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News :: Politics
Bicycle Safety Hearing Reportback
24 Sep 2004
At the Public Hearing on Crosswalks and Street repair, Honan-Allston Library, Monday September 20th

The collective blood temperature in the back room of the Honan-Allston Library rose about ten degrees as Councilors Ron Cansalvo and Jerry McDermott explained in strict terms that although many had come to speak about Bike Safety this hearing will deal specifically with crosswalk and street improvements, including signage and naming specific problem areas. In previous interviews with this reporter, bicycle activist Charlotte Burger, and Dorie Clark of MassBike, Jerry McDermott had waxed poetic about the possibilities that might be expressed at the hearing he proposed. He spoke of PSA campaigns, listening to the concerns of bikers and forming a “partnership” with bicycle advocacy groups.
When Jeffrey Ferris, owner of Ferris Wheel Bicycles in Jamaica Plain and longtime bicycle activist stepped up to the podium he lost his composure for a moment, fighting back tears. “I apologize, but after dealing with this issue for so many years and never seeing results, I tend to get a little emotional.”

For testimony after testimony activists pressed the issue of bike safety regardless of Cansalvo’s repeated attempts to keep the meeting on topic. The meeting had been called as a direct response to Kirsten Malone’s tragic death by motorist on Lincoln Street while on her bicycle, but the councilors insisted it would it not address bicycle safety and the specific threats and circumstances that Kirsten and the rest of Boston’s thousands of bike commuters face every day.

Charlotte Burger and others presented the fundamental error of grouping bicyclists with pedestrians, Paul Schimek of MassBike- also a former employee of Boston Transportation Dept, spoke about the misunderstandings that non-bikers often have about where bicyclists can and can’t be and pushed the idea of a Public Service Announcement campaign, Thomas Vitolo, who with a seemingly pre-arranged nod to the councilor at-large Maura Hennigan, spoke last, after the councilors and everyone else, emphasized the need to emphasize enforcement of those cars that run yellow stoplights before anything else is done on Bike Safety.

Many that spoke also tried to work within the constraints of the particular hearing at hand by making several complaints and demands.

“Every single crosswalk in Allston is either faded or non-existent.” Said one Allston resident.

Others handed in lists or named off specific intersections around town that presented extremely dangerous situations for bicyclists.

Still others brought forward ingenious ideas that have been tested in cities like Cambridge just across the river and others out on the west coast. Among these were “pedestrian Delineators”- a type of obstacle with signage that sits in the middle of the road, flashing lights that activate when a button is pressed by a passing pedestrian so that vehicle can tell when pedestrians are present, changing parking law so that vehicles park much closer to the curb, alternating parking from one side to the other block to block on one ways so that people do not perceive a straightaway, and a PSA campaign about wearing bright clothes for pedestrians and cyclists.

Boston’s Bike activists and concerned citizens did not attend the meeting in vain, not only did the councilors react positively to all that was said and recognize the bicycle community, they also committed to holding a hearing that would be specific to Bicycle safety. Councilor McDermott spoke to Charlotte Burger, Paul Shimeck and Indymedia after the meeting and made an estimate that the hearing would be held in two weeks or so at a time after 5pm during the week. It would be held in City Hall with the possibility of all 13 councilors being present.

This new meeting will be announced on Indymedia and the Actma list as well as other community lists. Please spread the word and get as many people as possible to show up in order to make the city notice that bicyclists do form a constituency that they need to address. It’s also about time people start calling the mayor about bike safety, as he will be the next obstacle on the way to creating a safer city for two-wheelers. Here’s his contact info:

Mayor's Office

Mayor's Office
1 City Hall Plaza
Boston, MA 02201

Telephone: 617.635.4500

Facsimile: 617.635.3496

Web Site:

Mayor (at)

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Re: Bicycle Safety Hearing Reportback
24 Sep 2004
Thanks Pete. This is *exactly* what IMCs are for.
Re: Bicycle Safety Hearing Reportback
27 Sep 2004
Thanks so much for the summary, Pete. It was indeed a little frustrating being in that crowd, but I was also encouraged by the apparant positive reaction the councilors had to the comments. I think the emotion expressed, as tough as it was for those at the podium, was needed to show them how serious this has become.

Oh, and hey, if you happen to talk to Councilor McDermott again soon, it'd be great for us to keep updated on progress for a permanent memorial for Kirsten.