Recent encounter shows barriers to biker/driver peaceful coexistence

At about 3:30 Thursday afternoon, a group of boys, older teenagers, on bicycles road swooped down Cambridge Street toward Charles Circle in Boston. Rather than riding single file in one lane, they simply rode ten abreast with little care about the danger they presented, both to drivers and especially to themselves. Note, I said, ten abreast. They were feeling their oats and obviously took pleasure in controlling the street, which as usual was heavily trafficked. There was no way around them, and no way through them.

Most drivers held back and refrained from honking, thinking these crazy kids must soon come to their senses and move over.
But one frustrated driver tried to exploit a gap in the middle of the pack and go through it. It didn’t work out too well. The white car sideswiped a weaving cyclist, who flew in one direction, his bike in the other. The car never stopped or pulled over. Fortunately, the bicycle rider picked himself up, retrieved his bike and his helmet and, somewhat shakily, rode to rejoin the other riders in the pack, who had stopped not far from the Liberty Hotel.
At the very same time, our car radio was reporting the Mayor’s announcement of a bike sharing plan for Boston, putting 600 rentable bikes at 61 stations across the city. It’s to be sort of a two-wheeled Zipcar system, with reasonably priced memberships that, according to City Hall, may generate 100,000 trips a year. Trips under 30 minutes will be free. I’ve seen a bike-sharing plan work effectively in Miami Beach. Other Greater Boston communities have plans similar to Hubway, and they’re a great idea, great for mobility, health, and the environment.
Yesterday afternoon, in a surreal moment, as the bike gang temporarily took over Cambridge Street, Menino’s voice came over the radio in a surreal declaration “the car is no longer king.” Well, maybe so, but the car is still 2000-3000 pounds of steel and a couple of hundred horsepower, and the bike rider, no matter how oblivious or delusional, is a poor match for that. By riding irresponsibly, an errant biker can wreak havoc to himself and others.

Who’s out there teaching bikers that they have to follow the same laws as cars do? Who’s going to enforce the requirement that bikers have to stop at red lights, signal when they’re taking turns and otherwise obey the rules of the road? When was the last time you saw a police officer pulling over a bike rider for an infraction? Do we need licensure tests to make sure that cyclists demonstrate they even know the rules?  I hope not. We need Bikers and drivers to co-exist. The only way that will happen is if they both show their respect for each other by abiding by the law.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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