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Bike Safety Focus of BU’s Sustainability Festival

Free tune-ups today for those who bring bikes


Get a sticky note and jot this down: Bring bike to campus today. Why? Because you could score a free bike tune-up along with a helmet, lights, and other cycling swag just by showing up at Marsh Plaza between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

It’s all part of Boston University’s Sustainability Festival. Bike Safety, sustainability@BU, and Dining Services are hosting the festival, which will feature free food, biking gear, and information tables attended by student environmental groups and representatives from organizations like Goodwill, Next Step Living, and TechniArt. The Thursday Farmer’s Market, usually held at the GSU Plaza, will also move to Marsh Plaza this week with its collection of fruits, vegetables, honey, bread, and pastries from local farmers and producers.

Festival organizers decided to focus the event on bike safety this fall following a year that saw two students, Christopher Weigl (COM’14) and Chung-Wei Yang (CAS’15), killed in cycling accidents.

“Everyone’s aware of the tragedies that occurred on our campus,” says Webb Lancaster, Auxiliary Services director of operations. “We’re doing everything we can to make cycling, walking, and driving on our campus safer.”

This summer, after working with Lancaster and his team, the city of Boston made several safety improvements to Commonwealth Avenue, including stenciling the message “Look Left for Bikes” on crosswalks across campus. The city also painted bike lanes bright green to encourage drivers to pay more attention to cyclists at busy intersections. Reflectors were installed along the left edge of bike lanes so that motorists can easily see them at night.

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BU parking permit holders received “Look” icons to apply to their side view mirrors as a reminder to be aware of cyclists. Courtesy of Webb Lancaster

Craig Hill, Auxiliary Services associate vice president, says the University will evaluate the effectiveness of improvements, mainly by tracking the number of bike accidents. Safety advocates welcomed announcement of the improvements last March, but some thought additional measures might be necessary. Hill says one of those suggestions, removing metered parking spaces close to busy intersections, will be considered by the BU Bike Safety Committee this academic year.

This fall, Bike Safety is launching two new features that could help save lives and ensure the proper reporting of accidents. The first is a one-inch-square transparent sticker that drivers apply to their side view mirrors reminding them to “Look” for cyclists before turning or opening a door. Each BU parking permit holder was issued two per vehicle this fall. The clear clings are also available at Parking & Transportation Services, 1019 Comm Ave., Judicial Affairs, 19 Deerfield St., and local bike shops like Landry’s Bicycles, 890 Comm Ave.

The second safety feature is the BU bike accident tool kit, a free mobile application that works on Droid and Apple platforms and advises cyclists how to properly report accidents. Users follow prompts to stamp the time, date, and GPS location of the accident, Lancaster says, and they’re asked if they need medical assistance. They’re also coached to take photos and video of the scene and gather appropriate information, such as name, license number, and insurance company, from others involved in the accident. The form can be saved, emailed, or sent to Active Frequency, the app’s designer, which will forward it to BU or the city for proper record-keeping. The tool kit could also come in handy for motorists and pedestrians. Lancaster says the app will be out later this month, but that smartphone owners can visit the Bike Safety page now to request notification when the version they need is available.

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This year’s Sustainability Festival will focus on bike safety. Click image to enlarge.

“The city of Boston has statistics on cycling accidents, but only from those cases where the police or an ambulance is called,” Lancaster says. “For the most part, you don’t get accurate information on bike accidents that don’t result in damage to the bike or an injury.”

Visitors to Bike Safety’s table on Marsh Plaza can grab the “Look” clings. That’s also the spot to collect a free helmet, reflectors, and a bike repair kit or become the owner of a 2013 Trek Earl, which BU will be giving away. Mechanics from Landry’s, BU Bikes, Urban AdvenTours, and CommonWheels Bicycle Co-Op will be stationed nearby to service bikes free of charge. And representatives from bike advocacy groups, such as Livable Streets Alliance, Boston Cyclists Union, and Bikes Belong, will anchor information tables.

Save That Stuff, Zipcar, and Goodwill will also have stands at Marsh Plaza, as well as Next Step Living, an organization that provides free home energy audits, and TechniArt, which develops and markets products like smart power strips and lightbulbs that promote the use of alternative energy.

And sustainability@BU will be handing out reusable coffee mugs and encouraging visitors to Join the Challenge, a campus-wide campaign in which school and college teams compete for points by performing one sustainable action each month. Leaders from more than a dozen sustainable student organizations, such as the BU Beekeepers Club, Global Environmental Brigades, and the Organic Gardening Club, will distribute information about club activities.

“We’re laying out a smorgasbord of opportunities for students,” says University sustainability director Dennis Carlberg. “People are thinking about what they can do to get involved, and this is a chance to do it, hopefully on a beautiful day.”

The BU Sustainability Festival is today from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Marsh Plaza. In case of rain, the festival will be moved to September 26.

Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

20 Comments on Bike Safety Focus of BU’s Sustainability Festival

  • Trig242 on 09.12.2013 at 7:56 am

    Can you also teach them how to not run through red lights?

    • Tom on 09.12.2013 at 8:51 am

      Amen! I am really sick of all the talk of bikes vs cars that ignores pedestrians. No more promoting bikes till I can cross with a walk light and not have to dodge them.

    • Yang on 09.12.2013 at 9:20 am

      The Boston Police just did this morning. They stopped each of the bicyclist who didn’t stop on red light and gave each of them a ticket. I got one for didn’t stop at a “no turn on right” crossing. Though it was only for vehicles. Can’t believe it.

      • Yang on 09.12.2013 at 9:21 am

        I mean I thought it was only for vehicles.

        • k on 09.12.2013 at 10:35 am

          What do you think a bike is?

          • Yang on 09.12.2013 at 10:50 am

            well, I mean motor vehicles

      • Tom on 09.12.2013 at 11:00 am

        A bike is subject to the same laws as a car. You are breaking the law just as much as a car if you run a red light.

        • Yang on 09.12.2013 at 11:53 am


    • Guest on 09.12.2013 at 9:22 am

      Not every student that rides a bike goes though a red light. But I have seen some people that ride bikes to work go through red lights. Also what about cars that go though red lights?

      • Sigh on 09.12.2013 at 10:26 am

        I love this argument. The was drivers and cyclists run red lights is *totally* different and if high percentages of cars ran red lights, driving would be a very very different experience.

        • Tom on 09.12.2013 at 11:04 am

          Sigh, indeed. There are intersections in Boston where almost NO bikes stop, ie where the cross street dead-ends and there is no cross traffic, but 99.99% of the cars stop. There is no comparison. Way too many cyclists think they are above the law or, like Yang, don’t know the law.

    • Steve on 09.12.2013 at 10:45 am

      Thank you. If you’re on the road (car, motorcycle, moped, bike, skateboard, etc.), you’re NOT a pedestrian: you need to obey common traffic laws. Running a red light is dangerous not only to pedestrians trying to cross, but also to the person running the red light — you could get struck by oncoming traffic not expecting people to run that red light.

      It would also be nice to crack down on (or at the very least, educate) stupid pedestrians, say by Commonwealth and University Rd. They are equally frustrating and often the other half of the problem.

      • Frank on 09.12.2013 at 11:09 am

        It’s scary the amount of pedestrians (mainly students but not all) that walk straight across University Rd without ever even taking a look to see what’s coming towards them crossing Comm Ave

  • Meh on 09.12.2013 at 10:22 am

    Not sure why BU is trying to push the whole biking thing so much when it is clearly dangerous.

    • Guest on 09.12.2013 at 10:49 am

      They are not pushing the whole bike thing. They are promoting safety. Students are still going to ride to classes. BU students are not the only ones that ride bikes in Boston.

  • Amy on 09.12.2013 at 1:06 pm

    Sorry, but they ARE pushing “the whole bike thing”, as does Boston and other cities in general. Despite good bicyclists, there are TONS of bad bicyclists everywhere. They ride on sidewalks, treating pedestrians like obstacles. They ride in bike lanes going the wrong way. They ride over the B.U. Bridge at high speed on the sidewalks, despite a multimillion bridge renovation that created BIKE LANES right BESIDE the sidewalks. They run red lights, cutting people off in cross walks. They pull U-turns, ride in the dark without lights, and generally act entitled. Cities, universities, and other entities have been handing out brochures, sponsoring “seminars”, and yakking about bike safety for years, and you know what? Those who bike and are brainless or self centered are going to do exactly what they want, DESPITE risks to themselves and others, because there are few or NO repercussions for them when they don’t follow the rules of the road. Until that happens, “bike safety” events are pointless. You can’t educate “duh”.

    • Guest on 09.12.2013 at 2:22 pm


  • Amy on 09.12.2013 at 1:20 pm

    Wanted to add: a red light means “STOP”. It doesn’t mean “now’s your chance to bike past cars which have stopped for the red light”. Little children know that a red light means “stop”, so clearly, the “cause” for bad bicyclist behavior isn’t just a lack of “safety education”. Most bad bicyclists already know the rules but could care less.

  • Just another BU parent on 09.12.2013 at 3:56 pm

    I think we can make this discussion more informative. Forty years ago I used to blast around city streets on a bicycle while enjoying an amazing adrenaline rush. I now wonder how I got to live to my mid fifties! Once you lose a couple of friends, helmets become standard equipment and taking the kids out regularly for a safe ride becomes mandatory. Watching my kids ride bikes, learn to drive stick, and get a few years of driving experience, I can now state what I consider obvious:
    1) A bicycle is basically an incredible one-third horsepower vehicle. If you want to enjoy it to its fullest, do so but not on a city street. If you want to use it for transportation in Boston, you really have to put some sober thought into it.
    2)A generation ago most motorists were once cyclists and had some kind of “spidy sense” when they got behind the wheel. These days many kids are chauffeured around the suburbs by parents who feel that bikes are too dangerous for their kids. When they become sixteen their parents buy them a used SUV- just for peace of mind. If they hit anything, they won’t get the worst of it. These people are on the road, they don’t display good sense when looking for cyclists, and they are the reason why we should be praying for cyclists.
    3) Everyone seems to enjoy being distracted! When I see a cyclist with ear buds on, I’m ready to take a fit. Hearing needs to complement your other senses while cycling. On the other hand, just because a motorist has a responsibility to not be distracted, anyone who assumes this is the case if a fool (and certainly not a defensive driver).

    • Guest on 09.12.2013 at 4:31 pm

      I feel if bicyclist should always be a defensive rider.

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