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Bikers Nabbed in Sting Operation

Police hope to boost helmet use

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Benjamin Arnold (CAS’12) and BUPD officer Din Jenkins part friends after Arnold received a fake ticket and a free bike helmet Tuesday. Photos by Vernon Doucette

Tuesday’s morning commute was anything but typical for Benjamin Arnold. A police officer pulled him over in the bike lane by the Granby Street parking lot and issued him a ticket for not wearing a helmet. Reporters from local TV stations then swarmed in for his reaction. Soon, the officer returned with a free helmet.

“I’ve had my helmet stolen three times,” says Arnold (CAS’12), twice in Allston and once close to his home near the Berklee College of Music. Arnold knows better than to ride without a helmet: “My father’s a neurologist. He’d be on my ass about this.”

The BU junior was among at least 100 people given fake tickets, free bike helmets, and a friendly handshake from BU, Brookline, and Boston bicycle patrol officers in what organizers jokingly call a “shock and awe” sting operation designed to promote bike safety. Stationed along Commonwealth Avenue, the officers handed out neon orange tickets, with MassBike’s rules of the road printed on one side and a 20 percent off coupon on locks and helmets at Landry’s Bicycles on the other.

“The goal is to make this a friendly exchange between officers on bikes and those who cycle across our campus on a daily basis,” says Webb Lancaster, director of operations for Auxiliary Services.

The University’s Bike Safety Committee and the Office of Judicial Affairs organized the event to educate cyclists about the state’s 2009 biking legislation and to distribute free helmets, lights, and tire changing kits.

Photo by Vernon Doucette for Boston University Photography.

Photo by Vernon Doucette for Boston University Photography.

According to Massachusetts law, bicyclists can be fined $20 for violating driving laws—such as running a red light—or for biking in the dark without front and rear lights. The law also requires bikers 16 and younger to wear helmets.

BU Police Department officers will start ticketing riders who violate state law, says Sergeant Larry Cuzzi, who directs the department’s mountain bike unit.

“We’re not trying to be the bad guys, but we’re not wanting to respond to an abundance of bicyclists or pedestrians being hit,” Cuzzi says.

Organizers of Tuesday’s sting hope their efforts to boost helmet use will reduce the number of injuries from bicycle accidents. From July through September 2010, 141 bicycle and car accidents—3 of them fatal—were reported to the Boston Police Department, according to Captain John Danilecki. Not surprisingly, the top two danger zones were Massachusetts Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue, BU’s backyard and main drag.

Approximately 16 bicycle accidents—none of them life-threatening—have been reported to the BUPD since September, Cuzzi says. “If we can reduce that in any way, even by one, then that’s why we’re out there.”

The BU Cycling Safety Survey, sponsored every other year by the BU Bike Safety Committee, found that nearly 48 percent of bicyclists on the Charles River Campus do not always wear helmets. Many said it was the inconvenience of carrying a helmet or their unfashionable look, not the cost, that led them to avoid wearing one.

Taylor White (COM’12) can sympathize. “It messes up my hair,” White told an officer Tuesday morning with a self-conscious laugh. She asked him for a medium-sized white helmet. “This one will fit with my hair clips in.”

University officials hope students will use their gift certificates to buy sturdy bike locks as well. The BUPD recommends U-locks instead of chain or cable locks, which can easily be snipped with bolt cutters. Over the next 18 months, officers will tag bikes using inferior locks with 20 percent off coupons to buy helmets or locks at Landry’s Bicycles.

Better bike locks could prevent theft on campus, which has more than doubled in the past year. From September to December 2010, Cuzzi says, 60 bike thefts were reported, up from 26 during the same period the year before. The BUPD has since increased patrols in high-theft areas and installed camera systems to catch thieves.

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

15 Comments

15 Comments on Bikers Nabbed in Sting Operation

  • Avo on 04.21.2011 at 6:06 am

    Seriously? I just bought a helmet after the insistence of a friend… Would have been nice if I just got one for free….

    • Aaron L'Heureux on 09.13.2011 at 10:32 am

      Well, you got one that you liked and had the opportunity to wear it for a while to check for comfort. Who’s to say the one they handed you would be to your liking?

  • Betty Swallox on 04.21.2011 at 7:39 am

    Cars

    This is very cute and all very well and good, teaching and helping cyclists to look after themselves, but surely it is car drivers who need the education? In America, cars are deadly weapons. Americans excessive love of weaponry is well known and until Americans cease from such juvenile obsessions cyclists and pedestrians will be maimed and murdered.

    Cyclists can, of course, be very stupid in their behaviors on the roads and we often see them riding on the wrong side of the road, going the wrong way down one-way streets, riding on the sidewalks, not wearing protective gear, not having any lights on their bikes, not paying attention to traffic signals and so on. I have been hit by a bicycle and I have been hit by a car and I can assure you that the latter is far more frightening and damaging.

    So, by all means, assist cyclists in realizing the danger that they are in but also educate drivers that their privilege of driving a car does not fall into the same category as the so called “right to bear arms”. Driving is not mentioned in the Second Amendment. Neither is cycling of course…

  • anon on 04.21.2011 at 9:21 am

    what that kid really needs

    is a set of brakes on his bike. they’ll come in handy more often than the helmet.

    three cheers for boston pd, though. I couldn’t be happier to see bike awareness spike.

  • Ron L'Herault on 04.21.2011 at 9:29 am

    tickets

    Why would police ticket bicyclists for running red lights when they don’t bother to ticket cars for doing the same? Boston would have no money worries if they did decide to ticket drivers who run lights, don’t stop at stop signs and who block intersections.

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2011 at 12:30 pm

    Red lights

    Ticket them (REAL tickets) for running red lights. I drive on Comm Ave every day and am afraid I’m going to hit one of them some day. It seems like most of them think red lights apply only to cars.

  • Julia on 04.21.2011 at 2:32 pm

    Helmets Wont Protect you From the MBTA

    This is a great effort, but wasted because of the fact that Boston does not bother to properly train their MBTA workers.

    I’ve been almost killed twice in the same day, and flipped off by a driver who cut me off on a narrow road. They will try to drive around you, cut in front of you, drive in the bike lane, block multiple lanes and make illegal turns and stops in traffic. There is absolutely no regard for any life that is not theirs.

    So good luck my bike-riding friends, wear your helmets and avoid the MBTA at all costs!

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2011 at 2:49 pm

    Good for BUPD and Landrys for promoting cycling, and safer/better informed cycling at that.

    and Ben – Plug those bars! In the event you wreck, you could take a core sample of yourself, or some unfortunate pedestrian.

  • Anonymous on 04.21.2011 at 4:57 pm

    It would be lovely if the police would stop wasting my tax dollars and actually give out real tickets and tell them to BUY a helmet rather than pretend to give out tickets and give away free helmets. Thanks for wasting my tax dollars and giving free stuff to law breakers! I feel so much safer knowing that I am being run down by a biker wearing a helmet! Maybe the police should spend their time giving body armor to the pedestrians instead!

    • Kyle on 01.08.2013 at 3:24 pm

      I know this is late, but this is just and uneducated and dumb comment. Wearing a helmet is NOT a requirement for riders over 16 but is advised. This is promoting safety in the community which I am more than fine with tax dollars going towards.

  • Anonymous on 04.22.2011 at 10:26 am

    nothing is free

    here’s a college education on me…
    NOTHING IS FREE!!!
    Your parents or those policemen or the people that are driving to work that run red lights and get in accidents with bicyclists are paying for the cops and the helmets and everything else.
    That is why we are in debt and that is why the call it “Taxachusetts”.
    Remember, everyone is a Democrat until they earn their first paycheck and see how much the governement confiscated from them to pay for bike helmets in Boston.

  • Anonymous on 04.22.2011 at 12:51 pm

    Nice marketing for Landry’s. Not really happy about Cops handing out coupons, they should not endorse any bike shop…

  • A Coupon Queen on 09.15.2011 at 4:49 am

    I think it is pretty cool that the police are handing out coupons for the helmets. It is a great way to promote safety.

  • Anon on 12.18.2012 at 5:10 am

    am i the only one who noticed the fact that his bike has no handles? No wonder people are getting killed =_=

  • Anone on 12.18.2012 at 11:26 am

    BUPD are not the same as Boston Police who are not the same as Brookline Police and not the same as Cambridge Police.
    If you ride through any of these locations, please check out the cycling rules for each City.
    They do not pull drivers over for running red lights.
    NO tax dollars were used in this initiative.
    If you ride a bike, get a helmet.
    It is also a law to have lights on you and your bike at night.
    BUPD , keep up the great work!

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