I apologize for the delay in reporting about the Bike Safety Summit Follow up last week.
The first great thing about this summit is that it happened. So often it seems like city leaders will convene some kind of "feel your pain" meeting after a tragedy like the death of Eric Hunt in April. Upset people rant, leaders look serious, and nothing ever happens.
So it was a real sign of progress that this meeting even happened.
Reports were given by the BPD, theBoston EMS, Mass DOT, and MBTA. There was a representative from the Boston transportation department, who spoke thoughtfully in the comments period, but who did not make a progress report.
Both BPD and the EMS have modified their intake/ ticket forms to track incidents involving cyclists separately. Previously every party to a collision or incident was either a "Vehicle" or a "pedestrian" and there was no way to track bike specific incidents.
The BPD has appointed a bike liason, Captain Danilecki, who was the former head of the "Tactical bicycle team". Given some of stunts I've seen bike cops pull, I'm not completely reassured by that, but at least he understands what's involved in riding a bike on city streets. One "throwaway" that I thought was very significant is that not only will all police academy cadets get training on bike law, they will actually have to do some training as bike cops. I'm not sure how extensive this is, but if every police officer had to do a rotation as a bike cop, I bet they'd have a much different perspective on bike law. There was a bit of discussion of the recent "enforcement action" of red light running at the BU bridge, and several people spoke up in favor of it, and the head of Mass bike spoke up against it, or questioning why they weren't ticketing speeding cars. I get his point, but I really support tactical bike law enforcement (at the beginning of the school year, in a student heavy area, in a really dangerous intersection).
There were two MBTA people there, and the presentation was mainly bus-specific. They talked about ways that they're including more bike specific training for bus drivers, especially by including bike scenarios in the training simulator which is used for new drivers, continuing ed of existing drivers, and targeted re-training of drivers who have had complaints. They're using the great video from Chicago about busses and bikes to help train drivers. Now if we could just get all the bikers to see it too! They also plan to have bike racks on 100% of busses by 2012.
The MBTA rep and the BPD rep kept repeating how incredibly important it was that they get people to report problems instead of just stewing and being upset. One reason that it's important to report even minor crashes is that that data is very important in securing funding for improvements- money goes first to the most dangerous areas. Similarly, if you get buzzed by a bus, or yelled at by a bust driver, the MBTA guy practically begged us to call the complaint number, because after they get a certain number of complaints they get tagged for re-education. Whip out your phones and add this number to your contacts: 617-222-3200. Note the 4 digit code on the back of the bus when calling in, as that's how they ID the driver.
Nichole Freedman talked about how she's taking the data from EMS and BPD and mapping and processing it. She's also been doing self-reported crash stats through Bike Boston. I think that this, along with the bike route mapping are inspired ideas, I just wish that they were better reported. I consider myself reasonably plugged into boston bike culture, but I never heard about the accident reporting thing.
She's also trying to push education. They've gotten permission to steal the best ads from the "LOOK" campaign that NYC did. And they're going to put a flyer about bike rights in all the car- excise tax bills, which seems like a good idea.
She talked a bit about lighting programs and the need to do more outreach on that.
A woman representing the Health department talked about low-cost and free helmet programs. I personally think that low-cost and free lighting programs would be even more effective in reducing accidents, especially if they were distributed in an educational context (the dangers of riding ninja, riding on sidewalks, riding salmon).
So, if you ride a bus route, put the contact # in your phone. If you have an accident, call the police, even if you feel it isn't an "emergency". For the rest, draw your own conclusions, and hope that we have another follow up meeting next spring that isn't precipitated by a tragedy.