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How Boston Is Looking to Mirrors to Protect Cyclists

October 1, 2014
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How Boston Is Looking to Mirrors to Protect Cyclists
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing new measures for bike safety. Flickr Creative Commons
The roads must be safe before ridership will increase.

Building safer roads for cyclists is fast becoming a priority in many cities across the country, but Boston is taking it a step further by asking other drivers to take safety precautions, too.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing an ordinance asking that all trucks weighing in at 10,000 pounds or more begin installing side guards and curved mirrors designed to help prevent cyclist deaths.

“The Act to Protect Vulnerable Road Users” was created in partnership with the city’s New Urban Mechanics innovation lab. The design was developed in the wake of an increase in Boston cyclist deaths in 2012, which mostly involved accidents with large automobiles like trucks and buses, according to New Urban Mechanics program director Kris Carter.

Between summer and fall of 2012, five cyclists were killed, according to the Boston’s Cyclist Safety Report. This past July alone, two cyclists were injured after colliding with trucks, Boston.com reports.

“If a cyclist is continuing straight, a common crash is a vehicle turns right and doesn’t necessarily see the cyclist,” Carter tells Fast Company, noting that the danger lies with those bikers getting pulled under a vehicle. “It’s pretty rare that a cyclist who goes underneath the vehicle survives.

The New Urban Mechanics lab ran a pilot program using three designs on 16 trucks. Should the new ordinance pass, oversized trucks will be required to be outfitted with the side rails and convex mirrors along with bright, reflective stickers to indicate blind spots for cyclists and pedestrians. Carter estimates that the new features will cost about $1,200 to $1,800 per vehicle.

“Really, this is a public health issue, because before we can talk about cycling and wanting to strengthen, improve and expand infrastructure, we must first be honest that the critical component is to improve ridership,” says Councilor-at-Large Ayanna Pressley, who is one of the lawmakers spearheading the ordinance. “People have to feel safe.”

While it may be new territory for American municipalities, mandatory side guards have been in practice in many European cities. In fact, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board made a recommendation earlier this year that regulators should make side guards mandatory on new trucks.

We’re glad to see one American city driving change for safer roads.

MORE: The Verdict on Protected Bike Lanes

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