Bicycling at Night? Use Lights and Reflectors!

With the days already growing shorter and Daylight Savings Time set to end on November 6, it’s time to prepare for riding in the dark. So, without further ado, here is 2011’s edition of the “Light Up Your Ride” blog post series.

The key to riding safely in low-light situations (such as foggy or rainy conditions or at dusk or night) is to see and, more importantly, be seen. Installing both a front and rear light is a great first-step (and required by MA law). But why stop there? It’s equally important to be visible from the sides and most light systems are not equipped to do so.

Here are some additional solutions to further light up your ride and avoid the dangerous ninja look:

Reflective or lighted ankle straps or pedal reflectors: Some pedals come with reflectors. While both types of ankle straps do double duty by keeping your pants away from your dirty chain, lighted ones provide incredible visibility.

Reflective Clothing: Examples include bicycling-specific jackets with day-glo accents and or a construction worker-styled vest. Both will provide the necessary sideways visibility with their neon colors and/or reflective striping.

Other Reflective Accessories: Wheel reflectors, reflective tires, and reflective tape and stickers that can go on almost any part of your bicycle are other options, especially for those known to forget a vest or jacket at home.

Remember, if you don’t already own a front, white light and a rear, red light, it’s time to purchase some now!  Your local bicycle store is well-equipped with lights and other safety gear so stop by and get equipped today.

UPDATE: Reporting Crashes And Harassment In Boston

Bicyclists have been following our advice and reporting crashes, harassment, and other incidents with motorists to the Boston Police Department. Unfortunately, some bicyclists have reported receiving a less-than-helpful reception from BPD, ranging from disinterest to disdain to outright hostility. MassBike took these concerns directly to the City of Boston and BPD, and learned (or confirmed) some things that everyone should know:

  1. You have a right to file a police report. Don't let an officer talk you out of it.

  2. You can get a copy of the police report from BPD headquarters at the intersection of Tremont Street and Ruggles Street near the Ruggles MBTA Station.

  3. You can request corrections to the report, but you have to visit the station where the report was filed.

  4. You should expect to be treated with respect by BPD officers, and if you are not you can and should let the station Captain know.

  5. You should request that your case be assigned to the auto investigator. Each of the 11 BPD stations has a designated auto investigator who is experienced investigating bicycle/motor vehicle incidents.

  6. You can call the investigator for updates on the progress of your case, or to provide additional information.

We hope this information helps you get justice and hold motorists accountable for their actions. Please continue to keep us posted at

MassBike Supporting Communities

[caption id="attachment_4626" align="aligncenter" width="480" caption="Courtesy of the Boston Globe"][/caption]
Beginning more than three years ago, MassBike has been working with Chelsea Creek Action Group/E3C in East Boston to improve the biking (and walking) environment and encourage more people to bike, with the support of the Boston Collaborative for Food and Fitness, and Communities Putting Prevention to Work. More recently, MassBike, along with WalkBoston, has been assisting Madison Park Community Development Corporation in Roxbury working on Complete Streets and bicycling. Our experience in these neighborhoods has taught us is how to more effectively support community-based activities and goals, creating a model for community engagement we can use around the state.
East Boston, for example, is a geographically isolated area of the city, connected primarily through tunnels under Boston Harbor. When we started working with the East Boston community, people in the neighborhood were not particularly excited about bicycling because of the lack of bicycling facilities and the difficulty of getting anywhere outside the neighborhood. We worked with the community to better define the problems and identify potential solutions. This led to community-driven efforts to increase bike access on the Blue Line, improve bike parking, redefine East Boston's Central Square as a Complete Streets project, and propose other improvements to bike facilities.
This approach fundamentally supports the goals of the community groups themselves. We have learned over the past few years in East Boston and now in Roxbury that just as important as the outcome of particular advocacy efforts is the process that achieves it. By supporting the local vision with a youth-focused, community-based approach, MassBike has seen significantly more effective and long-lasting advocacy in these communities.
As we continue to work in neighborhoods and learn more, we look forward to taking our knowledge to new communities. Whether it is our membership or local community advocates, we depend greatly on the voices of others in order to make MassBike even more effective and to make Massachusetts a better state for biking.

Attend The Boston Bike Film Festival

The Boston Bike Film Festival is returning for its 7th year and will take place on Saturday, October 15, 2011 from 7 to 11 PM at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square. A number of short films and documentaries will be shown that explore both local (metro-Boston) and international (Holland, Brazil, Kenya, and Canada) perspectives on bicycling riding. For a taste of what to expect, a trailer for Between the Curbs, local filmmaker Kris Carter’s documentary on how to improve bicycling conditions in Boston, can be found here:

Tickets can be purchased online for $15 or purchased at the door for $20. MassBike members receive a 10% discount for the online tickets only, so act quickly! Proceeds from this year’s festival will go toward supporting two local advocacy groups: Bikes Not Bombs and MassBike. And to further entice attendance, the first 100 people through the doors will receive a Hubway Bikes 24-hour pass.

Those who purchase tickets in advance are invited to join in a "Ride to the Movies" tour the afternoon of the festival. Participants start from Urban Adventours on the Boston waterfront and leisurely ride a roundabout route to the Brattle, stopping at "on location" spots from movies both past (The Departed, Good Will Hunting) and present (I Don't Know How She Does It, I've Got Your Number).

For a more detailed schedule and information for purchasing tickets online, visit the festival’s website at or email

MassBike PV Salvages Bike Racks

What school, town or city doesn't need more secure bicycle parking?  Thanks to quick action by two MassBike members in the Pioneer Valley, 10 inverted-U bike racks that were headed for the dump have been salvaged and will be returned to service.  

After determining the racks were too beat-up to re-use, UMass Amherst had removed them to make way for new ones. UMass math professor and MassBiker Mike Sullivan snagged the racks without hesitation and stored them temporarily in his office until further action could be taken. Later on, I (MassBike Pioneer Valley Chapter President) borrowed a utility trailer from Pedal People and pedaled all ten racks from Amherst to Northampton along the Norwottuck Rail Trail—about 350 lbs for almost ten miles.  It was an understandably slow but uneventful ride, and the racks are now awaiting decisions about where to site them.  The current plan calls for 5 city-owned sidewalk or school locations and 5 private establishments that serve the cycling public, such as grocery stores and cafes.

Good Bike Manners

With the roads as busy as they are, we bicyclists need to look out for each other. A big part of that is riding safely around other bicyclists. There are a few simple things we can do to all get along a little better, keeping in mind that we're all in the same community of bicyclists and should be just as mindful of other bikers as we are of automobiles and pedestrians. Some common problems are:

  • Passing Too Closely: Some of us are faster, some are slower. No matter what kind of biker you are, it's always a nerve-racking experience to have a fellow bicyclist blow past you with only inches between handlebars. Just like if you are in a car, please be sure to give plenty of passing distance.

  • Leapfrogging: Have you ever been stopped at a light and had a biker that you KNOW is slower than you run the light? Not only is it illegal, it's annoying and dangerous once you (usually quickly) catch up to the person and have to enter traffic to pass. And this can happen multiple times if there is a street with several red lights. Yet another reason why bicyclists should ALWAYS stop at red lights.

  • Riding too closely: While drafting works for the pros, it doesn't work on the daily commute. Riding too closely behind another bicyclist can make them nervous and may not leave enough time for you to stop. Keep some space and then pass when it's safe.

  • Passing Without Warning: Though it's not required by law, it's really nice to give a bell ding or "Passing on the left" if you are going to overtake a bicyclist. This lets people know that they need to keep a straight line to allow passing, making biking safer for everyone.

This kind of courtesy is going to become increasingly important as there are more bicyclists on the streets. Infrastructure can help, but nothing beats common sense and etiquette. Between 2007 and 2009, biking in the City of Boston more than doubled. At Massbike, we constantly offer classes to spread the word about good riding practice. Remember to watch out for your fellow bicyclists and ride safe.

Pioneer Valley: MassBike Meets The DA

Pioneer Valley Chapter President here reporting on a recent meeting I had with the new Northwestern District Attorney a couple of weeks back. Joined by Executive Director David Watson and Mike Hempstead (another MassBike PV Board Member and President of Northampton Cycling Club), I met with DA David Sullivan and Deputy DA Janice Healy regarding biking in the Pioneer Valley. Given that Sullivan was sworn in only earlier this year, we hope this will be the start of a positive and productive working relationship.

We received a warm welcome from Sullivan and Healy, who were very open and encouraging. We explained MassBike's mission, programs, and accomplishments, focusing especially on our law enforcement work.  We described our successful efforts to work with police departments around the region; we gave them copies of MassBike's new Bicycle Law Guide for Police Departments, MassBike's yellow "Same Roads, Same Rules" spoke cards, and the new "Go By Bike" brochure, as well as a copy of Bob Mionske's book, "Bicycling and the Law".

Sullivan and Healy both agreed that traffic laws need to be applied equitably, and were interested in taking a proactive stance towards educating both cyclists and motorists about the relevant laws.  They even offered to make a new bike safety page on their website, with links to MassBike's Go By Bike brochure!

We hope that the visit will lay the foundation for open communication in the future, so that when a crisis hits -- like the "Lady in the Red Truck" who two years ago ran more than a dozen cyclists off the road, yet escaped with no charges filed by the police -- we won't have to start from square one.

Wrapping Up The Bike Class Season

Despite getting a late start, it's been a big summer for the Education Program here at MassBike. It's with a tinge of sadness that we schedule the last of the classes for 2011 because that means we'll have to wait for the spring thaw to start them back up. That means it's your last chance to take a class before the fall chills come.

Nonetheless, since the beginning of August we've held six Commuter Workshops, three on-bike skills classes, and eight child safety trainings - and more are in the works for October. See below for upcoming classes, and please spread the word about them!

Hubway Bike Safety Workshops

Thursday, September 22, 7:00 - 8:00 PM
Giant Cycling World, 11 Kilmarnock Street, Boston, MA

Tuesday, September 27, 6:00 - 7:00 PM
Boston Public Library, Conference Room 6

Bike Commuting for Everyone Workshops

Tuesday, October 4, 5:30 - 6:30 PM
Commonwheels Bike Co-op, 22 Rugg Rd., Allston

Thursday, October 13, 5:30 - 6:30 PM
Boston University, Collage of Arts and Sciences Room 237

On-Bike Skills Classes

Saturday, October 15, 12:00 - 4:00 PM
Boston Public Health Commission, 201-211 River Street, Mattapan
Click here to register.

PENDING: Sunday, October 30, 1:00 - 5:00 PM
Herter Park, Allston
Click here to register.

Thank You For Saving Federal Funding!

Your voice has been heard in Congress! Thanks to all of you who responded to our Action Alert this week, federal funding for all transportation programs (including biking and walking) has been extended until March 31, 2012. Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails will continue to receive funding. The bicycling community nationwide generated over 50,000 emails and thousands of calls to the Senate. We reached every single Senator and created a buzz in the halls of Congress. From what we hear, it is clear that, had Senator Coburn offered his amendment on the floor, it would have lost overwhelmingly.

But we should consider ourselves on notice that we will need to defend dedicated funding for biking and walking again in six months when this extension expires. And we will need to be able to get 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster by opponents of biking and walking. To do that we will need the support of both Senators Kerry and Brown. We have Senator Kerry's vote, but we are not sure about Senator Brown. The push we did this week helps in building that support but we will need to continue to swing Senator Brown firmly to our side.

Dozens of MassBike supporters told us they contacted the Senators, so a huge thanks again to everyone who participated! We will keep you posted on future developments in Washington.

It's Time To Get Past Rage

What happens when the hostile rhetoric we see in local media leaves the page and comes to life on the streets? I had the misfortune to experience it first-hand yesterday.

I was intentionally hit by a motorist, who used his car to push me and my bike out of the way while I was stopped at a light. The situation escalated when one of the occupants of the car got out and threatened me. Thankfully, nearby pedestrians intervened and the assailant got back in the car and fled. I was shaken and angry but otherwise unhurt; my bike was not so lucky.

This morning I discovered there were two other reported assaults-by-car yesterday (see here and here). UPDATE: Two arrests have now been made in the second incident. And we know there are lots of other acts of violence against bicyclists - we've all heard about them from friends or online.

How did we as a society get to a point where people find it acceptable to use cars as weapons, not only against other drivers, but against bicyclists and pedestrians who are far more vulnerable? It isn't even difficult to understand that what might be a minor fender-bender between cars can be life-threatening between a car and a bike, yet these incidents are more and more common. I urge everyone (drivers, bikers, and walkers alike) to slow down and respect each other as people - that is the single most important thing any of us can do to avoid danger, de-escalate conflict, and protect ourselves and each other from harm. Slowing down gives you time: time to spot potential danger and avoid it; time to think about the possible consequences of an otherwise impulsive action; time to realize that it really isn't worth risking your life or someone else's to get somewhere a few seconds faster.

The police are investigating the attack on me, and I expect that arrests will be made. I have no idea what motivated my attackers, but this was a crime, and I am committed to pursuing this to the full extent of the law. MassBike will keep working to ensure that the system works to protect bicyclists and that motorists who intimidate and endanger bicyclists are held accountable.

Many of us have experienced incidents like this to varying degrees, ranging from cars "buzzing" us too close, to things thrown at us, to physical or verbal confrontations, or worse. We cannot let these things slide - we need to report them, so that the community and the authorities know they are happening. If you are a victim of road rage or harassment, please call the police and pursue charges. If you need help, call or email us, or look here for more information.

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