Last month, nearly 300 people with bicycles gathered in Copley Square on a Sunday afternoon. After a short rally on the steps of Trinity Church, they pedalled down Boylston Street towards the Public Garden, a park surrounded by 4-lane, one-way roads that at times function more like highways than like city streets.
For an hour and a half these intrepid cyclists rode laps around the Public Garden with the goal of demonstrating that the roads are wide enough to not only carry the motor-vehicle traffic that uses them, but are also wide enough to accommodate parking-protected bike lanes, without a significant impact on traffic. The message was clear: it’s time for the City to make way for bike lanes.
The press, always searching for a good story, picked up our event and coverage of it appeared in the evening news and local papers. The event even elicited a response from the Mayor’s office.
Unfortunately, two weeks after calling attention to the over-built streets of the Back Bay, that are frequently the sites of drag racing and excessive speeding, a speeding car on Commonwealth Ave struck and killed Rick Archer while he was riding with a friend.
Rick’s friends quickly mobilized a ghost bike memorial, to be installed at the scene of the fatal crash on the same day that the Boston City Council held a budget hearing for the Transportation Department. Following the ghost bike dedication, almost 300 people rode to City Hall and filled the City Council chamber to capacity, forcing the City to open up TWO overflow rooms to accommodate everyone. After passionate pleas by City Councilors to the Transportation Department to do more to end traffic fatalities, dozens of Rick’s friends and advocates testified to the Council about the need to act far more quickly than is planned in order to prevent more serious injuries and fatalities on our streets.
In the month leading up to this hearing, we called upon you to send letters and call the Mayor’s office and ask him to allocate more funding for Vision Zero. Those calls and emails, combined with the rides and the overwhelming show of support at the Transportation Department hearing, convinced the Mayor to take action.
Last week it was announced that the Vision Zero budget would be increased by 33%, from $3 to $4 million, with the additional funding going directly to the Neighborhood Slow Streets (NSS) Program. That funding will allow the City to implement the NSS Program in 5, rather than 2, neighborhoods next year.
This is a win worth celebrating. Our advocacy is working. The Mayor and our City Councilors are hearing us and taking action. While the $1 million is far short of what we’ve been asking of the Mayor, it’s a step in the right direction, and one that will have a measurable impact in our neighborhoods.
Our work is far from over, as the Mayor recently demonstrated on a radio show where he told people walking and biking to pay more attention in order to reduce traffic crashes, when we know the majority of crashes that are taking place are caused by speeding and distracted driving, but that won’t stop us from continuing to work to make Boston a truly world-class biking city, where traffic fatalities are a thing of the past.
We’re all in this together, and we will continue to call upon you to take action. Together we will transform our streets so that anyone, from a 8-year old to an 80-year old, is safe biking from home to work, school or anywhere they need to go.