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MBTA to allow more wheels on bus, subway

In an effort to make public transportation more accessible, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is striving to accommodate Boston cyclists, an MBTA official said at a public meeting in the College of Arts and Sciences On Tuesday night.

MBTA Project Director Erik Scheier said the MBTA is adding bike-parking stations for cyclists in 95 percent of commuter rail stations and equipping 70 percent of busses with bike racks

“Oftentimes we’re so worried about trains and buses, we forget about other modes of transportation,” Scheier said.

David Watson, the executive director of MassBike and professor of applied social science in the Metropolitan College, invited Scheier to speak.

More than half of the bus routes in the city have buses with racks for cyclists, Scheier said.

The MBTA will have buses on all routes geared with bike racks for commuters by 2012 to help keep cyclists safe as well as boosting revenue.

Under the new program, bus drivers are subject to defensive driving courses and must renew certification every one or two years.

Scheier said cases of drivers cutting bikers off in crowded streets have been reported on numerous occasions.

Scheier also urged bikers who have been victims of these incidents to report the number of the bus and location to the MBTA.

“To have bicycling grow in the city, we have to go through people in the community and bus drivers who don’t care and inexperienced cyclists,” he said.

In addition the bike-rack initiative, Scheier said the MBTA’s Pedal and Park program has been aiming to bridge the gap between cyclists and public transportation since 2008 by creating “cages,” enclosed parking areas for commuters to lock up their bikes. Each cage has security cameras and is accessible by CharlieCard.

MBTA advocates, including WalkBoston and MassBike, view the integration of biking and public transportation as a necessary step in improving transportation, Scheier said.

“East Boston is geographically isolated,” Watson said. “You can ride a bike to East Boston, but when you get there, if where you need to go isn’t applicable to a bike, then you can’t go.”

Six more Pedal and Park cages are scheduled for construction by early fall in locations such as South Station, Davis Square, Oak Grove and Ashmont, Scheier said.

The number of cyclist commuters has been increasing since the introduction of the bike parking areas, but several bike racks have been inconveniently placed at certain stations.

“I am involved with Livable Streets Alliance so I’ve been familiar with the program but education is very important,” said Kara Oberg, a Metropolitan College graduate student.

Scheier said that Boston is one of the many cities that has recently been reaching out to its cyclists. The bike racks on the Portland, Ore., streetcars and large scale bike cages in Washington state serve as national examples of how the collaboration of cycling and public transportation has helped commuters.

“I think it’s when we start planning for more and talking about new Pedal and Park stations do we get positive feedback from the community,” Scheier said.

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