Pedal promise

By TOM MEEK  |  May 13, 2010

Since putting the city’s bikers on notice, the BPD has reportedly issued at least 50 warnings and one ticket to cyclists on and around the Comm Ave bike lane. Though not legally enforceable for people over age 16, almost every speaker at the summit also encouraged riders to wear helmets, citing the fact that approximately 90 percent of cycling fatalities each year involve bikers who are not wearing head protection.

Speaking with the Phoenix, Watson likewise urged cyclists to report crashes and accidents, so that the city can get a better handle on what’s going on in the street. (Boston and Cambridge have a number of options for reporting bike crimes and road conditions; for details, check out “See Something, Say Something, Cycle Safely,” sidebar in this article.)

With a second Safety Summit planned for a few months from now, and ridership swelling in Boston, municipal and state agencies seem to at last be getting onboard with a future vision of cleaner, safer, more livable streets. To really affect change in the cycling safety, though, experts say Boston must work on reforming not only infrastructure and awareness, but the way we as a city view our roadways and bicyclists.

"Culture is a big piece,” says Watson. “The lanes are easy, it’s just paint. Changing how people think about how they get around is the real challenge.”

Watson points to Europe as a potential model for success. “Everyone talks about Europe like it was always a haven for bikes, but if you went to Copenhagen 40 years ago you would have seen lots of cars and far fewer bikes than today,” he says. “With the oil crisis in the ’70s, people there made a conscious decision to make a long-term investment in bicycle infrastructure and educate the population — particularly children — about biking, and the result is the relative paradise for bikers we see today.”

Seiderman seems to use this as a model. “I will have done my job,” she says, “when it’s safe for a 10-year-old kid to bike to school or the park on their own.”

That time has not yet come. At a recent Critical Mass ride, two Boston University students pointed to the unsafe conditions along the stretch of Comm Ave that borders the school. “Mayor Menino may ride his bike in the city,” said Amanda James, “but he doesn’t ride out on Comm Ave.” Her companion at the event had seen a girl on a bike hit by a car just a few days earlier.

Freedman, meanwhile, indicates that the city’s efforts are working. The summit, she tells the Phoenix, yielded some 45 ideas and suggestions from the community, all of which will be given consideration.

“You can call it lip service,” said one biker at the summit, who preferred not to give her name, “but it’s the first time we ever got lip service.”   ^

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