MassBike and Boston Police Team Up to Educate Officers About Interactions Between Cyclists and Drivers

They are creating a video that will be used statewide, and an e-learning course for BPD.

MassBike and Boston Police are collaborating on some new material so that officers around the state can get up to date with the current bike laws, and better learn how to handle interactions between both cyclists and motorists.

Through a $10,000 grant handed down to MassBike members, by officials from the Department of Public Health, the goal is to create a video to educate police on the rules of the road, and how to spot infractions made by drivers who impede a cyclist’s right of way. It will also provide updated information on how to handle unruly riders that may be tempted to soar through red lights, or ignore the traffic standards they should be held accountable for. “It’s focused on the behavior of everyone on the roads as it relates to bicycling,” said MassBike Executive Director David Watson. “We wanted to provide something very useful to police, so rather than speculate on our own, we decided to engage with the police and partner with them to create a good product.”

Watson said they are planning to have the video completed by the end of 2013, but they want to “make sure it’s done right,” before they meet that deadline. “We definitely want it distributed well before next spring when the majority of cyclists come out of hibernation from the winter months,” he said.

Before production on the video can begin, however, Boston’s own City Council has to approve a request to transfer the funds over to police to get the bike-safety project rolling forward. The council is expected to vote in favor of the funding transfer at a full meeting of the board on Wednesday afternoon.

After speaking with a number of video production agencies, and meeting with Boston Police, Boston University Police, and officers from Brookline, MassBike decided the most effective way of getting the video completed would be to utilize the resources at hand locally.

They decided that Boston Police should move forward with the production aspects, in order to save money. “We talked to a number of video production people when we made out initial request, and that was in the range that we heard. That is covering weeks worth of staff time and preparation. It’s basically a lot of time that will be spent by quite a few people [from the Boston Police Department],” said Watson. “They offered their training and videography resources to help us make it happen, so rather than us to go out and hire a videography team, we are providing a grant to the department to cover their expenses.”

Watson said he has hopes that additional training mechanisms will come with the video, specifically e-training courses for new recruits, as well as cards for officers to carry to remind them how to deal with cyclists and motorists. The announcement comes at a time when mayoral candidates vying for the soon-to-be-vacant seat at City Hall have honed in on how to make the city safer for cyclists, and discussions about adding additional bike tracks to parts of Boston have begun.

Watson said police involvement with cyclist and driver safety can be sparse, with officers engaging only during sting operations, and he wants a more universal approach. “I think it’s inconsistent,” he said. “We would like to see it just become the everyday work so that very officer knows the basics.”