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Ticketing cyclists for using crosswalks is counterproductice

Somerville Police are eliminating the safety of the crosswalk for cyclists.
Somerville Police are eliminating the safety of the crosswalk for cyclists.
Brendan O'Neill (

Cyclist beware. Somerville Police are ticketing riders who use the walk signal to cross an intersection. In an effort to foster safer roads (and cyclists especially want that), the Somerville traffic enforcers are now targeting cycling scofflaws. To be clear, the police will ticket a cyclist who waits at a red traffic light and then travels through the intersection with the all-direction walk signal.

Unfortunately, this enforcement of the motor vehicle law on bicycles makes the roads more dangerous for cyclists – and not safer for anyone.

Same road. Same rules. Right?

Tickets are dispersed under the guise the cars and bicycles share the same road, so they should share the same rules. This notion is generally true, but unless the laws of physics change, cars and bicycles will never be equals on the roads.
If a bike collides with a car, the bike loses.
If a car collides with a bike, the bike loses.

Notice, the bike always loses because a bike/rider weighs about 200 lbs. while even the lightest car weights 3,000 lbs. By comparison, imagine a 20 lb. toddler colliding with a 300 lb. NFL lineman in full pads. Does the mite-sized toddler ever stand a chance? Does a bike ever stand a chance against a car? This discrepancy means the onus for avoiding accidents falls directly upon the cyclist. Behind the rhetoric of sharing the roads, the reality is this: cars drive on the roads and cyclists avoid cars. By traveling through an intersection on a walk signal, the bike avoids the motorized vehicles.

Can pedestrians and cyclist coexist?

Cyclist are forbidden to use a walk signal to ensure the safety of the pedestrians. The implication follows: bikes put walkers at risk. If that is true, how do cyclist and pedestrians happily coexist for the Somerville Community Path? The path is more heavily trafficked and smaller, and yet, not so amazingly, the two groups progress without incident.

Dangerous intersections

For cyclists, intersections are the most dangerous road formation. Statistics supports the common knowledge of bikers: about half of all bike accidents occur at road intersection. By exiting the intersection during a walk signal, cyclists ensure safe travel. Here are some of the dangers cyclists are able to avoid:

  1. Right turners. Vehicles turning right that go through the bike lane.
  2. Delivery trucks. They block bike lanes and then force cyclist to change into the motor vehicle lane.
  3. Pedestrians. They often cross on red lights, which cause unexpected braking.
  4. Leap-froggers. Vehicles looping around cars waiting to turn left. These vehicles often travel directly into bike traffic without looking.
  5. Big rigs. The tracker trailers make wide turns, and quite frankly, are terror-inducing.
  6. Buses. The vehicles travel in and out bikes, and their drivers have limited visibility.
  7. Work vehicles. Like buses, they are big and drivers have limited visibility.
  8. Honkers. Drivers waiting to make right turns on red lights, often illegally, will honk incessantly at cyclist, which is unnerving and leads to power decision-making.
  9. Left turners across traffic. Impatient drivers will turn in front of cyclists, leaving the biker to brake hard and risk being thrown from the bike into the road.
  10. Double parkers. Cars will often double-park just after intersecting leaving the cyclist to loop into the motor vehicle lane.
  11. Doors. Driver parked along the side of the road swing doors into bike lanes.

Stopping being counterproductive

By traveling through an intersection on a walk signal, cyclists can avoid dangers within the intersection and safely navigate around the obstacles immediately pas the intersection. Somerville Police, however, want to rescind these safety measures. They used cyclist as collateral to “make roads safer.” Instead of enforcing counterproductive measures, enforce laws that that achieve the desired goal – even it means more violations for cyclists.

A few parting thoughts …

  • A cyclist can walk their bike through the intersection, but this nullifies much of the advantage.
  • Would a child with training wheels also be ticketed for using a walk signal?
  • Are riders of push scooters also being ticketed?
  • In-line skaters?
  • Would a cyclists who is riding on the sidewalk and then using the crosswalk be ticketed?
  • Can those using adult tricycles use the walk signal?
  • Personal observation, after enforcement began, I saw a Somerville police officer on a bicycle cross the intersection on a crosswalk. I hold no malice. Safe riding, my friend.
  • Another personal observation, just after being warned by a police officer, I tried to follow the rules. I waited through the walk signal and traveled through the intersection on a green light. Within ten yards of clearing the intersection, a person in parked car began to open the door into my bike lane. With vehicular traffic on my left and parked cars on the right, I was sandwiched between the two. I was able to navigate through the hazard safely, but had I left the intersection on the walk signal, I would have easily avoided this harrowing event.
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