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Bike Safety Day Today

Important tips for cyclists, motorists, pedestrians


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In the video above, Katie Koch (CAS’09, COM’09) navigates campus by bicycle during rush-hour insanity.

Getting around campus and the city on a bicycle may be cheap and environmentally virtuous, but along Commonwealth Avenue it can turn into a white-knuckled, nausea-inducing experience. At the intersection of Comm Ave and the BU Bridge, for example, cyclists routinely pedal in and around gridlocked traffic, swerving buses, and oncoming B-line trains, to say nothing of the potholes that arrive each winter and remain for months.

These obstacles are enough to make even the most seasoned cyclist extra vigilant. But for freshmen hailing from the suburbs or rural areas, they are especially daunting. Even William Maness (CAS’14), who grew up in South Boston, finds cycling in Kenmore Square a challenge. “You have to be constantly aware. It’s more than just the high volume of traffic,” he says. “It’s more the parked cars and doors opening and people crossing the street.”

“There’s a dramatic difference between cycling around your cul-de-sac and cycling down Commonwealth Avenue,” says Webb Lancaster, director of operations for Auxiliary Services and a member of the University’s Bicycle Safety Committee. “Students don’t know what being doored is, what it’s like to experience a right cross or a left jab.”

Adding to the danger are the distractions of cell phones, texting, and headphones.

While the addition of bicycle lanes along Commonwealth Avenue two years ago and this summer’s new bike lanes from the BU Bridge to Brighton Avenue has made it safer for cyclists, the lanes can also provide a sense of false security. “Bike lanes aren’t 100 percent foolproof,” warns Seth Pritikin (MET’06, GSM’10), a School of Social Work IT analyst and staff advisor to the student-run group BU Bikes. “Even though they’re five feet wide, you still have a ‘door zone,’ where a driver parked at the curb can open a door and hit a cyclist.”

In 2009, there were more than 700 bike-related accidents reported in the city and 4 fatalities.

To ensure that new and returning students, faculty, and staff are well versed on bike safety, the University is sponsoring its third annual Bicycle Safety Day today, September 7, at Marsh Plaza, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The purpose of the event, says Lancaster, is to make pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists more aware and respectful of one another.

Representatives from a number of local bike shops (including Landry’s, Back Bay Bicycle, REI, City Sports, and International Bicycle) will be on hand during the event to offer free tire pressure testing, seat height adjustments, and brake accuracy assessments. They’ll offer advice about bike maintenance and suggestions for those looking to buy new or used bicycles.

Staff from the BU Medical Campus, the BU Police Department, Parking and Transportation, and sustainability@BU will also be on hand to offer advice and to promote good bike practices.

Students, staff, and faculty will have an opportunity to register their bikes with the University. Registration improves the odds of recovering a bike if it’s stolen and also provides access to indoor bicycle parking at the University.

And if all that weren’t enough, there’s the free stuff to consider. In addition to ice cream and kettle corn, there will be other giveaways, including reflectors and repair tools. Two bicycles will be raffled off as well, including a popular Felt road bike.

“We expect a huge turnout,” says Lancaster. “We think it’s going to be a lot of fun. We think the outcome is going to be very productive for everyone: pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.”

Bicycle Safety Day is Tuesday, September 7, at Marsh Plaza, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a rain date of Thursday, September 9, at the Granby Street parking lot, 665 Commonwealth Ave., from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Additional reporting by Dan Mercurio.

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu. Nicolae Ciorogan can be reached at ciorogan@bu.edu.


2 Comments on Bike Safety Day Today

  • Anonymous on 09.07.2010 at 1:54 pm

    BU Police also need to follow laws

    It’s bad enough that biking students continually violate traffic laws. But the BU police do as well. The BU police officers who ride on bikes continually violate laws by failing to stop at stop signs (or traffic lights), by riding down the middle of streets (Bay State Road as well as Comm Ave), failing to signal, failing to yield right-of-way, and so on. PLEASE follow the rules. And then give tickets to students who don’t follow the rules.

  • John Brooking on 09.07.2010 at 2:31 pm

    Bike lane safety

    “Bike lanes have made it safer for cyclists” has never been conclusively proven, as there are a lot of variables at play, not least of which is the door zone issue the article mentions. Bike lanes encourage the “stay to the right” mentality, but staying too far to the right can make it easier for motorists to overlook cyclists, and put cyclists closer to conflicts not only with opening doors, but crossing pedestrians and other side hazards such as debris and curbs.

    Unless you are turning right, staying too far right while entering an intersection (even sometimes in a bike lane), can set you up for being hit by right-turning traffic on your left (the “right hook”) as well as left-turning traffic from the opposite direction from whom you may be hidden on your approach (the “left cross”).

    The best combination of safety and efficiency for bicyclists using roads is provided by observing the rules of the road for vehicles, such as riding with traffic (not against it), stopping for red lights (even taking your place in line, if the lane is narrow the line is not too long, and you are comfortable with that), using appropriate directional lanes, and using lights at night. These all help motorists see you (because you are in places they are already looking) and understand your movements. For some bicycle-specific safety techniques, see http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/index.htm. Also see http://bicyclesafe.com/ for some typical car/bike collision scenarios and how to avoid them.

    The only universally agreed-upon benefit of bike lanes is for the comfort of bicyclists who are uncomfortable in traffic. That’s why they are built, not for safety.

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