Things looking up at 'Safety Summit follow-up'

The most recent addition to Jamaica Plain's bike lane network—the intersection of Heath Street and S. Huntington Ave.

A few dozen cycling advocates enjoyed a positive vibe at City Hall last night, as Boston bike czarina Nicole Freedman and several state and city department representatives listed off their bike-related accomplishments since April.

Even outside the hall cyclists are buzzing about new bike lanes here and there—most recently on S. Huntington Ave—but this meeting, which followed up on a Bike Safety Summit this April publicized a lot of the work that the city, state and our local advocacy groups have been doing behind the scenes.

One of the centerpieces of the new bike-friendly Boston is the significant changes to the bike crash reporting systems that both Boston Emergency Medical Services and the Boston Police Department have carried out.

Prompted by direct requests from the Boston Cyclists Union both before and after April’s fatal crash on Huntington Avenue in Mission Hill, both agencies have separated bicycle crashes from the larger pedestrian category—making bike-only crash data available for the first time.

“Now, with a touch of a button, we’ll be able to pull up all the bike accidents that have been reported,” said BPD Captain Jack Danilecki.

Danilecki, former commander of the bike patrol and BC High graduate, has also been identified by the Union and Boston Bikes as having the potential to be a strong internal advocate for cyclists within BPD. The Union has requested that Danilecki attend Boston Bikes Advisory Group meetings to distribute and discuss each month’s crash, theft and other police reports concerning bikes as a way to create a stronger communication link between the BPD and cycling communities. Danilecki, now on night command for the department, said he’d be happy to attend.

BPD is also implementing new bicycle-specific training at the police academy, including actually riding a bike. More controversially, the department is also targeting particular areas for enforcement of cycling laws. Danilecki said around 100 citations have been given to cyclists, largely for running red lights in areas near Boston University. He also said BPD has given out tickets to motorists for parking in bike lanes—though he did not give numbers or locations for these citations.

Bike lawyer Andrew Fischer, present at the meeting, commented to the crowd that this new attitude from the police was a very positive turn of events.

The MBTA, which has been working with the Union, MassBike and the Camrbidge Bicycle Committee since April on improving bus driver training for bikes, also played its hand. Announcing that “If you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you” stickers will be added to all buses, that bicycle scenarios had been added to their bus driving simulator, and that they are working on a bicycle specific training for drivers who have received complaints from cyclists (The number to do that, by the way, is 617-222-3200. Make sure to have bus route number, bus number, exact time of day and location, and if possible, a description of the driver). Currently the T is also sending out a memo to all drivers that does alter several common practices in bicyclists favor. Bus drivers will now only honk if they feel the cyclist has not noticed them or is riding erratically, instead of honking every time they see a cyclist. Also, buses will allow cyclists to get ahead of them, instead of playing “leapfrog” by passing them between every stop.

The advocates have also been pressing the MBTA to host a dialogue between cyclists and riders to come up with more specific solutions to the conflicts happening on the road, but no word from the T on this yet.

Freedman also talked about the city’s efforts to install more cycletracks, otherwise known as physically-separated bike lanes. In a meeting on the topic with the mayor earlier this week, Freedman said: “the mayor said we want to be progressive, and let’s pursue this in public meetings and see what happens.”

Reinforcing this point, Vineet Gupta of the Boston Transportation Department encouraged cyclists to attend their local public meetings on transportation projects.

“That’s where this will be decided,” he said.

The mission of the Boston Cyclists Union from the beginning has been to help people in the neighborhoods organize in favor of safer conditions for cyclists in their own communities. Subscribers to our newsletter also receive occasional “Action Alerts” for crucial transportation meetings in their neighborhoods. When you get an Action Alert from the Union, pay attention!! It may be your favorite route to work that is being discussed!


  1. matt on September 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    thanks for the summary, i couldn’t make it.

    but “czarina”?? i think she’d prefer ‘czar’ 🙂

    • pete on October 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

      Thanks Matt. Her real title is “Bicycle Coordinator” but “Czarina” is what the press has been using lately, which is where we picked it up (admittedly without researching the term). Looking at the definition of the word is enlightening. One might think it means a female ruler, but actually it means the wife of a female ruler which definitely does not describe Nicole’s role! Duly noted!

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