Bikers applaud safety law

By By Rebecca Fenton, News Staff

With high fuel costs and traffic-filled streets, biking around Boston has not only become a more popular, greener alternate mode of transportation, but has now also become safer. On Jan. 15 Governor Deval Patrick signed the Bicyclist Safety Bill, drafted by the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike), in an effort to improve the health and sustainability of the state while encouraging bike safety.
The bill passed after eight years and four legislative sessions, and implements changes for bicyclists and motorists alike. The new laws include a host of safety initiatives from police training on bicycle lawto the permission for bicyclists to ride side by side in situations where the passing of cars is not impeded, and explains how to safely share the road with other motorists and bicyclists.
‘It creates some more definite legal framework for what is and what isn’t acceptable for how cars and bikes interact,’ said Shane Jordan, director of education and outreach at MassBike. ‘The goal of the organization is always advocacy, education and just making cycling more fun.’
The safety bill, which requires motorists to yield to all bicyclists turning left and makes motorists liable for hitting bicyclists who ride on the right, seeks to make even the busiest streets of Boston more biker friendly.
‘There is a perception that if you ride your bike in Boston that you’ll be run over right away,’ Jordan said. ‘The reality is that very few crashes involve bikes and cars. You hear about the ones that do because they are a fairly rare occasion. [Massachusetts] as a state has really low bike fatalities.’
Students who commute to Northeastern via bike and share the road with Boston’s aggressive drivers and treacherous wintry conditions agree that bike safety and education are paramount in ensuring a safe ride.
‘I think the laws are great,’ said Rachel Sherman, a middler English major who rides a bike to campus and work.
Part of the bill, that establishes the right to a specific lane for bicyclists, encourages motorists to be conscientious of riders.
‘It’s our mode of transportation,’ Sherman said, regarding how drivers should be more tolerant of bicyclists. ‘It’s environmentally friendly and it’s healthier, too.’
The bill also makes ‘dooring,’ the act of obstructing a bicyclist’s path with a car door, a ticketed offense.
‘I’ve been doored before by a girl getting out of a cab on Huntington Avenue on the way to school,’ said media production and communications major Hanna Furey, who often bikes to school and work.
‘It’s not a problem if you’re pretty aggressive. If you’re passive then drivers will take advantage,’ Furey said on how to safely share the road with motorists. ‘You’re allowed to take the lane; you are a vehicle.’
The new law prohibits motorists from squeezing bicyclists in a narrow lane by passing them and has also implemented mandatory helmet availability at bicycle rental businesses.’
‘It’s so sad to see how many people don’t wear helmets, if you ride a bike enough you’re going to get hit. It’s the reality of it,’ said Furey, who added that the addition of more bike lanes in Boston would decrease the risk of accidents.
MassBike has not only worked to enforce bicyclist safety, but the statewide organization has also hosted education classes and rides, as well as implemented bike cages for the MBTA to make public transit more accessible to bikers. These initiatives, along with the passage of their most recent bill, encourage cyclists to use the roads wisely and with caution.
‘It’s good to see that someone is sticking up for us,’ Sherman said in approval of MassBike’s dedication to pass the new bill. ‘Especially in this economy when we can’t afford gas and cars.’

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