Make Cycling Safe

Yet another cyclist—60-year-old Bernard Lavins–was killed in a collision with a truck in Cambridge this week. It should be clear by now that cars and trucks are winning the war against cyclists. Cyclists may have the higher moral ground, but they are outmanned and outgunned. They may be helping the fight against climate change, traveling on their own power instead of polluting the atmosphere and degrading the infrastructure. But they are few and drivers are many, and there really isn’t much of a fight when a human being on a bicycle goes up against a 4000-pound car or a 12000-pound truck. Maybe if cyclists wore armor, like the armor that encloses drivers as they zip around town.

Bostonians are an independent group. We flout the rules, in cars and on bikes. We go through lights, drive through crosswalks and walk signs. Pedestrians meander across streets. Mothers push carriages with babies in them out in front of cars. Cyclists also break the rules, riding on sidewalks, going the wrong way on one ways, pedaling through red lights. Texting while driving doesn’t help..

The number of car accident fatalities ticked up last year by 7% according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration after falling for a number of years. The most significant increase was in the deaths of cyclists and pedestrians. Self-driving cars and trucks can’t come soon enough to rescue us from our callousness and our need to drive by ourselves when we could be taking public transportation or walking.

Boston has made progress in creating bike paths and bike lanes, but surely we can do better than ranking 26 th in bike friendly cities. Boston has also made an effort to encourage bike use with a bike-sharing program ( Hub Bikes ). This has led to an increase in the number of people commuting by bike and using bikes to get around. This is good, right? Not when heavy traffic conflicts with increased cycling. That is where we are now and the result is frustration on the part of both cyclists and drivers.

What can we do in Boston to make cycling safer for both drivers and cyclists? One idea would be to use our current infrastructure to begin to nudge drivers out of their cars and to encourage cycling by creating safe zones for biking. On Sundays, part of Memorial Drive is dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians. What if some of our secondary roads (or one lane of two lane roads) were for bikes and pedestrians only? Take Beacon Street in Cambridge for example. Now one third of the traffic on Beacon consists of cyclists who ride Beacon all the way into Boston. Could Beacon Street be a car free zone for a couple of hours a day? Could one lane of two lane roads like Massachusetts Avenue be reserved for bikes? Could secondary roads that run parallel to roads like Mass. Ave. be restricted to bikes (abutters excepted)?

We’re paying a cost in lost lives for the lamentable state of our infrastructure. Are we willing to pay a few cents more for a gallon of gas to add separate bike lanes and to expand mass transportation?

With millennials eschewing purchasing cars , the rise of car sharing and the advent of autonomous cars along with the ability to use technology to work from home, we are changing our relationship with the automobile. The romance is nearing its end. Rather than moving out of the city to drive in by car, Americans are moving back in to the city. One of the positive elements of living in the city is that we can walk and bike and take the T to get around. With this in mind, we need to keep moving toward a healthier lifestyle both for us and for what we are coming to realize is our fragile ecosystem. First and foremost, we need to make cycling safer for everyone involved by separating bikes and cars.

 

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