Thursday, January 22, 2009

Boston - Bicyclists rejoice

Eight years after it was first introduced, Gov. Deval Patrick signed the Bicyclist Safety Bill into law last week.

The new law, a grassroots effort spearheaded by the Mass. Bicycle Coalition (MassBike), will require police recruits to receive training on bicycle-related laws, bicyclist-related injuries and dangerous behavior by bicyclists and motorists, and allows for police to ticket motorists (and their passengers) up to $100 for opening car or truck doors into the path of bicycles and pedestrians.

Among the law’s 11 additional statutes, bicyclists will be allowed to ride two abreast when it does not impede cars from passing and explains how motorists should safely pass a bicycle, provides legal protection for cyclists who wish to ride to the right of other traffic, repeals the bicycle registration law in cities and towns where it’s required, and requires bicycle rental businesses to make helmets available to renters.

“The new law will encourage more people to ride bicycles by enhancing bicyclist safety and comfort level on state roads,” said David Watson, executive director of MassBike. “It will also make Mass. a healthier, greener, more sustainable state.”

If not a bicyclist-friendlier one, as Watson and MassBike added that now the “work really begins. We will start getting the word to bicyclists, motorists and police, so that we can begin to see the improvements that the new law makes possible.”

State representatives William Brownsberger of Cambridge and Kay Kahn of Newton helped push through the bill — S.B. 2573 — and convince Gov. Patrick to sign it. The law comes after two of its original authors have retired, and the previous administration vetoed it in 2006.

“It is rare to see a law that directly addresses so many of the most challenging issues we face today: Climate change, the health impacts of decreasing physical activity, and the rising cost of transportation,” Khan said.

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