Bike lanes encourage safe bicycling

February 19, 2010
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We attended the Jan. 28 meeting of the JP Centre/South Action Plan citizens advisory group (CAC), and would like to comment on the Feb. 5 Gazette article about the meeting. The article reported that “some of the neighborhood’s biggest bicycle advocates threw cold water on the idea,” as they suggested that dooring (accidents caused by drivers opening their doors that bicyclists run into) would be more likely with a bike lane than without. Three things are missing from the article: Several people also spoke up in favor of bike lanes. There is a wealth of data that was not presented at the meeting to refute the anti-bike lane statements that were made. Jeff Ferris stated that he “will not oppose bike lanes.”

One of the comments made in support of lanes was by Mike Halle, who cited a recent Cambridge study showing that when bike lanes were put in place (on Hampshire Street) cyclists rode farther from parked cars, and therefore farther from the danger of opening doors. I, Lauren Ockene, commented in support of bike lanes, stating that lanes make people feel safer and encourage more people to choose to travel by bike instead of by car.

There are many recent US and European studies showing that bike lanes encourage bicycling, and in doing so lead to a decrease in accidents. In New York City, where 200 miles of bike lanes have been constructed in the last three years, the number of cyclists has skyrocketed, and the numbers of injuries and casualties have sharply decreased. The same thing has been well documented in Portland, Ore. The thinking is that while on-street lanes do not physically protect anyone, more people choose to ride when there are lanes, and there is safety in numbers; bicyclists become more visible, and automobile drivers come to expect them and look for them more.

Paul Schimeck is, in fact, the former manager of the City of Boston’s bicycle program, but he has consistently opposed bike lanes. He opposed the construction of bike lanes in various places in Boston, including the Rose Kennedy Greenway, where dooring was certainly not the rationale. We fully agree with Paul that bikes belong in the road. However, we completely support the City of Boston’s new policy to include bike lanes in road design wherever possible, in order to encourage many more people to use bicycles and to increase the safety of bicycling.

Jamaica Plain has one of the highest rates of bike commuting in the city. This rate will increase, and cycling will become safer, as we build and expand a real network of bike facilities.

Sherry Eskin
Lauren Ockene
Jamaica Plain

Eskin is a member of JP Bikes. Ockene is a member of Centre/South Street CAC, where she represents Bikes Not Bombs and JP Bikes.

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