This evening at the Boston Public Library, Mayor Menino’s Boston Bikes will report back to the public on the state of cycling at its annual Boston Bikes Annual Update, hosted by Livable Streets Alliance. In 2007, Mayor Menino launched Boston Bikes with the goal of transforming Boston into a world-class bicycling city. We have made tremendous strides since then. Once known as the worst cycling city according to Bicycling Magazine, we can now safely say that Boston is one of the leading bike-friendly cities in the country.
With the help of cyclists, business owners, neighborhood leaders and advocacy organizations, we have doubled levels of bike ridership in our city in just three years. We now have the tenth highest ridership levels of the 70 largest US cities. Bicycling Magazine, despite their previous ranking calling Boston one of the worst cycling cities, recently rated Boston as a “Future Best City.'' And, in partnership with the Federal Transit Administration, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Boston is on track to be one of the first cities in the nation to launch a bike share program.
By all accounts, 2010 was a breakout year. Boston unfurled 20 miles of bike lane, installed 700 new bike parking spaces, launched one of the most comprehensive Community Bike Programs in the country in conjunction with the Boston Public Health Commission, and implemented cutting-edge bike lanes throughout the city. Over the last three years, Boston studied progressive bike lanes from other leading cities in the United States and abroad. This year, Boston Bikes was able to bring these ideas home, ensuring Boston’s new place as one of the country’s leading biking cities.
To date we have created 1,500 new bike parking spaces, added 33 miles of bike lanes, worked with more than 4,000 youth and engaged more than 35,000 cyclists in a variety of programs, both old and new. Today, residents from Allston, Jamaica Plain, and Roslindale can bike to downtown Boston almost exclusively on protected paths and marked bike lanes. Hub On Wheels, Bike Friday, Bay State Bike Week, Roll It Forward and Bike-to-Market are just some of the fantastic events celebrated by the Boston cycling public.
While the Mayor Menino’s Boston Bikes often challenges the notion that change can’t happen fast, we understand that sometimes change can’t happen fast enough. This week marked the death of our third cyclist in two years. Tragedies like this most recent fatality remind us that the work we do is about much more than cycling. It is about protecting, supporting and sustaining the lives of our citizens. We all deserve to live and work in a city that supports our desires for healthy, vibrant and sustainable lifestyles.
Mayor Menino has made safety the cornerstone of the Boston Bikes agenda. In 2010 Mayor Menino hosted two Bike Safety Summits. Panelists at the inaugural summit included the highest level officials from the state’s MBTA, MassDOT, and Boston Transportation Department, Boston Police, the Boston Public Health Commission, and Boston EMS. The panelists fielded 47 comments and questions from more than 200 participants. Each agency later reported back to the public, detailing significant and substantive improvements. I include some of the key changes below as an example of the seriousness with which each agency responded.
• Boston Bikes and the Boston Transportation Department are analyzing a survey of over 2,000 self-reported bike crashes, are distributing bike-safety fliers to 500,000 registered Boston drivers, and installed colored high-contrast bike lanes over trolley tracks at key intersections in need of safety enhancements.
• The MBTA is creating new training materials and tools, disseminating bike information to drivers through bulletins and posters, incorporating bike issues into complaint/defensive driving training, and including bike issues in driver recertification training.
• The Boston Police added enforcement for cyclists not following rules of the road, updated accident reporting to track bicycle crashes in their own separate category, and are providing bicycle training for all officers going through academy.
• The Boston Public Health Commission is selling low-cost helmets throughout the city, providing comprehensive analysis of crash data from EMS, emergency rooms, Boston Bikes, and Boston Police and is sharing crash data among a number of agencies.
When I look back on the past three years, I am proud of all we have accomplished: the community we fostered, our success in creating inclusive programs that reach all citizens, and our implementation of cutting-edge infrastructure and practices.
If we are to learn from the recent tragedies, however, the lesson is that we much do even more. We must continue to push the envelope. We must continue to implement best-practices from around the world until our streets are safe for everyone. With your continued help, together, we will work to make Boston a safe, vibrant, and welcoming city for everyone.
We welcome all of you to attend the 2010 Annual Boston Bikes Update at the Rabb Thurs, January 27, 2011, 6:30 - 8:30 PM @ Rabb Lecture Hall. In case of poor weather, please visit http://livablestreets.info/ for cancellation notification.
Nicole Freedman is the Director of Bicycle Programs for the city of Boston.