$20 Tom At It Again

July 13th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Last fall, when the students (and their bikes) had returned, Boston staged a barely dramatic crackdown on cyclists. Today, Mayor Tom Menino gave fair warning that he was ordering another, ongoing this summer.

Per his press release, he bills this one as largely educational too. In preparation for the bike sharing program about to start, he sees a broad public information campaign. Most aspects, of course, won’t be punative. As the release puts it, “‘It is important that all cyclists and motorists alike follow the rules of the road so that the streets are safe for all users,’ Mayor Menino said. ‘This program will educate cyclists on how to bike safely and abide by the rules. We want all cyclists to wear helmets and to follow stoplights.'”

That’s actually only a little odd. The helmet aspect is optional above age 12. (As a regular cyclist, I always wear a helmet and used to keep a post car-crash one with three cracks in it to convince my vain, painter-cap wearing chums to go my way.)

Last September, the BU daily paper reported 100 students got $20 tickets, largely for passing red lights without stopping. Police claimed that the cyclists largely understood it was for their safety and that some thanked the cops.

In preparation for the Hubway bike-sharing launch shortly, City Hall has already expressed concerns that non-cyclists won’t be used to the laws and that some may ignore their agreement to wear a helmet when on a city bike. Beyond the ticketing, the education will include free and highly reduced-price helmets, as well as literature and classes coordinated with Boston Cyclists Union, Livable Streets Alliance, MassBike, Walk Boston, Boston University Police, Northeastern Police and the Boston Public Health Commission.

Given the adversarial and disdainful attitude of many non-cyclists here, a well-handled education program should be amusing all around. To hear the anti-cyclist types tell it or read their comments on newspaper and other websites, every single cyclist is a crazed scofflaw who terrorizes the aged, toddlers and law-abiding motorists and pedestrians.

Yet, if the Mayor’s release is right, a very overdue crackdown on red-light runners, crosswalk blockers, and those who don’t yield to walkers or other vehicles (including bikes) should follow. Motorists, whose tickets for moving violations are considerably higher than $20 and can come with license suspensions and multi-year insurance surcharges, will be in for a much greater shock than cyclists.

I have long doubted the police had the political will and respect for pubic safety to enforce laws routinely against motorists. The cliché of no-blood-no-ticket has a basis in observable fact.

I for one will watch to see how since the Mayor and BPD are here. If it’s just a small drama as last year, nothing will change. If motorists as well as cyclists come to think they have some incentive beyond decency to obey traffic laws, that would be huge advance.

On the other hand, if the Mayor or police brass have fantasies that motorists here adhere to the laws, they need to stand next to virtually any traffic light or stop sign for 10 minutes. Count the illegal actions by motorists and weep, guys.

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