Columns, Opinion

MOOK: Watch that door

Have you ever been ‘doored’ while biking and not quite known how to handle the situation? After a near-death experience, in the frenzy of shock, anger and injury, it’s hard to tell what the best way is to hit the jerk up for money after he just hit you with his door. But now, thanks to the Massachusetts Bicycle Safety Law, just passed into effect in January, you can feel comfortable asking, along with any ensuing legal or medical costs, up to $100, which is the Massachusetts fine for dooring someone.

Senate Bill No. 2573 requires acts of common sense for drivers, such as changing lanes to pass bikers, not hitting bikers when they’re riding to the right of traffic and not opening your door when a biker (or pedestrian) is within striking distance. As stated in Section 12, ‘Whoever violates the proceeding sentence shall be punished by a fine of not more than $100.’

So depending on the scope of the damage, you can demand your rights as a cyclist. This can be expressed as: ‘Hey, buddy! You either hand over 60 bucks to me, or we can get the cops involved and you’ll owe $100 to the city!’

On the flip side, Massachusetts law already requires bikers to adhere to all applicable motor vehicle laws, such as coming to a complete stop at stop signs and using hand signals. Legally, bikers can now ride two abreast, but no more than two, and can only take up one lane of traffic. Imagine, instead of blocking rush-hour traffic as a huge clump, the Critical Mass parades of hundreds of bikers ride as two long lines stretching down the street, stopping at lights, filling up random blocks throughout the city.’

Also, all riders ages 16 and under are required to wear helmets.’ Bike rental shops must supply helmets. too.’ And the bike registration law was repealed for being an unenforced waste of resources.

This is a great achievement for the grassroots cyclist organizations that have pushed this bill for years, writing and calling legislators and governors, asking to place accountability on drivers for dangerous and irresponsible conduct.

Of course, laws only go as far as they’re enforced, and we all know the relationship between bikers and cops has been a historically strained one.’ So the law firstly applies to police departments by requiring a bike safety curriculum in their training. This may lead to more enforcement on the streets and cops understanding the trials of being an urban biker. Now, if we could only get some mutual respect of the law from the bikers, we’ll stand in good stead.

The thing that really gets me though is that it takes such a law and the threat of fines to get it into everyone’s head that people are getting hurt. Cars can be deadly weapons, and we’re talking about saving lives.’ The real shame of the reality of cycling in Boston is the chance of death involved in choosing a bicycle as a mode of transportation. And each intersection with a ‘ghost bike’ memorial reminds me – we have a long way to go.

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