our cycling community, and City, was rocked by the tragic death of
Boston University student Christopher Weigl. By coincidence, a
hearing on bicycle safety brought the community together at City
Hall later that day. Both events have many left asking what’s being
done to make our city safe for cyclists, and rightfully so.
Personally, I have been inspired by the outpouring of concern,
support, validation, and sense of togetherness in our efforts to
make Boston a world-class caliber city for bicycling.
Over the past five years, our Boston Bikes program has grown
tremendously. Bicycle infrastructure is popping up in every
neighborhood. A few years ago, when I announced “the car is no
longer king” in Boston, it was
before we had 675,000 trips on Hubway and before 9,000 young people
went through bicycle education classes in schools around the city.
That vision has
guided the rapid growth in cycling throughout Boston.
It is the close-knit sense of community that impresses me most about
bikers in Boston, and it is that community that came together last
week. It is the collective force of that community and the
unfortunate accidents of this summer and fall that are cemented
in our minds today. Through our Boston Bikes program, we speak often
about the six “E’s” of bicycle planning. And, it’s the six “E’s”
that become the constant refrain when discussing solutions that can
bring an end to these tragedies.
While there is certainly more work to be done, sometimes it is
helpful to share some of the pieces already in action:
Distribution of bicycle safety information has been underway for the
past few years, and we’re upping our efforts by including the
information in all
parking violation mailings.
On-bike education workshops piloted
this fall, targeting women and communities in Roxbury. Our Youth
Cycling Program instructs more than 4,000 young cyclists
each year, and this number will again increase in 2013 thanks to
support from TD Bank. It is critical we build the next generation of
safe riders in Boston.
Boston Bikes, Boston Transportation Department and a committed group
of advisors from
the cycling community are nearing completion of a Bicycle Network
Planning process. The public
process evaluated every street in the City of Boston, and will make
facility recommendations for a
robust bicycle network. In addition to more miles of bike lanes, the
City is testing new types of facilities, like priority-shared lanes,
neighborways, and cycle tracks in 2013.
Enforcement. Transportation Department enforcement
officers wrote more than 1,500 tickets to drivers parked in bicycle
lanes this year. And, Boston Bikes is
working on analyzing data from the Mayor’s Hotline to determine
additional location patterns. The Boston Police have also stepped up
traffic enforcement this fall.
Every road user in Boston needs to start taking more responsibility
for their actions. It’s easy to shift blame when we see a car or a
bike not following the rules, but we all must start taking the issue
more seriously. One cyclist going through a red light hurts all
cyclists in the court of public opinion. In addition to the work of
Boston Police, cyclists must self-police.
Each year, Boston Bikes leads a volunteer-staffed bicycle count.
Those volunteers rise at 6 a.m. on chilly September mornings to
count fellow riders, and are the reason we can confidently say that
ridership has increased significantly. Studying
corridors and innovations in infrastructure has long been apart of
the bicycle program. The evolving operations of the Hubway system
and the current priority shared lane study for Brighton Avenue,
which will be implemented this spring, are an example of
that work. An analysis of police reports from every bicycle accident
in the past three years is currently underway, and will continue to
help us improve our
Since the beginning, Boston Bikes has been about bicycles for all
citizens – from every neighborhood and especially for low-income
residents. The Roll it Forward initiative has collected, repaired,
and distributed more than 1,600 bicycles in the past two years to
Boston residents. Each bicycle comes with a helmet, a lock, and
on-bike education. When Hubway launched it was critical to give
membership access to all residents. So far the City has distributed
more than 500 subsidized memberships in a
multi-agency effort that has become a model for other cities. Equity
is an important common thread through all bike programs, education,
and infrastructure projects.
Encouragement. This week more than most, all cyclists need a
little bit of encouragement to keep pedaling. The degree of
separation from a bicycle accident is not too far for many of us.
Take the time to say hello to your fellow cyclist at a red light
this week. Thank them for riding. Thank them for cutting health care
costs. For cleaning our air. For making our city vibrant. For being
economical. For being part of Boston’s biking community.