Drivers and cyclists share the tightly packed thoroughfares of Greater Boston. Now state and local leaders want them to get a bit closer — and come together in one room.
On Tuesday, Feb. 23, state legislators and elected officials from Boston and Cambridge will convene a Bike Safety Forum at Suffolk University. The event will focus on what changes to current state laws need to be made — and what changes are already underway — to better accommodate cyclists and make the roads safer for those traveling the busy streets.
“The goal is to pass legislation that will be effective in helping to improve bike safety,” said state Senator William Brownsberger, one of the event’s lead organizers. “And the concept of the forum is to have a dialogue between municipalities, the people who operate large vehicles, and cyclists, and to talk about what’s practical and effective.”
Brownsberger, who recently filed legislation calling for the installation of protective side-guards on certain large vehicles statewide, said the forum will begin with a panel discussion featuring representatives from Cambridge, Boston, the Legislature, the Massachusetts Motor Transportation Association, and the MBTA.
After the main speaking event, attendees will break into smaller groups to discuss issues commonly faced by cyclists on the roads, such as cars and trucks blocking bike lanes and large vehicles making sharp turns.
The smaller groups will also discuss ways to better educate drivers and cyclists about road safety and current state laws.
An avid cyclist himself, Brownsberger said cyclists and motorists need to “mend the gap” and learn to share the road. “We all need to work together to improve safety,” he said.
Brownsberger said Boston and Cambridge officials were called to the table to take part in the discussions because each municipality has done a lot to address the “coexistence of cyclists and other vehicles on the road.”
Boston passed a side-guard ordinance in 2014, after a successful pilot program. The ordinance now requires all large city-contracted vehicles to be fitted with side-guards.
Cambridge also installed side-guards on many of its large, city-owned vehicles.
Side-guards can be placed between the front and back wheels of large vehicles to help push cyclists away from the vehicle in the event of a crash.
Becca Wolfson, interim executive director of the Boston Cyclists Union, a nonprofit that helped organize the event, said the forum will be a great way to get everyone on the same page about bike safety efforts.
“It’s great that at the state level they are bringing everyone together so that we know about different efforts in different municipalities,” she said.
A website, MaBikeSafety.com, has been set up to support the event. People who can’t attend the forum can share their personal experiences and concerns about biking in the Boston area on the site.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.