MassDOT And RMV Bringing Bicyclist Safety To Drivers

As part of our ongoing work with MassDOT, this year MassBike has been expanding our cooperation with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. In May, our collaboration resulted in a revised Go By Bike brochure, released during Bay State Bike Week.

But there have been two other notable milestones in our work with RMV this year: important bike safety additions to the Driver's Manual and on the licensing written test.

The RMV worked with MassDOT and MassBike to release a new version of the Driver's Manual (English) (Spanish) that for the first time includes information for drivers about how to safely interact with bicyclists. In response to the 2009 Bicyclist Safety Act spearheaded by MassBike, the "Rules of the Road" section of the manual now specifically talks about motorist behavior in the presence of bicyclists (such as how to pass and turn safely and the danger of dooring). These changes are also specifically referenced in an expanded "Sharing the Road" section right at the beginning of the manual (along with a very strong statement that motorists must respect and protect bicyclists on the road), and again in the "Safety First" section. This is an important step toward ensuring that motorists drive more safely around bicyclists, and we will continue to work with the RMV to better integrate this information throughout the manual.

The changes to the Driver's Manual are complemented by an important change to the licensing written test: Every applicant for a driver's license now gets a question on a bicycle safety issue. Because applicants can be sure that bicycle safety will be on the test, it creates a strong incentive for individuals to study this material carefully and for Driver's Education programs to include it in their training. No one wants to risk flunking their driving test!

While these educational improvements will not reach every driver immediately, over time we can be sure that more and more drivers will learn how to drive more safely around bicyclists. Many thanks to the RMV and to MassDOT for their ongoing and growing commitment to bicyclist safety. We are working on other initiatives with the RMV, and we will keep you posted.

Join Us For Volunteer Night

Join us for MassBike's monthly volunteer night on Tuesday, September 13!

Volunteer nights are a great opportunity to help your state-wide bicycle advocacy group, while having a good time and meeting great people. We meet every second Tuesday of the month at the MassBike office (171 Milk Street, Suite 33, Boston) from 5-8pm. Volunteers help MassBike to send out our monthly membership renewal reminders, prepare membership packets, and help out with other activities as they come up. We provide the pizza and drinks. Volunteer night is a great way to meet some other bicyclists. Plus your volunteer hours help you to earn a MassBike membership (find out more about our volunteer membership program here).

If you'd like to join us for volunteer night, please email Hope to see on September 13th!

What's With All The Hate?

I wasn't really surprised by the recent screeds against bicyclists in the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. These seem to come in flurries every once in a while, first one media outlet, then others not wanting to be left out of the resulting mayhem. Generating controversy is a common tactic for the media, and challenges to the status quo, like increasing interest in bicycling, are an irresistible target. But what does it really mean for bicyclists?

The greatest injustice the Herald and other haters are perpetrating is that they dehumanize us. We end up nameless, faceless "bicyclists" - not who we really are, like mothers on bikes, grandfathers on bikes, or neighbors on bikes. When motorists are driving next to that nameless bicyclist, it's easier not to pay attention to or care about that bicyclist's safety. Last year, we did a campaign called "And I Ride" to put a human face on people who ride bikes. It's worth taking another look and sending to your non-bicycling friends.

There is also lack of perspective in all this reporting. Yes, there are bicyclists who don't follow the law or who act like jerks, but you can say the same of many motorists and pedestrians. Motorists routinely speed, fail to stop, and make illegal turns, and many pedestrians cross mid-block and against the light. We've got a cultural problem on our streets, where some people have given up on being considerate to others. These recent stories on bicyclists ignore the fact that bicyclists make up a tiny percentage of road users, along with a tiny percentage of users breaking the law.

But the truth is, bicyclists are being noticed because our numbers are growing. More bicyclists are out on the streets than ever before and that is a great thing. More and more people are finding out that bicycling is good for the environment, good for their own health, good for their wallet, and it's fun, too. It's no wonder that bicyclists are getting more attention.

So what can we, the bicycling community, do to end the vitriol? We're doing our best at MassBike to foster change in our transportation culture, to educate motorists how to share space with us, and to get more police enforcement against dangerous motorists. Bicyclists can do their part, too. That means speaking up at public meetings, being a good bicycling ambassador wherever you go, and yes, following bicycling laws, too. MassBike strongly advocates that bicyclists should follow the rules of the road (see Same Roads, Same Rules, also urging motorists to respect bicyclists). Whether you agree with us or not, please consider how your actions might affect public perception of bicyclists and the safety of others on roads, paths, and sidewalks.

As more stories about bicycling make headlines, the media needs to be reminded of its responsibility to report fairly on issues of public safety. Bicyclists can do their part, but unless the media reports more responsibly, the negative perception of bicyclists won't change.

Bike Classes Abound

After getting up and running over the past two months, skills and safety classes are taking place around the state with enthusiastic reception. Take a look at the class offerings coming up, and RSVP or register while there's still time!

[caption id="attachment_5846" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="August On-Bike Class In The Seaport District"][/caption]

Basics of Better Biking

This is a four-hour on-bike course, we go over tips on how to stay safe on city streets, a quick way to make sure your bike is functioning properly, some very basic bike mechanics, and on-bike drills. After this class, you will know how to quickly avoid that pothole, why your bike has a front and rear brake, and what a “Copenhagen Left” is. To register, visit our Adult Education page, or email Price at You can also call us at (617) 542-2453.

Saturday, September 10
9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Alewife T Station, under Alewife Brook Parkway
Register by Wednesday, September 7

Saturday, September 24
10:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Worcester, MA
Worcester Unitarian Universalist Church Parking Lot
90 Holden Street
Register by Wednesday, September 21

Free Commuter Workshops

Biking for Everyone Commuter Workshop
Wednesday, September 14, Noon - 1:00 PM
Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC)
60 Temple Place, Boston, MA
RSVP: or (617) 542-2453

Hubway Bike Safety Workshop
Wednesday, September 21, 5:00 - 6:00 pm
Boston City Hall, Conference Room 933a

Hubway Bike Safety Workshop
Wednesday, September 27, 6:00 - 7:00 pm
Boston Public Library, Conference Room 6
700 boylston st.

Hubway Offering Subsidized Annual Membership Rates

Hubway, Boston's new bike share program, in partnership with the Boston Public Health Commission, is now providing subsidized annual Hubway memberships for low-income Boston residents.

This is a great opportunity for those who may be interested in biking but aren't able to invest in the needed equipment. As we all know, biking is a great transportation option for people looking to save money (up to $7,600 per year!). This subsidy, reducing the fee to $5 per year and providing a free helmet, gives lower-income households the chance to experience bikesharing, and may even convince a few folks to start riding more regularly on bikes of their own!

This is just another example of the City of Boston trying to make Hubway as accessible as possible. MassBike has been working with the city to provide free Bike Safety Workshops geared toward Hubway users, so that people can get where they're going feeling comfortable and safe. We are looking forward to continued efforts to make this convenient bike system available to as many people as possible.

To get your subsidy code and free helmet from the Boston Public Health Commission and to redeem your code, visit Click here to see a flyer with more details and information.

Volunteer To Evaluate The Blue Line Pilot Program

You may remember that back in March the Blue Line Pilot Program kicked off, expanding bicycle access during rush hour on the Blue Line. The change in peak hour restrictions is a victory for the communities of East Boston, local advocates like the Chelsea Creek Action Group, and for MassBike. As you may know, the only way to get to or from East Boston by bike is to go through Chelsea, a serious detour if you are traveling into Cambridge, Boston, or further south. Thanks to better access on the Blue Line, residents of East Boston can more easily get around by bike.

So far this change in bike access is only a pilot program. We need help from our members and supporters to make sure that this program continues indefinitely. To evaluate the new program, the MBTA has asked East Boston community organizations and MassBike to help count bicycles and evaluate train occupancy rates during peak hours - information that is essential to making the new extended hours permanent.
[caption id="attachment_5818" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="East Boston youth and MassBike ED David Watson make the long journey from East Boston to City Hall Plaza"][/caption]
During the week of September 12, we'll have both morning and evening rush hour shifts. Shifts run from 7:00am-8:30am, 8:30am-10:00am, 4:00-5:30pm, and 5:30-7:00pm. Volunteers will be trained on-site, so anyone can help with counting. If you are interested in helping out with a shift or two or need more information, please email

Please help show the Blue Line Pilot Program's success by joining us for a morning or evening shift to evaluate the program. Not only will you be helping to gain more access to bicycles, but you can also work to earn a MassBike membership. Find out more about our volunteer program here. Thanks for your support!

Connecticut Valley Century Benefit Bike Ride: September 10, 2011

The 2011 Connecticut Valley Century Benefit Bike Ride is a fun but challenging ride offering four routes: 100, 75, 50 or 25 miles. The ride is on Saturday, September 10, 2011 and begins and ends at the Hatfield Lions Club Pavilion in Hatfield, MA.

The rides are relatively flat and follow rolling terrain on the West bank of the Connecticut River to Brattleboro, VT, crossing into New Hampshire and returning following the East bank of the Connecticut River through picturesque farmland and passing a waterfall before heading back to Hatfield. The ride is SAG supported and after the ride all riders can enjoy a baked potato with all the fixings.

This is an all-volunteer event. Net proceeds of this annual event will go to benefit the Amherst Rotary Good Works fund, which supports a broad range of humanitarian, intercultural, and educational programs and activities, including local high school scholarships and charitable organizations in Hampshire County.

Registration is $30 before 9/6/11 (plus get a free COVAC 2011 T-shirt!) or $40 day-of. Find out more about the ride and register here.

Conneticut Valley Century Benefit Bike Ride participates in MassBike’s Charity Ride Partner Program to help support MassBike’s advocacy and education program.

Advocacy Toolkit: We Need Your Help

MassBike has partnered with the Boston Public Health Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program to create an advocacy toolkit. The aim of this toolkit is to enhance the abilities of Commonwealth residents to advocate for better bicycling infrastructure and programs in their own communities.

Do you have any questions/advice/stories about advocacy successes, advocacy failures, infrastructure concerns, good and bad interactions with state and local officials in the Bay State? If so, please pass them along! I want to make sure the content of this toolkit will reflect what YOU need to know and coincides with the experiences that YOU have already had. If you do not want to post your experiences and comments to the public, please send them along to me at (MassBike will respect your privacy to the utmost.)

This last weekend I conversed with a few riders on the Mass BikePike Tour (which was great!) about advocacy, infrastructure, and this toolkit. This made me realize that I have been working on this project over the course of the summer without asking for the input of Massachusetts' most knowledgeable residents: MassBike members!

Thank you, with your help this Toolkit will be a guiding document in MassBike's effort to see better bicycling in Massachusetts.

MassBike Helps MBTA Design New Bike Racks

MassBike has been working with the MBTA to evaluate bike rack designs for the new Pedal & Park secure bike parking facilities coming soon to stations including Braintree, Ashmont, Davis Square, Oak Grove, and Malden Center. (The South Station Pedal & Park, which already has racks, will also be completed soon.) These great bike parking facilities will encourage more people to take the T instead of driving, by giving them the confidence to leave their bikes at stations that have suffered from insufficient bike parking and bike thefts in the past. Pedal & Parks have already made a big difference at Alewife and Forest Hills.

To maximize the number of bikes that can fit in each Pedal & Park, the T plans to use bi-level racks. The existing racks at Alewife, Forest Hills, and South Station are OK, but those racks are either unavailable now, or have not worked that well in actual use. So the T asked for feedback from actual bicyclists on bike rack prototypes from two vendors. We reported back that all the designs had significant drawbacks.

A few weeks later, when the T asked us to try out another design, we were pleased to see that most of our concerns had been addressed.

[caption id="attachment_5702" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Executive Director David Watson tries out new bike rack"][/caption]

The T took our feedback seriously, asking the manufacturers to address the problems we identified. The new design works much better, and needs just a few more modifications before going into production for the new Pedal & Parks.

We really appreciate the T asking for our input and taking the time to get this right!

Biking The Charles With MassDOT And DCR

I spent half a day last week riding around the Charles River Basin looking at the bridges, intersections, and paths, and identifying problems and brainstorming solutions with fellow advocates from WalkBoston, LivableStreets Alliance, Boston Cyclists Union, and the Esplanade Association. We work with these groups regularly, but this gathering was noteworthy because we were all invited to tour the area by bike with MassDOT, DCR personnel and their consultants to aid bicycle and pedestrian planning.

[caption id="attachment_5475" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Advocates, MassDOT and DCR touring the Charles River Basin"][/caption]

MassDOT has been encouraging employees to ride bikes to meetings and to check out project sites, and has purchased a fleet of bikes for employees to borrow. The Secretary of Transportation, the Highway Division Administrator, the Longfellow Bridge project managers, among others, have been spotted riding bikes around projects.

We talked about a wide range of issues and projects, including Longfellow Bridge connections to the parkland, the Harvard Bridge connections between the Esplanade and the Massachusetts Avenue bike lanes, the BU Bridge (we heard that the design still includes 5-foot bike lanes), the River Street and Western Avenue bridges, the Anderson Memorial Bridge, the underpass debate, ideas for improving the paths managed by the DCR along both sides of the river, and more. It was an opportunity to talk about both ongoing projects and our collective wishlist.

On our way back, one of the MassDOT bikes got a flat. No one knew how to fix it or had a spare tube, so I was able to save the day (and suggest that all the MassDOT bikes should be stocked with spare tubes, patch kits, and pumps). But more importantly, sharing this little misadventure further strengthened our relationship with MassDOT staff working on some important projects for bicyclists.

Thanks to MassDOT and DCR for reaching out to us and for engaging in the conversation, and especially for recognizing the importance of experiencing these places from a bike saddle.

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