We've really come a long way from having no access at all to having pretty good access today (yes, we've still got more work to do on that). But our collaboration with the T recently took an unexpected turn toward an even closer working partnership, stemming, as these things often do, from a tragedy - the death of Eric Hunt in April in a crash involving an MBTA bus.
Immediately following that crash, MBTA General Manager Rich Davey reached out to me to discuss bicyclist and bus safety. Mr. Davey brought me together with key MBTA staff responsible for bus driver training and operations, as well as the Executive Director of MARTA, the association of regional transit agencies across Massachusetts. We began what I hope will be an ongoing conversation about safety (and access) statewide.
We had a great meeting, focusing primarily on bus/bicyclist safety. Here are the high points:
- Rich Davey is committed to safety above all else.
- The training people presented an overview of bus operator training: Up until recently, drivers were trained when hired and never retrained unless they were involved in at-fault or multiple accidents. They now have a plan to retrain every driver on a regular basis, using a bus simulator, although it will take 2-3 years for each complete training cycle because they can only train a handful of drivers per day. They are especially interested in interactive training ideas to supplement classroom sessions or printed materials. (They committed to involve the advocacy community in developing new simulator scenarios and printed materials, and they have already begun working with us on this, as Shane previously reported.)
- The T is planning to use the great Chicago training video, but agree it would be better to have a video featuring T personnel and equipment. They want our help to get bicyclists to watch the video too.
- I told them about the very common experiences of buses passing bikers too closely and passing just before pulling into a bus stop. They said that drivers are specifically instructed not to do those things, and seemed skeptical that the problem is as common as I claimed (based on my own experience and other reports to MassBike), but were open to finding new ways to convey this message to drivers.
- I suggested that it is important for drivers to understand the cyclist's point of view, and that perhaps we could work with them on videos or even rides to give drivers that experience.
Mr. Davey also gave me the opportunity to talk about other issues unrelated to the recent bus incident, so I talked about the need to provide a better forum for public participation than the old "Bikes and the T" committee, continuing the collaborative working relationship with the advocates, completing bike rack installation on the bus fleet, and relaxing the peak hour restrictions (and specifically doing a pilot on the Blue Line).
The next day, Mr. Davey spoke at Mayor Menino's Boston Bike Safety Summit, reiterating many of the points he and I discussed at our meeting and committing to working with the advocacy community to improve safety. As we already reported, Mr. Davey also met "Biker Boy" at the summit, which led to Biker Boy and I recording the public service announcements you may have heard on the T lately.
Following the safety summit, we participated in the meeting we previously reported with the bus driver training staff, together with representatives from the Boston Cyclists Union, Cambridge Bicycle Committee, and the City of Boston. This meeting led directly to MassBike jointly submitting, with BCU and LivableStreets Alliance, a proposal for major revisions to the information provided to bus drivers about interacting with bicyclists. The next step is to work with the T to finalize these revisions, then move on to helping them design better simulator scenarios for their ongoing training program.
We continue working with the T to improve access for bicyclists. I am now the poster child for taking folding bikes on the T! (For real, check out my picture in the new T brochure and on the newly-spiffed-up "Bikes on the T" webpage.)
During Bay State Bike Week last month, I had the honor of speaking at the opening of the newest "Pedal & Park" facility at South Station, part of the MBTA's $4.8 million federal stimulus-funded bike parking expansion project. I thanked the T for spending real dollars to improve bicycle access, but I held their feet to the fire just a little to do more to ensure that all MBTA employees treat bicyclists with respect and take bicyclist safety seriously. I know that Rich Davey does take us seriously, and we have a great opportunity to make some major positive changes with our newly-strengthened relationship with the T.
Your support of MassBike makes this work possible, so please join or renew, and tell your friends.
Thank you all very much!
See our original post about this article, and an unedited version of our letter here.
You can see additional comments from riders here.
Here is some of the press coverage of the ride:
We got this question from Scott about riding in crosswalks.
In crossing a zebra crosswalk, where cars must stop for pedestrians, does the law prohibit you from riding your bike across. Must you walk it?
Good question Scott, and unfortunately one with a bit of a confusing answer. Massachusetts law does not expressly address the issue of vehicles (remember, bicycles are legally vehicles) using crosswalks to cross the street. The law does require "drivers" to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks (Mass. General Laws, chapter 89, section 11), which gives us a clue that whoever wrote the law was thinking about cars. And cars, as a practical matter, cannot physically use a crosswalk (unless they are somehow driving on the sidewalk), so lawmakers probably did not think it was essential to write a law prohibiting something that cannot happen. But, taking everything in context, we think the intention is pretty clear that vehicles should not use crosswalks. What does this mean for bicyclists? Here is a common sense approach, where you choose whether to act as a vehicle or as a pedestrian and then stick with that choice:
If you are riding your bicycle in the road, then you are operating as a vehicle, and should not use crosswalks to cross intersections. You should remain in proper position to cross the intersection with other vehicular traffic. Sure, you could dismount, walk over to the crosswalk, walk your bike across, then walk back over into the road and remount, but we do not advise that because it puts you at risk from turning vehicles while in the crosswalk, you may have to merge back into moving traffic on the other side of the street (and cars are not expecting you to do that from a crosswalk), and it makes you unpredictable - no one will know for sure what you intend to do. The little "jog" to the right (into or near the crosswalk) that we see many bicyclists do before running a red light does not somehow make it OK - it is still running a red light (as well as being dangerous for all of the above reasons and potentially conflicting with pedestrians). A mounted bicyclist in the roadway is a vehicle and must obey the rules and signals.
If you are riding your bicycle on the sidewalk where it is legal to do so, then you are effectively a pedestrian, and it may be legal to ride in a crosswalk (although we do not guarantee it). Even so, we think it is safer to walk your bike across the street to avoid conflicts with pedestrians and turning cars that might not be looking for bicyclists in crosswalks. Sidewalk bicycling is illegal in all designated business districts statewide, and each city or town can further restrict it. Some towns prohibit all sidewalk bicycling. You need to check the local rules to know for sure.
If you are riding your bicycle illegally on a sidewalk, you are breaking the law, and riding in the crosswalk is probably also illegal.
We are still accepting entries, so be sure to read below to find out how to send in your story.
Our next story comes from Paola.
Where I Ride: From my home in Brighton to my office in the Fort Point Channel, and around my neighborhood to run errands
How Often I Ride: I’m mostly a fair weather rider
I had not been on a bicycle since I was a teen, but something inspired me to start cycling. I remembered enjoying it so much as a kid and commuting by T was becoming a drag, so in August 2009 –at the age of 37- I decided to take a plunge and buy a bike. I wanted something that fit my lifestyle (emphasis on “style”), so I bought a Schwinn cruiser that reminded me of the bicycles of my childhood. At first, I was afraid to ride with traffic, so I only took short trips around the neighborhood. My local bike shop suggested I enroll in the intro to bicycling skills offered by MassBike to help me get over my fears; there, I learned of the Boston Bikes Friday caravans to the city and –encouraged by the safety of traveling with a group- decided to join them. Soon enough, I was riding to and from work on a regular basis on my own. I am amazed by how much I’ve enjoyed this experience!
There are many challenges to urban riding but, overall, the hours I spend on my bike are the best hours of my day. I’m a slow rider and my commute gives me an opportunity to think, decompress and focus. There are no phones, Blackberries, or computers… it’s just me and the road. Boston never looked this beautiful.
We want to hear your story. Tell us about yourself and how bicycling is a part of your life. Just copy and paste the form below into an email, fill it in, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Where You Ride:
- How Often You Ride:
- Your Profession/Relation/Title (lawyer, nurse, Grandma, son, etc):
- A picture of you on your bicycle, or you in your daily life (be sure we can see your face):
- A paragraph or two about your life and your bicycle:
Crowds are lining up for free Bay State Bike Week t-shirts!
To park your bike: The valet bike parking is west of the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade. Keep the river and the lagoon on your right and you'll find us. Look for the bright yellow MassBike tent.
To find our booth: Our exhibit booth is located in a large white tent between Storrow Drive and the concession area.
Click here for a an interactive map of the event