Q&A with Councilor Pressley: Improving Bicycling Safety in Boston
Boston officials and cycling advocates will present what specific areas of the city we should prioritize for barrier lanes at a hearing on Thursday.
Boston's leaders are continually looking to improve bicycling throughout the city. One of the biggest boosts to bicycling in Boston is the Hubway program, which affords anyone the opportunity to rent a bicycle at one of many neighborhood stations.
While the winter is here, At-Large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley is leading the pack on discussing bicycling infrastructure from the halls of the Boston City Council.
Patch: You're leading a hearing on examining bicycling infrastructure in Boston on Thurs., Dec. 6 - what do you hope to accomplish from this hearing, and moving forward?
Pressley: There have been a number of reported vehicle and bicycle collisions, including several that resulted in fatalities of cyclists. As I reflected on the ghost bicycles I started seeing around the city it seemed the number of collisions and fatalities were increasing. I called this hearing to find out: 1) is this true? Are there more accidents happening and why? and 2) to find out what is already happening to improve roadway safety for cyclists and explore examples of what has been successful in other cities. Answers to these questions are important not only for improving roadway safety but also making Boston a more livable city for young professionals and families. I thank Councilor At-Large Felix Arroyo for partnering with me on this.
Patch: What improvements to Boston's bicycling infrastructure would you like to see? Can you provide some specific areas in the city, or overall methods you would like to see occur.
Pressley: First and foremost, I want to examine the data collection and reporting methods the city uses to track bicycle-vehicle collisions and fatalities. As I have said so often, that which gets measured gets done. We first need to understand how many collisions are happening; are there problem areas; and how do we use the data to target our infrastructure improvements?
Secondly, I would like to explore measures to increase the safety of bicycle riders while simultaneously limiting the negative impacts on parking and traffic. Specifically, I want to discuss the feasibility of real infrastructure improvements, such as bike lane barriers.
Patch: Do you think the Hubway program has increased bicycling in Boston?
Pressley: The city has done a great job promoting cycling for recreation, exercise and as an environmentally friendly transportation option. We have expanded bike lanes across the city. This, in conjunction with the Hubway program, has led to increased ridership. I applaud our work over the last few years towards becoming a world-class cycling city and want to use our momentum to make it the safest cycling city.
Patch: Do you bicycle? Where do you bike?
Pressley: I cycle occasionally with family and friends. But my vantage point on this is that I don’t own a car. I know what it is to be reliant on public transportation. I view cycling lanes as a part of our transportation infrastructure, the same as roads, subways, etc. And in the conversations I’ve had with young professionals and families, they name reliable and affordable transit as one of the key elements to a livable city.
Patch: More and more bicycling lanes have been added across the city, have they been successful in creating safer bicycling in the city? How can we improve safety for bicyclists?
Pressley: Recent studies show that a rider's chance of injury decreased by 50% when riding within a painted bike lane when compared to a normal street.
The same study showed that the likelihood of injury decreases 90% when these bike lanes are protected by some type of barrier.
The city has done great work to create a vast network of painted bike lanes throughout the city and they have installed barriers on Western Avenue in Allston and we know installation on Malcolm X Boulevard is in the works. This is really exciting.
During the hearing we’ll explore, with city officials and cycling advocates, what other specific areas of the city we should prioritize for barrier lanes.
Patch: What else would you like to say about biking and biking infrastructure in Boston?
Pressley: I think it’s also important to note, that car ownership can be cost prohibitive for many lower income residents. Even the cost of public transit can be challenging. Cycling is potentially a very efficient way for lower income residents to get to jobs, explore the city, and improve their health. If we strive towards building a world-class cycling infrastructure, cycling won’t just be the green and healthy thing to do; it will also be the most affordable and reliable.