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Where Boston's bikers go to retire
bikepath.jpgChris Grealish’s first thoughts of leaving Boston were inspired by bone-crushing accidents. In his three years riding as a courier he received a broken collar bone, a demobilizing blow to the hip, stitches on a gruesomely torn upper lip, lost skin on his hands, legs and arms, and a knee swelled up to the size of a grapefruit. Instead of vacations, Grealish was often forced to take unpaid downtime to heal his wounds. He claims he averaged one accident or serious altercation with a cabdriver every three months.

Yet he loved the job.

“I had no formal education. I found something that I wanted to do and I was really good at it. Having that taken away was pretty alarming,” says Grealish 42, “It became very apparent that my shelf life was limited.”
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30 Mar 2005 | Filed under: News / Environment : Politics : Social Welfare : Technology
Boston Wants More Sensible Transportation
TRUFare2000.jpgIn Chicago, London and Bogotá, more cyclists are using the roads, and the roads are more accommodating to cyclists than ever before. Yet in Boston, Massachusetts, traffic jams and dangerous streets prevail. Advocates for better conditions for cyclists in Boston have had limited success in the past several decades, and a consensus is building about the need to update our strategies for change.

Boston area transit advocates are livid over the state's attempts to weasel its way out of commitments made two decades ago to expand public transit as a requirement for building the $15 billion dollar central artery highway. Fred Salvucci, the former state transportation chief who championed the Big Dig, recently told the Boston Globe, "We always knew that this thing would create a very brief improvement and things would recongest if we did not improve public transportation." Bicycling and pedestrian advocates, too, are disappointed that little money and attention has been allocated to their modes.
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14 Mar 2005 | Filed under: Commentary / Environment : Technology
Population Density Poses Challenge to Construction of BU Bioterror Lab
ebola.jpgThe New Year has brought some new bumps in Boston University Medical Center’s plan to construct their new security level 4 bio-containment safety laboratory (BSL4) on the bustling border where the South End and Roxbury meet. BU is planning to begin construction on the lab, which would enable researchers to investigate weaponized strains of the most deadly biological agents known to man, this summer.

And until recently, the year and a half of debate over the hotly contested plan certainly seemed to be balancing in BU’s favor. Backed by key players in Commonwealth politics, the project coasted through city and state permit and approval processes. Rose Arruda of the Roxbury community organization Safety Net told the Boston Globe on February 5 that since the group had begun their opposition to the lab, “People just ignored us. They’d say, ‘You are just a bunch of crazy activists.’”

But then everything went to hell at the BUMC press office in late January when the Boston Globe revealed that researchers had been doing everything short of seasoning the lunch meat in the cafeterias at their BSL2 labs with an infectious strain of the deadly disease tularemia. According to an article that ran in the Boston Globe on January 20th, the University had, on the previous day, “confirmed that on October 28 test results showed that researchers who had thought they were working with a harmless variety of the bacteria tularemia instead had been working with material that appeared to be contaminated and might have caused illnesses in three researchers.” The article stated that Massachusetts State law required BU to report their suspicions that infections had occurred within 24 hours.

It took the university 11 days.
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02 Mar 2005 | Filed under: News / Environment : Organizing : Politics : Technology
City plays catch-up with Boston's bicycle activists
Back in September city councilors appeared surprised by the number of attendees at a hearing for crosswalk safety and the amount of anger they brought to the meeting. After last nights hearing, called to consider both bike safety in general and the appointment of a “bike czar” for the city, they should now realize that they have awoken a sleeping monster. Activists and citizens packed the Ianella chamber and instead of a line of individuals sounding off the hearing began with a well-organized power point presentation to the councilors by an informal organization of bicyclists and pedestrians. A comprehensive bike safety plan was requested and drawn out in detail for the councilors.
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24 Nov 2004 | Filed under: News / Education : Environment : Organizing : Politics : Social Welfare : Technology
Fixing Broken Promises; City calls hearing on Bike Safety
The flowery, warm prose of the Bicycle Friendly Communities 2003 awards report would make a Boston bike commuter’s heart skip a beat.

“The [bike path] network grew to over 240 miles… More than one-quarter of the city’s arterial streets have striped bike lanes or shoulders… bicycle access is fully integrated into the city’s light rail and bus system... Bicycle parking is provided [everywhere]… Motorists and bicyclists are educated to share the road…” What kind of utopian village is this? Well it’s not in Scandinavia, but it is in Boston’s U.S. polar opposite attitude-wise, Portland Oregon, land of the smiley happy people.

It may be hard to view the streets of Boston through the golden lenses of Portland’s bicycle La-La land, but there are still a few folks who can catch a wink of it if they squint and throw off their eye focus on a bright sunny day. These are Boston’s bike visionaries. They see Boston in terms of how it could be. Some have 10, 20, 30 years of advocacy under their belts, and precious little city-built biking infrastructure to show for it. “Getting a few ribbon racks takes ten years.” Says Carl Kurz, Organizer of Bikes-not-Bombs, “In the twenty years that I’ve been here there’s been a little over two or three blocks of bike lanes put in on the actual streets.”

Back in 1999, Boston was rated the least bike friendly city in the country by Bicycling magazine. The city council reacted. Mayor Menino jumped. The mayor vowed to fix the problems by instating a “Bike Czar” to address pedaler’s grievances. But the title wasn’t official. And other responsibilities were folded into the job description. Paul Shimeck, the man with the job, felt like his hands were tied. Then he was laid-off. Now Maura Hennigan, Boston City Councilor at-large and Menino-critic number one, wants the mayor to fulfill his original promises.

Tonight, [Monday Nov. 22nd 5:30pm-see below] Councilor Hennigan and the rest of the Council will hear the communities problems, misgivings and suggestions on the topic of Bike safety and whether t reinstate the Bike Czar.
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23 Nov 2004 | Filed under: News / Environment : Politics : Social Welfare : Technology
Tensions rise as BU inches closer to a Biosafety Lab in Boston
interconnectej.jpgFaneuil Hall was home to a public forum Wednesday night on the biosafety lab that is currently scheduled to be built in the South End's Boston Medical Center. The forum opened with a ten minute overview presented by Boston University officials, including Boston University Senior Vice President Richard J. Towle, which was interrupted by a woman demanding that the lab be referred to as the "proposed lab." After the somewhat contentious presentation was over, the hall became open for Bostonians to voice approval or disapproval about the proposed lab. Advocates and concerned citizens voiced their opinions, but drew no real conclusions, besides an agreement that the conflict is far from over. Attendees argued passionately for an open question and answer session with both sides of the conflict, and "more information and more respect" to be shown by Boston University towards concerned Boston residents.
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12 Nov 2004 | Filed under: News / Environment : Organizing : Politics : Race : Social Welfare : Technology
Less-Than-Lethal?
fn_ll_303_r.gifPepperBall guns, Bean Bag Projectiles and Tasers, seem to be a good idea at first. They have been used to take down knife wielding hostage holders and neutralize would be suicide victims all over the country. They give officers a chance to leave their guns in the holster and defuse dangerous situations without killing.

In these situations the risk to life and limb is very real and there is a compelling logic to their use, even a fairly good record to back it up. A certain number of violent criminals have died as a result of bean-bags, pepper spray, and Tasers, but without less than lethal weapons, a gun would be used, and a death would be more likely.

But according to studies of some police departments, more than half of the people who end up on the business end of non-lethal weapons are not criminals, and over 80% are not threatening officers or the public with weapons of their own. That was definitely the case Thursday when a Boston Police Officer fired a FN Herstall model 303 pepper ball gun into a crowd of celebrating Red Sox fans, killing 21 year old Victoria Snelgrove. The Boston Globe reported only that a bottle was smashed near the police, who were wearing full riot gear at the time.

The police are trained to maintain a code of conduct regardless of the conduct of others. One would expect an officer of the law to exercise restraint when wielding a weapon capable of deadly force. Yet, in the case of "less-than lethal" weapons, such a policy simply isn't there.
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23 Oct 2004 | Filed under: News / Human Rights : Technology
Offensive Biology: Is Bio-"Defense" a Bust?
A biodefense lab may soon be coming to a campus or community near you, if one hasn't already. These labs are the most noticeable evidence of the government's rapidly expanding biotechnology complex. Although the labs do some indispensable work in the medical realm, their rapid expansion is also tied directly to "fighting terrorism." The rationale behind the expansion of biodefense labs is that terrorists or "rogue states" could use biological or chemical weapons against the US. To be prepared for and effectively deal with such an attack, researchers at biodefense labs must research and experiment with potential biological agents in order to devise antidotes and develop counter-terror measures.
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19 Oct 2004 | Filed under: Commentary / Technology
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