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BREAKING: City to Sue Boston For ‘Copying’ Our Bike Lane Design

12:07 AM EDT on April 1, 2021

Boston’s bike lane design (left) is clearly stolen from New York.

This story was published on April 1 and should be taken in that spirit.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman is finally putting his experience — his experience as a copyright lawyer, that is — to good use, with a plan to announce on April 1 that the city will sue the city of Boston and several of its neighboring suburbs for theft of New York's intellectual property in the form of its protected bike lane designs.

At issue, Gutman said, is that protected bike lanes in the Massachusetts city are almost identical to those in the Big Apple — including a line of parked cars, sometimes a narrow buffer, green paint and bicycle rider stencils.

"It's like they just stole our designs!" Gutman said. "It was one of the first things I focused on after Mayor de Blasio gave me the job — we have to get other cities to stop stealing our intellectual property!"

Gutman said he might have been willing to ignore how similar Boston's bike lane design is to New York — until the Boston suburb of Somerville created a bike lane that sends cyclists directly into a telephone pole (see photo below).

Total rip off? A bike lane near Boston and one in Bensonhurst.
Total rip off? A bike lane near Boston (left) and one in Bensonhurst.
Total rip off? A bike lane near Boston and one in Bensonhurst.

"I took one look at that and said, 'That's what we did!'" Gutman said. "It's almost a perfect copy of that place on the Brooklyn Greenway in Bensonhurst where the bike lane sends cyclists directly into a bus stop pole. I had my team pull the specs and I was like,' What kinda game are they playing up there in Boston, stealing our ideas?'"

A spokesperson for Boston Mayor Kim Janey dismissed the lawsuit even before its expected filing in federal court on April 1.

"What's next? Are the Yankees going to sue the Sox because we also use round wooden things to strike a baseball?" said the spokesperson, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the suit. "We expect Mr. Gutman's suit will be laughed out of court."

Gutman disagreed, citing his long history as a corporate lawyer who defended large companies in all manner of copyright infringement cases.

"Look, as I argued in Lotus v. Borland, you can't hide copyright theft behind a few keystrokes — or, in this case, by doing a better job of having cyclists run into poles," said Gutman. "We will prevail."

In the suit, the city will seek $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages, claiming that if Boston is allowed to copy New York's bike lanes, they will soon be used by every city in the world.

A spokesperson for the city of Helsinki, which had zero pedestrian deaths last year, thought the suit had merit.

"The last thing any city wants is for other cities to copy its designs," said the spokesperson, Rånd Ølaf Thørnblürd. "For instance, we would certainly sue New York City if it would try to imitate what worked for Helskini: dramatically reducing cars on city streets. If you try to make such life-saving changes in New York, we'll see you in court."

A spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio said the mayor has no plans to restrict cars, so there's "nothing to worry about there."

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