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Boston Cyclists Are Seeing Red: Solo Cups Mark Daily Bike Danger

The “Red Solo Cup” synonymous with “barbeques, tailgates, fairs and festivals” are now being associated with bicycling rights awareness and Boston bike crash reduction.

Boston Bicycle Accident

Image Courtesy of Peter Cheung

The #redcupproject is an international movement, coordinated in memoriam of Washington D.C. cyclist Dave Salovesh, an advocate recently killed in a bicycle crash when the driver of a stolen van barreling down the road at twice the posted speed struck him and a pedestrian. The #redcupproject in Boston took off with the help of cycling advocates like Peter Cheung, organizer of the Boston Bike Party and leader of Boston’s ghost bicycle project, which honors cyclists who died in Boston bicycle accidents.

As explained in The Boston Globe, the red cups are filled partially with water and lined in a row within existing or makeshift bicycle lanes, alongside traffic where most cyclists ride. At every location – from here to San Francisco and in countries as Spain, Denmark, Australia and Mexico – the cups were smashed within minutes.

The message: How incredibly vulnerable bicyclists are riding alongside moving traffic, separated only by a painted road line. 

Along chaotic urban streets in Boston, Newton and Cambridge, activists recorded and/or photographed as one-by-one, rows of cups were crushed, mowed over by motorists who paid no attention to the painted lines on the road. This, says Cheung, drives home the point that Boston and other Massachusetts cities need to begin prioritizing bicycle safety with better bike infrastructure and connectivity.

“It has a powerful visual impact, seeing those cups scattered and squished, and the contrast of the water on the concrete,” said Cheung (who for environmental reasons used paper cups). “… Some elected officials say, ‘Oh yes, we support Vision Zero,’ which is what we want to strive for – zero fatalities. They say they support it, but they aren’t moving on it fast enough.”

Cups Underscore Higher Boston Bike Crash Risk in Underserved Communities

Expanded Boston bicycle routes have long been the goal of city planners, who announced not long ago the ambitious goal of quadrupling bicycle ridership by 2030. But with already more than 40,000 bicycle trips at 62 locations citywide (not the full scope of Boston ridership), many like Cheung – including our Boston bike injury attorneys – feel these efforts need to be moving at a faster clip.

The visual call for boosting bicycle safety is especially imperative for communities like Dorchester. For his #redcupproject experiment, Cheung chose Mass Ave. South, which is the main corridor in Boston. Although the #redcupproject was initially focused solely on those roads along which bicycle lanes are painted, Cheung chose this stretch of Boston street precisely because it has no bicycle lanes and also heads straight into Dorchester, which is vastly underserved when it comes to bicycle infrastructure.

“These are the kinds of areas where people need this protection the most,” he said. “We have a lot of low-income people here who don’t have a car and there are many times during which the trains and buses don’t run.”

Mass Ave is the north-south corridor through Boston and into Cambridge. While approximately three-quarters of that roadway have some type of bike lane, a fourth of it doesn’t – and that quarter runs right into the minority areas of the city.

“This area, perhaps even more than some of the others, needs protected bike lanes,” Cheung said.

Others throughout Boston put the cups across thoroughfares like the Larz Anderson Memorial Bridge, connecting Allston to Cambridge over the Charles River.

Pursuing Vision for Safer Boston Bicycling

Long-term, the initiative Go Boston strives to have areas of the city where all residents have improved and equitable travel options.

Boston bicycle accident lawyers know this is going to require investment, with the priority being installation or retrofitting of bike lanes that are separated from moving traffic, as well as introducing traffic-calming measures so cars, trucks and buses all slow down. This not only reduces the odds of a bike crash, but also the severity if one were to occur.

Bicycle lanes that include a curb-separated barrier are preferred because they provide the most protection for cyclists. Another options that is less expensive (but also slightly less effective) are the plastic bollard separators. Those do still get run over and require replacement.

“But at least there is physically something there, something that is within motorists’ immediate line-of-sight,” Cheung said.

Another issue with the painted-line bike lanes is they don’t guarantee there won’t be debris in the road. They don’t guarantee people aren’t going to park there. They don’t guarantee someone will give them the full 3-feet of distance required by Massachusetts law. This is why bicyclists are legally allowed to ride on the road, though many would prefer protected bicycle lanes.

The #redcupproject is just one local bike advocacy effort to take place the last few weeks, with May being National Bike Month. Another was the Glacial Pace Ride.

“It emphasizes the glacial pace on improvement of bicycle infrastructure,” Cheung said. “There are parts of this city that have had plans in place to improve bike safety and infrastructure for the last 10 or 15 years, and very little progress has been made at this point to-date.”

In some areas, he says the city is not even 40 percent finished on the bike infrastructure goals that were set for completion last year.

If Boston hopes to bolster ridership, it’s got to prioritize making it safer. People from 8 to 88 can ride a bicycle, but there are widely varying levels of proficiency. There is little chance that novice riders or those younger or elderly will ever ride on a Boston street the way it’s currently designed.

The benefits of bicycling are multifaceted. In addition to resolving some of the issues Boston has with parking, traffic congestion and unreliable public transportation, it’s also healthier and drives down our carbon emissions (so it’s far better for the environment).

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Boston bicycle accident (we prefer the term “bike crash”), call for a free and confidential appointment at 617-777-7777.

Additional Resources:

Cyclists are putting red cups in the road to show how drivers often invade bike lanes, April 26, 2019, By Steve Annear, The Boston Globe

More Blog Entries:

Fatal Boston Bicycle Crash With Truck in Fenway Under Investigation, March 16, 2019, Boston Bicycle Accident Attorney Blog

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