Action Alert: Bike Funding Under Attack (Again)

Just one month ago, the bicycling community stood together and defeated Senator Coburn's (R-OK) effort to strip funding for Transportation Enhancements (a major source of funding for biking and walking projects) from the six-month extension that was passed at the last minute to prevent the shutdown of all federally-funded transportation programs.

Now, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is taking the lead in trying to destroy Transportation Enhancements. On November 1, the Senate will finalize the transportation appropriations bill, which sets funding levels for FY2012. Sen. Paul has offered an amendment to redirect all funding for Transportation Enhancements to bridge repair.

We must turn back any amendment to strip Transportation Enhancements. Here is how you can help:

1. Call and/or email Senator Kerry and Senator Brown to ask them to vote against the Paul amendment (SA-821) to eliminate Transportation Enhancements.

  • Senator John Kerry: (202) 224-2742, Email (select “Transportation” as Topic)

  • Senator Scott Brown: (202) 224-4543, Email (select “Transportation” as Topic)

Key Talking Points:

  • Attacks on Transportation Enhancements are a political stunt, not a solution to our transportation problems

  • Shifting every dollar of Transportation Enhancements to bridge repair would be ineffective - it would still take 80 years to repair all the bridges

  • And doing so would eliminate popular and effective programs right now that are saving thousands of bicyclist and pedestrian lives, combating obesity, protecting our environment, and creating economic opportunities

  • States returned $530 million in unspent bridge repair funds back to Washington last year - that money should be used before cutting other programs

  • Funding for biking and walking should be part of the overall debate of long-term transportation funding starting November 9

Don’t have time to write your own email? Click here to send a pre-written email message to both Senators.

2. Email and let us know you contacted them!

Every single call or email matters, so please act today! Read below for even more detail.

We agree on the need to keep our bridges safe, but the lives of pedestrians and cyclists are important too. Thirteen people died when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed in 2007. Since then, close to 20,000 pedestrians and 2,800 cyclists have died on our nation’s highways, largely as a result of poor highway design and a lack of safe non-motorized infrastructure – exactly what the Enhancements program was created to fix.

If Sen. Paul’s amendment is successful, it would eliminate approximately $700 million in federal funding for FY2012 that is used to construct sidewalks, bike lanes, bike paths, trails and other infrastructure that makes it safe for bicyclists and pedestrians to get around. Even if every penny of these funds is diverted to bridge repairs, Senator Paul’s plan will still take 80 years to fix the backlog of bridge repairs we have today.

Even though TE represents less than 2% of federal transportation funding, it has built about $100 million in projects in Massachusetts since 1992, and the Safe Routes to School program has provided millions more to help thousands of MA children bike or walk to school. These programs help alleviate traffic congestion, improve safety, get people active, and and create more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects. We cannot allow Transportation Enhancements to fall victim to partisan political grandstanding. If we cannot save Transportation Enhancements, then Safe Routes to School, the Recreational Trails Program, and other vital sources of funding for biking and walking will not be far behind.

Last year, states sent back to Washington $530 million of unspent bridge funds in rescissions. The states are leaving bridge repair funds on the table, unspent, year after year. They should at least spend these funds first.

If the Paul amendment succeeds, it will make it much more challenging to sustain funding for Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, and Recreational Trails in the long-term transportation bill that the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee starts debating on November 9.

MassBike And MassDOT, Moving Together

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Last Wednesday, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation hosted the Moving Together Conference, which is an annual conference bringing together bike and pedestrian advocates with state and municipal officials to discuss active transportation in the Bay State. This year's theme was "Advancing Healthy Transportation with GreenDOT," GreenDot being MassDOT's comprehensive sustainability policy. We were especially excited when Secretary Rich Davey gave the Keynote Address and mentioned at least four joint initiatives in which MassBike played a major role!

This year's conference was a particularly fruitful one for MassBike, as a few significant opportunities presented themselves to Executive Director David Watson while he was meeting with other advocates and public officials. The first was during the Q&A session with Secretary Davey when David brought up the many excellent programs the MBTA has rolled out, including better access for bikes, expanded bike parking and Pedal & Park locations, and bike-specific bus driver training. At David's request, Sec. Davey was receptive to working on sharing these programs with the Regional Transit Authorities around the state, which often lack the resources to implement such programs on their own.

David spoke on a panel about educating roadway users, and the other panelists were from the MBTA and the RMV. So David took the opportunity to suggest incorporating some of the MBTA bus driver training material into the Commercial Driver's License program run by the RMV. This would be a great step forward for bicyclist safety everywhere, because of the similar danger when bicyclists interact with buses and commercial trucks.

Finally, opportunity came knocking when David spoke with MassDOT staffers responsible for traffic management around construction zones. With all the work going on around the state due to the Accelerated Bridge Program and general road construction, narrow lanes, obstructed bike paths, and other obstacles around construction zones can make it frustrating and dangerous to bike in those areas. After his conversation, the ball has gotten rolling to revise the construction traffic management design standards to better accommodate bicyclists.

We're looking forward to continuing work with MassDOT and other agency partners to improve biking conditions around the state. While these were preliminary conversations about some great changes, asking the question is often the most important step.

State Plans To Improve Charles River Path

Tree-covered with spectacular views of Boston and Cambridge's skylines, the Charles River pathway system provides a refuge for runners, walkers, bicyclists, and inline skaters alike from all of the pollution and noise of streets. But even though this public amenity is excellent, there is a lot of room for improvement. Fortunately, staff from Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) agree, and have released a study on how to improve several hairy intersections and other major sections of the path.

On Tuesday, a public meeting was held to discuss the status of the Charles River Basin (CRB) Connectivity Study and gather comments from the public. You might remember that David Watson already biked the path with fellow advocates, MassDOT and DCR; he was also at the meeting representing MassBike to give comments on the plan.  MassDOT and DCR's Planning Office implemented the study in the Fall of 2009 as part of the Accelerated Bridge Program, which will provide over $400 million to improve six structurally unsound bridges along the Charles. Because so many people use the Charles River Path, part of the funding will go toward improving the safety of the pathway, especially where it intersects with the bridges.

As part of the study, MassDOT’s design consultants from Halvorson Design, HDR Engineering, and Alta Planning + Design analyzed the existing conditions of the Charles River Pathway system for pedestrians and bicyclists. The study’s project area spans from the Galen Street Bridge in Watertown Square to the Craigie Dam Drawbridge in Charlestown. Some of the particularly poor areas highlighted are:

  • Elliot Bridge, Cambridge Side

  • Hawthorne Street crosswalk

  • Allston: access is limited

  • Boston University Bridge: no access to path from Boston Side

  • Charlesgate: no access to the Emerald Necklace Park System

  • Longfellow Bridge: poor connections

In addition to specific connectivity issues, other problems include overgrown plants, goat paths, and broken/missing pavement along the trails. Notable public feedback included encouraging the design team to plan for bicyclists of all abilities (namely, children), improving lighting structures, widening the path when possible, and enforcing no vehicular right turns on red lights. The design consultants are set to finish drafting recommendations for improving the overall pedestrian and bicycling facilities by Spring 2012, when another round of public meetings will be held to provide feedback for the recommended bike/ped facilities. For more information, contact Stephanie Boundy at 617-973-8049 or

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

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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.

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