If Bikes and Cars Can't Get Along, Make Them
Bike photo via Shutterstock
The Boston University police were out in force last week ticketing cyclists behaving like stereotypical cyclists: riding erratically and running red lights. And predictably, cyclists were upset that the police ignored the telltale signs of stereotypical motorists: driving erratically and parking in bike lanes. Oh, when will we ever learn?
This is Boston. Using the roads like a maniac is more than our bloodsport or even our pastime. It’s our given right. So what’s a large city with a civic pride in dangerous transport to do? Make Commonwealth Avenue near BU a Safe Cycling Corridor.
Certainly, Boston has a lot to gain by not having its college students run over or its drivers harassed, especially at what Boston Bikes, one of Mayor Menino’s pet projects, notes is one of the worst areas in the city for cyclists, as BU Today points out. A Safe Cycling Corridor would mean a lot more than a few stripes of white paint and a cyclist icon to delineate biker space. It would mean a blend of traffic-calming measures for cars like lower speed limits and increased signage. For cyclists, it would mean a wider bike lane outside the door zone and more bike boxes to let bikers stack at red lights (rather than wait in the line of cars, which can be dangerous).
But mostly, it would be about enforcement. The BU police would have to work with the Boston Police Department to crack down on motorists and cyclists who violate the law either out of ignorance or stupidity. That means no grace periods for double-parking delivery vehicles, no gimmes for being close to but over the speed limit, no tolerance for blowing red lights. And they’d need to make the violations hurt. Twenty dollars is nothing to college students, and giving them a good talkin’ to only creates resentment. Motorists also need to realize that there’s more at stake than the 10 seconds they save by risking a cyclists life. Make it a $100 fine for every infraction except speeding (yay, equal rights!) and give it a blanket name like Safe Cycling Corridor violation.
These would be easy to implement and since everyone is such a maniac out on the roads, the enforcement would probably pay for itself—unlike issuing 10 $20 tickets over a few days. In time the program could expand to include a protected bike lane with bike-specific signals to further make the point that cyclists have rights and responsibilities on the road, but they still need to earn the respect of drivers. Cyclists would rather feel welcomed into the urban mix (and no, we’re not going anywhere) than continue to pay in blood for a right we already have.