The summer weather is giving us a short break for two days. It's cooler (if you can call 82F or 28C cool) and less humid. But don't worry. We will be back to "normal" 95F (35C) this Friday. Yuck.
Anyway, this kind of weather means that riding a bike to work is actually pleasant again. For me, because 80% of my route is on the Minuteman Bikeway, away from any car traffic, it's also the safest way of getting there. You would think that sitting inside a steel box of a car should make me feel safer, but after reading that in 2015 over 38,000 people were killed on U.S. roads, I don't feel safe anymore. This also means that 5500 more people died this way than in 2014 - a tendency that should be reversed. Seems like when gas prices hit rock bottom, we love to drive more and kill each other in the process. Fortunately, I don't really have to drive much. I can ride my bike instead through a forested area, away from metal cans on wheels.
But not everyone is this lucky. I already wrote about multiple cyclists' deaths on Greater Boston's roads earlier. Those who ride their bikes in the congested urban areas are in a far higher risk of getting into collisions with cars. In short,
"In the first four months of 2016, 8 people were killed and 307 injured from crashes on Boston streets, up 20 percent compared to the same period in 2015".
And these numbers will be on rise because "Boston's streets are designed for conflict", says Michelle Wu, who wrote The Road to Fear-Free Biking in Boston, in Boston Globe. It's a real pleasure to see this kind of level of attention to this serious issue in mainstream media. Michelle notices that the only way to increase safety for everyone, cyclists, pedestrians and drivers is to build protected bike lanes essentially everywhere. No other solution will work well because, as she put it,
"Painted bike lanes function as space for double-parked delivery trucks, pushing cyclists into traffic. Posted signs and “sharrows” unrealistically ask drivers and cyclists to get along."
This transformation will not be easy:
"On many streets, adding a cycle track means narrowing or removing car lanes, or eliminating on-street parking — scenarios that bring panic to car and business owners."
She's right. Once people hear about taking "their" on-street parking spots away, they freak out, like the end of the world was near. A fresh example - the owner of the small convenience store at Marlborough Street, who claimed that because there is only one parking spot in front of the store, her business is slow. Something tells me that if you own a store in a congested urban area and there is no large parking anywhere close, most of your customers are not drivers anyway. Those who come, come by foot, public transport or bikes. You chose to run a business in the downtown, so don't treat the street in front of it like your private driveway in suburbs. Sorry, but there is no free parking here.
I'm likely biased because I do too live in suburbs of Boston and I rarely have to visit the city. But when I do, I park in the Common Garage, which costs me plenty $$$. This is the price I'm willing to pay being a visitor in the city. Still, I can't picture driving my car through Boston expecting a prime parking spot right in front of every business I want to visit. I choose to walk there instead.
But going back to Michelle's article. It's important not only because of what she wrote and where she wrote it. It's also important because Michelle Wu is president of the Boston City Council. This is the first time I see anyone from the city government touching this topic. And doing it in style. Don't believe it? Michelle has just bought her first city bike:
A wind of change? Quite possible.