Swerve and Protect: Boston’s Bicycle Bible

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In this month’s issue of the Boston Phoenix, a 20 page supplement called the Bicycle Bible offers advice on bicycle safety and how to stay alive on the streets of Boston. Although there is a nice piece on Boston’s Livable Streets Alliance, the paper may have done more harm than good. With subtitles like "Urban Bikers Need to be Careful, Prepared, and Paranoid" and "Biking on the Defensive," bike commuting is presented as a fringe activity for people with an urban death wish.

There is no shortage of hazards for urban bikers, and any one of them can send you flying. Mike Budka, who has been biking in Boston for about two decades, told his oldest son, "Just behave as if everyone is trying to kill you, and you’ll be fine."

Actually, that might not be such bad advice. And, given what happened to a cyclist in clean and peaceful Toronto the other day — he was beaten by an off duty cop for slowing down at a yellow light — there might be something to the "Biking on the Defensive" angle. But, hey, what about the Joy of Cycling, Boston Phoenix? It’s not all bad out there.

  • L

    I lived and biked or walked for transportation in Cambridge for a year, and Boston drivers are the absolute most reckless, careless, homicidal drivers I have ever encountered, so perhaps that explains the Phoenix’s tone. That said, I agree that they shouldn’t put the fear of death in people. Sure, Mass Ave can be frightening, but the more bicyclists and pedestrians who are out there, the better it will become.

  • Lars

    I can’t believe they put a Star Wars Stormtrooper next to a bicycle. Oh WAIT, that’s supposed to be a cyclist!!!

  • Gizler

    I don’t know guys. Fears are unhelpful . . when they’re unfounded. I applaud anyone who is willing to sacrifice his or her life for more sensible transportation, but I think it should be an informed decision.

  • Chris in Sacramento

    Cycling philosophy is a personal thing, and context (urban, rural, etc) can determine the best approach. But I could never cycle believing or acting as if “…everyone is trying to kill you…” I always assume that any single motorist along my route will act in reasonably law-abiding manner, but I prepare myself– by scanning and otherwise being aware of my surroundings and leaving myself an “out”–in case he or she doesn’t. Thus, fear and paranoia are not present within me, only a comfortable level of vigilance, and pleasure is maximized. Why bicycle if you don’t enjoy it? This attitude has served me well for fifteen years of collision-free urban bicycling.

  • Nona

    Chris is in Sacramento.

  • <p>Chris is definitely in Sacramento.</p><p>BTW, I lived in Boston briefly and had the same experience: I felt that Boston drivers were the absolute worst that I’d ever experienced. And it wasn’t just because they were all sociopathic. To the contrary — some of them were often overly polite in a way that was not at all helpful. Way more than in NYC, where the rule of the road often seems to be everyone minds their own business, on Boston streets I would often have drivers stop and wave to me to allow me to cross the street ahead of them. But they’d be waving me into on-coming traffic or something dangerous like that. I’d just sort of shrug my shoulders and stay put and then they’d get weirdly offended by that. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me…<br /> </p>

  • Ed Ravin

    Jason – you said the Toronto assault was by an off-duty cop, but the news story you linked to did not say anything about the perp other than he drove away after attacking the bicyclist. Please elaborate?

  • http://www.citynews.ca/news/news_10838.aspx

    It was a crime caught on tape by some unsuspecting students taking video for a class project – a driver getting out of his car to allegedly assault a cyclist who prevented him from turning at a yellow light. The kids caught the entire thing as it unfolded at Queen and Bay on Tuesday afternoon and turned their evidence over to police. They’ve now made an arrest and the suspect is almost as surprising as the footage itself – he’s a cop.

    Constable Darius Tierman, a 21-year-veteran of the Toronto Force and a recipient of a teamwork commendation last June, has been on leave since October 2004. He turned himself in to 52 Division on Wednesday morning and made a brief court appearance at Old City Hall later in the afternoon.

  • Dan Shugrue

    Oh man, is Aaron STILL complaining about that guy that waved him into oncoming traffic? For the last time Napper: we don’t like Indian fans here! If you’d simply done as I advised and worn a BoSox cap, you would’ve had a much easier time of it…

  • Mountain and urban bikes may be easier to ride than the old ten-speeds, but it’s a fact- you can easily be going 25-30 mph and if something goes wrong, you’re flying through the air- until you hit something.

    Once I lost my attention and took some railroad tracks at a diagonal. One shoulder was lame for several years and my helmet had a big gouge in it.

    Now, I always try to pay attention.

  • A lazy, sloppy excuse to charge for bike ads.

    The Biking on the Defensive article was nothing more than a here’s-what-you-can-buy piece. One of the recommended items: GPS.

    An article with the sub-head “Urban Bikers Need to be Careful, Prepared, and Paranoid” was basically an interview of a single former bike-messenger.

    I commute in and out of Boston each day, and it is dangerous. (Don’t tell my wife.) But, there is a much more nuanced story to tell than the fluff between the ads in the Phoenix supplement.

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