There is a suggestion to create a voluntary bike registry on Monday’s Council agenda. I am not sure what the point of this registry would be and I have a lot of questions of how it would be implemented before I would want the City to spend staff time trying to figure it out. People can already register their bikes in a variety of ways to help mitigate loss by theft and the thought that bicycle registration could in any way be on par with car registration, which comes with not just one but two parking passes (one for the owner’s car, one for visitors), seems silly. And we already have a Council Order from a few weeks ago asking the City to come back to us with a plan to figure out who is biking where, why and when so we can have better data available for our planning discussions.
Despite needing to think more and more about the increasing complexities of electric personal vehicles and other aspects of our Urban Mobility future, we seem unable to get out of our bike lane/no bike lane car vs. bike arguments. Bike safety in Cambridge is far too complex to be boiled down to binary choices and the future of retail is impacted by a lot of things besides available parking, but that’s where we are right now. For me, the current dialogue reflects the years and years and years cyclists felt utterly ignored no matter how bad things were for us and I think we still feel that we need to continuously push to have our safety concerns addressed. The pushing may not always be in the right direction (for example, I think door zone bike lanes are horribly dangerous) but I think we’re really worried that if we stop pressing for more safety options we’ll slide back to where we were a few years ago and that’s not acceptable.
There has been a lot of progress in Cambridge when it comes to incorporating bike safety into our transportation plans, but I can’t pretend that we’ve figured it all out by now. We have put in a number of separated and non-separated bike lanes throughout the City but appear to have no meaningful way to receive feedback and figure out if these interventions are working or how they might be changed to work better, my wife got stopped for going slowly through a walk signal at an empty intersection in North Cambridge while cyclists fly through the Harvard Square “super crosswalk”signal with impunity, bike lanes are regularly blocked by delivery trucks and Ubers bringing us what (and who) we need to function as a City and the list of challenges goes on. Learning how to collect real data, how to learn from others’ examples and how to share our thoughts and concerns collaboratively is the only way we will meet these challenges.
I can’t talk about bike safety without also emphasizing the importance of “professionalizing” biking. It is far more nuanced than the (inaccurate) bumper sticker slogan “Same Roads/Same Rules” but we cyclists do have our own obligations to help improve traffic safety. Whether it’s having lights at night, staying off sidewalks (or at least being respectful to other users if you’re on a sidewalk), not blowing through pedestrian-filled intersections, not going the wrong way down the street, not biking with your hands full of shopping bags and so forth, there is a lot cyclists can, and should, do to both promote the image of biking and to keep ourselves and others safe. Even choosing to go more slowly than usual in some places, such as the new Brattle Street bike lanes, can be a huge safety improvement at times. I know I personally have a lot of room for improvement here.