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Cyclists are putting red cups in the road to show how drivers often invade bike lanes

The cups on Beacon Street in Newton.Bike Newton

At around 6:30 a.m. Friday, members of Bike Newton placed a line of red Solo cups along the buffer zone separating the bike lane on Beacon Street from the cars driving by on the left.

By 7:30 a.m., many of those cups had been crushed by passing vehicles.

“There is no reason cups should have been knocked over,” the group said in a tweet that included a picture of the flattened cups. “No vehicle should have been driving in the buffer. This is the most direct route for people biking into downtown. It needs protection.”

The experiment was meant to show how cars often impinge on marked bike lanes that are not separated by physical barriers, like bollards.


Called the “Red Cup Project,” the Newton group’s efforts were part of a nationwide demonstration that was organized by two former Boston residents, Sam Balto and Jonathan Fertig.

It was coordinated in honor of Dave Salovesh, a cycling activist who was killed recently while riding his bike in Washington, D.C.

Cyclists from the area took part in Friday’s protest by placing cups along busy streets in Boston, Cambridge, and Newton to visually call for better bike infrastructure and connectivity around the region. Bike advocates in Denver, Austin, Pittsburgh, and New York City also participated in the call for action.

Devin DiCristofaro, who bikes from the North End to Harvard Square for work every day, put down cups across the Larz Anderson Memorial Bridge, which connects Allston to Cambridge over the Charles River.

He said he set up the cups in honor of Salovesh, and to try to raise awareness that cars “aren’t the only thing on the road.”

“I’m lucky as I primarily ride on the Esplanade, even though it’s about a mile further than riding on the streets, because hostile drivers are not what I’m trying to deal with in the morning or on my way home,” DiCristofaro said in a message to the Globe. “Any type of awareness for the cycling community that can be raised is terrific.”


In Cambridge’s Porter Square, cyclist Lena Webb deployed a series of “Brave little cups” at 7 a.m., in a spot where cars turn off Massachusetts Avenue and onto Somerville Avenue.

Webb wanted to show that “paint is not protection,” and that bollards — plastic posts that get installed in the road to physically separate cars from cyclists — are needed at the busy intersection.

Less than an hour after the cups were put on the ground, Webb tweeted a picture showing that some of them had already been run over.

“Two smashed, one smashed and dragged, one missing,” Webb tweeted. “Also someone parked in the even less protected bike lane. Painting bike lanes are an insult; do better.”

A day prior, members of Cambridge Bicycle Safety placed cups in that same area of Porter Square as part of the “Red Cup Project,” and got similar results.

Friday’s protest had been promoted earlier this week by cyclist Peter Cheung, on a Facebook page for local bike and pedestrian advocates.

Cheung had encouraged cyclists in the Greater Boston area to participate in the project by putting the red cups in the roads and then taking before and after photos and sharing them to social media.


In a message to the Globe, Cheung said he was contacted by grassroots advocates around the country to do this in honor and memory of Salovesh, whose trademark was the cup project.

“We ... need connected protected bike lanes to accommodate everyone from age 8 to 80 to ride stress free to school, work, and to the store,” he said. “We also need to educate drivers that cyclists are legally entitled to ride on the road and for drivers to share the space and be courteous.”

For his part, Cheung constructed a faux bike lane using red paper cups on Massachusetts Avenue, near Melnea Cass Boulevard in Boston — in an area he said is underserved when it comes to bicycle infrastructure.

His results?

“After 15 minutes, all my red paper cups were flattened by cars,” he said, adding that he picked them up after making his point — and recycled them.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.