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Improvements that Make Biking Safer in Boston

There are a lot more people on bikes in Boston and the surrounding areas than there are in many other cities across the country, but Boston is not by any means the only city in which more people are taking bikes to work than they have in years past.  It is not only about commuting on bikes, either, as we see many more people riding for fun and exercise.

bicycle crash lawyerHowever, as we have more people on bikes, we are seeing more serious, and sometimes fatal, bike crashes involving a collision between a bike and motor vehicle.  While we are going to talk about a ways biking can be made safer, as well as things bike riders can do to avoid a collision, it is important to understand that, despite the fact that many motorists, and even police, like to assume the bike rider is at fault, the reality of most of these situations is quite different.According to a recent news article from PHYS.org, a recent study has shown that investing in safety for bikers and pedestrians is an investment that pays. This study focused on the investment of infrastructure designed to attract bike riders and pedestrians and showed that this not only results in more bike riders and pedestrians in the area, but also a reduced rate of bicycle and pedestrian accidents. This goes against the general presumption that more bike riders on the road will lead to more bike accidents.  As our Boston bike crash lawyers can explain, even if the total number of bike accidents may increase as more bike riders are on the roads, rate of accidents based upon the number of riders will actually decrease, meaning that the added bike and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure does make things much safer.

This particular study was performed by researchers at the University of Wisconsin at its various campuses, but the actual study focused on areas around the nation that have been identified as either the most dangerous or the safest areas with respect to cyclists and also pedestrians.   The way the study was conducted involved looking at various data points and surveillance studies of pedestrian and bicycle and traffic fatalities in the cities and regions being studied.

One of the most interesting findings was how vastly different the various regions were in terms of bicycle safety.  While it should come as no surprise that some regions were more dangerous than others, the more dangerous ones have a fatality rate around five times higher than the safe regions in the study. This means that whatever the difference between the safe and dangerous regions, they were far apart in terms of bicycle safety.

With this perspective in mind, the study authors tried to better determine why some regions were safer than others. They next looked at the number of improvements and infrastructure changes that were made in each study.  This has actually been studied so they did not have to do any extensive research other than reviewing the data from these studies and cross-referencing it with the data from their own study. They did indeed find that the areas with more improvements had substantially less pedestrian and bicycle fatalities. In areas where such improvements had not been made, there was a rate of bicycle fatalities that was as much as six times higher, on average, with pedestrian fatalities being higher by a factor of five. This is clearly a significant difference.

This is why the study found investments in biker and pedestrian safety were paying off.  This is not true not only in terms of significantly reducing the number of serious injuries and fatalities from bike crashes and accidents involving pedestrians, which is priceless, but also in terms of actual dollars.  Aside from the tragedy of loss of human life, there is as financial cost associated with these fatal bike accidents stemming for dispatching of first responders, ambulance rides, emergency medical bills, training of more personnel for EMS and fire fighters, and a whole host of other costs. Some budgets rely on federal and state grants. These grants may be decreased or eliminated entirely if the death rate can be decreased.

There are a variety of different things than can be done to help decrease the number of serious and fatal bike crashes that were done in cities in this study and have been done in Boston and Cambridge. One of the major improvements that can be made is to fix the traffic patterns to make them friendlier to bike riders and pedestrians.

One of the major types of accidents that can result in serious personal injury are ones that involve dooring.  When a driver or passenger gets out of a car, he or she is supposed to look to make sure there is no bike rider traveling down the street who will crash into the suddenly opened door.  Despite what many people think, if this happens, it is not the bike rider’s fault. This is the fault of the person who opened the door.  In fact, Section 14 of Chapter 90 the Massachusetts General Laws (MGL) specifically states that no person shall open the door of vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with a bicyclist or pedestrian.

While this happens all the time in Boston and causes serious personal injury to bicyclists, and it is not the bicyclists’ fault, it will help if the municipality can find a way to keep this from happening. First, we need to look at why this happens. Aside from the negligence of the motorists or passengers who negligently open their doors, it happens because many bike riders ride towards the line of parked cars to allow faster traffic to pass.  When there are bike lanes, they are often just to the left of the line of parked cars, meaning the bike rider must travel close enough to the cars so that they would be in range of a suddenly opened door. A better traffic pattern, as we are now seeing in some cities, would be to put the bike path on the left of the line of parked cars.  The theory here being that it is more often that a driver will be exiting the vehicle than a person in the passenger side, so this would reduce the number of dooring accidents and make turns safer for the bicyclists.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-789 BIKE (2453).

Additional Resources:

Study suggests investment pays off in safety for walkers, bikers, July 27, 2017, By Greg Walz-Chojnacki, Phsy.org

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Major Taylor Birthday Rides Honor Black Cycling Champion, American Hero, Nov. 16, 2017, Boston Bike Accident Lawyer Blog