Members of Boston’s biking community took to the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill to participate in the 2014 Bike/Walk Summit Thursday afternoon to lobby for the passage of two bike and pedestrian protection bills. The event was spearheaded by MassBike and WalkBoston who hosted Public Health Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett as their speaker in Nurses Hall.
The two pieces of legislation are sponsored by state Senator William Brownsberger, a Democrat from Belmont, and aim to make Boston’s roadways and bike lanes more accommodating to those not afforded the protection of airbags and seatbelts.
The first measure, Senate Bill 1639, intends to define the term “vulnerable user” as it pertains to transportation. According to the bill, should it pass, a vulnerable user will be defined as “a pedestrian or a person operating a bicycle, handcycle, tricycle, skateboard, roller skates, in-line skates, wheelchair, non-motorized scooter, or any non-motorized vehicle, or a person riding a horse.”
If a vulnerable user is struck by someone operating a motor vehicle,whether sober or under the influence or even simply passing the vulnerable user at an unsafe distance, they’ll be subjected to much heavier consequences. Fines could be imposed up to double their normal limit, a public safety class that includes interactions between motorized vehicles and vulnerable users could be likely, and an community service with an educational component related to safe synergy between the driver and vulnerable user could be mandate.
The second piece of legislation, Senate Bill 1640, would prohibit any motor vehicle from parking, idling or in any way occupying “any on-street path or lane designated by official signs or markings for the use of bicycles.” This would also hold true for bike lanes and any other designated avenues that are specifically designed for bicycle use.
Both bills are being sponsored by state Senator Brownsberger but they’ve both been under consideration by the Joint Committee on Transportation since last year.
The proposed policy changes come just at a time when Boston’s bike scene sits on the brink of infrastructure overhauls (chiefly more secure bike lanes) to bolster the use of bikes to the benefit of public health and the environment. Already the weather is beginning to shift from winter to spring, meaning more bikes will soon take to the roads.