As Bicycle Use Increases, Road Hazards and Road Sharing are Concerns

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

At their October 2 meeting, members of the Bicycle Advisory Committee reported that the bike racks at the high school have been full this fall and that the middle school requested an additional bike rack to accommodate increased demand. At the same time that bicycle use is on an upswing, however, accidents involving bicycles—caused by road hazards such as misplaced garbage bins or lawn service vehicles parked in the street—and road sharing protocols concern the Committee, although it should be noted that no school-age riders have been identified in the most recent Bedford Police accident reports.

About the increase in student bike ridership, Committee Chair Terry Gleason said, “Graduates of the Job Lane ‘Safe Routes to School’ program that began in 2008 are now at the middle school and high school.”

“I think the PMC rides have an effect, too,” added committee member Brian O’Donnell.

Selectman liaison Margot Fleischman said that she has seen “more kids riding on their own than ever before.”

But, Gleason also noted that recent accident reports, as documented by the Bedford Police, show that a rider on Concord Road was struck by a car when he had to swerve into the travel lane to avoid a garbage bin.

“The trash barrels are a hazard, which you know if you bike regularly,” Gleason said. “The biker veered out a little bit and got side-swiped. Sometimes the barrels fall over [when the truck places them back on the ground] or the wind blows them when they’re empty.”

Another recorded incident was between a school bus and a Bedford resident. “According to the biker, there was some road rage involved and he reported it,” Gleason said. “We’re aware of a Bedford bus a year ago side-swiping a bicyclist. It was a school bus— and the presumption was it was a Bedford bus, although that was never proven and they never tracked down the driver.

“Personally, I’ve had some uncomfortable moments with school buses,” Gleason continued. “I suggested to the police that I’d be supportive of having a meeting with the school bus company to go over the rules of the road. We recognize the drivers are on a tight schedule and under pressure but the reality is that—on a narrow road—a school bus can’t pass a bicyclist. You have to wait. If a bicyclist is riding and there’s a line of cars backing up behind him, even though he has the legal right to the road, [protocol is that] the bicyclist pulls over as a courtesy.

“I want to make sure that the bus drivers are aware of how frightful sharing the road with big vehicles can be. A bus is a lethal vehicle,” Gleason added.

“There’s some education awareness for the bus drivers we can do here [as a committee] and we can also hear their complaints and issues,” Gleason concluded.

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