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Cambridge cracks down on cyclists

Traffic enforcers are now taking an aggressive stance against bicycle riders in Cambridge who do not follow the rules of the road, even issuing tickets to violators, Cambridge Police Department officials said.
Ticketing bicyclists is part of the broader effort to increase traffic safety that began with an education campaign, moved to issuing warnings and now involves handing out citations, CPD spokesman Frank Pasquarello said.
‘This has to be addressed before it becomes a serious problem,’ Pasquarello said. ‘It’s the same roads, so the same laws have to be applied.’
Pasquarello said the citations, which the CPD began issuing several years ago, have been more effective than previous efforts.
‘People don’t listen to warnings,’ he said. ‘But they’re starting to get the message now.’
Some bicyclists think tickets are unfair, Assistant Manager of the Cambridge Bicycle shop Arwen Downs said.
‘Some citations are handed out unduly . . . just because cyclists are easier to catch than cars,’ she said.
Downs said the bicycle laws are not enforced evenly, noting that cyclists ride on sidewalks all the time without getting tickets, but will get caught for riding through a red light.
‘Until cyclists are treated just as other riders on the road, [the citations] will be more of an annoyance than anything,’ she said.
Boston bicyclists are not issued traffic tickets because they are considered pedestrians, but bicycle messengers working for courier companies can be given citations, Boston Police Department spokeswoman Jill McLaughlin said.
Boston Bike Director Nicole Freedman said bike lanes recently installed on Commonwealth Avenue are a sign of progress for bicycle safety. The lanes currently run between Kenmore Square and the Boston University Bridge.
Freedman also cited a large effort to encourage people to ride bicycles instead of cars, because bicyclists benefit from ‘safety in numbers.’
‘The more bikes are on the road, the more cars expect cyclists and the less chance there is of accidents,’ she said.
‘Good design dictates good behavior,’ she said. ‘Well-designed bike facilities can go a long way in improving safety.’
Freedman said bike safety is such an important issue because it affects more than just the cyclists.
‘Pedestrians feel like cyclists are endangering them, cyclists feel like cars are endangering them and cars feel like cyclists are reckless – it’s almost a vicious cycle of people pointing fingers at each other,’ she said.
BU needs to address bicycle safety, College of Arts and Sciences senior Andrew Slotnick said.
‘People on Comm. Ave. show pretty flagrant disregard for the rules,’ said Slotnick, who rides his bike daily. ‘You see people flying through red lights all the time.’
Though Slotnick said bicyclists and cars should not be held to the same standard, he said they should still obey the rules of the road.
‘Riding a bike isn’t the same as driving a huge machine,’ he said. ‘But you still have to take some responsibility.’

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  1. by “hit” I mean Stopped by the CPD

  2. I was stopped tonight on my way home from a community meeting in Central Square. I rode slowly and safely halfway across the street to the median with a batch of pedestrians who saw the clear way of absolutely no cars. I waited for the traffic and then, with the pedestrians, continued. I was not zipping through a red light. I was sober, with lights and helmet, moving slowly and safely home in my own neighborhood. Suddenly someone came at me talking. I could not tell what she was saying or if she was talking to me. So I kept riding. She grabbed and pulled my bike to a stop and started talking about a red light. She accused me of breaking her fingernail! She asked for my license. I was riding a bike. I did not need a driver’s license. She threatened to search my purse. (without a warrant). She hit me with a $20 ticket. Sure I will take responsibility, for my safety and the safety of those around me, but this is nuts. How can we be cars in Cambridge and pedestrians in Boston?