Springfield Youth Studying Bikeability

Earlier in October, MassBike's Program Associate and I (Price) went to Renaissance High School in Springfield to teach their Bike Club about our Bikeability Assessments. We met with the faculty sponsor of the group and students to explain the concept of bikeability, and also took them out on an assessment test run. Moving forward, the plan is to undertake a student-driven assessment of streets near the school for submission to the City, focusing especially on Route 20A (a major street that runs by the school).

This is really exciting work, especially in Springfield - the fourth largest city in New England -  which could see major transportation and economic benefits from being more bike-friendly. Right now, their main bicycle facility is the Connecticut River Walk and Bikeway, but that is mostly used for recreation. This stands in stark contrast to the northern tier of the Pioneer Valley, where Easthampton, Northampton, Hadley and Amherst are all linked via off-road trails and the streets tend to have more bicycle facilities.

We are fortunate to have the opportunity through Mass in Motion for the MassBike staff to be able to provide direct support to Springfield (and Holyoke) on improving their bike infrastructure. MassBike also has a chapter in the Pioneer Valley, which works on a variety of projects and other local initiatives. If you have any questions about other things going on in the Pioneer Valley, or would like to get more involved, email Price@MassBike.org.

MassBike Introduces Multilingual Bicycle Safety Guides

[caption id="attachment_19869" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Bike safety information now available in seven languages[/caption]

Today at the Moving Together bicycle and pedestrian conference in Boston, the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) introduced new versions of its most popular educational publications in seven languages: English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Russian, and Haitian-Creole. Arabic and Portuguese versions will follow shortly. The new materials are:

  • "Go By Bike: A Guide to Bicycling in Massachusetts", filled with valuable information on how to ride safely and legally in traffic;

  • "Go By Bike: A Parent's Guide to Bike Safety", helping parents teach their young riders the basics of safe biking; and

  • "Same Roads, Same Rules" spoke cards, with key tips for bicyclists and motorists to interact more safely.


This marks the first time bicycle safety educational materials have been available in Massachusetts in such a wide range of languages.

MassBike works with bicyclists and communities statewide to make bicycling safer and more convenient, and we are pleased to provide educational resources that better reflect the diversity of our state. "The rapidly increasing popularity of bicycling, combined with MassDOT's recently announced mode shift goal to triple biking in Massachusetts, highlights  the need to make bike safety information available to motorists and bicyclists for whom English may not be their primary language," said David Watson, MassBike Executive Director.

All the new materials will be available for download free-of-charge on our Publications web page, and in print at all events where MassBike has a booth. For larger quantities, contact us. If there are other languages you would like to see, please let us know.

MassBike gratefully acknowledges the hard work of our volunteers, without whom this project would not have been possible:

Project Manager/Intern: Chinh Bui

Translators:
French:

Sumeyra Can

Pierre Albert Maloteau


Haitian Creole:

Andrine Constant

Sebastien Henri-Saturne


Mandarin:

Fang Chao Dong

Wei Chen Shiau



Russian:

Kristina Vu

Anna Morgunova


Spanish:

Karol Salcedo

Chely Allan



Vietnamese:

Chinh Bui

Thu Nguyen

Be Bright: This Fall Stay Visible And In Style

One of the best ways to stay safe while riding is to be visible on the road. That’s why we recommend all cyclists use lights and wear reflective or fluorescent colored clothing. The trouble is that these bright, highly-visible clothes though functional aren’t always considered the most fashionable items. Well we have some good news as it appears that the ever-changing, cyclical trends of fashion have caught up with the never-changing trends of cycling and this year bright colors are in. The brighter the better! In fact, many top designers are now offering every type of garment imaginable in unbelievably bright colors. There is so much neon clothing on the market it is reasonable to believe you could put together an entire head to toe outfit in a single neon color!

The incoming trend of fashionable neon color is especially good news for commuting cyclists as we head into the colder, darker months when it is more likely that you will be riding either to or from work in the dark. So next time someone makes a remark about your safety vest or other neon riding clothes be sure to let them know that you are just trying to follow the fashion trends!

State Sets Target For More Biking

Yesterday, MassBike joined other advocates and officials to celebrate the announcement of the state's mode shift goals. The big news for bike advocates? They want to triple the rate of biking, walking and transit use by 2030.

[caption id="attachment_19859" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Courtesy of MassDOT[/caption]

As Secretary Davey noted, "I have news for you: We will build no more superhighways in this state." Without a shift to more biking, walking and transit use, our highways will become parking lots. And with dwindling gas tax revenues and no additional federal support, the state wouldn't be able to build more highways even if they wanted to. The announcement yesterday wasn't just a smart move, it was really the only move.

This announcement is part of the GreenDOT Implementation Plan that we commented on back in August. Fortunately, MassBike is in the position to be a strong partner in developing the details and helping to reach the goal once it is finalized. While the goal might seem like a lot, it is definitely achievable. According to the American Community Survey (ACS) a paltry 0.7% of Massachusetts residents biked to work in 2011 (the rates are higher in cities). While there are a lot of limitations to ACS data, the point still remains that increasing our statewide rate to 2.1% isn't setting the bar too high.

In order to reach this goal, every community in the state will need to be made aware of the benefits that come with better bicycling conditions. The state, our cities and towns, and advocates are going to have to work together toward this goal. In the end, it's not only because of crippling traffic congestion or air quality, energy security or public health - it's because we couldn't build our way out of the problem if we had to. Kudos to MassDOT for their mode shift goal, and we'll be working closely with them as they move forward with it.

My First Crash: Lessons Learned

During my first months working at MassBike I was spending time adjusting to my new bike, riding to work and to the idea of being almost car-free. After I moved to Brookline, my commute doubled and, despite the more intimidating route on Beacon Street, I was enjoying the change in weather and the longer ride. Two Sundays ago, I decided to take a bike ride around 5pm.

Then it happened - I was doored.

It happened so fast and I was in such a state of shock my brain shut down. A driver broadsided me with her car door and after I fell, another passing vehicle ran over my foot that was sticking out in the road.

Despite all of this, my first reaction: I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine.

[caption id="attachment_19854" align="alignright" width="300"] I made it out with a broken finger; My bike was unscratched![/caption]

What happened next is where my experience working at MassBike should have guided me. I should have called 911 and insisted on getting the names of both drivers and their license plate numbers. I didn't do this. Both drivers made sure I was OK, and the woman who doored me walked me back to my apartment. Despite being somewhat kind to me, she told me she wasn't at fault and would not give me her information. I was in shock, I didn't respond.

A few hours later I was taken to the emergency room by a family member and was told I have a broken finger, and (luckily) a severely bruised foot. Despite the cast on my dominate hand, I had really great luck and will be good as new soon.

I chose to share my story publicly to let everyone learn a lesson from this crash. A lot of what I learned could already be found at our website, Same Roads Same Rules. Most importantly, I don't want to deter anyone from biking; I have every intention of riding everyday again after I am fully recovered.

Riders:

1. No matter your confidence level, always ride defensively. Be aware and alert. Despite the increase in bicycling, many motorists still do not pay attention to cyclists, so we have to be extra careful to ride safely. For safe riding tips, visit our bike skills page.

2. Don't be bullied. Even if there are cars behind you, it is more important to maintain a safe distance from potentially opening car doors than to cave to pressure to ride too far to the right. Remember, your safety is the most important thing of all.

3. If you are injured in a crash, seriously or not, call 911. I experienced the adrenaline rush that can cover serious injuries. Insist on getting the driver's information, just like if you were in a car crash.

4. File a police report within 5 days. Even if you don't get the other party's information, file a police report. These records are crucial to tracking crash data which can lead to improvements in road design or enforcement.

Motorists:

1. Be aware of cyclists not only while driving, but as you are exiting your vehicle. It is completely your responsibility (driver or passenger) to look before you open your door. According to state law, it is illegal to open a car door without looking first, and if you hit a cyclist or pedestrian, you could be fined and are liable for damages.

2. If you are involved in a crash with a bicyclist, and there are injuries (serious or not), call 911. It is a serious offense to walk or drive away from a scene of a crash. If the bicyclist insists that they are “fine”, you need to call anyway, the bicyclist could still be injured.

If I had it to do over again, I would have insisted that the drivers stay at the scene until an ambulance and police arrived. I am lucky to have insurance, and so getting medical care was not a problem - there are some people with high deductibles or who still do not have health insurance. Furthermore, just like in a car crash, if my vehicle (bicycle) had been damaged then the driver's insurance would have had to pay for repairs.

Unfortunately, we aren't yet in a place where drivers take bicyclists seriously and want to blame us any time anything happens. Sometimes they are right, but this time they weren't. We need to be informed and our own strongest advocates. God willing, this won't happen again. If it does, I'll be much better prepared. Take a lesson from my situation and be prepared, too.

Click here to view the bike law update which makes door-ing illegal.

Also, click here for some great tips on what to do if you are involved in an accident.

Don't be afraid to ride, just be alert and ride safe!

Upcoming Lecture: Professor John Pucher - Promoting Cycling and Walking for Sustainable Cities (10/15)

Come see see Professor John Pucher lecture on Promoting Cycling and Walking for Sustainable Cities: Lessons from Europe and North America. Professor Pucher has especially tailored the talk to include many specific examples of good and bad walking and cycling conditions in the Boston Area.  He will also show several Excel graphics and GIS maps with the latest available information on levels of walking and cycling in different parts of the Boston/Cambridge Metro area and comparative graphics showing how Boston compares to other cities in the USA and Canada.

This event is hosted by Harvard Graduate School of Planning and Design and the Harvard Kennedy School and co-sponsored by the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the Boston Cyclists Union, MassBike, WalkBoston, and the Livable Streets Alliance.

When: Oct 15, 2012 - 4:30 - 6pm

Where: Piper Auditorium, Gund Hall, 48 Quincy St. Cambridge, MA

About the Lecturer: John Pucher is a professor in the School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He has conducted research on a wide range of topics in transport economics and finance. For over three decades, he has examined differences in travel behavior, transport systems, and transport policies in Europe, Canada, the USA, and Australia. Over the past 15 years, Pucher’s research has focused on walking and bicycling. His research emphasizes walking and cycling for daily travel to increase physical activity and to enhance overall public health. Pucher has published three books and over 100 peer-reviewed articles in academic and professional journals. His latest book, “City Cycling” for MIT Press, provides an international overview of cycling trends and policies: http://citycyclingbook.wordpress.com

 

Check Out Our New Bikeability Report

[caption id="attachment_19780" align="alignleft" width="233"] Speed Limit Map of Colrain[/caption]

You might remember last month when two MassBike staff went to Greenfield to undertake a Bikeability Assessment. The purpose of the assessment was to feed into a regional Complete Streets Plan, which would lay the groundwork for improvements in Franklin County's streets. We were joined by ten local residents to help with the assessment, and gathered data on five key areas in Franklin County. You can find the full report here.

From our point of view, this was a successful event with community involvement and a solid product. Some of the key findings were:

  • Debris is a major issue on many of the roads, pushing bicyclists into travel lanes or forcing them to use sidewalks.

  • Shoulders on many of the roads are inconsistent, and totally non-existent in some spots. Having paved shoulders, designated as bike lanes if possible, is especially important in more rural areas where traffic may be traveling at higher speeds.

  • There was no bicycle parking recorded anywhere, even near city center of Greenfield.

  • There were a range of speed limits, but in general traffic was moving too fast for most people to be comfortable bicycling.

  • As is common in many rural areas, the intersections are designed to accommodate fast-turning traffic (Y-intersections, e.g.). These can be a danger to bicyclists and a barrier to biking.


From here, Franklin Regional Council of Governments will include our recommendations in the report being submitted to the regional planning agency. Beyond that, this report is a tangible example of how local residents can come together and impact their community. This report will inform future road improvements in these locations - it might not happen tomorrow, but when a road project comes up for Route 5/10/116 in S. Deerfield, we can point to this report to guide the decisions.

It is thanks to the support of Mass in Motion, a program of the Department of Public Health, that we were able to provide this technical assistance. We are excited to be using this opportunity to expand the local capacity to make change in our communities; by leveraging local energy, we can accomplish so much more together. Let us know if there is an opportunity to do a bikeability assessment in your community by emailing Price@MassBike.org.

Add Your Voice To MassDOT's Statewide Conversation

Starting this week, we have an opportunity to voice our support for bicycling as a statewide priority. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) is holding a series of public meetings in the run up to creating their long range financing plan. This plan is going to dictate whether we continue on the 20th-century path of building ever more roads and bridges, or if we are going to invest in a balanced, multi-modal system. Your voice is going to make the difference.

You can see the schedule here to find a meeting near you (they are being held all over the state). While there are a few points we are listing below, we suggest the number one comment you can make is: Invest in a system that moves people, not cars.

Some other specific points could be:

  • Achieving the Commonwealth's greenhouse gas reduction goals depends on encouraging more biking and walking.

  • MassDOT needs to support healthier communities, since over one-fifth of our population is obese, as is one out of ten children.

  • Investing in biking and walking is the smarter choice; we just can't afford to keep building wider roads.

  • Give the people what they want! Polls across the country have shown that people want to bike more often, but they think the roads are too dangerous.


MassDOT has been a national leader over the past several years in their commitment to a multi-modal system; we need to thank them for their work so far, and push them to go even further. Bringing down unnecessary overpasses, adding bike facilities on bridges, and promoting Complete Streets have all been great accomplishments. But if we want to see complete networks of bicycle facilities in our lifetimes, the state needs to go even further. Your voice is needed to do that.

DCR Gets It Right - With A Little Help From Advocates

We are pleased to declare victory for bicyclists on two separate but related roadway access issues, on the Alewife Brook Parkway on the Arlington-Cambridge-Somerville line, and on the Mystic Valley Parkway in Arlington.

[caption id="attachment_19775" align="alignleft" width="169"] Narrow shoulders, wide lanes[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_19793" align="alignright" width="169"] New bike lanes in progress![/caption]

In late August, we discovered what appeared to be preliminary striping for very narrow shoulders and very wide travel lanes on the newly-repaved Mystic Valley Parkway in Arlington. As shown, those shoulders would not have been wide enough to qualify as bike lanes.  We immediately expressed our concern to the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), and were quickly joined by other advocates who also noticed the problem. This was urgent, as paving and striping were ongoing. A flurry of emails and phone calls, and five days later we learned that DCR would stripe five-foot bike lanes - a big improvement. And those bike lanes are now installed! Many thanks to all the advocates for jumping on this right away, and to DCR for listening to us.

[caption id="attachment_19774" align="alignleft" width="179"] "No Bikes" signs went up ...[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_19794" align="alignright" width="189"] ... and finally came down![/caption]

The other problem involved some incorrect road signs and, surprisingly, considering there was no engineering or paint involved, took much longer to solve. Several months ago, we learned that "No Bikes" signs had appeared at intersections on the Alewife Brook Parkway, ostensibly banning bicyclists from riding on the road. This surprised us because we know that Massachusetts law gives bicyclists the right to use all public roads except for limited access or express highways (such as I-93 or I-95). Other bicyclists also noticed the signs and complained to neighboring municipalities. More emails and phone calls ensued, over a period of months, until two weeks ago, when we got the word that the signs would come down. And down they are.

For the record, we agree that the Alewife Brook Parkway is not a particularly good road for bicycling. Cars go too fast, and there is little or no shoulder so bicyclists must take the lane. The new Alewife Greenway offers an alternative, but some bicyclists prefer to ride in the road for a variety of reasons. We believe DCR acted to protect bicyclists, though we disagreed with their approach. The answer is not to remove bicycles from the road - it is to make the road safer for bicyclists. MassBike will continue to defend bicyclists right to use the road, and we have committed to working with state officials on future efforts to improve bicyclist safety on the parkway. Though we often have to be persistent, we are very lucky to have state agencies, like DCR, that value our opinion and, ultimately, agree with us.

 

 

Public Health Commissioner Resigns, Biking And Walking Lose A Champion

Most people have heard of the drug testing scandal that emerged out of the state crime lab a few weeks ago. The head of the state Department of Public Health, Commissioner John Auerbach, resigned in its wake. Unfortunately, the situation has implications for biking and walking in Massachusetts, because Commissioner Auerbach was one of our strongest supporters in state government. We recently wrote to the Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, expressing our concern, and urging her to appoint someone just as committed to active living:
Dear Dr. Bigby:

I wanted to express my concern over the departure of John Auerbach and your search for his successor. While I certainly understand the circumstances that led to his resignation, Commissioner Auerbach was a true champion for active living and sustainable transportation. Under his leadership, DPH has engaged in many programs to more effectively promote biking and walking, such as Mass In Motion, Communities Putting Prevention to Work, and most recently the Community Transformation Grant. MassBike has been a strong partner with DPH on all of these programs, which have made a real difference, particularly for people who live and work in areas where biking and walking is both most necessary and most challenging.

So as you begin to consider the next DPH Commissioner, I hope you will select someone who will continue to strongly support our mutual efforts to get more people living actively.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

David Watson
Executive Director
MassBike

We are encouraged that Secretary Bigby immediately responded and affirmed the Patrick Administration's ongoing support for the work begun on Commissioner Auerbach's watch. And we thank John Auerbach for making biking and walking an important part of the state's wellness programs.


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