It usually comes as something of a surprise to people that I do not know the people who are running lights or riding on the sidewalk any better than they know the driver who parked at a bus stop or refusing to pick a lane. All cyclists are not created equally.
In years past, I always wished people would ride more and that the city would be more bike friendly. In more recent times, I got my wish, and now I regret I made it. The rise of programs like Hubway, which rented its 1 millionth bike last month, and the cultural shift in acceptance of bicycles as an alternative form of transportation have led to an explosion of riders on Boston's roads. The problem is that most of them don't know how to ride in the city, and it's making us all look bad.
Part of this is an information problem. Many people, both in cars and on bikes, don't know that bikes are supposed to follow the same rules as other vehicles. The sidewalk rule is sketchy, but given that you're definitely not supposed to ride on sidewalks in "business districts" and there are businesses virtually everywhere in Boston, riding on sidewalks is, generally speaking, a good thing to avoid.
More than anything though, there's the problem of inability to enforce bike safety rules. Sure, the city of Boston can give you a $20 fine for blowing a red light, but they can't do anything if you don't pay it, and $20 is barely a penalty anyways. Meanwhile, folks ride the wrong way in the bike lane on streets as busy as Washington and Columbus right by police and nothing is said or done. This latter infraction, which is one of the more common, is incredibly dangerous to everyone. Not only is the cyclist who is going the wrong way increasing its velocity toward the vehicle it is potentially getting in an accident with, they are also speeding toward people who are going quickly in the right direction in a path that is too narrow to avoid collision in.
Barring any legal changes, there are still things that can be done to increase bike safety. Stopping cyclists who are breaking traffic laws regularly is not a great answer, but the hassle of having to be lectured by police when you're trying to get to work might deter some people. Better, more publicly displayed rules of the road posted strategically around bike areas would also help.
|Good rules from Hubway, |
but not visible enough
Being a cyclist in the city is dangerous business, but it's on us as riders to contribute to the safety of our whole community. So long as seeing riders ride like assholes every day is common practice, it will be difficult to get folks to rally around the idea that kids who get hit by buses are victims rather than reckless.