Cultivating Resources

Growing cycling rates in Boston to levels that will compare with the lofty heights reached by European cities, or even American ones like Portland, Oregon will require Cultivating Resources.

In this definition, resources are the raw materials that the city uses to improve cycling safety and raise the cycling rate. They can be anything from cold hard cash infused into the city’s Boston Bikes program, to more bicycle staff or training at any city or state agency, to improved data collection, to better communication between departments.

Technically in its infancy, the Boston Cyclists Union has jumped into this area with gusto.

Crash Data
Our first major accomplishment was separating bicycles from pedestrians in the crash data collected by two city agencies: Boston Emergency Medical Services and the Boston Police Department. Both of these changes occurred in March and April of 2010.

The real results of these changes remain to be seen, but they will likely have a profoundly positive effect on safety improvements to Boston streets. Prior to these changes, there was no way to tell comprehensively where bicycle accidents were happening, how they were happening, or who they were happening to!

Now, not only does the union have the ability to see and analyze this information, work is underway at the Boston Public Health Commission to regularly report crash data findings to other agencies, such as the Boston Transportation Department (BTD). BTD can then put this information to good use when redesigning streets and intersections.

Advocacy and education groups can also benefit, by seeing how the majority of accidents are occurring, and adjusting their bike safety education programs to highlight those potential pitfalls. The crash data is also useful to neighborhood and civic associations when advocating for particular improvements to their streets.

Our first Crash Map of the City of Boston will be launched here in late November, 2010.

MBTA

Collaborating with MassBike, our statewide bike advocacy group, we approached the MBTA in April 2010 with a number of suggestions for improving bus driver training at the agency. This has so far yielded spectacular policy change results that have been noted to us by many Boston riders. Here’s a quick list of some of the changes:

  • Bicycle scenarios added to the bus driving simulator at the MBTA driver training center.
  • Bus drivers no longer required to honk at every bike rider they come upon. They now are asked to honk only if the cyclist appears to be erratic or oblivious to the approaching bus.
  • When a cyclist and a bike are playing “leapfrog” from bus stop to bus stop, the driver is required to slow down and let the cyclist get ahead to reduce the potential for conflicts.
  • Bike/bus safety posters added to bus driver break rooms and garages.
  • Remedial bus/bike safety training for any driver who receives multiple reports of unsafe behavior around cyclists.

To report unsafe bus drivers, get the number off the back of the bus and the bus route number, note the time of day and location of the bus, and if possible, get a description of the driver.

Then call 617-222-3200. And, as always, be polite!

The City’s Bicycle Budget

In November 2010, the Boston Cyclists Union teamed up with well-known bike advocate and Livable Streets Alliance board member Steve Miller to take advantage of the beginning of the city’s budget process. November is when the heads of the city’s various agencies begin preparing their budget requests to the Menino Administration. Beginning with the Boston Transportation Department, we plan to meet with the heads of all the City of Boston departments that relate to bicycles, and ask what can be done in these difficult economic times to boost the bottom line for bicycles as transportation.