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Tuesday’s Cambridge City Council election returned six incumbents to office while bringing three new voices, including Joan F. Pickett, whom The Crimson’s newsroom characterized as a “transit activist.” This characterization is misleading.
Both colloquially and journalistically, the term “transit activist” refers to someone who acts to improve train, bus, and bicycle infrastructure. Justice is crucial to activism; recognizing that our mobility status quo is unjust, a “transit activist” would work to ensure everyone can move through public spaces with dignity. This framework is what I and others term “mobility justice.”
According to this framework, a “transit activist” would want to promote transit as an alternative to private vehicle usage. Joan Pickett, for all her posing, does not do that.
Pickett was the former chair of Cambridge Streets for All, a group espousing “democratic participation in decision making.” They practice anything but that. CSA sued the City of Cambridge, intending to peel back safe cycling infrastructure (all lawsuits have been dismissed or are under appeal). Pickett consistently ignores widespread support for bike lanes and a robust democratic process around protecting streets and the businesses on them.
Pickett also flouts hard evidence that they work. Protected bike lanes can reduce crashes by 50 percent. Businesses thrive when cities install them. Yet Pickett says we “need to hit the pause button on further installations.” Good transit is not what Pickett is advocating for.
Pickett engages minimally with other typical transit concerns, whether buses or MBTA improvements. Her views about the changing “character” of the city due to affordable housing amendments also reflect her desire to maintain the status quo.
That leaves only her actions against truly safe streets for families and residents. If that’s the qualification for “transit activist,” the Crimson newsroom has a long way to go.
Instead, The Crimson should characterize more deserving people as “transit activists.” Safe cycling swept the top of the ticket. Cambridge proudly elected new councilors who will make our streets safer for everyone in our city. As we enter a new term for the City Council, let’s ensure mobility justice remains the goal.
Clyve Lawrence ’25, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Adams House.
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