THANKSGIVE to Somerville Leaders!

UPDATE 11/25/15

Jennifer wrote back!! She added this list of folks to contact for thanks, on the repaving project:

Below is a list of officials involved in advocating for the repaving Beacon as an interim measure. I also included our district contacts over at MassDOT. Feel free to drop them a email!

Stanley Koty

Michael Glavin
Brad Rawson

Suzanne Rinfret
Terry Smith

The Mayor


Frank G. Suszynski

Paul Stedman

Go spray thanks everywhere, folks.


Have you been enjoying your ride up and down Beacon/Hampshire St? YES you have!
Have you seen this amazing message at the head of Beacon St? (You have now!)


I wrote to Somerville Deputy Chief Stephen Carrabino about both things. Some of you might know that Officer Carrabino is a regular bicycle commuter and has been super helpful in supporting bicycle culture. At any rate, this was what he wrote in reply:

I can’t take any of the credit on the new pavement. The Somerville Bicycle Committee, Brad Rawson, and Jennifer Molina from City Hall get all of the credit on that one.

I can, however, share in the credit on the signs. I had three signboards put out about a week ago. I have to say that I do feel proud of them. I’m glad you like the message, too. We’re getting there. Unfortunately, with daylight savings, I can only leave them out there for another week, but I will put them out there in the spring.

Thanks for dropping me a line. I usually only have negative things coming my way.

Take care,

So, hey, it’s Thanksgiving. If you’ve been happier during your commute thanks to one of these two improvements, let the helpers know that their hard work has made a difference to your daily trip to/from work. A little bit of thanks goes a long way, so let’s give them a whole lot of bits to help them go the many extra long miles.

Stephen Carrabino

Brad Rawson

Jennifer Molina

And here’s some boilerplate notes to get you started:

Beacon St is AMAZING. Every day I ride on it and I marvel at how it could be the same street that was the Swiss Cheese Nightmare

The sign this morning at the corner of Beacon/Oxford: It’s really the best sign that any city has every put up that I’ve seen for educating drivers.

Go! Off to get on with all your thanking! Go! HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


Aggressive EZRide Driver Backed By Charles River TMA Exec

This took place recently. I wrote to EZRide Service, and they responded with the following.

Ms. Tuing:

Thank you for sending the video of Paul Revere Transportation bus 707, operating EZRide Shuttle in Kendall Square, Cambridge on Wednesday, September 29. In addition to managing the contract for EZRide service, I respond to you as an avid cyclist and a bike commuter for more than fifteen years. My colleague serves on the Cambridge Bike Committee, and has been quoted on bicycle safety in the Globe. More than most managers of bus operations, we care intensely and personally about cycling safety.

Your video illustrates a regular and important interaction of bicycles and buses on complete streets. I hear your concern, voiced at one of the shuttle’s busiest stops on what is perhaps the most heavily travelled bike lane in the city. Here indeed is a place where we all need to share the road, especially where bicycle lanes share real estate with bus stops.

The bus driver did not do anything wrong in this video. We strongly disagree with your assessment that the driver took aggressive actions. On Ames St., the driver followed you, yielding to your hand signal as you take the left turn lane. We do not see any indication he is trying to pass you—there are cars coming the other direction and the roadway in narrowed by traffic barrells. After the turn onto Broadway, the video clearly shows the bus driver passing you and then using the right turn signal in preparation to access the bus stop at the curb in front of 145 Broadway. The bus brake lights show, as the driver pauses to let another cyclist clear the stop area, before pulling to the curb to pick up passengers. The video further suggests that your rate of speed does not change in response to the turn signal and brake lights. Based on this video, we think you had ample time to stop, and were not cut off. The bus driver is not trying to be uncool, aggressive or impede your progress here, but rather to operate transit service, and pick up passengers at a designated stop, and get the fifteen passengers on board to their destinations.

To ensure that our contractor understands your concern, and that bus drivers better understand cyclists perceptions of sharing the road with buses, my staff reviewed this video with shuttle operator Paul Revere Transportation, and will continue to work with them to ensure safe driver operations here in Cambridge.

We will also bring this type of interaction up at the Cambridge Bicycle Committee, and the Cambridge Transit Committee to seek further input on safe bicycle and transit interaction in Cambridge.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

Best regards,

Jim Gascoigne
Executive Director

New Contact Information
Charles River TMA
10 Rogers St. Ste 101


Response to Mr. Jacoby’s Opinion

This morning an email came from a colleague with a link to this opinion piece by Mr. Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe.  I wrote up this reply (and cleaned it up later) before I got on my bike to get to work because I knew it’d be a distraction in my mind if I didn’t get my thoughts out.


Dear Mr. Jacoby,

I’d like to share some facts around the opinion you shared on Boston Globe. While this might not change your opinion, I hope that it does some more light around urban bicycling for you.

From the top:

… 13th cyclist killed in collisions with motor vehicles on city streets since 2010. That number is sure to rise if Boston keeps encouraging people to ride bicycles where bicycles don’t belong.

Or it won’t, if Boston keeps supporting building of infrastructure and education of motorists AND cyclists to facilitate travel by bicycling.

Busy thoroughfares aren’t meant for cyclists.”

You’re right! Specifically in Boston, where roads were meant for cows and horses and carriages! And somewhere in there bicycles shared the roads with the cows and horses and carriages before the cars and buses showed up. Yea, bikes were here first.

They are meant for the cars, trucks, and buses that transport the vast majority of people moving through the nation’s cities.”

Except cars, trucks and buses cannot move the vast majority of people through streets. They just do, now, because it isn’t safe for cyclists. We are in agreement on the point of safety.

Those vehicles weigh thousands of pounds, operate at 300-plus horsepower, and are indispensable to the economic and social well-being of virtually every American community.

Anybody operating vehicles that size has the responsibility to share space safely, if they do care so much about the well-being of those people they serve. That is why current laws have them get special licenses to drive those types of vehicles.

Adding any of them to the flow of motorized traffic on roads that already tend to be too clogged, however, is irresponsible and dangerous.

Not if safer infrastructure is in place. Also, that helps eliminate the ‘too clogged’ symptom. Studies have shown that making more room for cars doesn’t not reduce congestion: It just makes more cars show up.

According to the latest Census Bureau data, more than 122 million people commute each day by car, truck, or van. Fewer than 900,000 bike to work.

According to the Census Bureau data for WHERE? (Check your scope!) Are we still talking about Boston urban bicycling?

Do the math: For every cyclist pedaling to or from work, there are 136 drivers. Add the passengers who commute by bus and streetcar, and that ratio is even more lopsided. When it comes to urban transportation, bike riders play a trifling role — literally less than a rounding error. Far more people walk to work.

I’m afraid this math is irrelevant to your point because your original scope doesn’t apply to the discussion. If we humor your stats choice, the alternative is 900,000 more cars on the road, because why shouldn’t those cyclists drive as an option? Driving is another Point A -> Point B mode of travel that covers great distances. Are your advocating for 900,000 more cars on the road? How does THAT make other drivers feel? If the response is “Well, those 900K people can take public transit,” then why can’t some of the existing 122 million people take public transit?

But that doesn’t deter the bicycle lobby, which could give lessons in brass to Donald Trump.

That’s just picking a fight. Never insult the other party during a real discussion. Let’s be adults here, which I assume you are, by your photo on the Boston Globe website.

Advocates demand more and more access to city streets, no matter how frustrating to the vast majority of drivers for whom those streets are designed.

I think you meant “no matter how frustrating to me.” but I speculate. Again, the streets were not designed for the cars. The cars just took over, because, hey, lobbyists!

“Share the Road” signs pointedly admonish drivers, as though sound traffic management calls for treating flimsy, slow, and distracting bikes as the equal of faster, more powerful motor vehicles.”

For “sound traffic management,” encouraging cycling is actually a real solution, because it is faster and removes cars from the road. Anecdotally: last winter (2015) my daily commute went from 45 minute to 1 hour and 15 minutes per way on the worst days. It’s a lot by percentage but I’m willing to guarantee it was the shortest amount of increase across all the commuting options, short of walking to nearby distances.

And “sharing” the road, increasingly, isn’t enough: Signs now decree “Bicycles May Use Full Lane,”

Yes, that is current MA law, because bicycles are regarded as vehicles and are entitled to use the full lane. If a thing can’t be cut in half like a sandwich or a peanut butter cup, sharing means both parties can use the whole thing. In this case that whole thing is a lane. I’m wondering where that concept got skewed for you.

And if there’s only one lane of traffic in each direction, so that traffic on a city street is effectively reduced to the speed of a lone cyclist? Too bad.”

Again, you can fit more cyclists on the road than you can cars. That same amount of road space can move more cyclists.

All of which might be marginally more tolerable if bikers operated under the same restrictions that drivers do. But cyclists pay no taxes,

Myth #1! This is the biggest complaint and it is not backed up with facts. Please check your facts.

don’t have to be insured,

In a wreck, cyclists get physically hurt and we have mandatory health insurance for that.

undergo no safety inspections, and needn’t register their vehicles. They don’t have to carry an operator’s license, and aren’t required to pass a written or a road test in order to pedal in the streets.

Because in a wreck cyclists get physically hurt. Cars kill people in a wreck so it makes sense to have to pass test to operate it (see earlier note re: driving large vehicles). Just as we shouldn’t hand a gun to a person who hasn’t learned how to use it, we shouldn’t hand a large chunk of metal capable of moving at great speed to an untrained person without setting up some ways to make them accountable in the event if things go wrong. Also, cyclists are often also licensed to drive. Since bicycles are viewed as vehicles in the eyes of the law, our car insurance sure do get impacted if we drive our bikes irresponsibly.

And have you ever seen a cop ticket a cyclist who ran a red light, weaved recklessly among lanes, or made an illegal turn? Me neither.

Yes, I have. Don’t believe me, here was a warning that went out to cyclists when it was taking place and there have been many more since then. I think it’s fine for cops to ticket red light running cyclists, for the record. You can see my plea here for them to do more of it here. A more accurate question, then, is “Have you seen cops ticket ALL cyclists who ran a red light…” to which my ask: I wonder if you have seen ALL driver get ticketed when they run a red light, weave recklessly among lanes, or made illegal turns? Me neither.

Bikes aren’t treated like cars for a very good reason: Bikes aren’t like cars. Which is exactly why they don’t belong on busy city streets. Cyclists and traffic don’t mix. It’s not just foolish to pretend otherwise. It’s deadly.

Bikes are treated like cars in the eyes of the current law, but not by road sharers. I agree that bikes SHOULDN’T be treated like cars. There must be vastly improved infrastructure to support cyclists instead mixing them in with the cars. Those ‘Sharrows’ are complete jokes. I make a point about that in this video.

Finally, because you claim to have written an opinion piece, I’d like to direct your attention here: It’s Not Your Opinion if You’re Just Wrong. Your opinions were based on your feelings, in MY opinion. It is meant to be incendiary, biased and, mostly likely, for getting web traffic to your writing? Is it notoriety you seek? I can’t speculate on that either, but my opinion – based on your lack of research as demonstrated in this piece – is that you have done a disservice to all Boston Globe readers. This is very poor journalism, indeed. I think you can do better. Please try.

Daily Greater Boston Bicycle Commuter since 2003


Update: One of my trash talk heroes wrote up a reply, too! More opinions, this time local!

Comments (1)

Oregon 1, Massachusetts 0

Last week I came across this article with a video on unsafe passing of a vehicle around a cyclist. Notably:

Portland police announced today that, on Thursday, they cited the Kia driver for his recklessness in the video. That’s more than a month after the incident occurred, but just three days after the videographer, Tony Tapay, reported it to cops.

In reviewing that video and comparing to my own incident of near passing, it’s clear that the vehicle in my video was much, much closer. When I shared my video with Arlington PD back in May, however, they gave me this as their final response:

Thank you and again, from what I viewed on the video and your statement that the car was traveling at 25 mph [note: I wrote “at least 25 mph” in my video, which is not the same as what he wrote here] I don’t see a violation. Further, before the government (I. E. The police) tracks down citizens for enforcement purposes there must be a clear violation of the law. We go to extraordinary measures to ensure the constitutional rights  of our citizenry.

Your reply has caused me to review the tape again and I see no need for our traffic unit to follow up.  Please further any further comment/complaint to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

I appreciated the prompt and polite response, for sure, but this didn’t make a bit of difference in helping to make the roads safer. I then sent this to Senator Brownsberger*, who is a bicycle commuter himself, to find out what is latest the status on our safe passing law. He kindly offered the latest updates and it’s true that MA’s current law is ambiguous and difficult to enforce. I looked up Oregon’s passing law. It’s still a moving target (ie. not a set distance) but I prefer it:

The law, which went into effect on January 1, 2008, defines “safe distance” as “sufficient to prevent contact with the person operating the bicycle if the person were to fall into the driver’s lane of traffic.” While a number of states have legislated specific passing distances, the most common of which is three feet, the Oregon law uses the bicyclist’s “fall over” height as a distance measure, a useful gauge to protect from a side swipe.**

I object to the Arlington PD Chief’s response on the basis of pure logic: That distance at that speed is NOT safe, period. His response did not say anything about safe passing, only mentioned the speed, which is the minimum guess that I made, not any actual fact of the incident. By the video you can see that the passing clearance was mere inches. Even if MA’s current law doesn’t specifically define what that safe distance should be, I’d like to see him experience a car passing him at – let’s say 25mph – with inches to spare and then have him tell me that it is totally safe.

Anyway, the road to making real change is to help support laws that are clear and enforceable. So I ride, record, gather data, and share with leaders like Senator Brownsberger to make way.

*A shout out to the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee: When I shared my video, they were extremely supportive and invited me to a meeting to review/discuss this incident, at which I had the attention of another Arlington police officer. ABAC offered suggestions on potential next steps, including contacting our representatives/senators.

** Summary thanks to this law firm here.


The Responsibilities of Businesses with Drivers

Sharing a couple of encounters from the past week, one with a Hubway van and another with a Uber driver.

Hubway: Please educate your drivers. It’s their job to regularly pull over to park and balance the stations, they really really need to know to that when they do this without paying more attention they can injure cyclists/your clients. Here’s a video you can use as visual aid to have a chat with your whole staff and then also talk privately with the offender. You’re welcome.


The Uber driver encounter was almost humorous in retrospect. You might not be able to hear that I was trying my damnest to keep my voice steady and clam, but you can tell very easily hear that I was super impatient and interrupted his ridiculous excuse-making more than once. Note to Uber management: If you do nothing else with driver education, TELL THEM THAT THEIR PASSENGERS CANNOT GIVE THEM PERMISSION TO BREAK THE LAW. 

Know that when this sort of stuff happens, your business’ reputation is on the line and I most certainly think about whether to give you my business in the future. Just as irresponsible bus driver’s actions impact the reputation of MBTA, your brand will not be remembered fondly after too many instances like these.

Just one more thing, because I’ve known my share of careless management: Don’t fire people, ok? That’s unfair. If your drivers don’t know the proper way to share the road, that is YOUR responsibility as a company. So take it, and do something.


Nearly Doored; Passenger Good Enough to Apologize

Usually I scan driver’s seat or the rear driver side seat to check for doors that might opening ahead of me. In this instance, a passenger in the rear reached over the seats to open the rear, driver-side door. I didn’t anticipate it at all. Had he swung the door all the way open (or had I been a less experienced cyclist and got spooked), there would’ve been an accident. Silver lining: He apologized! Unlike this guy. So, that was nice of him.


Aggressive Bus Driving

“I can’t wait to break the law!” – Bus driver

Comments (2)

No time for remorse, too important of a man

He either had a terrible day already or is bit of a sociopath. Does not excuse the rudeness, in my opinion.

Comments (2)

Too Fast, Too Close

Days since threatened by idiot driver: 1

Comments (1)

On the Newish Ames St Bike Lane

Comments (1)

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