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Reducing Bicyclist Injuries on Commonwealth

Lessons from Injury Reports

Paul Schimek, Ph.D.
50 Saint Rose Street
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130 USA

September 22, 2014

John Allen provided assistance in typing crashes and reviewing the manuscript.
This study reviewed all crashes involving bicycles on Commonwealth Avenue near Boston University
reported to police in the years 2009-2012. More than half of the 100 crashes happened to bicyclists
riding in the bike lane and struck by a suddenly opened car door or by a motorist turning right across
the bike lane. Conventional wisdom says that bicyclists are run down from behind, but there was only a
single case of a bicyclist struck by an overtaking motorist in daylight, resulting in minor scrapes.
In almost all crashes, at least one party was in violation of the rules of the road. However citations were
given in fewer than 10% of the cases, including only one given to a bicyclist. Based on the review of
crashes, these countermeasures are recommended:
target traffic enforcement to the crash types found in this review, especially improper right
turns, unsafe door opening, signal violations, failure to use lights, drunk driving, and harassment
of bicyclists;
promote awareness among bicyclists of the need to ride outside the door zone and to overtake
on the right only when traffic is completely stopped and cannot move;
promote public awareness of the right of bicyclists to use the roadway, even outside of the bike
add a 3-4 ft buffer zone between a 4 ft bike lane and the parking lane.
add short (50 ft) right-turn-only lanes at intersections. At driveways, the bike lane / buffer zone
combination will provide room for motorists to merge right in advance of turning right.
the enforcement and awareness programs would address virtually all of the crash causes. The proposed
roadway changes would directly address the top two causes of crashes. New national research has
confirmed that buffer zones are needed to keep bicyclists away from the door zone when bike
lanes are marked next to on-street parking.
A Commonwealth Avenue cycle track between parked cars and the curb or between the median and
bollards has been proposed to protect bicyclists from collisions with cars. The crash review shows that a
cycle track could have eliminated only a handful of crashes involving motorists parking, overtaking,
backing, or swerving into the bike lane. Almost all of these crashes might have been avoided by a
change in bicyclist behavior: using lights (6 happened at night) and not passing moving vehicles on the
right (3 crashes), leaving only the single daylight overtaking crash (a sideswipe by a motorcycle) that
could not have been prevented by the bicyclist.
A cycle track with a sufficiently wide buffer zone would reduce dooring, crashes, but it is the buffer
from parked cars that reduces the crashes, not the physical barrier from moving cars. Similarly,
adding a right-turn only lane (or a separate traffic signal phase for bicyclists) could reduce right-turn
crashes, but it is the change in intersection design that is protective, not the separation from parallel
traffic. In fact, a cycle track intersection without either of these special treatments forces motorists
to turn across the path of approaching bicyclists--the cause of the largest number of collisions and
the one fatality reviewed in this study.
Even as it provides almost no crash reduction, a cycle track would likely increase other common crash
types such as motorist drive out from stop sign or driveway, bicyclist traffic signal violations, and
collisions with pedestrians. A new study finds that bicyclists frequently report that they experience
pedestrians standing or walking in urban cycle tracks. There is a downhill portion of Commonwealth
Avenue where bicyclists regularly exceed 20 mph. Changing the existing bike lanes into
barrier-separated cycle tracks would prevent bicyclists from merging into the travel lane to pass or
avoid obstacles. Therefore it is likely that the proposed cycle track would increase bicyclist injuries not
involving motor vehicles, which are three times as common as those involving motor vehicles.
This review found two incidents where motorists viciously assaulted bicyclists with their vehicles after
finding bicyclists riding in the motor vehicle lane when the bike lane was blocked. A cycle track would
likely increase harassment of bicyclists who use the motor vehicle lanes.
Reducing bicyclist injuries on Commonwealth Avenue could best be accomplished by adding a buffer to
keep bicyclists out of the door zone and adding right-turn lanes while enforcing traffic laws that are
currently rarely enforced (motorists merge right before turning right; bicyclists obey traffic signals, use
lights at night, and ride with the direction of traffic). Eliminating the bike lane in favor of a cycle track
would not provide any additional reductions in injuries beyond those that could be accomplished by
these measures. Cycle tracks could actually be counterproductive by increasing motorist turning crashes,
bicyclist signal violation crashes, and crashes not involving motor vehicles. Moreover, a cycle track would
significantly limit the mobility of bicyclists compared to a bike lane that is a portion of the roadway.
Alternative routes through the area on parallel low-traffic streets should be developed to accommodate
local (BU campus) bicycle traffic.

This report analyzes 100 police-reported traffic incidents involving bicyclists that occurred on
Commonwealth Avenue between Packards Corner (Brighton Avenue) and Kenmore Square (Beacon
Street) between 2009 and 2012. This section of Commonwealth Avenue in the City of Boston is
designated as a portion of Massachusetts State Route 20.
The data comes from Boston Police Department reports that were collected by researchers working for
the City of Boston. This effort is described in the Boston Cyclist Safety Report (City of Boston, May
2013). A total of 1,813 bike-related crashes were reported by police in calendar years 2009 to 2012.
The data file from this effort was made available to researchers via the Boston Area Research Initiative.
The 100 crashes described in the current analysis were taken from that data. The data set includes codes
for bicyclists age and gender, whether the incident occurred in daylight, dusk, dawn, or night, and other
items. Two blocks on this section of Commonwealth Avenue (Pleasant St to Armory St) were listed in a in
the Boston Cyclist Safety Report in a table of the street segments had the most bicyclist incidents.
In order to understand the crash circumstances, the crash narratives were reviewed, and a Crash Type
for each one was selected using the categories from PBCAT, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Analysis
Tool, which is used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to crash-type bicycle crashes.
In addition, new fields were created to indicate whether the bicyclist was operating against traffic and
whether the bicyclist was operating on the sidewalk.
In this section of Commonwealth Avenue there are two travel lanes on the inbound side (eastbound,
toward downtown Boston) and three travel lanes on the outbound side (westbound, away from
downtown Boston), except between Kenmore Square and the BU Bridge, where there are two travel
lanes. There is a 7 ft lane adjacent to each curb that is used for metered parking, bus stops, and curb
extensions. The sidewalks are generally 22-25 ft wide, among the widest in the city. There is a trolley
reservation in the median, used by the MBTA Green Line B branch. There are left turn-only lanes with
turns permitted on green arrow only at the few places where left turns are permitted. At the BU Bridge
approaches, there are right-turn only lanes. There are a few stop-sign-controlled T intersections and
several commercial driveways. All of the other intersections are signalized.
A 5 foot-wide bike lane immediately adjacent to the parking lane was marked in summer 2008 between
Kenmore Square and the BU Bridge. In August 2010 bike lanes were marked on the other half of the
study area, from the BU Bridge to Packards Corner (Brighton Avenue). In 2013, after the period of data
collection, in response to the December 2012 bicyclist fatality at the intersection with St. Paul Street
(described below), green pavement marking was added to most intersections and some driveways
along with new signs.
The campus of Boston University borders Commonwealth Avenue on virtually this entire segment. There
are alternative streets that could be used by bicyclists traveling through portions of this corridor, but
A description of the tool and a list of PBCAT codes can be found here:
The three exceptions, where left turns are made without the aid of a turn lane or green arrow, are the left turns
from Commonwealth inbound to Babcock Street and to Agganis Way and Commonwealth outbound to Pleasant
they are interrupted by one-way and gated streets, the BU Bridge approach, and the Massachusetts
Turnpike Extension. These low-traffic streets could be connected to provide a low-traffic network for
bicyclists, particularly BU students crossing the campus, who appear to represent a majority of those
injured in the police reports.
The City of Boston in conjunction with Boston University are currently preparing a design plan for
improvements to the portion of Commonwealth Avenue 200 ft west of the BU Bridge to Alcorn Street
(close to Brighton Avenue). The impetus for the project is the need to make the Green Line light rail
stations fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which will require the widening of station
areas. Various changes to the design to improve bicyclist safety are currently under consideration.
The study area for this report includes all of the project area but also the Brighton Avenue intersection,
the BU Bridge area, and the portion of Commonwealth Avenue between the BU Bridge and Kenmore
Square. Of the 100 total police-reported collisions studies, 58 were within the road
reconstruction project area. A summary of these collisions is included in Appendix A.

Part I: Crash Type Analysis
The first part of this report consists of an analysis of the 100 bicyclist-involved crashes reported to
Boston Police in 2009-2012 based on the crash circumstances. The second part of the report addresses
potential ways to reduce the number of crashes.
The bicyclists gender was recorded in 97 of the 100 cases; 70% were male (Table 1). This figure is
similar to citywide averages as reported in the Boston Cyclist Safety Report.
Table 1: Crash-Involved Bicyclists by Gender
FEMALE 29 30%
MALE 68 70%
Known 97 100%
Unknown 3
Grand Total 100

Table 2 summarizes the ages of the bicyclists. More than 60% were of college age (18 to 24), and
another 26% were between 25 and 34. There was only one child bicyclist injured (age 11), and only 10%
were over 33. The lack of child bicyclists and the high numbers of college-age bicyclists make these
demographics different from the citywide total, and suggest that bicyclists using Commonwealth
Avenue are predominantly college students and bicycle commuters.
Table 2: Crash-Involved Bicyclists by Age
<18 1 1%
18-24 59 63%
25-33 24 26%
35-57 9 10%
Known 93 100%
Unknown 7
Grand Total 100

Crash Types
Each crash was assigned a code based on the ones developed for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash
Analysis Tool. For this report, the detailed codes were collapsed into 13 major categories (shown in
Table 3, in order of frequency of major category). In ten cases, there was not enough information in the
police narrative to make a classification. Two crash types account for 54% of the identified crashes (49
of 90). These are Motorist Right Turn or Merge (motor vehicle turning right hits bicyclist to its right
proceeding straight ahead) and Bicyclist Doored (bicyclist hit by suddenly opening door of parked
motor vehicle).
Table 3: Crash Types

The complete spreadsheet of crashes is available upon request.
The underlying cause of a crash is not always apparent based on the crash type name. For example,
Motorist Drive Out crashes involve a motorist driving out from a side street, driveway, or parking
space who fails to yield to an approaching bicyclist. However, in many of these cases, the motorist was
looking for and yielding to traffic, but the bicyclist was coming from a place where vehicular traffic is not
expected to be (from the sidewalk and/or opposite the flow of traffic). Or in any situation where a
motorist has to yield to a bicyclist, the motorist may not have been able to see the bicyclist if the crash
took place in low-light conditions and the bicyclist did not have a headlight.
To fully understand and prevent bicyclist injuries, it is important to know not only what each party was
doing leading up to the collision, but also whether the bicyclist was on the roadway or the sidewalk,
riding with or against the direction of traffic, and equipped with working headlight and taillight (if the
incident occurred in non-daylight hours). Unfortunately, these items are only sporadically recorded in the
crash reports. The police-report narrative indicated whether or not the bicycle had working lights in only
three cases out of the 36 in the study area that occurred in non-daylight hours.
The following sections address each major category of crash types in detail, listed in descending order of
crash frequency with the number of collisions listed in parentheses following the section title. The
four-digit numbers beginning with B (e.g. B1001) are references to the case numbers as designated in
the file. A spreadsheet listing individual crash cases and their codes is available upon request to the
Motorist Right Turn or Merge (25)
Incidents where a motorist turned or merged right across the path of a straight-through bicyclist were
the most common, accounting for 25 of the 100 cases, or 28% of the 90 where the circumstances could
be identified. In one case, the bicyclist was operating on the sidewalk against the flow of traffic. In all
other cases, the bicyclist was on the roadway, operating with the flow of traffic, in the bike lane. The
motorist was turning right into a side street, driveway, or on-street parking space (in one case, a taxi
driver was pulling into the bike lane to let off passengers). In two cases, it is clear that the motorist
passed the bicyclist immediately prior to making the right turn. The police reports in these cases include
the following statements:
The victim [bicyclist] stated that the operator of a newer silver Acura sped up to pass
him, then made a sharp right turn on to Alcorn St. The victim stated that his bicycle
struck the car, knocking him to the ground, and was nearly run over as the car continued
onto Alcorn St. The operator of the vehicle stopped briefly, then continued on Alcorn
St. toward xxxxxxx [Gardner] St. (B1274)
Mr. xxx reports that he was riding his bicycle in the marked bicycle lane on Commonwealth Av
inbound, as he was nearing the intersection of Commonwealth Av and Pleasant St, a gray pick-up
truck . . . suddenly increased speed and made a right turn onto Pleasant St without using the
right directional signal. Mr xxx reports that he rode into the right rear quarter of the pick up truck
and then fell to the ground on his bicycle. Mr xxx further reports that the occupants, described as
four white males in their xxxxxxxxxxxx turned and looked at him and laughed, the operator then
sped off without stopping. (B1461)
In both of these cases, the motorist clearly saw the bicyclist in advance of turning. However these two
cases are atypical. In at least 16 of the remaining 23 cases, the motorist was not aware of the bicyclists
presence until the collision occurred, for example:
The operator stated he was taking a right hand turn onto St. Paul Street at a slow rate of speed
when a bicyclist struck the front passenger side of his vehicle. . . . Officer spoke to numerous
witnesses to the accident, all of whom believed the vehicle operator did nothing wrong.
Witnesses stated the bicyclist was traveling extremely fast, weaving through traffic and
pedestrians, both on and off the sidewalk. Witnesses also believed the bicyclist appeared to try
and beat the vehicle to the turn and almost cut him off, until he collided with the vehicle.
Operator stated that as he was attempting to make a right turn onto Armory Street, the front
passenger side of his vehicle was struck by a bicyclist . . . who was riding in between the vehicles
in the right lane and the parked cars and was attempting to go straight. (B1165)
The operator of the jeep . . . stated that she signaled for a right turn and began the turn.
She stated that she did not see the bicyclist beside her. As she made the turn, she
heard a xxxxxx and turned her head to the right and observed the victim fall to the
ground (B1341)
Officers spoke to the victim . . . who did state that she was traveling inbound on Commonwealth
Avenue on her bicycle in the marked bicycle lane, when she saw a white T van, which was
traveling next to her, take a right turn into a driveway and at that point she and the van collided.
Mr. xxx relayed that he was travelling eastbound on Commonwealth. He stated that he
was travelling in the "marked" bicycle lane alongside Ms. xxx. It was at this point when
Ms. xxx attempted to turn right onto St. Paul St.
In the other 7 cases, there was not enough information provided to tell whether the bicyclist was
approaching on the right of a car or the motorist passed the bicyclist and then suddenly turned.
There were no incidents in the police reports involving right-turning motorists at the intersection with
the most right turns: the BU Bridge, which is reached by turning right, regardless of the direction of
approach. The explanation is that there are right-turn lanes at both approaches, and the bike lane guides
bicyclists to the left of the right-turn lane.
The inbound (eastbound) side of Commonwealth Avenue accounts for many of the right-turn crashes,
perhaps because there is a significant downhill grade from Pleasant Street to Armory Street. Downhill
grades mean higher bicyclist speed, which increases the chances that bicyclists can overtake motor
traffic, decreases the possibility that bicyclists can avoid an incipient collision, and increases the potential
for injury should a collision occur.
About 38% of bicyclists injured in right-turn collisions were transported to a hospital by ambulance,
which is about the same as the overall average for all collision types. The only fatality among the 100
cases involved a tractor-trailer truck turning right from Commonwealth Avenue eastbound to St Paul
Street, which is on the downhill segment. This incident, the death of Chris Weigl on December 6, 2012
(not described in the police report, but reported in the media), is unusual in that the truck driver
apparently started his turn from the left-most lane. The crash mechanism is the same as when a car is
involved: a straight-through bicyclist is operating to the right of right-turning motor vehicle. When a truck
is involved in a right-turn collision there are, however, some differences:
The truck driver needs to start the turn further to the left, typically the leftmost part of the right
lane, although in this case the truck driver started in the left lane (probably because St. Paul St. is
narrow and has parking very close to the intersection).
Trucks generally have significant blind spots to the right which make it difficult or impossible to
see a bicyclist beside the trailer.
When a truck completes the turn, the rear of the trailer shifts toward the curb, possibly trapping
an unwary bicyclist.
Bicyclists can easily get knocked to the ground by the moving trailer, then, once lying on the
ground, crushed by the rear wheels as the truck completes the turn.
This last point explains why these types of collisions frequently result in serious or fatal injuries. In
addition to the Chris Weigl fatality, there have been several other bicyclist fatalities involving turning
trucks in the City of Boston in the past few years, accounting for a high proportion of the total bicyclist
Motorists who wish to turn right are required to merge into the bicycle lane in advance of turning. (The
relevant laws are listed in Appendix B.) In 6 of the right-turn cases, the motorist fled and was not
identified. Of the remaining 19 reports of a right turn or merge across the bike lane, not one motorist
was cited for improper lane use. Nor was there any indication that police officers asked any driver if, in
advance of turning right, he or she stopped, checked the right side mirror, and looked out the right side
window for bicyclists alongside or approaching from the right. As noted in Appendix B, these actions are
not required by law, nor are they feasible for truck drivers.
Bicyclist Doored (24)
Doorings were the second most common crash type, accounting for 24 of the 90 crash-typed cases, or
27%. Most often, the bicyclist was riding in the bike lane and struck a door opened on the drivers side
of a vehicle parked in the parking lane. In 5 cases, the bicyclist was traveling in the bike lane to the right
of traffic stopped in the travel lane and struck a door opened on the passenger side of a vehicle in the
travel lane. In two cases, a bicyclist fell into a car stopped in the travel lane after colliding with a
suddenly opening door in the parking lane. There were no cases reported where a bicyclist was knocked
to the ground by an opening door and then struck by an approaching vehicle. Such incidents have
occurred, including a fatality in Central Square, Cambridge in 2002.
Why did vehicle occupants open a door even though a bicyclist was approaching? In most cases, the
bicyclist was inside a clearly marked bike lane. In 6 cases, the incident occurred at dark, dusk, or dawn;
the bicyclist may not have been easy to see against the glare of car headlights, given that very large
numbers of bicyclists operate without headlights. In one of the six cases that occurred after dark, the
officer noted that the bicyclist was in a marked bike lane without aid of any lights on his bike. (But no
citation was issued to the bicyclist for this violation.) In two cases that occurred in daylight, the motorist
claims to have looked and seen nothing before opening the door. In one incident, the door had already
been opened long enough for the driver to step out; it appears that this was a case of the bicyclists not
paying attention rather than of the doors opening so suddenly that he could not have avoided it-- but
this is the only such case of the 24. In most cases, it appears that the vehicle occupants simply did not
look before opening the door. They may not have expected traffic (including bicycles) approaching
within range of a door, particularly when traffic in the travel lanes is not moving, or when opening the
passenger-side door.
In half the cases (12 out of 24), the bicyclist was taken by ambulance to a hospital. In 7 cases, the bicyclist
was treated at the scene by EMTs but refused further treatment. In 3 cases, the bicyclist had minor
injuries and refused all medical treatment. In the remaining 2 cases, the bicyclist had no injuries. In total,
50% of bicyclists who struck a door left the scene in an ambulance, compared to 40% of bicyclists injured
in other collision types. Thus, dooring collisions may be more serious than average.
One explanation for the frequency of dooring crashes is the relatively high turnover of on-street parking.
This segment of Commonwealth Avenue is one of the few places in the City of Boston, outside of
downtown, that has parking meters. Parking is limited to two hours. The parking lane is 7 ft wide and
the bike lane is 5 ft wide. The width of passenger cars ranges from 5 ft 6 in to 6 ft 8 in (but trucks can be
as wide as 8 ft 6 in), exclusive of side mirrors. Vehicles can be parked legally 1 ft from the curb. A fully
opened door can extend up to 3 ft 9 in from the side of a car. With the existing lane widths, a bicyclist
riding in the center of the bike lane is well within the range of an open door, and even a bicyclist in the
leftmost part of the bike lane is likely to be within range. It is necessary to ride with a wheel on the left
lane stripe--half way out of the bike lane-- to be completely outside of the opening door zone. The
range outside of the door zone begins at 11 ft from the curb, so the bicycle tire must be 12 ft from the
curb--on top of the left bike lane line--for the bicycle handlebars to be clear of the door zone.
Only four of the 24 drivers or passengers who opened a door received a citation under a statute that
went into effect in January 2009, at the beginning of the data collection period (see Appendix B). One of
the drivers who dooreda bicyclist was a Boston Police Officer; he was not one of the four who
received a citation.
Motorist Drive-Out (9)
There were nine cases where a motorist drove out from a stop sign, flashing red signal, driveway, or
turning right on a red signal, without yielding to the bicyclist approaching from a crossing direction. The
most common scenario, accounting for 4 of the 9 cases, involved a bicyclist approaching on the sidewalk
This was the conclusion of the recently released NCHRP Report 766, Recommended Bicycle Lane Widths for
Various Roadway Characteristics, which is also the source for the maximum width of an open door.
opposite the flow of traffic. The motorist was looking for traffic to the left, not to the right. Some
The motorist stated that after she checked for pedestrian traffic, she xxxxxxxx forward looking
left for oncoming traffic on Commonwealth Ave and as she was stopped and looking left her
[right side] vehicle door was struck by the bicyclist. (B1026)
The bicyclist stated she was traveling inbound on Commonwealth Ave while riding her bicycle
on the sidewalk. The victim approached University Rd then came to a complete stop before
entering the crosswalk. The victim stated she observed a vehicle . . . approach the intersection
and came to a complete stop. The victim thought the operator had seen her to his right so she
began to cross in front but was struck as the vehicle also proceeded at the same time. (B2049)

PBCAT Crash Type Motorist Drive-Out-- Sign-Controlled Intersection,
showing bicyclist approaching from the wrong side of the street.
Two cases occurred when the motorist was making a right turn on red. In one case the motorist was
accelerating through the end of the yellow signal, and might have actually entered the intersection on
red (and certainly did not stop and yield before making a right turn). He was cited for failure to yield
when making a right turn on red. This was the only citation given for any of the 9 drive-out type crashes.
In another case, the motorist protruded into the bike lane while attempting to merge into traffic to turn
right on red.
Of the remaining three cases, one occurred after dark. The police report does not indicate whether the
bicyclist was using a headlight, as required by law. Because it is common for bicyclists in Boston to ride at
night without a headlight, and because they are rarely stopped by law enforcement for doing so, one
should suspect that difficulty in seeing the bicyclist explains these crashes.
The remaining two cases were daylight collisions where the bicyclist was operating on the roadway in
the direction of traffic. The crash narratives provide no obvious explanation as to why the motorist did
not see and yield to the approaching bicyclist. In one case, the crash occurred at the BU Bridge exit at a
time when the traffic signals were set to flashing, which is unusual. In the final case, the driver fled the
scene and was not caught, and thus there is no statement from the driver.
Traffic Signal Violation (8)
There were eight crashes in which the bicyclist went through a red signal. The signal violation was
generally corroborated by witnesses, or even admitted by the bicyclist, for example:
The bicyclist acknowledged that he was traveling in a westerly direction on Commonwealth Av.
when he crossed the intersection onto Brighton Av. into on-coming traffic colliding with Mr. xxx's
vehicle (B2390).
Ms xxx stated that she xxxxxxxxxx rode her bicycle through the red light at the
intersection and the above vehicle struck her (B2428).
In one case, the bicyclist going through on red assumed that the motorist would see and stop for her. The
police officer reported that The victim stated that she thought that the operator of the van
observed her and was going to stop. Officer then spoke to the operator/owner of the van who
stated that as she was traveling through a green light she did not observe the victim on her
bicycle until her van made contact with the bicycle (B1725). In another case the bicyclist claimed to
not notice any traffic signals at all at that intersection prior to crossing that location (B2428).
There were no cases that clearly involved a motorist going through a red light. In addition to the 8
bicycle-motor vehicle collisions involving a signal violation, there were 6 bicycle-pedestrian collisions, all
but one of which involved a signal violation by one party or the other, for example:
The bicyclist stated that he was riding his bicycle westbound on Commonwealth Ave. He
stated that he may have gone through a red light and struck the victim, who was
crossing Commonwealth Ave (B1723).
The pedestrian stated she attempted to cross Commonwealth Ave against the traffic
signals when a bike traveling at a high rate of speed lost control and struck her (B2266).
Pedestrian Collisions (6)
There were six cases where a bicyclist struck a pedestrian. As mentioned, in 5 cases the cause was a
signal violation. In another case, a bicyclist was using the bike lane, passing on the right side of a bus
stopped in the travel lane, when she collided with a passenger who stepped off the bus. (B2655).
Motorist Overtaking (4)
There were only four cases out of 100 where the bicyclist was struck from behind by a vehicle going in
the same direction. Three of the four cases happened after dark where visibility of the bicyclist may have
been the underlying factor. Bicyclists in Massachusetts are not required to have rear lights; a rear
reflector is legally sufficient. All new bicycles are sold with rear reflectors. However, these reflectors are
small and do not reflect very brightly, and are frequently obscured by clothing or packs, or they are
damaged, dirty or have been removed.
In one of these night-time cases, the bicyclist noted that the driver was using a cell phone. The incident
was a hit and run, so there is no statement from the motorist.
The most serious motorist-overtaking case involved a bicyclist hit squarely from behind by a drunk
driver, at night (B1814) . The driver was arrested, and at the police station said, I dont want to drive
cause Im drunk. In this case, police noted that the bicyclist had a headlight, but there is no information
about the use of a rear light or reflector, although it should be noted that in this case the motorists
incapacitation, not the inability to see the bicyclist, was evidently the cause of the crash.
The only motorist-overtaking case that occurred in daylight involved a bicyclist who was sideswiped by a
motorcycle. Given that a motorcycle is much narrower than a passenger car, it is not clear why the
motorcyclist failed to give sufficient passing distance unless he was attempting to overtake on the right
within the same lane as a passenger car. This case was also a hit and run, so there is no information from
the motorist. Fortunately, the bicyclist suffered only minor scrapes (B1132).
Bicyclist Overtaking (3)
There were three cases that involved a bicyclist overtaking (or following) a motor vehicle ahead. Each
was slightly different:
The bicyclist moved left to avoid a taxi that had stopped in the bike lane, then struck a vehicle
stopped in the travel lane, at night (B1242).
The bicyclist struck the side mirror of a parked car, at night (B1550).
A car ahead of the bicyclist stopped suddenly, and the bicyclist struck it from behind (B2787).
It is generally illegal for motorists to park, wait, or discharge passengers in a bike lane adjacent to
on-street parking (see Appendix B). There are many situations where bicyclists have to observe traffic
conditions, merge left as traffic permits, or reduce speed and be prepared to stop.
Motorist Left Turn (2)
This crash type involves a motorists turning left without yielding to a bicyclist coming from the opposite
direction. This type is usually one of the more common ones, but there were only 2 out of the 100
recorded on this road segment. One reason for the low number of left-turn collisions may be that left
turns are permitted in only a few places along this corridor, and in all but three of these places, on left
arrow only.
In one case, the motorist was turning left onto Commonwealth Avenue westbound from Babcock Street
northbound while the bicyclist was turning right into the same place from Babcock Street southbound. It
is not clear from the narrative why the two collided, given that there are three travel lanes plus a bike
lane to turn into (B1001).
In the other case, the motorist was turning left from Commonwealth Avenue westbound to Pleasant
Street southbound. This turn is one of the three where a left is permitted on solid green (there is no turn
arrow), although there is a Yield to Trolley Sign, indicating that the person turning left must first yield to
trolleys in both directions (before yielding to two traffic lanes and a bike lane from the opposite
direction). Evidently opposite-direction motorists saw the left-turner waiting on the trolley tracks to
complete the turn and waited for him to go. The bicyclist approaching from the opposite direction in the
bike lane passed on the right side of a truck that had stopped to let in the left-turner. Because of the
stopped truck, the motorist turning left and the bicyclist going straight from the opposite direction could
not see each other until it was too late to avoid a collision (B1812).
Bicyclist Left Turn from Bike Lane (2)
There were two cases where the bicyclist attempted to make a left turn from the bike lane and was
struck by a same-direction motor vehicle. In one case, the bicyclist in the bike lane approached the
intersection on red, and turned 90 degrees to cross the street, hoping to reach the median before the
signal changed. But the light changed while he was in the left lane and a vehicle struck him (B2692).
In the other case, it appears that the bicyclist made the left turn from the bike lane, cutting across two
lanes of traffic, on a green signal. She told police that she did not think any vehicle traffic was coming
and that she was not sure of the traffic light and believed the collision may have been her fault
(B2693). (By coincidence, this and the previous incident occurred on consecutive days.)
Bicyclist Lost Control (2)
There were two cases where the bicyclist lost control:
A bicyclist was unable to stop when his rims got wet in the rain, and struck the drivers side of a
car. The police report does not say what the car was doing, but based on the part of the car
damaged, it must have been crossing at a signalized cross street (B1064).
A bicyclist fell due to the trolley tracks at the intersection of Commonwealth Ave and Brighton
Avenue, where there is a short section of tracks embedded in the pavement (not inside a
separate reservation). No motor vehicle was involved. The bicyclist said she was turning from
Commonwealth on to Brighton, but the direction of travel was not given. If heading west on
Commonwealth, she would have only come into contact with the tracks if she had made the turn
from the portion of the road which is intended to be for turning left onto Commonwealth, but
which could be used for turning onto Brighton Avenue. Trolley tracks are a known hazard to
bicyclists (B2158).
Assault (2)
There were two cases of motorists assaulting bicyclists. In both of these cases, it seems that the
motorists were prompted to attack by the bicyclists failure to use the bike lane. Amazingly, both
incidents occurred on the same day, the first in the afternoon and the second in the evening. However, it
seems unlikely that the attacks were the work of the same person: the motorist in the first case was
described as a bald white male driving a Dodge sedan; the second one was described as a black male
driving a blue Nissan. These were the descriptions from the police reports:
Assault #1: The victim [bicyclist] stated that he was riding his bicycle inbound on Commonwealth
Ave when he had to get around a truck that was double parked on the bike lane. The victim
stated that he made his way around the double parked truck and continued in the same
direction. The victim stated that a driver/suspect that was beside him . . . ran a red light to catch
up with him and began weaving between the right lane and the bicycle lane to force him off the
road. The victim stated he tried to maintain control on the bicycle lane while the suspect
deliberately attempted to hit him with his vehicle. The victim stated that the suspect eventually
sped up ahead of him and opened his passenger side door in time to cause the victim to collide
with it and fall over onto the street near the intersection of Commonwealth Ave and BU Bridge.
The victim stated that the suspect then exited his vehicle and took a xxxxx [swing?] at the victim.
The victim stated that the suspect then got back into his vehicle, made a u-turn going onto the
opposite side of the road and traveled west (outbound) on Commonwealth Ave. (B2142)
Assault #2: The bicyclist [victim] stated that he was on his bicycle traveling outbound on
Commonwealth Ave in the bike lane. The victim then signaled to [enter] in the right lane of motor
vehicle traffic because a parked car was blocking the bike lane. While in the right lane, [the
motorist] honked the horn of the car and struck the bicycle from behind. The victim xxxxxxxxxx
[maintained] his balance and then the car honked the horn and struck the victim on his bicycle a
second time. The car then stopped at a red light and the victim approached the driver's side
window. The suspect put the window down and the victim informed him he was calling the
police. At this time the suspect put the window back up and fled outbound on Commonwealth
Ave. (B2145)
In the first case, there was a witness who had been driving behind and who corroborated the story. The
bicyclist provided a license plate number, and the vehicle registered with that plate matched the
description given by the bicyclist. Further, the bicyclist identified the owner from a photo. However,
there is no indication in the narrative that the motorist was located or brought to justice. In the second
case, no plate number was provided and the police were unable to find the suspect.

Other Collisions
There were three more collisions that didnt fall into any of the previous categories:
Head On, Wrong Way Bicyclist: The bicyclist stated she was riding her bicycle on Commonwealth Av
traveling inbound against the traffic heading outbound. At this time vehicle 1 approached in the right
lane and was unable to avoid striking the victim on her bicycle because she was riding her bicycle against
the flow of traffic. (B1260)
Backing Motorist: The motorist said, while driving down Commonwealth Av. a group of five white
non-Hispanic males began banging on the front of his vehicle and then stated that he put his vehicle in
reverse to get away from the group of men, at which time he hit a bicyclist. (B1013)
Motorist Unsafe Lane Change: The bicyclist states he was riding his bike inside bike lane traveling
outbound on Comm. Ave. when a Boston Cab also traveling outbound on Comm. Ave. pulled into the
bike lane and struck / bumped him on his left hip. When victim was struck / bumped he was able to jump
off his bike, xxxxxxxx [avoiding] any serious xxxx [fall]. He then states Operator of said cab fled the
scene without stopping. The officer was able to track down the taxi driver, who claimed he never
made contact with victim but he did xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx cut victim off in bike lane to avoid being struck by
unknown motor vehicle. He states when he pulled in to bike lane it caused victim to stop short, with him
xxxxxxx [falling] off his bike. The taxi driver was issued a citation for leaving the scene of an accident.
However, MGL Ch 89 Sec 4a states, When any way has been divided into lanes, the driver of a vehicle
shall so drive that the vehicle shall be entirely within a single lane, and he shall not move from the lane in
which he is driving until he has first ascertained if such movement can be made with safety. Therefore
the taxi driver should have also been cited for a violation of this statute, even if he did not make contact
with the bicyclist. (B1729)
Unknown (10)
There were 10 incidents where there was not enough information to determine how the crash occurred.
Of these, 4 were at signalized intersections, but either there was no information about which party was
facing a green signal, or, in one case, both the bicyclist and motorist claimed to have a green (and the
witness didnt know). In two of the remaining cases, the bicyclist and motor vehicle appear to have been
on parallel paths, with one party or the other merging or changing lanes. Finally, in the last four cases,
there is not enough information to know anything about how the crash occurred, or even, in two cases,
exactly where it occurred.

Citations Given
Almost all of the 90 incidents that could be classified involved a clear violation of law on the part of a
motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian. In 17 cases, the motorist fled the scene and was not located. Many of
the police reports describe violations confirmed by witnesses or admitted to by participants, with no
indication of citations issued. In almost all of the 77 crashes where the circumstances were known and
both parties were identified, one or more of those involved was almost certainly violating the rules of
the road. The only exceptions are the two Bicyclist Lost Control cases. However, police issued citations
for moving violations in only 7 cases (or 9% of the 75 cases where there could have done so). These
were the citations given to motorists for moving violations:
opening a door unsafely (4 citations)
failure to yield when turning right on red (1 citation)
operating under the influence of alcohol (1 citation)
In a single case, a bicyclist was given a citation for failure to stop for a red signal. There were also a
number of citations given to motorists that were not directly related to the cause of the crash, namely:
leaving the scene of an accident (1 citation)
operating without a valid Mass. drivers license (3 citations)

Bicyclist Injuries Not Reported to Police
There are many more bicyclist injuries than those reported to police. The Boston Bicyclist Safety Report
found that 91% of the incidents in the police reports involved motor vehicles, whereas only 63% of
bicyclists transported by Boston EMS were involved in a crash with a motor vehicle. The total number of
incidents recorded by BPD and EMS per year are about the same. The explanation is that BPD data
includes incidents involving a motor vehicle that did not require an ambulance (and thus not recorded by
EMS), but leaves out many incidents not involving a motor vehicle that did require an ambulance.
Analysis completed for the current study shows that in about 30% of the cases in the police reports the
bicyclist had minor injuries or no injuries and was not treated by EMS, and so would not appear in their
data. According to tabulations provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, only 26% of
bicyclists treated in emergency rooms in Boston were injured in circumstances that involved a motor
vehicle. Considering those who required a hospital stay (indicating more serious injuries), only a minority
(40%) of cases involved a motor vehicle.

These data are for Boston residents treated in Boston hospitals for January 2009 to September 2012. The
location of the incident that caused the injury is unknown, but is highly likely to be in Boston. Data from the
MA Hospital Discharge, Observation Stay, and Emergency Department Discharge databases, MA Center for Health
Information and Analysis, provided by Jeanne Hathaway, Injury Surveillance Program, Mass DPH, August 2014.
Part II. Crash Countermeasures
The analysis of crash types described in Part I showed that almost all crashes involved a violation of the
rules of the road. Therefore, improved compliance with the traffic rules should be the number one
priority for those wishing to reduce bicyclist collisions. There are three main tools to change behavior:
enforcement activities by Boston and BU Police; public awareness initiatives; and skills training for
bicyclists. In addition, crashes can be reduced through improved roadway design, which is addressed in
the following section.
Opening Door Unsafely
As long as bicyclists are expected to ride within reach of the doors of parked cars, it is particularly
important to reinforce the message that motorists should look before opening a door, and give tickets
to those who do not, certainly if a cyclist is injured, but even in the case where the bicyclist manages to
swerve to avoid the door and is not injured.
Improper Right Turn
Police should ticket motorists who fail to merge into the bike lane in advance of turning, whether or not a
collision occurs. This effort would be supported by roadway design changes suggested below (e.g.,
creation of right turn lanes and spaces).
Improper Left Turn
A left turn must be made from the left lane, not a right-side bike lane. If a bicyclist wants to make a
pedestrian-style left turn, he or she has to wait for the pedestrian signal.
Night Equipment for Bicycles
Police should ticket bicyclists for failure to use a headlight at night and failure to have a either a rear light
or reflector. The Commonwealth (or in the absence of action by the General Court, the City) should
require rear lights, since LED technology has made them long-lasting and affordable. Police could also be
involved in the distribution of low-cost LED lights to those in need.
Signal Violations
Tickets should be given for signal violations, including to bicyclists and pedestrians.
Sidewalk Bicycling
The City of Boston should clarify whether and where bicycling on the sidewalk is lawful (see Appendix B).
Meanwhile, since bicyclists on the sidewalk should follow the rules for pedestrians, police can ticket for
entering the roadway into the path of a moving vehicle. There is no law that prohibits riding against the
flow of traffic on the sidewalk (but this behavior increases the risk of crashes at intersections and
Parking or Standing in the Bike Lane
It is illegal to park in (or adjacent to) a bike lane. The city may also wish to permit discharging passengers
in bus stops (or at least outside of peak hours) so that taxis have a safe place to serve customers that is
not blocking the roadway.
Drunk Driving
In addition to serious penalties for drivers who drive drunk and cause injuries, it would be useful to
concentrate enforcement efforts in areas with a large number of establishments that serve alcohol.
Harassment of Bicyclists
Police and prosecutors should take reports of harassment seriously. Those who honk and yell at
bicyclists because they believe they have no right to use the road may also deliberately drive unsafely in
an effort to scare bicyclists off the road. They may also succeed in scaring bicyclists to ride in dangerous
places (in the door zone, for example). Plainclothes officers on bicycles could be very effective in this
Public Awareness
Improved public awareness is necessary to make road users aware of key information that is not well
known, namely:
Bicyclists have a right to use all of the road, including to ride outside of bike lanes.
Bicyclists need 3-4 feet of clearance from parked cars.
Bicyclists are required by law to use headlights at night.
Bicycling against the flow of traffic is dangerous and illegal.
It is generally unsafe for adult bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk.
Bicyclists should not ride within reach of car doors.
Even if riding in a bike lane, bicyclists should not overtake on the right side of motor vehicles,
unless the motor vehicles are completely stopped and cannot move.
Bicyclists should obey traffic signals for their own safety and the safety of others.
Bicyclists should not make left turns from the bike lane.
Motorists should merge into the bike lane in advance of turning right.
The Boston University Bike Safety Committee has created two posters to alert bicyclists of the hazards
of the door zone and the right hook (see figures below). The behavioral message to bicyclists: Be
alert and ready to brake. Unfortunately this advice is insufficient. A bicyclist traveling 15 mph covers 22
feet in one second and would need several seconds to react and then brake should a door open
suddenly. In only one of the 24 dooring cases was there an indication that the bicyclist might have had
time to stop. Moreover, there is generally not time to move into the adjacent travel lane, which requires
time and distance to look and merge safely. Therefore, bicyclists should stay at least a doors width
away from parked cars.
To avoid right hook collisions, the correct advice is not to pass a vehicle on the right (whether or not
there is a bike lane) unless it is stopped and cannot move forward. Bicyclists should never pass on the
right within an intersection, and always stay behind trucks and buses. Once a vehicle starts turning right,
the bicyclist may be well aware of the problem, but there is generally no time and space to avoid a
collision. The only escape route for the bicyclist is to turn right more sharply than the motorist. With a
truck or bus, the danger is being hit by the side of the vehicle and knocked under the wheels. In either
case, staying behind (waiting, or in some circumstances, passing on the left), is better advice than merely
being ready to brake.


Bicyclist Skills Training
Skills training should be widely available to bicyclists. Unlike enforcement, skills training covers not just
the traffic rules but how to operate a bicycle efficiently, how to keep it in good condition, and how to
avoid collisions and injuries. Bicyclists can learn skills through self-instruction (books, booklets, videos,
and websites) and through instruction. Classes could be available and advertised through BU Fitness and
Recreation Center, Landrys, REI, and other nearby bike shops, and bicyclist organizations such as BU
Roadway Design
Efforts to change behavior through enforcement, public awareness, and bicyclist skills development
should be the main priority in reducing bicyclist injuries, since these actions can mitigate every single
crash type identified in this study. However, changes to the design of the roadway are also needed.
Bike Lanes Adjacent to On-Street Parking
NCHRP Report 766, published in 2014, found that most bicyclists ride within the door zone when bike
lanes are marked next to on-street parking. Further, it found that marking a buffer zone between the
bike lanes and the parked cars (and not merely making the bike lane wider) was effective in moving
bicyclists away from opening doors. Based on this new research, it is recommended that a 3-4 ft buffer
zone be added throughout the corridor. In order to maintain a 4-ft wide bike lane, an additional 2-3 ft of
cross-section is required compared to the existing conditions. The right side of the road would thus have
a 4 ft bike lane, 3-4 ft buffer zone, and 7 ft parking lane. An important additional benefit of this design is
that the combined bike lane / buffer zone could serve as a mini right-turn lane at driveways and minor
streets. In addition to reducing the crash hazard, a buffer zone would create room for motorists to enter
and exit parked cars without being in the way of bicycle traffic, thus making it easier for motorists
parking and for bicyclists, who would otherwise have to stop or merge into the travel lane.
In order to to provide this additional 2-3 ft on each side, it will be necessary to either narrow the
sidewalk, limit the width of the median, or remove on-street parking. The existing sidewalks are very
wide. It may be possible to keep the median as narrow as ADA regulations permit, and then where it
needs to be wider (at stations), remove on-street parking in order to maintain the necessary
cross-section to keep bicyclists out of the door zone. (This option is already contained in the citys current
design proposal in order to add a left-turn only lane.)
Encouraging bicyclists to keep out of the door zone is insufficient, since few will brave the harassment of
motorists for not riding in the bike lane. (Even without bike lanes many will choose the safety of a
position furthest away from moving traffic.) Encouraging motorists to look before opening doors is
equally insufficient. Even a police officer opened his door without looking. Not just drivers, but all
passengers, including minor children, need to know not to open door before looking. Even if a car
occupant waits until no bicyclist is close, he or she still creates, in the current design, a barrier to
approaching bicyclists, who need to look and merge into the travel lane to pass safely.
Right-Turn Only Lanes
Adding right-turn only lanes to the right of the bike lane is an effective method to reduce the number of
right-turn collisions. Even a short right-turn only lane, 40-50 ft, would suffice at most intersections in this
corridor (see photo). Eliminating two parking spaces at each side street would provide the necessary
space. In places where it is not possible to provide a proper right-turn lane, the bike lane / buffer zone
should serve as the right turn area, and could be marked with a right-turn arrow. The right-turn lanes
would also make approaching bicyclists more visible to motorists exiting from stop signs. The
westbound bike lane at the approach to the BU Bridge should be relocated so that it is in a straight line,
to the left of the right-turn lane, beginning with the traffic signal at University Road.

Example of parking lane becoming a short-right turn only lane (Dartmouth Street at Stuart Street).
No Turn on Red
Adding No Turn on Red signs at the signalized side streets may reduce collisions with bicyclists, especially
those approaching on the sidewalk (and against traffic on the sidewalk).
Signalize Left Turns
Fully signalizing all left turns, as is currently proposed, would reduce collisions involving motorists and
bicyclists turning left, including collisions with Green Line trolleys.
Trolley Tracks
There is a small portion of the Green Line A Branch tracks at the Brighton Avenue intersection that could
be removed. It would also help to post a warning sign at this location about the dangers to bicyclists of
falling on the tracks.

Cycle Track Proposal
The Boston Cyclists Union and Livable Streets have proposed eliminating the bike lanes in this segment
of Commonwealth Avenue, and instead creating a cycle track (sometimes also called a protected bike
lane) to the right of on-street parking. The proposal has a one-way cycle track at the roadway level,
not at the sidewalk level, between parked cars and a raised curb, in each direction, with only a 1-ft.
buffer (with bollards) between the 6-ft cycle track and parked cars. The organizations propose a second
alternative: cycle track adjacent to the median, separated from the travel lanes by a 2 ft buffer (with
The Boston Cyclists Union points to the high number of bicyclist injuries on Commonwealth Avenue as the
reason that a cycle track must be installed. BCU claims that a cycle track would address 33% of reported
crashes--almost all doorings. In fact, the cycle tracks would have both positive and negative effects on
crashes, but most of the positive effects could be obtained by the proposal to add a buffer zone to the
existing bike lane. The following sections review the likely effect of cycle tracks on the different types of
Effect on Overtaking Crashes
When people talk about the need to separate bicyclists from motor traffic, they typically have in mind
the threat of motor vehicles striking bicyclists from behind. However, only one collision of the 100 on
Commonwealth Avenue involved a motorist overtaking during daylight (and that one resulted in only
minor injuries). The major way to eliminate the few overtaking collisions consists of getting bicyclists to
use rear lights at night and reducing drunk driving. Most car-bike collisions are due to completely
different circumstances which are not improved by installing cycle tracks.
Effect on Dooring Crashes
A bike lane with a 3-4 ft buffer between the bike lane and the parking lane would reduce or eliminate
dooring crashes. The proposed curbside cycle track has an insufficient (1 ft) buffer from parked cars. The
median cycle track would not be adjacent to parked cars. However, neither option is necessary: add a
buffer to the right of the bike lane, and bicyclists will not ride within range of opening doors, thereby
almost eliminating the problem.
Effect on Right-Turn Crashes
The effect of a curbside cycle track on right-turn crashes depends on intersection design. A 2014 report
on cycle tracks found few conflicts between right-turning motorists and straight-through bicyclists on
the cycle track. However, the report based its conclusions on a review of only two intersection designs:
Intersections where the protected lane is discontinued for an average of 205 ft (range of 155
to 323 ft) in favor of a right-turn only lane with bicycle markings;
Intersections where straight-through bicyclist and turning motorist movements happen on
separate signal phases.
The report did not evaluate intersections where turns are made across the cycle track without a
separate bicycle signal phase.
The right-turn only lane solution requires more right-turn lane distance, and greater loss of parking, than
an ordinary bike lane and right-turn lane where the bicyclists are already on the left side of the parked
cars, visible to approaching motorists wishing to turn right.
Even if a cycle track has separate signal phases or long right-turn lanes at every major intersection, it will
have driveways and minor streets where approaching bicyclists will be hidden behind parked cars. This
road segment has BU parking lots, a gas station, a tire store, and several unsignalized intersections.
The median cycle track proposal makes the right-turn problem into a left-turn problem. Given that left
turns are only allowed at some major intersections, the scope of the turning conflict problem is reduced.
However, getting to and from the median cycle track is problematic, as discussed below.
Effect on Motorist Drive-Out
At sign-controlled intersections and driveways, motorists must yield to approaching traffic. With a cycle
track, they must first yield to bicyclists, then pull out further in order to see around the parked cars to
yield to cars on the main road. They may block the cycle track while waiting for traffic in the travel lane.
Worse, motorists may not realize that there is moving traffic (bicycles) between the curb and the parked
cars and may not look before pulling out to a place where they have a vantage point of the travel lane.
Effect on Parking-Related Crashes
There were four cases in the crashes analyzed where a bicyclist was struck by a motorist turning to enter
on-street parking or stopping in the bike lane. Although one might think a curbside cycle track might
eliminate this type of crash, this may not be the case. With only a painted line, not a curb, for guidance,
parking motorists may inadvertently back into the cycle track, which would be separated only by a 1 ft
painted buffer from the parking lane.
Effect on Bus Stops and Bus Passengers
There are currently 14 MBTA bus stops between Brighton Avenue and Beacon Street (although only the
portion between Brighton Avenue and the BU Bridge is part of the current street redesign). Buses need
to pull to a raised curb to accommodate passengers using wheelchairs. Either the cycle track would have
to be interrupted at bus stops, or separate islands would have to be created at bus stops. In the latter
case, buses would stop in the travel lane, since the island would be in the parking lane. Each stop would
need ramps and crosswalks to connect the boarding island with the sidewalk. Bus passengers might not
think to look for bicyclists before crossing the cycle track, or might stand in the cycle track. New York City
and Chicago have addressed this problem by installing cycle tracks only on one-way streets, on the side
opposite the one served by bus stops.
Effect on Signal Compliance
For a curbside cycle track continued all the way to the intersection, there must be a separate signal
phase for right-turning motorists. Adding a separate phase reduces the amount of time available for
bicyclists going straight. Motorists waiting for a right-turn signal will block the lane for through traffic.
WIth the reduced time available, bicyclists may be more likely to violate the signal. Right-turning
motorists will also be tempted to make a right turn on red, even if signs are posted prohibiting this, and
especially if more time is given to the bicyclists.
A left side (median) cycle track eliminates the conflict with right turns, but creates conflicts with left
turns. Further, the only point of entry to the cycle track will be at signalized intersections, since there will
be a barrier between the left-side cycle track and the travel lanes. Bicyclists will have to ride on the
sidewalk to the next traffic signal, wait for a walk signal, and then repeat the process when coming to
the traffic signal closest to their destination. Since they will have to wait for the signal twice for every
trip, they will be more likely to take chances. Bicyclists will be tempted to start crossing at the end of the
pedestrian phase, rather than waiting the entire cycle length, and may be caught as the light changes.
Bicyclists will also have an awkward transition from the proposed left side bike lane to the existing right
side bike lanes or shared lanes at the ends of the corridor, also involving waiting for a special signal
phase and making 90 degree turns.
Effect on Crashes Not Involving Motor Vehicles
For every bicyclist treated in a hospital because of a collision with a car, there are three sent to the
hospital because of an injury not involving a motor vehicle (per the Massachusetts DPH data previously
cited). Therefore, it is more important to consider the effect on collisions not involving motor vehicles,
including collisions with pedestrians and other bicyclists, and falls due to road hazards.
A raised curb or a bollard is one such hazard. Bicyclists need a 2-ft. shy distance from these objects,
since a bicyclist could strike a pedal and fall. Since a 4 ft buffer is needed on the parked car side, the
effective width of the proposed curbside cycle track is only 1 ft (6 ft cycle track + 1 ft buffer - 4 ft parked
car shy distance - 2 ft curb shy distance), which is smaller than the 2.5 ft assumed bicycle handlebar
width. The left-side cycle track, which would also be 6 ft plus 1 ft buffer, has a raised curb on one side
and a bollard on the other, but would not be within reach of opening doors. It has an effective width of 3
ft. In either case, there is insufficient room for one bicyclists to pass another safely. Nonetheless, faster
cyclists will be tempted to pass slower ones, leading to a risk of collision either with a curb, a bollard, a
car door, or another bicyclist. On the uphill sections, there is a speed differential due to ability; on the
downhill sections, speed is limited more by how fast one thinks is prudent to go in such a narrow area.
For the median option, there is no room for cyclists to wait at the signal to use the crosswalk to get to
the curb or to make a left turn. Waiting cyclists may block those using the cycle track.
Cycle tracks that are not part of the roadway are also less like to be free of wet leaves, sand, ice and
snow, leading to more falls. It is difficult to remove snow from such a narrow area. It is likely that a
curbside cycle track will become a storage area for snow in the winter. Motor vehicles help to melt snow
and ice, so the road will typically be less slippery than the cycle track. With parking between the cycle
track and the travel lanes, snow left in the parking lane will melt and refreeze onto the cycle track.
Pedestrians are less cautious when entering places where motor vehicles are not allowed. There is a risk
of collisions between bicyclists and pedestrians entering the cycle track at midblock (to get to parked
cars or bus stops). When crossing the street at a signalized intersection, pedestrians may wait in the
cycle track. Pedestrians may also not be aware that there is moving traffic beyond the parking lane. A
2014 study found that 63% of bicyclists using the Dearborn Avenue cycle track in Chicago said that
pedestrians standing in the cycle track while waiting to cross the road was a major problem and also
48% said people walking on the cycle track was a major problem. The numbers were lower, but still
troubling, for the Milwaukee Avenue cycle track: 25% said pedestrians standing and 26% said
pedestrians walking in the cycle track were major problems. Furthermore, 59% of bicyclists on Dearborn
Avenue said they had a near collision with a pedestrian and 25% of those on Milwaukee Avenue said
they had a near collision with a pedestrian. The explanation for the higher risk on Dearborn Avenue is
that it is a two-way cycle track, confounding pedestrians expectations when stepping off the curb. The
Milwaukee Avenue cycle tracks are intended for use in one direction only.
Effect on Bicyclist Left-Turn Collisions
With a curbside cycle track, bicyclists will no longer be able to use left-turn lanes to turn left (by
merging). They will need to make pedestrian-style turns to turn left, which may require waiting twice for
the same traffic signal--once to cross the side street and a second time to cross Commonwealth Avenue.
They may be tempted to do this without stopping and waiting for the light to change -- as happened in
two cases in this study where a bicyclist made a left turn from the bike lane and collided with a
same-direction motor vehicle.
With a median cycle track, bicyclists will have to wait for the signal in order to enter and exit the cycle
track, and will not have direct access to bike parking or building entrances on the sidewalk (or to
driveways and unsignalized side streets). The longer the signal delay, the less likely people are to
comply with signals. They will have to make awkward maneuvers to ride along the crosswalk and then
turn 90 degrees to enter the cycle track.
Effect on Bicyclist Mobility and Harassment
There are several ways in which the proposed cycle tracks limit bicyclist mobility, several of which have
been mentioned. With the cycle track, bicyclists:
cannot merge into left-turn only lane to make left turn (if curbside);
must ride on the sidewalk to access driveways, minor streets, and bicycle parking on the
sidewalk (if the cycle track is on the median);
have insufficient room for passing other bicyclists;
Lessons from the Green Lanes: Evaluating Protected Bike Lanes in the U.S. Christopher Monsere, Jennifer Dill, Kelly
Clifton, and Nathan McNeil. National Institute for Transportation and Communities. NITC-RR-583, June 2014.

need to slow to less than half the posted speed limit, especially on downhill sections, due to the
narrow space, greater likelihood of surface hazards, and the inability to merge into the travel
lane to pass;
will experience additional signal delay where there are separate signal phases for bicyclists.

Bicyclist going downhill at the St Paul Street intersection (inbound) stays outside the door zone by riding in the
travel lane (pedestrian is crossing against the signal).
Bicyclists who want to avoid the additional delay and dangers of the cycle track have a legal right to use
the roadway. Because the travel lanes will be narrowed, they will need to ride in the middle of the travel
lane to deter motorists from squeezing by (and to be outside the door zone). Furthermore, they will
need to do so for the entire length, because there is no way to merge from the bicycle facility to the rest
of the roadway (as there is with an ordinary bike lane). It is highly likely that bicyclists who choose to
exercise the right to ride on the road under such conditions, where motorists know that there is a bicycle
facility adjacent, will encounter frequent harassment. Most of these incidents will consist of honks,
curses, and threats only, but some may include deliberately dangerous driving. At the extreme, these
incidents can become assault with a deadly weapon (a motor vehicle). This is not so unlikely, given that
two such cases were reported on this one section of roadway.
Reducing bicyclist injuries on Commonwealth Avenue could best be accomplished by adding a buffer to
keep bicyclists out of the door zone and adding right-turn lanes while enforcing traffic laws that are
currently rarely enforced (motorists merge right before turning right; bicyclists obey traffic signals, use
lights at night, and ride with the direction of traffic). Providing more opportunities for skills training for
bicyclists would support these efforts and also address the of bicyclist emergency room visits that are
not related to motor vehicle collisions.
Eliminating the bike lane in favor of a cycle track would not provide any additional reductions in injuries
beyond those that could be accomplished by these measures. Cycle tracks could actually be
counterproductive by increasing motorist turning crashes, bicyclist signal violation crashes, and crashes
not involving motor vehicles. Moreover, a cycle track would significantly limit the mobility of bicyclists
compared to a bike lane that is a portion of the roadway. Alternative routes through the area on parallel
low-traffic streets should be developed to accommodate local (BU campus) bicycle traffic.

Appendix A: Summary of Bicyclist Injuries with Road Design Project Area
The planned road reconstruction project consists of a subset of the study area for this project, namely,
the portion of Commonwealth Avenue from Alcorn Street to a point 200 feet west of the BU Bridge. Of
the 100 crashes in the larger area, 58 were within the project area. The types of these crashes is
summarized in the table below. In general, there is little difference between the subsample of 58 and
the full 100 crashes.

Appendix B: Relevant Traffic Laws
Manner of Making Right Turns
Drivers have two legal responsibilities when preparing a turning to the right:
1. Merge right. "When turning to the right, an operator shall do so in the lane of traffic nearest to
the right-hand side of the roadway and as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of
roadway." Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 90, Section 14
2. Signal. "Every person operating a motor vehicle, before stopping said vehicle or making any
turning movement which would affect the operation of any other vehicle, shall give a plainly
visible signal . . ." Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 90, Section 14B
Since a bike lane is a lane of traffic, the first rule means merging into the bike lane in advance of turning,
rather than making the turn from the next lane over, across the bike lane. Right-turning motorists who
merge into the bike lane (that is, after making a safe lane change) may temporarily block the lane, but
they make it much harder for bicyclists to pass on their right, which is unsafe.
It is frequently not "practicable" for large trucks to merge all the way to the curb and still complete the
turn without rolling over the sidewalk.
Motorist are not allowed to pass a bicyclist and then immediately turn; this is a violation of the lane
position rule. If you pass at a safe distance to the left as required by MGL Ch. 89 Sec 2, you cannot also
be "as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway," which is where you must be
before making a turn. This idea is reinforced by another part of Ch. 90 Sec 14: "No person operating a
vehicle that overtakes and passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall make a right turn at
an intersection or driveway unless the turn can be made at a safe distance from the bicyclist at a speed
that is reasonable and proper."
This rule only applies to the case where the motorist is passing the
bicyclist, not when the bicyclist is passing the motorist.
Massachusetts law, unique among the 50 states, gives bicyclists
permission to pass on the right without limitation. However, just
because a bicyclist does not commit a violation for passing on the
right doesn't mean it is illegal for motorists to turn right without first
checking their mirrors. The Turning Vehicles Yield to Bikes (see
illustration) that were added to Commonwealth Avenue in 2013 are
not enforceable, since there is no statute requiring motorists to
yield. They are not part of the Boston Sign Code Guide. (There is a
rule requiring motorists to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk when turning right.)

Opening Vehicle Door
Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 90, Section 14 states, among many other things, No person
shall open a door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so without interfering with the
movement of other traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians. Although the rule has been long part of
the traffic laws of most states, it only went into effect in January 2009, at the beginning of the data
collection period.
Operating on the Sidewalk
Massachusetts General Law (MGL) Chapter 90, Section 14 states that bicycles may be ridden on
sidewalks outside business districts when necessary in the interest of safety, unless otherwise directed
by local ordinance. City of Boston Traffic Rules and Regulations say that a bicycle is a vehicle when the
provisions of these Rules are applicable to them. Further, they say that The driver of a vehicle shall not
drive on or over any sidewalk except at a permanent or temporary driveway. This could be interpreted
as a local regulation that further restricts sidewalk bicycling. Alternatively, this could be one of those
unspecified places when the provisions of the rules are not applicable. If bicyclists do use the sidewalk,
they should follow pedestrian rules (as is explicitly stated in many state vehicle codes). One of these
rules is No pedestrian shall leave a sidewalk or safety island and walk or run into the path of a moving
vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield the right-of-way. This means that a
sidewalk bicyclist should slow, look, and yield before entering any crosswalk.
Operating with the Flow of Traffic
Massachusetts has not adopted the traffic rules that say that all vehicles keep to the right half of the
road and may not pass a Do Not Enter sign. However, courts have said that the rule that a vehicle must
turn out to the right when meeting a vehicle approaching from the other direction means that it must
normally operate on the right side of the road. Also, City of Boston traffic rules include a list of streets
where traffic may only operate in one direction.
Nighttime Equipment
MGL Ch. 85 Sec 11B has the basic rule for nighttime equipment on bicycles: (8) During the period from
one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, the operator shall display to the front of his
bicycle a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet, and to the rear
of said bicycle either a lamp emitting a red light, or a red reflector visible for not less than six hundred
feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A generator
powered lamp which emits light only when the bicycle is moving shall meet the requirements of this
In addition to requiring front and rear illumination, Massachusetts has a non-standard rule that requires
pedal or leg reflectors: (9) During the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before
sunrise, the operator shall display on each pedal of his bicycle a reflector, or around each of his ankles
reflective material visible from the front and rear for a distance of six hundred feet, and reflectors or
reflective material, either on said bicycle or on the person of the operator, visible on each side for a
distance of six hundred feet, when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps of a motor
vehicle. This clause shall not prohibit a bicycle or its operator to be equipped with lights or reflectors in
addition to those required by clauses (8) and (9).
Driving Motor Vehicles in Bike Lanes
The only city or state law applying to the use of bike lanes is MGL Chapter 89 Section 4B: Upon all ways
the driver of a vehicle shall drive in the lane nearest the right side of the way when such lane is available
for travel, except when overtaking another vehicle or when preparing for a left turn. When the right lane
has been constructed or designated for purposes other than ordinary travel, a driver shall drive his
vehicle in the lane adjacent to the right lane except when overtaking another vehicle or when preparing
for a left or right turn; provided, however, that a driver may drive his vehicle in such right lane if signs
have been erected by the department of highways permitting the use of such lane.
Since a bike lane is designated for purposes other than ordinary travel, motorists must use the lane
adjacent except when overtaking or preparing for a left or right turn. Thus it is explicitly authorized for
motorists to use a bike lane to overtake on the right (when the vehicle ahead is signaling left) and to
prepare for a right turn. However, in either case, MGL Ch. 89 Section 4A applies: the driver of a vehicle .
. . shall not move from the lane in which he is driving until he has first ascertained if such movement can be
made with safety.
The statute does not contemplate left-side bike lanes. There is no general prohibition on driving in them.
It could be argued that a driver who attempts to drive a 6-ft wide motor vehicle in a 4-ft wide bike lane
is violating the rule that the driver of a vehicle shall so drive that the vehicle shall be entirely within a
single lane. However, if this were the case, when making a right turn, he or she would also be violating
the rule that the right turn must be made in the lane of traffic nearest to the right-hand side of the
roadway and as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of roadway. And in the case of
left-side bike lanes, he or she would be violating the rule that the turn must be made from the lane of
traffic to the right of and nearest to the center line of the roadway.
Parking in Bike Lanes
City of Boston Traffic Rules and Regulations prohibit stopping, standing, or parking Upon any roadway,
unless both wheels on the side of the vehicle adjacent to the curb are within one (1) foot of the curb or
edge of the roadway, except where angle parking is permitted or commercial vehicles, as defined, are
permitted to back to the curb or edge of the roadway. Therefore, where bike lanes are adjacent to
on-street parking it is illegal to stop, stand, or park in them. Each of these terms has a specific meaning:
Stopping is defined as The halting, even momentarily of a vehicle, whether occupied or not,
except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic.
Standing is defined as The halting of a vehicle, whether occupied or not, other than for the
purpose of, and while actually engaged in, receiving or discharging passengers.
Parking is defined as The stopping or standing of a vehicle, whether occupied or not.
Therefore, if there is an occupied parking lane, it is not lawful to discharge passengers while stopped in a
travel lane or a bike lane. However, motorists must stop at least temporarily to back into on-street
parking, and because on-street parking in Boston is generally priced well below market levels, it is
common for motorists to wait next to spaces that might soon become available. In addition, taxi drivers
frequently discharge passengers in travel lanes because it is impossible to reach the curb. Bus stops
would be a logical place for taxis to pick up and discharge passengers, but the Traffic Rules and
Regulations prohibit even stopping (to discharge passengers) in all bus stops.
Where bike lanes are adjacent to a curb, there was no general prohibition on parking in them until the
adoption of a new ordinance in 2009 that prohibits standing or parking in a marked bike lane. The
ordinance does not prohibit stopping to discharge or receive passengers. However, the standard sign
for bike lanes in the Boston Sign Code Book is No Stopping Bike Lane.