Pedal promise

The ongoing perils and recent improvements en route to a riding renaissance.
By TOM MEEK  |  May 13, 2010

Photo: Derek Kouyoumjian
Since Mayor Menino reinstated Boston’s bike program in 2007, the city has added 15 miles of bike lanes, with another 20 miles to come this year.

Boston has its fair share of deserving bad reputations: the sports fans whined for some 86 years about a “curse” because the Red Sox couldn’t seal the deal; the drivers are terrible; and, thanks in no small part to those driving skills, the city’s streets were thrice voted by Bicycling Magazine as some of the worst in the country for cyclists.

But like the Sox’s dry spell, all bad things must eventually come to an end. So Boston set about to reform its bad bike behavior, because — well, for no other reason it seems than a few years ago someone bought Mayor Tom Menino a bike. For that, all local bikers should be thankful, even if there are still perilous intersections to cross.

Check out the Boston Bike Bible 2010 with info on bike stores, events, maps, and much more.

Having finally discovered the city’s streets to be dangerous for two-wheelers, in 2007 Menino vocalized his desire to retool Boston into a world-class cycling city. He’s since done plenty to back up his talk, reinstating the city’s bike program and hiring urban planner and former Olympic cyclist Nicole Freedman as director of Boston Bikes (a position that had been dormant since 2003). As part of that initiative, the city laid 15 miles of bike lanes and installed new racks, increasing ridership in the city by some 43 percent through 2009. 

Bicycling Magazine took note, tagging Boston as a “future best city,” moving it from the worst-cities list to the best, ranking just below the half-way point at number 26.

Still, an up-and-comer the city remains. On April 7, 22-year-old cyclist Eric Michael Hunt, of Mission Hill, was killed after a collision with an MBTA bus on Huntington Avenue. That accident, still under investigation, came amidst a rash of other incidents, some of which were life-threatening.

From tragedy can come triumph, however. Menino seized on the opportunity to better the biking situation, inviting local officials and bikers to brainstorm much-needed improvements. As a result, a number of long-fought-for policy changes have in the past few weeks been implemented or scheduled.

Whether some of them are empty promises remains to be seen, but much has already been accomplished. Here, then, the Phoenix examines the long, bumpy road that leads to biking renaissance in the Hub.

“The car is no longer king in Boston,” Menino declared to an audience of cyclists during an inaugural Bike Safety Summit, held April 21 at Boston University’s Morse Auditorium.

The event, called largely in response to the spate of accidents, covered a broad range of topics, and featured an even broader line-up of all stars who can get things done: Transportation Secretary Jeffrey B. Mullan, MBTA General Manager Richard A. Davey, Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis, Boston Transportation Commissioner Thomas J. Tinlin, Boston EMS Chief James Hooley, and Barbara Ferrer, the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission.

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