At the last City Council meeting, prior to the summer recess, Councilor Fred Capone suggested that the City work with the Police Department in order to bring bicycle safety and regulation information to residents, whether through live classes or televised programming on ECTV.
“I’ve been pushing bike safety for five years,” he told the Independent. “We need to educate folks about the rules of the road for bikes.”
The councilor cited things like always biking with the flow of traffic, wearing safety gear and dressing in brightly colored clothing.
Councilor Capone said he has seen not only minors but adults biking recklessly, and is afraid that “someone’s going to get hurt or die.”
He claims that it is especially prudent now that Everett has taken steps to strengthen its cycling infrastructure, entering into contracts with two different bike-share companies, Lime and Bluebikes.
“It’s irresponsible if the City provides ample access to bikes but then neglects the obligation to ensure that cyclists understand the rules of the road,” said the councilman. “Without providing some safety information, serious injury or even a fatality is a real possibility.”
Councilor Capone said he has asked the administration and the police department to take up the issue of bicycle safety in Everett for over four years, but that his request has “fallen on deaf ears.”
The councilor is not alone in his thinking.
Councilor Michael McLaughlin also believes that bicycle safety needs to be taken seriously.
“We as a community need to do more on bike awareness and education of safety on riding,” he said.
Bike awareness means not just educating cyclists about road rules, but educating drivers about how to keep bikes safe on the road.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 783 cyclists were killed in traffic accidents in 2017, with three quarters of these occurring in urban areas.
New York City Mayor and presidential hopeful Bill De Blasio is currently calling for new bicycle safety measures when three cyclists died in the final week of June, bringing that city’s cyclist death toll to 15 just this year.
New York’s new measures include steep fines for driving or parking in a bike lane, not obeying pavement markings and not yielding to cyclists while making turns.
De Blasio promises to also crack down on cyclists biking the wrong way, biking through red lights and distracted cycling. City officials have proposed license plates for all bikes, knowing that traffic cameras can catch cyclists disobeying road rules even when a police officer isn’t present.
In Chicopee, Mass., a female cyclist lost her life on July 3, prompting town officials to recommit to bicycle safety initiatives.
Councilors in Everett are hopeful that they can take a lesson from New York and Chicopee and take action before any cyclist fatalities occur.
•Laws for Cyclists
According to the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, cyclists must obey the rules of the road. These include obeying traffic laws; using correct hand signals when stopping, slowing and turning; yielding to pedestrians; keeping one hand on handlebars at all times; wearing an approved, fastened helmet if under 16; using reflectors before sunrise and after sunset; and meeting all standards of cycle equipping and modification.
•Laws for Drivers
Motorists in Massachusetts are responsible for knowing how to interact with cycles on the road. This includes yielding to oncoming cyclists when making left turns, checking for cyclists before opening their doors when parked and remaining a safe distance from cyclists when passing.
Disobeying traffic laws when it comes to bikes is punishable by fines just like any traffic violation. A comprehensive list of the bicycle laws in the state of Massachusetts can be found at massbike.org/laws.