’s filing is a third-party amicus brief, which outlines for a judge some arguments against the lawsuit and the injunction request that the city could also cite.

Some of the arguments in the brief are familiar, reflecting a debate that has been going on for months.

As business owners say their incomes have plummeted as parking has disappeared and customers and workers are prevented from finding easy access, for example, Cambridge Bicycle Safety Group responds that the Covid pandemic is the culprit most likely, as there are reports of businesses suffering even where there are no bike lanes. Additionally, they cite studies from Cambridge showing that most customers do not arrive by car, and national studies showing that cycle lanes ultimately help businesses, not hurt them.

“The plaintiffs make no demonstration of a causal link between the reduction in business revenue and the installation of segregated cycle lanes,” the brief states.

There is also a “minimum parking loss scale,” such as a total of seven spaces lost to the street from Porter Square, the filing says. The brief does not respond to the lawsuit’s resistance to the use of side-street spaces to compensate for the loss of spaces on Massachusetts Avenue; a Friday news release warned that under city plans, “quiet neighborhoods on side streets will become de facto parking areas and loading docks.”

When the lawsuit prepared by Lawson & Weitzen of Boston indicates that the city’s changes must be approved by the state and neighboring communities, or that the council does not have the power to pass the safety ordinance of cycling in the first place, “plaintiffs’ assertion is factually erroneous and statutorily unsupported,” the filing states. “A careful examination of the statutes cited discloses no basis for plaintiffs’ claim.”

Meanwhile, “cycling in Cambridge is not safe as crashes with motor vehicles result in injuries and deaths to cyclists,” the brief says, citing police data on crashes since 2015, and “stopping the installation of separate cycle lanes, as well as removing existing ones, would therefore lead to more injuries for cyclists.

The filing also outlines the process for enacting the ordinance, beginning with a 2015 bike plan and an amendment process setting installation timelines, which began March 16, 2020 and was not enacted until March 5. October 2020. There were three councils the pledges of candidates in those years, the group members note, making lanes an issue in three elections in which a super majority of candidates signed up, or seven of the nine councilors who ended up voting on the law.

A publicist representing Cambridge Streets for All was contacted on Wednesday to confirm the group had seen the filing and seek comment.

“CSA declines to comment because it’s a legal matter,” said Shauna Hamilton, publicist at Square Communications.

Maria R. Newman