Massachusetts has been ranked the fourth most bicycle-friendly state nationally and first in the eastern region for 2017, marking the second year in a row the Commonwealth has held this position.
Organized by the League of American Bicyclists, each state is ranked based on their “Bicycle Friendly Actions,” which include categories such as infrastructure, funding, education, policies and enforcement, according to the report card for the state.
Massachusetts ranked third for the infrastructure and funding as well as evaluation and planning categories, securing its place in fourth overall.
Ken McLeod, the policy director for Bike League, wrote in an email the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has intentions for a culture change focused on providing “safe transportation options to its citizens,” which helped the state in its ranking.
“There is a lot of evidence that MassDOT is changing its culture and is committed to providing multi-modal transportation options rather than the traditional state DOT role of providing limited access high-speed roadways focused on moving people between communities in the state or between states,” McLeod wrote.
McLeod wrote Massachusetts continues to be ranked in the top five due to initiatives and regulations promoting alternative transportation, such as the 2015 Separated Bike Lane Planning and Design Guide as well as their GreenDOT regulation and Health Transportation Policy Directive.
“Biking and walking are great solutions for moving people within communities and more states are realizing that they have ignored these solutions in the past — but Massachusetts has more evidence of this realization than many states,” McLeod wrote.
Lauren LeClaire, the spokesperson for the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said while there have been improvements in raising awareness for bicyclists, legislation and enforcement are still holding Massachusetts back.
“One of the really important pieces in terms of improving the safety for bicyclists that MassBike is focusing on is this 3-foot passing law that in this larger omnibus bill is super important,” LeClaire said. “Right now, we don’t have any sort of safe passing distance defined when drivers are interacting with bicyclists so this would establish that and allow us to deal with that enforcement piece.”
LeClaire said it’s important to maintain the enforcement piece, for both drivers and bicyclists, on both sides.
“In terms of safety, we got more people on the roadways and more people biking than ever before,” LeClaire said. “It’s really a safety in numbers kind of situation because you see riderships go up and you see more people commuting, more people are getting out on their bikes, but the injury rates are remaining pretty steady.”
Several Boston residents said they were surprised at Massachusetts’ ranking given their own experience on the roads.
Justin Smith, 26, of Roslindale, said bike safety, especially where he lives, should be taken seriously and it’s reassuring to see Massachusetts’ response to the issue.
“They have bike lanes, but people just drive right through it,” Smith said. “There’s one main street that cuts through Roslindale and you can see accidents happening there all the time.”
Daniel Palomares, 28, of Dorchester, said when exiting Ubers, he makes sure to be extra cautious because a lot of times bike riders are not wearing helmets and weave through lanes.
Palomares said from his perspective, biking doesn’t look safe, but he assumes it has gotten better with the addition of more bike lanes.
“They don’t have many [bike lanes] in Dorchester but I know they have them up and down Massachusetts Ave,” Palomares said. “It looks like that’s helped a lot especially in certain areas where they have cars blocked off so they’re not blocking the path.”
Lauren Sacks, 26, of Jamaica Plain, said when biking to work, there have been multiple times where she has come very close to being hit by a car.
“I don’t really think cars care too much for the bike lanes so they just pass through them like it’s no big deal,” Sacks said. “More needs to be done so I don’t feel scared for my safety and so I can bike without worrying if I’m going to be hit by a car or not.”