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  1. #1
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Boston's unruly riders; Law violators challenge city's bike-friendliness

    I couldn't send this as a URL so here's the full story from the front page of the Boston Globe. It was discussed by Boston's Bicycling Curmudgeon, Howie Carr on 8/7/09 on radio station WRKO. He even proposes impounding bikes, bicyclist round-ups and bicycling excise taxes. To listen go to Howiecarr.com->Audio on demand->Life-Endangering Bicyclists. The topic starts at 08:27 (total time 36:06).

    BTW, Howie make reference to "Mumbles," his nickname for Hizzoner, the mayah (mayor).

    (c) The Boston Globe Aug 07, 2009

    Boston has launched a high-profile campaign to become a friendlier city for cyclists. Now the question is whether bicyclists will become friendlier to Boston.

    On any hour of any day, Boston bicyclists routinely run red lights, ride the wrong way on one-way streets, zip along sidewalks, and cut off pedestrians crossing streets legally - even though bike riders are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as motorists. Sometimes, a bicyclist will do all of these things in one two-wheeled swoop. The city seems unable to stop it.

    This week, reporters watching from intersections in the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, South Boston, and downtown saw dozens of cyclists violate traffic laws. Regardless of the time of day, regardless of the congestion, each location displayed a free-for-all of cycling carelessness. Crowded sidewalks became de facto bike paths. "Do not enter" signs did not apply. Red lights were treated as suggestions.

    Even Boston bicyclists' strongest advocate expressed surprise at the frequency of violations.

    "We have aggressive road conditions," observed Nicole Freedman, the city's director of bicycle programs, who pointed and exclaimed Wednesday at rush hour as scofflaw cyclists rode roughshod over the rules at Massachusetts Avenue and New bury Street. "The bikers are bad, the pedestrians are bad, and so are the drivers."

    At that particular intersection, 12 out of 28 cyclists were observed ignoring the red light over the course of 45 minutes. Some cruised right through; others paused and then went forward. A dozen more rode along the narrow sidewalk, weaving their ways among joggers, people walking to work, and students toting instruments toward the Berklee College of Music. Four more cyclists rode the wrong way on Newbury Street, dodging oncoming vehicles.

    No one got a ticket. Bicyclists, unlike motorists, rarely do, according to police.

    That explains the impunity many cyclists apparently feel as they pedal along sidewalks and cruise through stop signs. "Bikers who run red lights do not feel that they will be caught," Freedman said. After she said this, she pointed at a cyclist who zigzagged from sidewalk to roadside before running a red light.

    In a refrain that is familiar to anyone who has talked to Boston motorists, errant cyclists say that because everyone else is so aggressive, they have no choice but to break the rules.

    "I try to get off the road as much as I can," said Josh Tolkof, who was biking the wrong way on Newbury Street. "The cars don't watch out for you; you gotta watch out for them."

    So what about going the wrong way?

    "That half a block is what I usually do, that's about all," Tolkof said, shrugging.

    Drivers routinely ignore and cut off cyclists, open doors in their paths, and otherwise disregard bicycles, causing some cyclists to ignore the rules of the road.

    "They end up giving no quarter because they get no quarter," said Jeff Bradford, a frequent cyclist who was walking along Huntington Avenue in a yellow helmet and a matching weatherproof jacket. "I think the general lack of respect and enforcement aggravates the situation."

    Bradford has faced that disrespect head on - literally. He recalled biking across the Massachusetts Avenue bridge when a cyclist going the wrong way collided with him, knocking him to the ground and injuring his shoulder.

    On Wednesday, over the course of 40 minutes, 20 cyclists ran the light at Charles and Beacon streets; only one did not. Monday morning, over the course of 35 minutes at Copley Square, 12 cyclists sailed through red lights (five waited for green). Monday, during a half-hour at lunch time, 10 out of 23 cyclists ran the red light on Tremont Street at the beginning of Beacon Street, where tourists commingled with hurried business people. Ten more rode the wrong way on Tremont. Dozens more took the sidewalk, scattering walkers.

    And then there was the guy who went the wrong way on Tremont, crossed Beacon, did a u-turn, ran a red light, cut off pedestrians crossing legally, then rode away on the sidewalk.

    None of the bicycling violations observed this week resulted in accidents. None of the cyclists were ticketed.

    Rosa Carson, program coordinator at the advocacy group WalkBoston, said the planning of Boston's streets, which gives preeminence to motor vehicles, can put cyclists and pedestrians in trouble - and in conflict.

    "Just as cyclists are relatively invisible to motorists, pedestrians are often invisible to cyclists, and it can certainly be a problem," she wrote in an e-mail. "I certainly do not want to be run down by any vehicle - motorized or not! - when I'm crossing the street. The only time I don't mind seeing bikes on sidewalks is when the cyclist is a little kid."

    Making the city better for cyclists, Freedman said, will create more awareness between drivers and cyclists for each other - and pedestrians. Boston is planning miles of bike lanes, and considering a citywide bike-sharing program that would allow anyone with a credit card to rent a bike the way Zipcar members can rent a car.

    At the moment, she said, the cyclists who ride in Boston are "the most competent and aggressive."

    "As cycling becomes more mainstream, you have people who are much more law-abiding, much safer and you see the general behavior gets much better," she said.

    David Watson, executive director of the statewide advocacy group the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said focusing on the cyclists' violations misses the point.

    "A lot of the behavior you see is people who believe what they're doing is safer for them," he said. "Everybody's trying to get wherever they're going in one piece, whether you're driving or riding a bike."

    Watson's group is planning to conduct a survey of bicyclists and motorists to see what people know about the rules, and why they drive or ride the way they do.

    "Everybody is making a lot of assumptions about why people do what they do," Watson said. "But no one really knows.

    A man who rode on the sidewalk along Massachusetts Avenue Wednesday morning knew why he was doing it. He felt safer, sure. But he also felt a sense of impunity.

    "There are no bike lanes here," said the man, who called himself a recent Boston University graduate. "If I'm driving on the street I'm kind of squished."

    "I always run red lights, too," he said. "The cops don't care."

    He did not give his name.

    David Filipov can be reached at filipov@globe.com.

  2. #2
    Senior Member trackhub's Avatar
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    I heard that yesterday. Carr is actually funny and informative when he gets going on local pols and bloated, patronage-heavy agencies such as the Mass Turnpike authority.

    Carr mentioned that he actually purchased a bicycle, and that he had been riding it on a bike path near his Florida home. He just had hip replacement surgery. Be something if his doctors advised more bike riding as therapy. Is cycling advised as recovery therapy for such procedures?

    As for bicycle excise taxes, impounding bikes, etc. he has talked about all that before. I doubt such things would ever make it through the legislature. But, I remember when the legislature talked about mandatory bicycle registration, during the "ten speed boom" of the '70's. Seeing all those adults on bikes, some legislators saw a potential revenue source. But, nothing ever came of it. This is not to say it couldn't come up again though.

    Thanks for posting this.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Anybody want to pony up the statistics for law breaking motorists? I was waiting for a walk crossing light today and all but one car that came up to the red light to turn right actually came to a complete stop, most slowed down and looked to the left and kept on rolling; at speeds faster than I ride my bike. One clown about got plowed by a left turning vehicle from the opposite side that was trying to beat the red light (I couldn't see his light but suspect he probably ran it based on the fact he was still well within the intersection when my walk signal flipped on)

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    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trackhub View Post
    I heard that yesterday. Carr is actually funny and informative when he gets going on local pols and bloated, patronage-heavy agencies such as the Mass Turnpike authority.

    Carr mentioned that he actually purchased a bicycle, and that he had been riding it on a bike path near his Florida home. He just had hip replacement surgery. Be something if his doctors advised more bike riding as therapy. Is cycling advised as recovery therapy for such procedures?

    As for bicycle excise taxes, impounding bikes, etc. he has talked about all that before. I doubt such things would ever make it through the legislature. But, I remember when the legislature talked about mandatory bicycle registration, during the "ten speed boom" of the '70's. Seeing all those adults on bikes, some legislators saw a potential revenue source. But, nothing ever came of it. This is not to say it couldn't come up again though.

    Thanks for posting this.
    Nice analysis of his comments. I didn't hear any active cyclists call in though. Buzzman, where are you? Back in May when Howie was broadcasting from Kenmore Square, I was on my bike and stopped to watch and got on an impromptu interview with him. The preceding segment had been about new government-mandated fuel standards and how junky cars would become. He did sardonically admit that maybe bikes were the future. His funniest comment was that maybe I should be in one of his celebrity "death pools" since I ride on the Jamaicaway

    This afternoon I met a cyclist and we chatted about the article. He was of the opinion that he would do whatever it takes to survive the streets of Boston. Same with me, but he seemed to take delight in tormenting motorists as well.
    Last edited by Jim from Boston; 08-08-09 at 03:25 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    Anybody want to pony up the statistics for law breaking motorists? I was waiting for a walk crossing light today and all but one car that came up to the red light to turn right actually came to a complete stop, most slowed down and looked to the left and kept on rolling; at speeds faster than I ride my bike. One clown about got plowed by a left turning vehicle from the opposite side that was trying to beat the red light (I couldn't see his light but suspect he probably ran it based on the fact he was still well within the intersection when my walk signal flipped on)

    Aaron
    This sounds like "but Mom, they did it first"

    How about everyone grow up and not justify law breaking because others are? I think thats the point. I'm quite sick of hearing "well motorists...."

    The only way to solve this is education and enforcement. If people dont know they are breaking the law thats a problem... but if they break it intentionally, thats a different problem. Unfortunately, unless cyclists start getting ticketed on a regular basis, it will never change.

  6. #6
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TVS_SS View Post
    This sounds like "but Mom, they did it first"

    How about everyone grow up and not justify law breaking because others are? I think thats the point. I'm quite sick of hearing "well motorists...."

    The only way to solve this is education and enforcement. If people dont know they are breaking the law thats a problem... but if they break it intentionally, thats a different problem. Unfortunately, unless cyclists start getting ticketed on a regular basis, it will never change.
    I am not justifying it...I am just pointing out that every time a motorists uses the tired old saw about all those damned cyclists running red lights..."Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"

    FWIW I attempt to obey the law whether riding a bike or driving, it has gotten me rear ended at least twice in recent years. Fortunately in both cases I was driving a truck.

    Aaron
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    wahoo has it -- it's not a justification, it's us telling the drivers to STFU. I was taught not only that passage of Scripture, but in the military I was taught, "you have to BE correct before you CAN correct."

    I'm all for enforcement; bring it on! Blowing reds is a pet peeve of mine, too, and I haven't owned a car in 5 years, or driven one in probably 2!

  8. #8
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Isn't Boston the city where left-turning motorists routinely jump the light, before oncoming traffic has a chance to accelerate?
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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    Senior Member Eclectus's Avatar
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    I don't blow through red lights. I do stop and then cross if there is no traffic, e.g. on weekends downtown with timed lights (that shine bright green to nobody), and sensor-triggered lights that don't recognize bikes, where I do not have a legal responsibility to become a pedestrian and go to the sidewalk to get a "Walk" light. With all new sensor-triggered lights on town now recognizing bikes, the ones that don't are "not functioning", which allows stopping, then proceeding when safe under the motor vehicle code for drivers facing red lights that will not go green.

    I think it's more courteous to drivers for me to take off on red, and when they get the green, and I'm a quarter mile ahead, they have the option of hitting the gas and changing lanes to the left, if they want, instead of being stuck behind me and boxed in. If I were in my car, this is how I would feel.

    At stop signs, I either stop or slow, depending on conditions.

    If we err, as cyclists, the injury will be to ourselves, and car damage will almost always be minor. A car making the same error will risk injury to other vehicles' occupants, and almost always several thousand dollars in damage. Which is to say, were cyclists to be cited, I think the fines should be less, because fines are supposed to be related to the level of potential harm to others for proscribed activities. Considering this, violations that involve cyclists' violating pedestrian rights should be fined more, because bikes can severely injure pedestrians.

    I hear from a friend just back from Montreal that bikers there break the law with impunity. But, apparently accidents are rare, and police have more important things to attend to.

    All of which is to say that sensible, safe bike riding does not require rigidly obeying laws designed for 2000+ pound motor vehicles, and riders sensibly recognize that fact to no one's harm.

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    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eclectus View Post
    ...

    I think it's more courteous to drivers for me to take off on red, and when they get the green, and I'm a quarter mile ahead, they have the option of hitting the gas and changing lanes to the left, if they want, instead of being stuck behind me and boxed in. If I were in my car, this is how I would feel.

    At stop signs, I either stop or slow, depending on conditions.

    If we err, as cyclists, the injury will be to ourselves, and car damage will almost always be minor. A car making the same error will risk injury to other vehicles' occupants, and almost always several thousand dollars in damage. Which is to say, were cyclists to be cited, I think the fines should be less, because fines are supposed to be related to the level of potential harm to others for proscribed activities. Considering this, violations that involve cyclists' violating pedestrian rights should be fined more, because bikes can severely injure pedestrians.

    I hear from a friend just back from Montreal that bikers there break the law with impunity. But, apparently accidents are rare, and police have more important things to attend to.

    All of which is to say that sensible, safe bike riding does not require rigidly obeying laws designed for 2000+ pound motor vehicles, and riders sensibly recognize that fact to no one's harm.
    Howie Carr as mentioned above, particularly ranted about running red lights and stop signs. His experience is that if he's following a cyclist doing this, then he has to continously "leapfrog" around the cyclist as they encounter stops and then he catches up to the cyclist. This is kind of a reverse phenomenon for me when I'm riding along with a bus and though it is faster, I leapfrog as it makes frequent stops.

    I'm just sayin'.

  11. #11
    L T X B O M P F A N S R apricissimus's Avatar
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    I'm a scofflaw Boston cyclist--but I'm responsible about it. I see tons of cyclists doing things they really shouldn't do, either because of safety reasons, or because it's just rude.

    I've run the red lights mentioned in the article (and many others) numerous times, and there are good reasons to do so. Given that the streets are narrow and cyclists are forced to use whatever space is left over after the motor vehicles have muscled their way in, a cyclist is navigating a terrain much different than the one a motorist has deal with. I think a lot of non-cyclists don't realize that. People run red lights because often it makes sense for cyclists to do so.

    If motorist are aggravated by cyclists running reds, let's see how they like it when they toodle along at 15 mph directly in front of them. If I'm going to take on all the responsibilities of motor vehicles, I'm going to take all the privileges too! But let's be honest, no one wants that.

    As for sidewalk riding, wrong way riding... Yeah, there are a lot of lousy cyclists. But no more than there are lousy motorists. Point being: people suck. There's nothing especially suckier about cyclists.

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    Banned Bikepacker67's Avatar
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    It's too bad that the Fat Bastahd is such a putz when it comes to cyclists, because he's spot on when it comes to Massachusetts' hacks.

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    Senior Member GodsBassist's Avatar
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    None of the bicycling violations observed this week resulted in accidents. None of the cyclists were ticketed.

    I think this is the crux of the situation. When I break traffic laws it's because I have no perceived reason not to. I do so when it's safe and I've yet to get pulled over, much less a ticket.

    Some people would claim that since it's not legal I'm going to enrage or at the very least alienate drivers who aren't going to respect me as a legitimate road user. Fact is, I just don't care if people think I'm a bicycle scofflaw... I'm going to make it to work in one piece and that's what's important.

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    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    It's as if we're all Jackie Robinson and we gotta kiss whitey's behind so more blacks can make it to the majors. Sorry, I am not my brother's keeper and I'll ride the way I feel is in my best interest. As long as I don't cause any harm to others, maybe it's time to go about your way, this isn't any of your business....
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    kipuka explorer bkrownd's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Isn't Boston the city where left-turning motorists routinely jump the light, before oncoming traffic has a chance to accelerate?
    It's considered normal there. Like all regional traditions you get used to it after a while, and then you're surprised when you go elsewhere and people don't do it.
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    Senior Member DX Rider's Avatar
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    The thing about Howie Carr is that he's hard to take seriously, he's basically a PJ O'Rourke wanna-be.

    Quote Originally Posted by bkrownd View Post
    It's considered normal there. Like all regional traditions you get used to it after a while, and then you're surprised when you go elsewhere and people don't do it.
    Drivers in Rhode Island are at least twice as intense about doing that. I think it's a survival of the fittest mentality, the person making the left turn wins again!

    Some people in this region of the country drive like they're in a death race.
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    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Like how they driving on right hand shoulder and pass cars during rush hour on 95? I thought I was tough, learning and driving in Chicago...In Boston, I am total out driven
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    Senior Member DX Rider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    Like how they driving on right hand shoulder and pass cars during rush hour on 95? I thought I was tough, learning and driving in Chicago...In Boston, I am total out driven
    That's one thing that I don't miss about commuting to Boston. One day while driving a stake body truck I almost turned a Hundyai Scoop into a pancake. I was trying to exit 128 onto 95 south and the genius decided to pass me on the right.

    It used to only be that there were only a few authorized areas that they could use the break down lane as a travel lane, eventually it became so common everywhere that the state police gave up trying to ticket people unless they caused an accident.
    Quote Originally Posted by stronglight View Post
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    Commuter JohnBrooking's Avatar
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    To me, it would feel hypocritical to ask for respect without giving it. It has to go both ways.

    I'll admit I've never biked around Boston or any other major city, so I don't claim to know what it's like (except two days last March in Washington DC, of largely uneventful law-abiding vehicular cycling). But what that article is describing sounds like a downward spiral of civility. Who will break the cycle? (Of course, it might not really be that bad. As we all know, journalists would never play up conflict to make the story more interesting...)

    Here is an interesting read on civility and trust on the road, albeit it more of a rural context.
    Quote Originally Posted by MadfiNch on Commuting forum
    What's the point of a bike if you can only ride it on weekends, and you can't even carry anything with you?!
    Portland Maine Bicycle Commuting Meetup

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    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by apricissimus View Post
    ...people suck. There's nothing especially suckier about cyclists.
    Well put
    "For all we know his skills may be excellent, allowing him to ride like an idiot without actually being one." - FBinNY

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    Senior Member trackhub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GodsBassist View Post
    None of the bicycling violations observed this week resulted in accidents. None of the cyclists were ticketed.

    I think this is the crux of the situation. When I break traffic laws it's because I have no perceived reason not to. I do so when it's safe and I've yet to get pulled over, much less a ticket.

    Some people would claim that since it's not legal I'm going to enrage or at the very least alienate drivers who aren't going to respect me as a legitimate road user. Fact is, I just don't care if people think I'm a bicycle scofflaw... I'm going to make it to work in one piece and that's what's important.
    The bicyclist safety bill was signed into law in January, by Governor Patrick. It mandates that all police officers in the state be trained in the state's bicycle law.

    If you receive a citation in Boston, or Cambridge, will you use this as a defense, to contest the citation in front of a clerk magistrate or district court judge?


    Buzzman, where are you?
    He's "taken leave" before. I suspect he'll be back in the fall, if not sooner.
    "The People will believe what the Media tells them they believe". George Orwell.

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    A fine question, trackhub.

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    Senior Member GodsBassist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trackhub View Post
    The bicyclist safety bill was signed into law in January, by Governor Patrick. It mandates that all police officers in the state be trained in the state's bicycle law.

    If you receive a citation in Boston, or Cambridge, will you use this as a defense, to contest the citation in front of a clerk magistrate or district court judge?
    If I get a ticket doing something obviously illegal, I'm not going to fight it. I'm not even trying to say that lack of tickets in one way or another justifies my behavior. What I am saying is that if I thought there were any way I could get a ticket, then I might think twice about stop running red lights and stop signs.

    Yesterday, however I came up behind an officer on a bike as we approached a red light. This is normally a light I blow because I don't feel it's unsafe, but I was going to wait because the officer was there... and then he ran it. On his police bike. I cut through, passed him, and ran three more with him trailing behind me. I seriously doubt the police culture here in DC is going to see a crackdown on cyclist behavior anytime soon. If it does, though, and I get a ticket, I'll just pay it.

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    unaangalia nini? baiskeli's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    Isn't Boston the city where left-turning motorists routinely jump the light, before oncoming traffic has a chance to accelerate?
    Yup, that would be our fair city. Land of the massh*les.

    I ride to work sometimes (I live in Arlington, work in Boston), it's actually fairly decent but you still get bone headed moves by drivers that you have to be aware of.
    Like the idiot on a cell phone who accelerated past me, swerved into the bike lane, slowed down and proceeded to drive for a couple of blocks on the bike lane. Or the woman in an SUV who just had to get to the light before I did on Mass Ave and almost sent me into a parked car.

    The thing is Boston drivers are discourteous towards each other (no signal, blocking intersections, aggressive driving, sudden lane changes, you name it). That becomes potentially deadly where cyclists are involved.

    And yes, there are a hell of a lot of red light jumping cyclists and they piss me off. But there are also a lot of stop sign jumping drivers. I live on a quiet street, there is a stop sign. I sat out on my porch reading and observed that fully half of drivers rolled through the sign with a significant minority just blowing through the sign.

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