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.

ACTION ALERT: Protect Federal Funding For Biking

This year, around $700 million of Federal transportation funds, which is less than 2 percent of total transportation dollars, will be spent on bicycling and walking nationwide. In 2012 that figure might be zero. Please contact Senators Kerry and Brown TODAY and let them know you support continued funding for biking and walking.

Congressional leaders have made little progress on a new transportation funding bill to replace the SAFETEA-LU Act that expired in 2009. Transportation funding has continued through a series of extensions - and the current extension ends September 30th. Last Friday, they announced a tentative deal for a "clean" extension of SAFETEA-LU that will continue funding at current levels into early 2012. The deal would keep funding for biking and walking programs in place, avert a shutdown of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and save the jobs of hundreds of thousands of people working on transportation infrastructure projects.

But we're not safe yet: In the next few days, Senator Coburn (R-Oklahoma) may ask Congress to eliminate the Transportation Enhancements program – the primary funding source for the past 20 years for bike lanes, trails, bike racks on buses, bike education, and more. This isn’t safe or smart; it’s not good for the economy or the environment; this is bad health policy and bad transportation policy.

Massachusetts spent $97,712,865 on Transportation Enhancements from 1992-2009, and another $5,620,380 on Safe Routes to School making it possible for thousands of children to bike or walk to school. We cannot allow Transportation Enhancements to fall victim to partisan political grandstanding. If we cannot save Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School, the Recreational Trails Program, and other vital sources of funding for biking and walking will not be far behind.

Even though bicycling projects create more jobs per dollar than highway-only projects and cutting enhancements won’t impact the deficit – the money just won’t be spent on bicycling – some Members of Congress want to force us backwards to a 1950s highway-only mindset: as if oil embargoes, congestion, smog, the obesity epidemic and climate change never happened.

To protect against cuts to biking and walking programs, we are asking you to contact Senators Kerry and Brown and urge them to support continued funding. Don’t let short-sighted people in Congress take away this vital investment program for smart, sustainable, safe transportation choices.

Please take action today:

1. Call and/or email Senator Kerry and Senator Brown TODAY, tell them why bicycling is important to you, and ask them to do two things:

  • OPPOSE any move to eliminate the Transportation Enhancements (TE) program

  • SUPPORT a clean extension of the SAFETEA-LU programs (pronounced "Safety Lou")

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

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

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!

MassBike Spins In The Late Summer

As the days cool off, the night falls sooner, and the leaves start to change color, what many consider to be prime New England biking weather comes to the Bay State. The MassBike Spins Series is looking for members and other partners to create opportunities for folks to get out on their bikes all around the state. Rides can be any length, and creative themes and fun stops are encouraged.

In return for organizing the ride as a "MassBike Spins Series" event, MassBike can provide insurance and advertise it on our calendar and newsletter. More importantly, however, we'll be getting MassBikers out on the road with the cool breeze whipping through their helmets.

For more information, contact or check out our Ride Services Page.

Hubway Membership Exceeds Projections

Some of you may have seen the article in the Boston Globe about the success of the Hubway system. Boston has exceeded almost everyone's expectations in terms of the number of members signed up, and the amount those members have used the bikes. With over 2,300 annual subscribers and 36,600 station-to-station trips, the numbers so far indicate greater subscription and usage rates than both Minneapolis and Denver, which launched with comparably-sized systems.

It's a great thing to see more bicyclists on the road, and especially new bicyclists who might be trying out riding in an urban environment for the first time. We are happy to have a partnership with the City of Boston to provide bike safety classes geared specifically to Hubway users so that these fresh faces can get where they're going comfortably and confidently. Check out our Education Page or see below for listings of when these classes are taking place. They are free and open to the public.

Hubway Bike Safety Workshops

Wednesday, September 21, 5pm – 6pm
Boston City Hall, Conference 933a

Thursday, September 22, 7pm – 8pm
Giant Cycling World,
11 Kilmarnock St.
Boston, MA 02215

Tuesday, September 27, 6pm – 7pm
Boston Public Library
700 boylston st. entrance - concourse level
Conference Room 6

Fall Volunteer Opportunities Abound

The fall is a busy time for us here at MassBike and we need lots of volunteer support to make this season a success. MassBike volunteers help to spread the word about bicycling, directly help out other bicyclists, or help MassBike have the time to do more advocacy. You not only get the good feeling of helping your statewide bicycle advocacy organization, but we like to thank our volunteers who help out with 10 hours or more by providing them with a complimentary MassBike membership.

Check below for some of our upcoming volunteer opportunities, visit our volunteer page, or email for more information or to tell us you'd like to help out. (We especially need help during the weekend of the 24th and 25th, so please lend a hand if you can).

MassBike Volunteer Night
Tuesday, 9/13
5pm-8pm; 171 Milk Street, Suite 33, Boston

Volunteer nights are a great opportunity to help your statewide 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.

Blue Line Evaluation
Monday, 9/12 - Friday, 9/16
7:00am-8:30am, 8:30am-10:00am, 4:00-5:30pm, and 5:30-7:00pm; Maverick T Station

You may remember that back in March the Blue Line Pilot Program kicked off, expanding bicycle access during rush hour on the Blue Line. Now, we need help from our members and supporters to make sure that this program continues indefinitely. During the week of September 12, we'll have both morning and evening rush hour shifts to count bicycles and evaluate train occupancy. Shifts run every day 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.

Bicycle Valet
Saturday, 9/24
3:30pm - 6:00pm; Christopher Columbus Park, Boston

MassBike will be providing bicycle valet for the Moving Planet bike ride and event on September 24th. We really need volunteer support to help park 300 or more bikes. Bicycle valet is an easy way to help MassBike, greet bicycle riders, and get to see some great bikes. Email for more info or to sign up to help out.

Hub On Wheels Tabling
Sunday, 9/25
7am-5pm; City Hall Plaza, Boston

MassBike will be tabling at Hub On Wheels. We need your help to let riders and attendees know what's going on with bicycling in Massachusetts and to tell them about MassBike. Come help out for a 2-hour shift and then watch the Mayor's Cup race!

Oktoberfest Tabling
Sunday 10/2
11:30am-6:00pm; Harvard Square, Cambridge

We'll be at Harvard Square's annual Oktoberfest. We need your help to let riders and attendees know what's going on with bicycling in Massachusetts and to tell them about MassBike. Come help out for a 2-hour shift and then enjoy the rest of Oktoberfest and the Honk! parade.

Thank you for your help! Please email if you'd like to help out with an event or if you have any questions.

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.

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