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Bike Accidents Prompt New Safety Plan

Bicycle committee to address education, resources, traffic flow

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A CAS student was transported by paramedics to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for treatment on September 16. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

When Boston’s first bike lane opened on Commonwealth Avenue last August, the move was acclaimed both locally and nationally. Bicycling magazine, which had ranked Boston among the worst cities for biking, upgraded the city to its “Five for the Future” list of places launching cycling-friendly initiatives. But increased bicycle traffic over the past two months has led to more accidents on and near the BU campus — several involving students.

“The cars don’t necessarily see you, so it’s better to be safe and obey the traffic laws,” says Christine Loken-Kim, program administrator in the College of Arts and Sciences African-American Studies Program, who commutes to work on her bicycle. “When you bike, there is nothing protecting your body from the concrete, meaning you have to be aware that biking can be dangerous.”

To address the problem, Joseph Mercurio, the University’s executive vice president, has formed a bicycle safety committee intended to educate and inform all members of the BU community — bikers, drivers, and pedestrians — about rules, safety, and how best to share the road.

“What the committee wants to do is work on providing a better environment for the cycling community,” says Craig Hill, associate vice president of auxiliary services and chair of the bicycle safety committee. “Our immediate focus will be on cyclist safety in the problem areas, such as the section of the road between University Road and the BU Bridge — that needs to happen as soon as possible. We’ll also be looking at all aspects of the bicyclists’ environment, such as the number of bicycle racks, their location on campus, and better communication about where bicycles can and cannot be locked.”

Several bicycle accidents have already occurred this semester. On September 16, a student was hit by a car while biking near Carlton Street, and on September 22, another was struck while crossing Memorial Drive. Both were brought to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

One of the committee’s first initiatives will be finding a better way for cyclists to get across campus, particularly on the stretch of Commonwealth Avenue that intersects with the BU Bridge, which is where the mile-long bike lane from Kenmore Square ends. The ongoing construction on the span has made both riding along Commonwealth Avenue and crossing the bridge into Cambridge difficult.

“Right now, bicyclists either use a pedestrian path that’s not in good condition or ride in traffic,” Hill says. “One of the things I need to do right away is get up to speed on the discussions about making it safer for bicyclists to cross.”

Other proposals include creating training videos to help inexperienced riders, collaborating with the BUPD to educate people about properly locking and registering their bicycles, and possibly providing access to low-cost helmets. At present, the BUPD has a Web site where students can register their bicycles.

“I look forward to the entire campus community’s support of our students, faculty, and staff as they consider an important aspect of personal safety,” says committee member Kenneth Elmore, BU’s dean of students. “I am particularly interested in the committee’s community education initiatives to help pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists to have an understanding of cycling in an urban environment.”

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu. Jessica Ullian can be reached at jullian@bu.edu.

27 Comments

27 Comments on Bike Accidents Prompt New Safety Plan

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 7:50 am

    Safety

    A big issue needs to be raised with pedestrians. I only bike down that stretch infrequently, but the number of times I’ve almost hit a pedestrian who decided to stroll out into the street is alarming. They need to understand the idea that, if we’re not allowed to cut through their crosswalks when they have the right of way, they’re not allowed to step in front of us when we do…

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 8:39 am

    IPods and Biking

    As someone who drives to campus each day, it has become clear to me that the greatest single hazard to bicyclists on Comm Ave is the IPod they are listening to while cycling.

    I am highly supportive of BU’s and Boston’s efforts to increase bicycle use, but cyclists MUST UN-PLUG THEIR EARS and FOLLOW THE RULES OF THE ROAD.

    I hope that Mercurio’s panel will raise awareness of this issue.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 9:02 am

    Well, half the time there are cars parked (even if its only for a short span of time) on bike lanes near BU Bridge making it difficult for riders like me to keep going in and out of bike lanes.

  • Hey Lance Armstrong! Pay attention! on 10.03.2008 at 9:04 am

    They just fly down Comm Ave right through red lights without even slowing down to look if there’s a car crossing…a car with a driver that’s not exactly expecting someone to fly out in front of him, since he has a green light. Would you be so reckless in a car? Of course not…why would you do something so foolish on a bicycle? I’ve had cyclists escape serious injury only because of my own quick reflexes with the brake pedal…had they not been so lucky, after getting out of the hospital they would have received a bill from my insurance company for the damage to my car.

    I’m all for cycling – it leaves the roads less congested for me – but “share the road” doesn’t mean “I get to pedal however I want and you better not hit me.”

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 9:21 am

    The bike lane near Sherborn St. makes no sense. If a cyclist is headed west down Comm Ave and is following traffic laws they are still at great risk of being his by cars turning right onto Sherborn. The light at this intersection has a green arrow straight ahead and a green arrow pointing right. Both are green at the same time. A cyclist is in the bike lane headed straight and a car is in the right lane turning right, both have the right-of-way according to the traffic signal. Clearly, no one thought this out before installing the lights & bike lane.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 9:32 am

    I used to commute by bike until physical problems interfered. The biggest infractions that I’ve observed are (1) riding, often at speeds exceeding the pace of pedestrians around them, on the sidewalk, (2) riding against traffic – I almost hit one as I was exiting a parking lot because you don’t expect someone to be coming from that direction, and (3) not observing traffic signals and signage, e.g., riding without stopping from the two-way section onto the one-way (in the wrong direction) section of Essex Street at the intersection with Dummer Street – again that’s not the legal flow of traffic.

  • Robert Kotiuga on 10.03.2008 at 9:45 am

    Bike Safety Plan

    Many of us who’ve been cycling in Boston for decades share stories about the problems and dangers, as well as stories of lost friends. I hope the committee has some veteran bikers on it. The problems aren’t easy to fix, but deep insights abound, and I’m sure there is sobering data which should help focus the discussion.
    You have my best wishes.

  • Pat Allen on 10.03.2008 at 9:45 am

    Bike Lane Length

    This renewed emphasis on bike accessibility is really encouraging, and it is a good priority to make the area around the BU bridge safer. However, I feel it is worth nothing that a generous measurement of the Comm Ave bike lane, via Gmaps, puts it at less than 3/4 mile:

    http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&saddr=42.348994,-71.096649&daddr=Commonwealth+Ave%2FRT-2%2FRT-30%2FUS-20&hl=en&geocode=%3BFRw4hgIdhO_C-w&mra=dme&mrcr=0&mrsp=0&sz=18&sll=42.349188,-71.097867&sspn=0.002914,0.004828&ie=UTF8&ll=42.351091,-71.103387&spn=0.011656,0.019312&z=16

    Although this is a huge asset to the community, referring to BU’s “mile long” bike lane makes me uncomfortable.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 9:49 am

    Bikers need Education too.

    I’ve heard much talk about educating the community (mainly drivers) and making the environment safer for bikers, but how about the safety of pedestrians when bikers wiz by, completely ignoring traffic signals and almost colliding with pedestrians who are crossing correctly and appropriately? On two occasions this year, I have had near misses with a biker that made no means to alert me of their presence – on both occasions, the biker had run a red light.

    Bikers also need to take extra caution – With no disrespect to the student in this article, I am hard pressed to completely believe that a bike accident (especially around our campus area) is completely a driver’s fault. I have seen too many reckless bikers, particularly this fall, to believe that.

    In addition to education, I would like to see a program that would hold bikers more accountable for the traffic laws (such as stopping at red lights).

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 10:02 am

    The most dangerous part is the BU bridge.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 10:10 am

    Bus drivers

    I bike everyday down this road. Some of the closest calls for me have been after the BU bridge heading towards west campus where the road funnels you to the cars parked on the side. Putting a bike lane that at least covers this section is imperative.

    The closest calls I have experienced have been with city bus drivers and even the BU BUS. Recently the BU BUS at that funnel after the bridge forced me to either get hit by the bus, or slam into the cars that were parked on the side. It was a very close call. I tried to catch up to get a bus number and report him. Any discussion you might have, don’t forget to brief your own aggressive BUS drivers and city bus drivers as well. They routinely blow by you at maybe a foot to spare.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 10:24 am

    Biking on Sidewalk

    Another issue is the amount of bikers who ride on the sidewalk with no concern for the pedestrians walking, this includes locations where there is a new bike lane. I DAILY am hopping out of the way of a biker on the sidwalk who flys by without watching out at all.

  • Will on 10.03.2008 at 10:31 am

    As a bike-commuter, I’m happy to hear that the BU community is taking a proactive approach to bicycle safety, but there is one thing I would like to point out that wasn’t mentioned in this article: A recent study found that as bike ridership increases the total amount of bike accidents does increase. However, the relative number of accidents per rider goes down (http://www.livescience.com/health/080905-bike-accidents.html). The idea is that the more bikers drivers see, the more they get used to looking out for them and sharing the road.

    I hope that people will not be scared off of biking by reports of increased accidents. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, but the more people that continue to bike, the safer we’ll all be.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 12:12 pm

    It is also good to note that everyone has to SHARE the road, everyone should obey the rules. This goes for walkers, bikers and drivers. Just yesterday I saw a bicyclist whiz through a red light. People can’t expect drivers to respect bicyclists’ rights when some may willfully disregard the rules of the road. I bike, I walk, I no longer drive here, but I think it’s great that we’re moving in the right direction to get everyone on the same page.

  • Aleks on 10.03.2008 at 1:42 pm

    BU bridge and buses are problem

    I have been biking and driving to BU for 13 years. The new bike lane is a great improvement. Thank you everyone who made it happen. In my experience I have found that staying in the center lane approaching the bu bridge is safer than the right lane if you are continuing on comm ave. Otherwise you get stuck in the turning lane on the bu bridge. If I had my way I would repaint the bike lane to this traffic pattern. If its painted on the road the drivers will understand the motive for this maneuver. I never run this light if there is any traffic. It pisses off the drivers and give riders a bad name. Show road respect. As a rider you will loose if you get too bold. Going over the BU bridge is bad. I used to take the sidewalk on the closed side of the bridge because it is less used then the open one. Now I take the road. Watch out for the rusty metal strip falling off the curb if you ride on the road. It wouldnt take too much to impale your right foot on it if you ride close to the curb. I have submitted numerous complaints about MBTA bus drivers over the years. They cut it too close. If the biker falls the bus will run them over. Personally, I dont want to die by bus wheel.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 1:45 pm

    It's up to you...

    I’ve been biking in Boston for, oh, 25 years and–knock on wood–have never had an accident. I stop at traffic signals, but don’t stand and wait for a green light if there’s nothing coming, either. Nor do I wear a helmet. I credit the things I do, rather than the things I don’t with the fact that I’ve remained a happy and unmaimed rider:
    – never ride with an ipod on. If you do, you’re asking to be hurt. And you MUST watch out for walkers w/ them on who are frequently oblivious, too.
    – never let your mind wander or gawk around. If you want to do that, take a walk in the woods.
    – always know that Boston drivers will do the silliest thing they possibly could, including turning left from a right hand lane through a red light. Same goes for pedestrians.
    – when you’re passing another biker or a pedestrian, SAY SOMETHING! “passing on your left” “excuse me, please.” COMMUNICATE!
    – make eye contact with drivers. don’t just expect that they know you’re there. BE DEFENSIVE because you’ve got more to lose than they, in their cars, do.
    – don’t ride too fast. sure, it’s fun, but getting hit’s not.
    – know that wearing a helmet doesn’t make you a safe rider. It only protects your noggin. I’ve seen more people with helmets doing foolhardy things (and riding on sidewalks LOTS!)

    Riding in the city is a blast, but you have to be smart and be good and don’t think that because you’re wearing a helmet or following the rules of the road, you’re covered. Defensive riding is the best way to make sure everyone stays safe and happy. It’s a big responsibility and a big joy to ride in the city. There will always be people who think you almost hit them, and bikers who complain of cars coming too close. Almost only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. In traffic, it could just as easily be called being efficient.
    Be careful and have fun!

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 3:32 pm

    A biker was hit on Memorial Drive?!?

    The article says “on September 22, another was struck while crossing Memorial Drive”. What the heck was a cyclist doing anywhere NEAR the cars on Memorial Drive?!? There are bridges OVER Mem Drive to avoid exactly this scenario. This sounds like a future candidate for the Darwin Awards to me…

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 3:34 pm

    Oops... that said Memorial Drive, not Storrow Drive

    My mistake… assuming the cyclist was in an intersection or a crosswalk, I retract my Darwin Award comment.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 4:08 pm

    I am glad to see that someone has brought up the issue of riding a bicycle with headphones on. This is sooooooooo not a good idea. My 16 year old son has been taking driving lessons here in New York City where we live. I tell him all the time not to drive with the car radio so loud that you cannot hear what is going on outside around you. A good, conscientious driver must be able to hear traffic sounds, sirens, horns, your own car’s sounds in case your car is not working properly, shouting if a pedestrian is trying to get your attention, etc. Tuning out the world while operating a vehicle is selfish and very unsafe for all concerned. Operating a bicycle is just as dangerous (if not more) when you cannot hear anything but music in your ears. Please, everybody look out for each other and share the road – be it in a car or on a bicycle. I say use common sense on Com. Ave.

    BU Parent (CAS ’11)

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 4:58 pm

    yay

    I take the Bridge to and from school every day and that is the most harrying part of my ride. Just today while coming up the hill on the Cambridge side I was forced off the road and hit one of the orange construction traffic controllers because a car that had been driving in the middle of his lane suddenly moved closer to the curb. I imagine when the construction is over this will improve but it’s still quite scary. There’s no clear place for bikes to be when coming around that circle. Same goes on BU side. Once we’re across we have to get into the correct lane to turn which can leave us sitting in the middle of oncoming traffic. NOT FUN!
    A Better way to get from CAS to CFA and vice versa would also be greatly appreciated.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 5:32 pm

    Everyone has valid points...

    But productively: can we do anything about getting a bike lane between the BU bridge and Packard’s Corner? A pretty significant amount of bikers ride this and we have to take a full traffic lane to avoid getting “doored” which just angers the cars in traffic. Especially up the hill where it is more difficult to keep up with traffic.

    The answer clearly isn’t to ride the sidewalk, but the parked cars there and constant flux of parking/leaving cars make me dread this stretch. I’d be very happy even if there was a bike lane put in just from the BU Bridge to Agganis in that direction.

    Drivers raging at bikers crack me up though, try your hand in both roles regularly and tell me which group you despise more afterwards. Though the small % with ipods in their ears are idiots.

  • Anonymous on 10.03.2008 at 7:07 pm

    Bike racks and BU Bridge

    It would be great to see more bike racks, and also covered racks. The one’s near the Law School are weirdly designed: too close to the wall so there can’t be so many bikes there. More racks may create more riders which may create less cars: this would be a great initiative.

    The BU bridge is totally scary, and is the lowpoint of my 20 minute bike commute. I always breathe a sigh of relief that I’ve made it to and from Cambridge.

    When roads are too dangerous, cyclists naturally move to sidewalks, and this isn’t pleasant for pedestrians even if they’re moving slowly.

    In my opinion, helmets are a red herring. The help to create the illusion of safety for both drivers and cyclists. Good roads, attentive drivers and cautious cyclists are the key.

  • Anonymous on 10.04.2008 at 6:59 am

    Take your typical oblivious pedestrian and give them speed and wheels, now add to that your typical crappy Boston driver. Subtract street smarts and common sense. It is a formula for disaster despite a nice bike lane through BU campus and the most advanced helmet in the world.

    As a biker myself, I’m astounded as to why there aren’t 10x more bike accidents.

  • Anonymous on 10.05.2008 at 2:18 pm

    Shared Safety

    I have not been biking in Boston for all that long. However, it does not take an experienced eye to realize that there are multiple parties responsible for safety on the road. I have had pedestrians almost run into me when I have had a green light (and right of way) because they decide to try and cross the street before cars come. I’ve almost been hit by the BU bus which repeatedly does NOT use a blinker to indicate that it is stopping to pick up students. There are some bikers who do not follow the rules of the road and bike recklessly. That being said, I do know a strong contingent of cyclists who do obey the rules of the road, wear helmets, and signal before turning. There are many more motorists who do NOT act in bikers’ best interest as opposed to the other way around. I have seen motorists park in the bike lane, obstruct the bike lane in attempt to get into a turning lane, not signal when they are turning, and challenge bikers into smaller spaces and smaller spaces between traffic and parked cars. To claim that cyclists are the only problem is simply ignorant.

  • Anonymous on 10.08.2008 at 9:02 am

    Why no helmets?

    I understand that helmets don’t give people the right to ride recklessly, but that’s no excuse not to wear one! Why no helmets Comm Ave. bikers? Helmets can save a life! They saved mine in a childhood bike accident.

  • Nathan Phillips on 10.08.2008 at 10:09 pm

    bicycle safety at BU

    I encourage the community of cyclists at BU and the safety committee to take a look at the report prepared by Dr. Anne Lusk of Harvard University and her colleague Jonathan Harris, entitled “Pushing the Design Boundaries”, which discusses intelligent and safe bike lane design in urban environments.

    http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/healthdesign/pushing_design_boundaries.pdf

  • Kredyty gotówkowe on 02.26.2009 at 3:54 am

    We’re all pedestrians. And most of us are drivers… We need to be more carefull.

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