With cyclists agitating for more safety measures as the city builds out bike-specific infrastructure, Harvard Business School student Michael Algra wants two-wheeled commuters to wear a warning on their backs — literally.
Algra, 27, is selling a can’t-miss neon yellow T-shirt and backpack cover that double as moving road signs. Printed on the back, in bold type with reflective lettering, is the warning:“[Cyclists] May Use Full Lane, Change Lanes to Pass.”
“I think drivers want to do what’s best for cyclists — a lot of times they just can’t see the cyclist,” Algra said. “I think they are more unaware of cyclists, than aggressive.”
He has launched a fund-raising campaign in November on Kickstarter, and has already surpassed his goal of $10,000 to help with manufacturing costs for his company, Respect My Lane. A short-sleeve T-shirt sells for $24, and a backpack cover sells for $19, according to the early bird prices on Kickstarter.
A native of Alberta, Canada, Algra has competed in races, including triathlons, and even brought his bike during a one-year service trip to Madagascar. He typically rides to school and around Boston over weekends.
When he was biking up to Somerville one day in the summer, he saw someone who had written “cyclists may use full lane,” in marker on a green shirt. Inspired, he thought a better-produced shirt could be successful and created Respect My Lane to increase awareness and promote biker safety.
Cycling has become increasingly popular in the region, but the narrow, crowded local roads can make for some risky riding. There is a range of data on cyclist injuries and fatalities in the Greater Boston area, but generally there are hundreds of accidents a year involving cyclists, according to figures kept by Boston Emergency Medical Services.
In November, 19-year-old Antawani Wright Davis was hit and killed by a dump truck in Dorchester. Additionally, there was a spate of high-profile fatalities from 2010 to 2015, a five-year period when at least 13 cyclists died biking in the city.
While Boston and Cambridge are adding dedicated bike lanes to separate cyclists from cars, many riders complain there aren’t nearly enough. Earlier in December, a group of cyclists created a human bike lane on Congress Street bridge, after a drawn-in impromptu lane was washed away by authorities. The idea was to “intended to bring attention to inadequate or absent bicycle facilities,” nonprofit Boston Cyclists Union says.
Algra was there the night of the human bike lane, standing as part of the efforts decked out in his gear. He said his products “got a lot of great attention.”
Joshua Zisson, 34, creator of the blog Bike Safe Boston and an attorney at practice that specializes in representing bikers, said Algra’s efforts are an important attempt at educating drivers.
“Everyone knows a car has to stop for a stop sign,” he said. “But what about a bike?”
Zisson thinks the more critical factor in improving bike safety will be the road protections Boston and other communities are installing. Indeed, Algra said when he came to Boston a year and a half ago, he was impressed by the bike infrastructure, like indicated bike lanes, in place.
“This city, more than most cities I’ve lived in, is a great place to bike,” he said. “We just need to change some behaviors.”Natasha Mascarenhas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.