The city of Boston has a big choice ahead. On September 24, voters will go to the polls for a primary election, winnowing down a field of 12 on the way to choosing the next mayor. What do you want to know from the candidates before election day? This summer, Boston.comment will host a series of conversations with the mayoral contenders, asking them questions about themselves and the issues facing the city. In a few weeks, we'll be holding some real-life forums in the Globe Lab -- we're calling them #LabDebates -- featuring small groups of candidates, streaming live on Boston.com.
In the meantime, we'll be using Boston.comment as a virtual candidate forum. For the first installment, we asked all of the candidates what they would do to make cycling safer in Boston. (We urged them to be brief, and we invited them to send tweets or videos instead; no takers, so far.) Here are their answers, in the order in which they were received. Add your thoughts and reactions to the comments or tweet at the hashtag #BostonMayor. And tweet us all summer @BostonComment with question suggestions and other ideas.
John Barros, former school board member
To improve cycling safety in Boston, I would 1) ensure we provide targeted safety training for groups with high incidents of crashes such as cyclists, taxi drivers, MBTA drivers, university students, and others. I would encourage taxi companies, universities, MBTA and others to provide trainings at their workplace or campuses. I would 2) address the streets and intersections with the highest number of crashes with the appropriate redesign and installation of bike facilities. In addition, I would 3) encourage helmet and proper cyclist lighting use and focus on making helmets and cyclist illumination readily available at low cost. Finally, I would 4) enhance a data and information gathering process to further refine our knowledge of cyclist crashes and injuries and continue to modify our plan and approach to safety.
Bill Walczak, community leader
I am an avid bicyclist, and I understand both how wonderful and dangerous it is to ride in Boston. We need to encourage cycling to reduce traffic congestion and our carbon footprint and to promote a healthy alternative to driving, but we must start by making it safe. Helmets are important, and we need to give bikers more clearly designated and more heavily protected lanes that stretch into every neighborhood. We must also educate cyclists and drivers about the rules of the road, and place signs at difficult intersections to remind everyone to ride and drive safely.
Dan Conley, Suffolk District Attorney
1. A public information campaign utilizing traditional and new media are essential to educate drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians on how to share Boston’s streets safely. Micro-targeting campaigns aimed at risky behaviors among specific groups or to address common mistakes would also make good sense (e.g. warning stickers on the inside doors of taxis, reminding drivers and passengers to look before opening.)
2. Stepped up enforcement of traffic rules is also important, and should apply not only to drivers who are ignorant of or disregard bicyclist safety, but bicyclists who ignore traffic laws that are designed to keep everyone on the roads safe. No different than traditional traffic safety enforcement, these efforts should be targeted and coordinated by data, “hotspot” and community concern.
3. Helmet vending machines or kiosks should be located with Hubway and in other areas around the city. Working with the Department of Public Health, I would also look at adoption of a mandatory helmet law.
Charles Clemons, community activist
Boston is one of the most pedestrian friendly cities in the country, and we need to extend that same comfort and safety to those who peddle bicycles on our streets. It's more than a courtesy, it's a right that bicyclist have to feel as though the road is truly being shared. When I was a police officer in Boston, I kept an eye out for every moving violation, because I believed then as I believe now that vigilance is needed. It's only through enforcement that we can change the culture of drivers not sharing the road, of bicyclists not wearing helmets, and of everyone not watching out for everyone. I think we need a citywide PSA campaign that urges everyone to be more conscientious when motoring, peddling and walking around our fair city.
Felix G. Arroyo, Boston City Councilor
It is our responsibility to make sure that our streets are as safe as possible for all who use them, including our many cyclists. To help raise awareness, I organized a bike ride from Jamaica Plain to City Hall and held a hearing to discuss how infrastructure can be changed to prevent cycling injuries and fatalities. In addition to raising awareness and introducing new infrastructure such as cycle tracks, it is important that we identify the most dangerous areas for cycling in our city. By combining data from the City’s transportation, public health, and emergency response departments, we can better understand the cause and severity of these accidents. A holistic narrative will help us prioritize the most problematic areas and work to prevent accidents in the future. We have made great progress and I would continue the work to encourage and facilitate bike usage in Boston.
Rob Consalvo, Boston City Councilor
As Mayor, I will work to make Boston better by ensuring our roads and public spaces are a safe, convenient, shared resource for commuters, cyclists and pedestrians. I will continue to support the Boston Bikes program and the study commission process underway to enhance bike safety. Working with our partners in the cycling community, as Mayor I will create a coordinated “Share the Road” public education campaign, include cycling safety in the driver's education curriculum and expand school-based and community-based bicycle safety programs for children and adults. I support infrastructure improvements such as dedicated bike lanes and signalization where possible. I will also explore innovative engineering solutions so that cyclists are not exposed to the dangers of both moving traffic and opening doors. I do support updated crash reporting practices and more aggressive enforcement by BPD and BTD to ensure our roads are safe for all.
John Connolly, Boston City Councilor
Bicycling is a green, inexpensive, and healthy means of getting around our city, and we need to continue to encourage cycling by making it safer and more accessible. First, we must significantly increase protected bike lanes and cycle tracks throughout the city. As mayor, I will support “complete streets” design to incorporate cycling into the plans for our roads and make it safer for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers to travel together. As a City Councilor, I sponsored the resolution that funded the creation of the Hubway bike share initiative. I support expanding Hubway into neighborhoods farther from downtown in order to connect residents to transit and business districts. I have also led efforts on the city council to look into options for modifying the design of our streets to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety, and to encourage more residents and visitors to travel our city by bicycle.
Marty Walsh, State Representative
As I have said, I plan to initiate a comprehensive traffic flow review that includes how to potentially make the city move more smoothly and increase the safety and access for bicyclists. As such, I will continue to develop cyclist amenities, from "sharrows" (share road markings) and bike lanes to dedicated cycletracks. I will continue to site "bike boxes" as appropriate, to create safer intersections. I would look at appropriate signal timing for multimodal traffic, and investigate feasibility of bike stop lights so that cars, bicycles, pedestrians move at appropriate speeds and times. Most importantly, I will continue public education and awareness around helmet safety, and work to incorporate bicycle safety (for cyclists and motorists) in schools, community fitness programs and in driver's education.
Mike Ross, Boston City Councilor
We need to make an investment beyond just paint on the road. We've already seen that separated bike lanes are the number one way we can increase safety and drive bike adoption. When the city installed them along Western Ave in Allston, accident rates fell. Now we're installing them in Dorchester. We need to replicate that across the city. In the short term, universal bike training, including giving out free lights, should be a part of university orientation. It's also important to educate bikers and drivers on the rules of the road, especially MBTA bus drivers. Truck side guards and bus wheel guards are also simple and cheap ways to save lives. The city should lead the charge to pass state law requiring them, and work with the MBTA and MassDOT to install them on transit buses.
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