“This is a fight we have to win. We have to do more.” Said Senator Ben Cardin at last week's 2013 National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. The focus this year was on how bicycling means business, and this was explored, discussed, and debated in workshop, over meals, and during coffee breaks. There were over 750 attendees from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and three Canadian provinces, and we heard from influential top leaders like New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
[caption id="attachment_20328" align="alignleft" width="301"] Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood[/caption]
Due to a snow storm, most of the congressional meetings were canceled, including all Massachusetts delegation meetings. Nonetheless, we were still able to discuss important bicycling issues, share stories, and network with other advocates from across the country. Because we were not able to meet with our delegation on Capitol Hill, we are working on scheduling meetings with them locally to continue our ongoing relationship, and as well as build new ones with Senators Warren and Cowan and Representative Kennedy.
To watch videos of the keynote and plenary talks, visit the League’s YouTube Channel. If you were not available to attend the Summit, the League has made the presentations from break-out sessions public; click here to view.
The National Women's Bicycling Forum
[caption id="attachment_20330" align="alignright" width="305"] Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth[/caption]The day before the National Bike Summit, the National Women’s Bicycling Forum took place, which had an inspiring number of women bicycle advocates. These included Georgena Terry, the first bicycle fabricator to create women-specific bikes, and Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) who discussed health benefits, equity and transportation at the federal level, as well as her moving story. She lost both of her legs in Iraq and now uses her hand-crank bicycle as means of transportation and recreation (not to mention she has completed several marathons on her bike as well).
Congresswoman Duckworth said, “As you promote cycling as a way to be fit and as a way to become part of your community, think of the disabled. Three steps can permit me from getting into a bike shop. Simple things that cost little prevent many disabled people from participating. Continue to help promote this lifestyle, you are making a difference in this avenue.” Along with her inspiring words, many other speakers at the Women's Forum had words of wisdom.
[caption id="attachment_20325" align="aligncenter" width="413"] MA Attendees & MassBike Staff[/caption]
The biggest ask for Congress this year is to support USDOT establishing a safety goal for bicyclists. It might sound unbelievable, but right now there is no goal for reducing bicyclist fatalities. The League wants to a 50% reduction by 2020 - we can do it, but first we need to formally establish the goal.
The League is also pushing the Senate to confirm Sally Jewell as Secretary of the Interior. Jewell is the President and CEO of REI, in addition to being an active conservationist. She was awarded the National Audubon Society's Rachel Carson Award in 2009 for her work. With places like the Minuteman National Park and the Cape Cod Seashore under the Department of the Interior's supervision, having a leader who gets it is important to the Bay State.
Here is what we are asking you to do:
- Tweet your Representative and Senators (you can find their Twitter handles below).
- For your Representative, write: "[@RepresentativeX] Pls sign the letter to set bike safety goals #nbs13 #MassBike"
- For your Senator, write: "[@SenatorX] Pls support the confirmation of Sally Jewell for Sec of Interior #nbs13 #MassBike"
- District 1, Richard Neal - @RepRichardNeal
- District 2, Jim McGovern - @RepMcGovern
- District 3, Niki Tsongas - @Nikiinthehouse
- District 4, Joseph Kennedy - @RepJoeKennedy
- District 5, Ed Markey - @Markeymemo
- District 6, John Tierney- @RepTierney
- District 7, Mike Capuano - Not on Twitter
- District 8, Stephen Lynch - @RepStephenLynch
- District 9, Bill Keating - @USRepKeating
- Senator Elizabeth Warren - @SenWarren
- Senator Mo Cowan - @SenMoCowan
Don't use the Twitter? Then do it the old-fashioned way - by email! Email your Representative and Senators asking them to support Sally Jewell for Secretary of the Interior, and that they sign the petition to create bicyclist safety goals (found here). Be sure to CC Action@MassBike.org. Thanks!
Each evening features a pre-dinner “social hour”, and optional nightly field trips to local attractions. The Mass BikePike Tour is affordably priced – less than $400 if you sign up before March! – and proceeds go to MassBike.
This year's ride features the rolling hills and picturesque towns of north-central Massachusetts, from the Johnny Appleseed Trail to the Connecticut River Valley. The ride will also head north into Keene, NH, and (long ride only) Brattleboro, VT.
The Mass BikePike Tour offers two routes each day. The shorter route is between 25 and 45 miles and the longer route is between 45 and 70 miles. For more information please visit www.massbikepike.org.
The current transportation authorization, MAP-21, was passed after years of delay and much hard fought negotiation. The united voice of bike advocates was a crucial element keeping even our small share of funding from being totally gutted. However, it expires in a short 19 months from now and the current Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair has already been quoted calling bicycle-related investments into question.
We want you to join us in D.C. to tell our congressional delegation to continue supporting cycling.
In a few weeks, MassBike will be leading Massachusetts advocates to Washington D.C for the 2013 National Bike Summit hosted by the League of American Bicyclists. It's a great experience, and we hope you will join us. To register for the National Bike Summit click here.
If you will not able to make it down to the Capitol with us, we still encourage you to call your Representative and Senators on March 6th. We'll post more about this as the date approaches, so stay tuned.
Even better, the day before the summit the Women's Bicycling Forum will take place, which will highlight the rising influence of women in the bicycling movement. Both women and men are welcome to attend. To register for the Women's Bicycling Forum, click here.
If you have any questions feel free to call 617-542-2453 or email Advocacy@MassBike.org.
"An Act To Protect Vulnerable Road Users", SD 723, co-sponsored by:
- Senators William Brownsberger (lead sponsor), Sonia Chang-Diaz, Katherine Clark, and James Eldridge.
- Representatives Denise Andrews, Gailanne Cariddi, Carolyn Dykema, Lori Ehrlich, Kenneth Gordon, Jonathan Hecht, Kate Hogan, Kay Khan, Peter Kocot, Denise Provost, David Rogers, John Scibak, Carl Sciortino, and Frank Smizik
"An Act To Protect Bicyclists In Bicycle Lanes", SD 731, co-sponsored by:
- Senators William Brownsberger (lead sponsor), Sonia Chang-Diaz, Katherine Clark, Kenneth Donnelly, James Eldridge, Patricia Jehlen,
- Representatives Denise Andrews, Carolyn Dykema, Lori Ehrlich, Kenneth Gordon, Jonathan Hecht, Kate Hogan, Kay Khan, Peter Kocot, Elizabeth Malia, Denise Provost, David Rogers, John Scibak, Carl Sciortino, and Frank Smizik
We could not have won the support of so many legislators without your help, so many thanks to all of you who called or emailed your senator and representative!
Our efforts to build even stronger support in the Legislature are just beginning, but this is a great start. Over the next few weeks, we will be reaching out to like-minded organizations around the state to sign on in support of these bills - and they will help us win over more legislative supporters. If you are involved with an organization you would like to see support either or both of the bills, please let us know who to contact by emailing their information to Executive Director David Watson, David@MassBike.org.
- The Wellesley Police Department performed a thorough investigation beginning immediately following the crash. They interviewed witnesses, collected evidence at the scene, reviewed traffic camera video, executed a search warrant at the company that owns the truck, impounded the truck, and performed extensive forensic analysis on the truck. Police tracked down the driver and interviewed him at his home the next day, and concluded that he was not being truthful in his account of the incident. They performed a simulation of the crash using the truck, a bicycle, and an officer the same size as the driver to determine what the driver could have seen. You can read the entire report of the investigation here, but be warned that it is graphic and disturbing.
- The police filed a variety of charges against the driver, including motor vehicle homicide. The driver was also charged for Unsafe Overtaking of a Bicyclist, a law passed as part of MassBike's 2009 Bicyclist Safety Act.
- Prosecutors presented the case to a grand jury, which, in December, declined to indict the driver, effectively bringing an end to the investigation. Grand juries are county-wide, and closed to public view, so we will never know who was on the jury, what evidence was presented, or what was said in jury deliberations. The grand jury would have been composed of citizens from multiple communities in Norfolk County.
- The Motsenigos family has filed a civil lawsuit against the driver and the companies that own and operate the truck.
So what went wrong? Based on the information available to us, it appears that the police and prosecutors took this case very seriously, and performed a thorough and professional investigation. Ultimately, the decision was in the hands of the grand jury and we cannot know what was in their minds. We can and should assume that the grand jurors took their job seriously - they are constantly reminded of the gravity of their decisions. But we can assume that many of them, perhaps all of them, are not cyclists - we represent a growing, but still small proportion of the population. We can be certain that most of the jurors, probably all of them, are drivers - most people, including most bicyclists, are.
I will speculate that some, perhaps all, of the jurors put themselves in the place of the truck driver and asked themselves the question "should I face felony criminal charges if I accidentally hit a bicyclist?" And in the world as it exists today, with bicyclists forced to mix with cars and trucks on roads that were not designed to be shared, and inadequate education of both motorists and bicyclists, those jurors might have decided it would not be fair to hold the truck driver accountable. The system did not fail us, but our fellow citizens did.
This is a cultural issue, where most people still view bicyclists (if they think about us at all) as daredevils and people on the fringe of society. They do not yet see us as vulnerable individuals sharing the road, people like them who deserve greater protection and vigilance. We need to get past this cultural divide, get more rapidly to the point where bicyclists are as accepted and respected as any other person on the road. We are working on this culture shift at MassBike, and we are thinking hard about how to accelerate it. We need your help, first with your ideas, and later with your participation as we move forward.
Please give us your thoughts in the comments.
MassBike's bills are the "Act To Protect Vulnerable Road Users", S.D. 723, and the "Act To Protect Bicyclists In Bicycle Lanes", S.D. 731. Many thanks to Senator William Brownsberger, who sponsored and filed the bills on our behalf.
YOU CAN HELP
We are actively seeking co-sponsors for all these bills, but the deadline is February 1, so there isn't much time! Please email your own state senator and state representative and ask them to co-sponsor these bills. If you're not sure who they are or how to email them, enter your address here.
This marks the second time we have filed the Vulnerable Road Users Bill. In the last session, it got stuck in committee, but we succeeded in raising awareness of the risks posed by motor vehicles to bicyclists, walkers, and other vulnerable users. The bill will strongly encourage motorists to exercise more caution when operating around vulnerable road users, will educate motorists to operate more safely, and will provide law enforcement with additional tools to protect vulnerable road users. The bill:
- Defines “vulnerable users” to include pedestrians, bicyclists, and others including wheelchair users, all non-motorized users, and horseback riders (an even more inclusive list than last time!)
- Enhances the fines applicable to motorists who kill or seriously injure vulnerable users
- Requires traffic safety education
- Requires community service
And, new for the VRU Bill: We have added protection that makes it illegal to physically harass a vulnerable user with a motor vehicle, and enables you to sue motorists for a wide range of harassing behavior.
The Bicycle Lane Bill is very straight-forward and addresses a common problem: It makes it a violation statewide for the driver of a motor vehicle to park or stand in a marked bicycle lane or other on-street bicycle facility. When a motor vehicle parks or stands in a bike lane, it endangers bicyclists by causing them to move out of the bike lane into traffic to avoid the parked vehicle, or squeeze between the parked vehicle and the curb or other parked cars. In most communities in Massachusetts, it is not clearly a violation to park in a bike lane. While the City of Boston has recognized the problem and adopted its own ordinance, we run the risk of a patchwork of inconsistent and confusing local laws if we do not act statewide.
MassBike also strongly supports bills filed by our partners:
The "Act Relative To Active Streets And Healthy Communities", S.D. 676/H.D. 1917, will create a program that encourages cities and towns across Massachusetts to routinely include Complete Streets design elements in locally funded road projects, making streets that are safer and more convenient for bicyclists, pedestrians, and all users - not just cars.
The "Act Relative To Speed Limits", H.D. 3991, would reduce the prevailing speed limit (the default when there is no sign) from 30mph to 25mph. Even a small reduction in speed limits can dramatically increase the chances of a bicyclist or pedestrian surviving a collision with a motor vehicle.
Finally, the Transportation for Massachusetts coalition (MassBike is a member) has filed three bills aimed at increasing revenue for transportation and accountability for transportation decisions. These bills support the very progressive transportation plan recently proposed by the Governor, including increased funding for biking and walking.
We highly encourage you to take a look at the plan. Of particular interest is the "Policy/Planning" section, which describes the ways in which MassDOT intends to expand multimodal options, support livable communities, and triple the mode share of bicycling, walking and transit use by 2030. Contained within this section are goals to increase the creation of Complete Streets projects, expand bicycle parking and transit access, and continue expanding the length and connections of biking and walking facilities. And that's just a start.
There is still a lot of work to do to make sure that these high-level policies are reflected in the projects and operations on the ground. In an organization with 6,000 employees, changing culture can be a tall order. However, this document is a major step in the right direction with far-reaching implications, and we were glad that we could be a part of the development process.
This year is going to be HUGE for transportation funding. The governor recently announced that he is seeking to pump $1 billion more annually into the transportation system, and MassDOT intends to devote a nice slice of that to bike/ped projects. However, negotiations are going to be tough with the Legislature, and we can't let biking and walking become a bargaining chip in the process.
Join us on April 11 at the State House to say with one united voice: Pass the Governor's transportation plan!
We will also be educating legislators on the following topics:
- Safer street design
- Senior Safety Zones
- Lowering speed limits on neighborhood streets
- Vulnerable Road Users
- Prohibiting cars parking in bicycle lanes.
- Snow Removal
Mark your calendars, Thursday, April 11th from 10am-1pm in Nurses Hall at the State House for your opportunity to meet legislators and fellow Bay State advocates. Find more details at the event page (it will be updated as we learn more about the legislation and work out the event logistics). This event is free and open to the public. Last year, biking and walking advocates came from around the state and this year it is crucial that we have an even more powerful showing on Beacon Hill from people who value livable communities, who want safer roads, or just people who bike and walk for fun, fitness or transportation.
If you have any questions, please email Events@MassBike.org. More details to come soon!
The funding plan proposed by Governor Patrick includes a significant increase in funding for biking and walking, dedicating $430 million over the next ten years. Click here for the full plan.
We like the Governor's bold move to fix our broken transportation system, and think it will provide better transportation for everyone in Massachusetts, whether you bike, walk, drive, or take transit. There is going to be much wrangling between the Legislature and the Governor about where the revenue will come from. Governor Patrick has proposed a 1% income tax increase (softened by a 0.75% sales tax decrease). It is likely that the funding plan and the revenue proposals will change as the Legislature considers the whole package.
We will work hard with the Legislature and our allies at Transportation for Massachusetts to make sure that funding for bicycling actually does increase to meet the state's (and our) ambitious goals to get more people on bikes. However, a strong, unified voice from people across Massachusetts will be needed to see this plan become reality.
Here is how you and your friends can help:
- Read the plan or the summary.
- Email your legislators (look them up here) as well as House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray (see below for sample text).
- Express your support on Facebook and Twitter. Forward this message to your friends and family.
- Receive bulletins from MassBike and Transportation for Massachusetts by signing up for our email lists.
- Submit a letter to your local paper, comment on articles on-line, or call in to talk radio. There will be people who do not see the value of investing in biking and walking, and they need to hear from you!
- Email us at email@example.com to let us know who you've contacted.
Support this work by joining or donating to MassBike today!
Sample text of email to your legislator:
I support investing in our transportation system and I am writing to ask you to do the same.
Massachusetts needs a long-term strategy that will fix what’s broken, reduce delays and congestion, and make our cities and towns healthier and more prosperous.
I use the transportation system every day. I want to know that it will work when I need it—that roads and bridges will stay open, that the trains will run on time, that the roads will be safe for bicycling, and that we can build the walking and bicycling trails that my community wants.
We have some hard choices, but you can make sure that we get a fair blend of revenues and modernizations that add up to the $1 billion investment that we need.
Thank you for your attention, and your action.