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Boston Bike Safety Summit: Cars and bikes need to share roads

Wicked Local Roslindale: Boston Bike Safety Summit: Cars and bikes need to share roads

One of the added bike lanes throughout Boston. This one is on Washington Street in Roslindale

By Reginald Zimmerman
Wicked Local West Roxbury/Roslindale

Posted Apr 28, 2010 @ 07:06 AM

Boston —
Prompted by a series of bicycle accidents that have plagued the city in recent weeks, including one in which a cyclist was killed, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino convened Boston’s first “Bicycling Safety Summit” on April 21.

Menino, along with other top city and state officials, met with area bicyclists at Boston University’s Morse Auditorium to discuss ways of improving safety for “everyone who uses Boston’s roadways.”

“The car is no longer king in Boston,” he said to those gathered at the conference.

In a statement earlier in the week, the mayor said that there is a “need for a shared, common respect” among everyone who uses the city’s streets.

“We have to come together and recognize that everyone is responsible for keeping our roadways safe, and that we all have the right to safe passage through our beautiful city,” he said. “We can start by fulfilling the personal responsibility of wearing a helmet.”

Eric Michael Hunt, a 22-year-old computer engineering student, was killed in a collision with a MBTA bus earlier this month. Hunt, who was not wearing a helmet, died from severe trauma at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Nearly all (91 percent) of bicyclists killed were not wearing helmets, according to the most recent statistics from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Boston has been placed on Bicycling Magazine’s “worst cities for cycling” three times.

Two years ago, Menino developed the “Boston Bikes” initiative to increase cycling safety around Boston through the use of marked bike lanes, such as Roslindale’s Washington Street and through Roslindale Village, and various educational campaigns.

Since the inception of “Boston Bikes” initiative the city has seen the installation of 15 miles of bike lanes, with another 20 slated for this year. Five-hundred bike racks have also been put into place, along with the formation of an advisory board designed to advise city officials.

The panel on hand Wednesday included Director of Boston Bikes Nicole Freedman, Boston Transportation Commissioner Thomas Tinlin, Boston EMS Chief James Hooley, Boston Public Health Commissioner Barbara Ferrer and Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis.

Last week, Menino ordered the Boston Police Department to launch a focused enforcement effort aimed at helping cyclists and motorists share the road. Davis said officers would be more proactive in cracking down on safety violations committed by those in both groups.

Parking in a bike lane is a towable offense that carries a $100 fine, and the mayor has filed legislation with the state to reduce the speed limit in Boston to 25 miles per hour. The police are also researching better methods to document bike accidents.

Davis also pointed to how the Police Department has focused on using bicycles as a means of neighborhood patrols.

“Community policing is the way for us to go, and one of the tools that we’re using to implement this is the bicycle,” he said.

Some cyclists, like Richard Fries, said one of the biggest obstacles they face has nothing to do with helmets or neon jackets, but the “out-and-out hostility and venom” from MBTA bus drivers and train operators in regards to dealing with bicycles.

“We’re not [trying] to get a share of the road; we’re trying to gain a share of the mind,” said Fries, who called on other panelists, such as state transportation czar Jeffrey Mullan, and newly minted MBTA chief Rich Davey to make a cultural shift in their departments.

Davey agreed that the MBTA is in need of “culture change.”

“Whether we have bus drivers or conductors that are rude, that needs to end,” he said.

Davey also said that, despite some malcontents, there are a lot of good men and women who work at the T. There are also plans to train T employees how to deal with “bike scenarios.”

Doug Mink, who is also vice chairman of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition Metro Boston Chapter, and co-created the Rozzie Bikes organization, is planning this year to hold classes in Roslindale to teach all road users, including pedestrians, how to deal with bike lanes. He was one of the nearly 200 bikers who attended the summit.

Mink, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has been biking in Boston for almost 40 years. For the past decade he has biked every day — braving rain, sleet and snow — from his home in Roslindale to his office in Cambridge.

“A lot of education needs to be done, and hopefully this [summit] is the beginning of it,” he said.

For more information, visit the Boston Bikes homepage at www.cityofboston.gov/bikes. Mass Bike is conducting classes May 6 and 19 on bicycling safety at City Hall. Go to www.massbike.org to register.

Residents can also visit the Boston Bikes fan page on Facebook or join the Boston Bikes Twitter feed to learn more about the program and share concerns about specific roads in Boston.

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