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Op-Ed: Bicycling is Green, Healthy and Fun – Let’s Make Sure It’s Safe

Patch File Photo
Patch File Photo
Submitted by MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey

It’s May, and – after a very long winter – you can’t miss the signs of spring in Massachusetts.

Here at MassDOT, we are thrilled to see so many bicyclists back out on the road. To celebrate, this weekend we will join our partners at the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike) to kick off our fifth annual Bay State Bike Week. All across Massachusetts, there will be events that emphasize biking’s health and environmental benefits, not to mention how fun bicycling is.

In Massachusetts’ compact cities and towns, bicycling can be an efficient way of getting around. At the same time, biking reduces auto congestion, enables people to get exercise, and supports the businesses that bicyclists patronize.

At MassDOT, we have made bicycling a key part of GreenDOT, our comprehensive, department-wide sustainability policy, which has a central goal of promoting bicycling, walking, and public transit. In fact, the GreenDOT policy sets an ambitious target of tripling the amount of travel by these healthy modes by the year 2030.

In order to reach this target, MassDOT has been working on a wide range of initiatives to increase bicycling. Since 2006, our roadway design standards have called for accommodation of all modes, including bicyclists, in all MassDOT projects (except those on express highway facilities where bicyclists are prohibited). Our recent capital investment program commits $130 million to the construction of shared-use paths throughout Massachusetts over the next five years. MassDOT also just pledged $39 million of state and federal funds to complete the Somerville Community Path, which will provide bikers an uninterrupted path all the way from Bedford to downtown Boston and the Charles River path network.

The MBTA has made great advances in promoting bicycling as a critical link to the transit system. In addition to covered bicycle parking at over 40 rapid transit, bus, and commuter rail stations, there are also secure “Pedal & Park” bicycle enclosures with locked doors and video monitoring at eight of the busiest MBTA stations, with five more Pedal & Parks due to open this spring. Bicycle racks are provided on 95 percent of MBTA buses. In addition, the MBTA secured a $3 million Federal Transit Administration grant that provided the Hubway bikeshare system with about half of its required start-up capital.

MassDOT has great partners in these efforts to promote bicycling. Cities and towns across Massachusetts, which have jurisdiction over most of the roads in the state, have been installing bicycle lanes and bike parking. Many cities and towns have also been working with MassDOT to develop separated shared-use paths and cycle tracks. We have also gotten great support in encouraging people to travel by bicycle, and educating them how to do it safely, from a range of partners that including MassBike and the Boston Cyclists Union, our MassRIDES travel options program, local transportation management associations, and others.

These efforts are paying off. In Boston, where the length of bicycle lanes increased from 55 miles in 2008 to 120 miles in 2013, the number of bicyclists roughly doubled in that time. In Cambridge, the number of bicyclists tripled over a 10 year period from 2002 to 2012. Meanwhile, the number of miles that a resident of the Boston metropolitan area drove in his or her car dropped by 2.7 percent between 2007 and 2011.

As we encourage people to get out on their bikes, it is important to remind both bikers and drivers to travel safely. As part of MassDOT’s efforts to promote bicycle and pedestrian safety, we just launched a program to support local education and enforcement efforts. During this year alone, we have dedicated nearly half a million dollars to provide bicycle and pedestrian safety tools to police and other officials in 12 cities and towns across Massachusetts. Based on the results of this program, MassDOT expects to spend more money in future years on such efforts in other communities, as well as on physical improvements that will enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety.

The most important thing, however, is each traveler’s behavior on the transportation system. In order to prevent accidents on our roadways, I am appealing to all roadway users to exercise care and caution for other travelers. Drivers, especially drivers of trucks and other large vehicles, should be mindful of vulnerable travelers like pedestrians and bicyclists, including our youngest and oldest travelers. Drivers need to look for them, especially when they are turning.

Bicyclists too, must be considerate of drivers as well as pedestrians. Cyclists are also operating a vehicle, and are required to follow the rules of the road. Careful and predictable operation keeps everyone safer.

Let’s make this Bay State Bike Week – and the whole year – safe, healthy and fun.
Real Solutions May 06, 2014 at 01:55 PM
Steve - When is the February "commuter convoy" going to happen? Will it be cancelled if it is snowing? How about the July convoy? Will it still be held if it is 95 degrees and 80% humidity? Have you asked all the local employers if they are ok with sweaty employees in morning meetings or do we get "shower time"? Are our families ok with us getting up 1.5 hours earlier to bike the commuting distance (I think most do not work in our home town - I never have in 27 years of working full time) and getting home 1.5 hours later? Just wondering.....
Jeff Berlin May 06, 2014 at 02:25 PM
@RS: When I have to be at Boston College by 9am weekdays for me it's a 50 minute bicycle ride, or a 1.5 hour car drive in gridlocked Boston rush hour traffic. In the office I keep a change of clothes and a towel, takes 10 minutes after a bicycle commute in before I'm ready to meet clients. Also save a lot of time NOT spent in a gym since my commute IS my workout. Studded bicycle tires in winter make year round commuting possible and fun.
deb of see-attleboro May 06, 2014 at 02:30 PM
Steve: We have a difference of opinion. Some, like you, appreciate the government organizing or supporting organized events to push an agenda. Others, like myself, enjoy the freedom and liberty to move around without being disrupted by an organized event. Happy cycling!
Waverly Watchdog May 06, 2014 at 04:20 PM
***** Many of you have ENTIRELY missed the point. ***** ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The government has ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS advocating for one point of view or another. Advocating for a 'green' agenda by the EPA or MA DOT is WRONG. It is NOT their function. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The ultimate political incest is when the Pols who support this nonsense are effectively supported by governmental agencies, paid for by the Taxpayers. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Lois Learner is just about to be voted in Contempt of Congress for JUST SUCH behavior. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- And, it is quite clear that greenbat pols benefit.

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