I was very excited to hear that Boston had recently unveiled bike boxes along a stretch of Commonwealth Ave.
These allow bikers to filter to the front of the line of traffic at a red light, making it easier to turn left or to avoid cars that are turning right when you want to go straight. I’ve found them very useful in other cities.
Along with the bike boxes, they’ve also added a bike lane. I was surprised to see that the bike lane was on the left side of the road. It felt very strange to ride on that side of traffic, but I suppose there was more room for it there than next to the line of parked cars.
I was grateful to have some space carved out for me, and can definitely say that it’s an improvement from the previous situation, which forced bikers to take up a whole lane next to the parked cars. There’s no more anxiety about dooring or the inevitable angry drivers that swerve around you at fast speeds. Double parking is also prevalent in this area, so it’s nice not to deal with that. However, there were some intersections where the bike lane switched from the left to the right side of the road, necessitating some awkward maneuvering. Maybe it wouldn’t seem so awkward given time.
When I stopped to take these pictures I got to observe some interesting bike-box behavior. Three bikers ignored the bike box and sped through the red light. The bright green paint seemed to send a clear message to the cars, though, which all stopped behind the bike box. Strangely, one biker did too. It seems that adapting to the bike boxes will be a longer process for bikers than for drivers, but I hope they start spreading to other parts of the city.
Whenever I read an article about bike safety or bike accidents (which is sadly too often these days, after a couple of bad accidents in Boston), I promise myself I won’t read the comments section at the end. Of course, that’s a promise I never seem able to keep, and I end up getting ridiculously riled up myself. They’re inevitably filled with vitriol from both drivers and bikers. The “what do you expect?” attitude towards bikers is rampant, and the amount of incorrect information from drivers who seem to think that bikers have zero rights on the road is mind-boggling. Sometimes I think commenters must just be bored at work and trying to stir up a fight on the boston.com message board by taking the most extreme position possible. If they’re being sincere, I’m ready to move to Copenhagen. Just as soon as the volcanic ash clears up.
This rant of mine was prompted by an article about a bike safety summit that Mayor Menino will be holding tomorrow in the wake of recent accidents, to encourage “harmony between bikers and drivers.” I’ll be interested to see what comes out of the summit. If you click on the article link, just make sure you don’t read the comments.
I just learned this new expression for describing “rogue cyclists” who flout the rules of the road. It’s employed in serious articles in British newspapers, as I’ve discovered, and these louts seem to be considered a widespread menace in London. Saying it out loud still makes me laugh, but I’m glad we don’t seem to have an equivalent expression in Boston (or have I just missed it?).
“Lycra lout” behavior includes running red lights, biking on sidewalks, and biking the wrong way down one-way streets. This makes me wonder why there isn’t a similar outrage in this country (or at least this city) over cyclists who disobey traffic laws. There are certainly people who will be happy to tell you about all the “crazy bikers” they’ve witnessed from their car, but overall it seems like there’s no real expectation that those on bikes will obey traffic rules. Bostonians who tell these stories seem more amused than furious, unlike their counterparts in the British press.
Apparently fines for bicycle violations in London may be raised from £30 to £100, as £30 was considered too lenient. This is far higher than the $20 fine in Cambridge for bicycle violations, and I have yet to actually see anyone in Cambridge being stopped on their bicycle. In fact, a Boston traffic cop once laughed at me when I stopped at a red light. When I was in London in 2007, I once saw a cyclist chastised by a cop just for stopping in front of a “stop here” line at a red light, rather than behind it.
I’ve always been an advocate for vehicular cycling, but I often feel alone when others on bikes fly past me at red lights.
Now I wonder if the British are just generally more angered by rule-breaking than we are, or if these low expectations mean that cyclists are still too small a minority to be considered any real threat. Should I long for an American campaign against lycra louts, to prove that we’re capable of making an impact on the local psyche? Or is this just another indication that nothing good can come of wearing lycra?