Bicyclists from around Massachusetts gathered at the State House recently to call for new road safety measures to prevent traffic injuries and deaths. One of the bills before the Transportation Committee sets a minimum distance for cars to pass bicyclists; another aims to stop cars from blocking bike lanes.
Both pieces of legislation are authored by State Senator Will Brownsberger, D-Belmont, and backed by local State Senator Mike Barrett, D-Lexington. Barrett, a committed cyclist, is a longtime supporter of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and other pathways across his district. He says the Legislature should act on bike safety now.
“The transportation sector makes up the largest percent of our state’s carbon emissions — 39%,” Barrett said. “Fortunately, people do want to find alternative ways to get around. Where bikes can work, we need to help people make the switch.”
The Mass. Medical Society notes that bicycle use in Boston has increased nearly 130% since 1990.
Barrett says the uptick in Boston is not surprising given that issues around biking are a priority for many constituents in his district. In the days leading up to the hearing, 20 local residents voiced support for the bills.
One new safety proposal, dubbed the “three-feet” bill, would be a “significant” step for bicyclists around the state, says MassBike, a statewide coalition that promotes bike-friendly policies. The bill would require vehicles to provide a minimum of three feet when passing a cyclist or other vulnerable road user, even if the car must cross the centerline. According to MassBike, 40 percent of bicycling fatalities occur when riders are struck from behind.
Another measure would allow law enforcement to issue a ticket of $100 for cars parked in designated bicycle lanes. A parked vehicle in a bike lane can cause a collision by forcing bicyclists to swerve into traffic, advocates argue. An idling car in those areas can also cause traffic delays.
At the hearing, several women spoke about bicycle accidents that killed family members. The women said Massachusetts needs to move forward with new safety laws to prevent future tragedies.