A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts

by Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
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A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
A Bicyclist-Friendly Massachusetts
Riding Together Again
Riding Together Again

This August we’ve been Biking for a Better World and getting together the final preparations for Bay State Bike Month happening this September. 

We are grateful to our MassBike Members who make our bike-friendly work possible. Read on to learn more about how we’re getting older adults back on the bike, how to join our August Meet-Up for an update on bike-friendly bills in MA, and more.

Rolling Together Again - Bay State Bike Month is Almost Here

Bay State Bike Month is only a few weeks away and the events calendar is starting to fill up with bike-friendly events from across the state. If you have a bikey event happening this September, we want it on the Bay State Bike Month Events Calendar! Those who host September bike events & add them to our calendar may get a free Bike Month t-shirt depending on supplies– thanks to Morgan Moscinski for creating this year's Bike Month design, pictured here. More details to come on how you can get a 2021 Bike Month t-shirt with this cool design.

The MassCommute Bicycle Challenge is the premier event of Bay State Bike Month, from September 19th-26th we’ll be challenging you to track your trips for your chance to win prizes.  To get ready, make sure you’ve joined MassBike’s Love to Ride Group or your Transportation Management Association’s ride tracking platform

Older Adult Programming Gets Riders Back on the Bike

MassBike is teaming up with the City of Cambridge's Community Development Department to help get older adults back on the bike and out riding! The program includes virtual sessions with information ranging from getting on/off the bike, basic maintenance, and creative ways to adapt bicycles to fit various needs. Our work has grown this season to include in-person group rides every week, and we’ll be working with AARP Massachusetts to host a webinar in September. Older adults, we want to know, what resources do you need to get riding?

 

 

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During April's Earth Day we asked bicyclists to join us in trading a car trip for a bike ride. The more car trips we convert to bicycle trips through our advocacy, the smaller our collective carbon footprint becomes. 

 

We’ve been shining bright across the commonwealth this winter with our #LightsBrigade program. From the South Coast to the Connecticut River Valley to the North Shore, we’ve been handing out free sets to lights to cyclists across the commonwealth. We’re thrilled to announce, for the first time, we’ll be extending the program through the summer!

Starting this spring, #LightsBrigade by Bkin will be shining across Massachusetts. Thanks to the generous support of Bkin we will be able to pass out lights to more cyclists who need to #BrightenUp, helping them ride safer on warm summer nights. 22 News WWLP reported on the program expansion and the future is looking bright for this popular intiative.

If you would like to volunteer to host a #LightsBrigade event, please reach out to bikeinfo@massbike.org. We are always looking for volunteers from across the commonwealth to help us make sure every rider is bright.

 

Our 30 Days of Biking Challenge has been so much fun and we've enjoyed sharing our daily trips on Facebook & Instagram. Everyone who logged 30 days of rides in April on the MassBike Love to Ride Group was entered to win a Rover Rain Cape from Cleverhood. 

We're shifting gears a little with our May Bike Challenge: Bike to Work, Bike to School, Bike Before Your First Meeting.

In May, we're challenging you to commute one day a week by bike or to take a bike ride before your workday starts once a week to simulate a bike commute. Log your trips on the MassBike Love to Ride Group to be entered to win some MassBike prizes.

 

The House of Representatives is scheduled to begin debate on April 26th on the Fiscal Year 2022 budget that begins on July 1st. 

Over 1100 amendments have been filed for consideration, including several important bike-friendly amendments that we hope will be adopted.

Amendment #1039: Commuter Transit Benefits (Rep. Vitolo)

  • This amendment aligns Massachusetts law with federal law on commuter pre-tax benefits, and expands the tax deductions for monthly transit passes to include RTAs, and will provide benefits for a bikeshare membership, for buying a bike including electric bikes, for bicycle improvements, repair, and storage.

Amendment #164: Mass in Motion (Rep. Sabadosa) 

  • This amendment supports healthy eating and active living through the Mass in Motion program by increasing funding for Mass in Motion to $1 million in the FY22 state budget.

Why take action?

Both Amendment #1039 and #164 are crucial to MassBike’s work, as we strive to encourage more bike commuting to work as we come back from the pandemic, and we partner with Mass in Motion communities throughout Massachusetts to support community bicycling initiatives including our mini-grant program which was funded through this program.

Taking action is easy, and your representative wants to know what you think:

  1. Find your Representative by following this link: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator
  2. Request that they add their name as a co-sponsor to amendments #1039 and #164, which would help create a greener, more equitable and more sustainable bike-friendly Massachusetts.
  3. Say thank you! And let us know how it went by emailing us at bikeinfo@massbike.org

 

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As MassBike welcomes in the New Year, we first must acknowledge what this past year meant for us and for so many people who faced loss and tough challenges. We have all been forced to look at the world with new eyes, and to ask hard questions about how we treat each other and build a better world together. For MassBike this meant continuously pivoting our work to face the headwinds and manage each moment to maintain momentum for bike advocacy across the state. Through it all, we kept rolling. Below are a few notable inflection points that defined our year.

In March, we quickly needed to change the way we advocate. Beginning the week before our scheduled lobby day in Washington D.C. at the National Bike Summit we decided to go all virtual, and in the following months we discovered how the power of Zoom allowed us to shrink the geographic distance, giving constituents from across the state direct access to their elected officials and their legislative aides. Together we connected on countless webinars featuring all sorts of bike-themed topics: bike authors, legislation and bike lawyers, bike-packing, and basics of bike maintenance; keeping you engaged even as we were all apart behind our own screens.

We weren’t sure how to respond to COVID, but we did know we had to be there to keep you riding – for essential workers getting to their jobs, and also for everyone’s physical and mental wellness. Unfortunately, Governor Baker’s decision to close bike shops as part of COVID restrictions meant MassBike’s role was to convince the highest power in the state that bicycles are also essential vehicles for transportation. By rallying you, our members, we engaged legislators in all corners of Massachusetts from the Berkshires to PTown, who successfully reversed the State’s decision, and bicycle repair is now considered an “essential service” and your local bicycle shop can stay open to serve riders in the current bike boom.

This year we leaned on our coalition partners, who were doing the real wheels-on-the-ground work for social justice and transportation equity. We partnered with the Mass in Motion program to offer mini-grants to six partner organizations and supported cities and towns as they worked with MassDOT to implement open streets, so people could ride, walk, and visit their downtowns free from cars.

In September, we finally celebrated Bike Month after pushing back the festivities from May. We paired with MassCommute to run bicycle challenges and rallied hundreds of riders, dozens of advocacy groups, and employers from across the state to encourage bicycling and host mostly virtual bike “events” to keep us rolling together. 

Along with the advocacy work, MassBike also grew as an organization. With the help of our committed board of directors, we brought on two new staff members, hosted a robust annual meeting, and revised our mission statement and rebranded our Connecticut River Valley Chapter based on a new vision brought into focus by this tumultuous year.

I heard a line in April that has stuck with me: “Everyone is talking about getting back to normal. Well, normal wasn’t that good for us, and frankly we were on a track that was pretty awful for everyone. So, coming out of this, let’s build a new normal, a better normal, one that is more just, more equitable, more resilient, and makes a healthier world.”

So, here we stand, looking toward 2021 with a vision of hope that is forged through this work. In a hard year, we discovered a newfound appreciation for bicycling and its ability to engage all people to create a better world. And we have momentum, but we have to keep pedaling into the headwinds. 

Here’s to a new and better year!

 

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Governor Baker and the Vision Zero Coalition
Governor Baker and the Vision Zero Coalition

Hands-free win! On November 25, 2019, the Massachusetts House and Senate voted to approve the hands-free bill, and Vision Zero Coalition members joined Governor Baker at the signing ceremony. Governor Baker acknowledged the work of the Coalition and other stakeholders, saying, “We are especially grateful for the many advocates and families that passionately fought to bring this bill to fruition."

 

From the press release:

 

On November 25, 2019, Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation to improve road safety in the Commonwealth, which stipulates that no motor vehicle operator may use electronic devices while driving unless the technology is being used hands-free. The legislation, which adopts recommendations from the Commonwealth’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan, also sets forth penalties for violating the law and requires that law enforcement officers report data on violations so the information can be shared with the public.

 

Governor Baker was joined at the signing ceremony by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, state leaders, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board, and representatives from advocacy groups, including, the Vision Zero Coalition, Safe Roads Alliance, LiveableStreets Alliance, WalkBoston, MassBike and Boston Cyclists Union. The Governor acknowledged the work of stakeholders for efforts to get hands-free legislation passed and thanked the families of victims for sharing their personal stories during legislative hearings. 

 

“Our Administration is committed to keeping the Commonwealth’s network of roads safe, and this legislation will substantially reduce distracted driving and hold operators accountable when they are looking at an electronic device instead of looking at the road ahead,” said Governor Baker. “We are especially grateful for the many advocates and families that passionately fought to bring this bill to fruition, are thankful for the Legislature’s collaboration on this bill and look forward to continued efforts to improve road safety in Massachusetts.” 

 

“The Commonwealth and its communities have a shared obligation to keep roads safe for all users, and the new hands-free law is another important step as we seek to fulfill that responsibility,” said Lt. Governor Polito. “This commonsense legislation makes clear that in order to operate a vehicle safely, individuals must put safe driving first – ahead of reading emails or texting a friend.”

 

Under the new law, titled An Act requiring the hands-free use of mobile telephones while driving, operators of motor vehicles cannot use an electronic device unless the device is being used in hands-free mode. Operators cannot read or view text or look at images or video, unless what is being viewed on the device is helping with navigation and the device is mounted in an appropriate location. They also cannot make phone calls unless they are able to do so without holding the phone, utilizing technology such as Bluetooth.

 

The new law permits the use of electronic devices if they are being used in response to an emergency, necessary for first responders to do their jobs. It also permits use if operators are stationary and not in active lanes of travel.

 

Punishment for violating the hands-free law includes a $100 fine for a first offense, $250 fine for a second offense and $500 fine for a third or subsequent offense.  A third or subsequent offense will count as a surchargeable incident.  Operators who commit a second or subsequent offense are required to complete an educational program focused on distracted driving prevention. 

 

 “The hands-free legislation is now law in Massachusetts thanks to the tireless work of advocates and victims’ families,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “Legislators were moved to action after hearing the personal stories of people who have lost loved ones in traffic crashes. Advocacy groups were with the families every step of the way and marshaled support for this bill. I would like to thank the Vision Zero Coalition, Safe Roads Alliance, LiveableStreets, WalkBoston and many other pedestrian and bicycle advocacy groups for their efforts and I look forward to continuing our collaboration to get additional road safety bills passed during the next legislative session.”

 

“This important reform shows how seriously we take roadway safety,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Thomas Turco. “A distracted driver is a dangerous driver. This law will help keep drivers’ attention on the road and give law enforcement an additional tool to deter risky behavior.”

 

“As first responders to serious crashes across the state every day, Massachusetts State Troopers know too well the consequences of distracted driving, and we thank the Baker-Polito Administration and the Legislature for this important new tool to help us combat this dangerous behavior,” said Colonel and Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police Christopher S. Mason. “Today is a day that will make our roads safer.”

 

“This legislation will protect pedestrians and drivers on our roads by keeping mobile devices out of the hands of those who operate vehicles,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “Additionally, this legislation establishes a new implicit bias training program for any jurisdiction deemed by an analysis of data to have engaged in racial or gender profiling.”

 

“There are too many heartbreaking stories of those who lost loved ones to distracted driving, and so I’m proud to see this bill signed into law,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka. "This bill strikes a balance between increased enforcement and increased transparency, requiring more demographic data to be released to the public than ever before so that we can ensure this law is being enforced equitably across the Commonwealth. I'd like to thank Senator Boncore, Senator Brownsberger, and everyone involved for their hard work to get this done."

 

“This bill will improve the safety of our streets and promote transparency in law enforcement,” said Senator Joe Boncore, Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “Distracted driving is an epidemic, and this bill will save lives. Further, by updating our data collection laws, we will better understand and improve our communities’ interactions with public safety officials.”

 

“The final bill is a major public safety improvement for the residents of Massachusetts,” said Representative Bill Straus, Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “Distracted driving has caused too many unnecessary tragedies and I am pleased that our state will now join the ranks of other states who have adopted a ban on holding a phone while driving.”  

 

Safe Roads Alliance President Emily Stein added, “It is such a relief to finally see a hands-free bill pass in our Commonwealth. It is a proud, emotional, and hopeful moment, and I ask that all drivers in Massachusetts pause for a moment too, and understand how distracted driving can impact so many precious lives on our roads. I fought for stronger distracted driving laws for my dad, who was killed in 2011, and also for the hundreds of lives that are lost, and the thousands of people who endure life-long injuries because of something so preventable. This law will save lives.”

 

“We are grateful for the leadership and partnership of the Baker-Polito Administration in moving this life-saving law forward,” said Stacy Thompson, LivableStreets Alliance Executive Director.  “This is an important step toward achieving Vision Zero in Massachusetts and we look forward to working with the Administration and Legislature to advance several other critical road safety bills in the new year.” 

 

Stacey Beuttell, Executive Director of WalkBoston, added, “WalkBoston is pleased that this legislation has been signed; this law will encourage people driving to focus solely on that task, making streets safer for people walking & running in communities across Massachusetts. We're hopeful that this long-awaited signing will kick off a focus on traffic safety for this next legislative session.”   

 

“We applaud the Legislature and Governor Baker’s Administration for delivering this bill to the people of Massachusetts,” said Becca Wolfson, Executive Director of Boston Cyclists Union. “The regional rise in bike ridership means there are more vulnerable road users than ever in Massachusetts, and this law will curb distracted driving and make streets safer for everyone.” 

 

The hands-free law takes effect ninety days after passage and has reporting requirements for law enforcement officers who make traffic stops. They must make note of data, including the age, race and gender of individuals issued a warning or citation. The Registry of Motor Vehicles will house the data and the Secretary of Public Safety’s office will annually release the information to the public. The new law sets forth a process in the event there are suspicions a law enforcement entity may be engaging in racial profiling. 

 

The hands-free legislation is one proposal included in comprehensive road-safety package filed earlier this year by the Baker-Polito AdministrationThat proposal includes measures to improve work zone safety, require the use of ignition interlock devices for first time offenders, and the creation of a framework to regulate new technology like electronic scooters and other low-speed mobility devices. For additional information, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-files-legislation-to-improve-road-safety 

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A rider testing out an e-bike at a demo day event
A rider testing out an e-bike at a demo day event

MassBike is all about getting more butts on bikes. And with the percentage of bike ridership throughout the commonwealth in the single digits, we need more people choosing to bike. So we are excited about a new type of rider out on our roads, paths, and trails -- the person on an e-bike with an electric motor.

There are plenty of riders out there who rely on electric-assist who otherwise wouldn’t bike. Maybe they’re recovering from an injury, or have aging legs, or want to keep up with their friends, or they need to travel longer distances, or have to ride over those damn hills, or need to get to work without being sweaty, or want to enjoy the woods without worsening a heart condition.

This emerging ridership is a good development, as e-bikes bring the same benefits we all know from “analog” biking; improving physical and mental health, forging a connection to the advocacy community, and getting folks out into open space. And, as each bike on the road is one less car out there, e-bikes help tackle the two biggest issues facing the commonwealth: our environmental crisis with greenhouse gas emissions and congestion on the roads.

Yet the bicycle advocacy community is struggling to figure out whether e-riders fit in the same space traditionally allocated to standard bikes. Based on valid concerns mainly due to speeding and shared path etiquette, we are seeing advocates suggest blanket prohibitions for e-bikes on pathways and trails, equating them with motorcycles and mopeds, which means relegating these emerging riders to the hazards of the roadways, which we know keeps 60% of those "concerned yet interested" riders from heading out on two-wheels. So it's our charge to mitigate those issues to keep access open for e-bike riders. At a recent hearing held by the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation on the issue, an attendee fighting Parkinson’s disease put it well by stating “this wouldn’t be a prohibition on bikes, it’s a prohibition on people.”

For all intents and purposes, most e-bikes are designed to ride just as any other bike -- albeit with a bit of a kick. To help everyone understand where on the spectrum e-bikes fit, MassBike has been hosting educational e-bike demo days. While these events were open to everyone but we’re specifically inviting land managers, policy makers, and advocates to help inform sensible regulations for where these bikes should and shouldn’t be allowed.

E-bike ridership is on the rise (they were the only segment in bicycle sales that increased in the last year…), yet our laws around e-bikes were written with mopeds and scooters in mind, before the widespread adoption of modern battery technology. So, one of the ways we’re looking to clarify the issue is to define e-bikes as their own class of device in MA General Law. We are suggesting Massachusetts use the three-class model which differentiates between speed and type of assist and requires the motors to stop assisting at 20MPH for the first and second class of device. This distinction is in place across the country in 22 states, with 16 others that regulate e-bikes as bicycles that can use bike infrastructure. That’s 38 states ahead of where we are and we need to catch up fast. For a more in-depth read of our proposals, read the rest of this update here.

In the end, MassBike's aim is to be welcoming and bring better bicycling for ALL riders. We realize it’s a controversial issue and you may not need electric assist for your riding, and that's fine. We're not expecting all riders to understand everybody's needs. But as current trends continue, we're going to see a lot more e-bikes out there and as an advocacy organization we certainly should not oppose e-bikes outright as that will just leave us out of the conversation. Instead we aim to get out ahead of the issue and make ourselves a leader here. There are places e-bikes should ride and places they shouldn’t. And as this is being worked out, your help and feedback is important.

I hope you can support MassBike in our efforts to craft sensible e-bike legislation and regulations, because, in the end, another rider is another butt on a bike.

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Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition

Location: Boston, MA - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @massbike
Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Edward Thomas
Project Leader:
Edward Thomas
Boston, MA United States

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