A Different Kind of Bike Race

Photo  (cc) by   Jim.henderson  and publi shed under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Photo (cc) by Jim.henderson and published under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

I've always thought of Boston as a city for biking. I spent a few years using my bike as the preferred mode of transport before I moved to the suburbs. I could be anywhere in 15 minutes all while having a visceral experience each ride. The wind whipping at my face, with an unobstructed view of bustling streets, hearing all the clanking and talking, smelling odds and ends from the public bus exhaust to nearby restaurants. It's no surprise that Cambridge and Somerville were both ranked in the top five biking cities in the northeast. 

And yet, I remember how biking down narrow streets with zigzagging vehicles made it easy to envision my own demise. An independent researcher found that half of all reported bike crashes over the course of four years occurred on Commonwealth Avenue, most of which were in along Boston University from the BU bridge all the way up to Packard's Corner. The two major reasons why crashes occurred: 

the top cause of reported crashes involved motorists unknowingly cutting off bikers while making a right turn at an intersection, while the second highest percentage of bike crashes was “dooring” – bikers slamming into recently swung-open car doors.
— "4 Years of Comm Ave Bike Crashes the Focus of a New Independent Study", BostInno

This highlights a problem that bikers just cannot be seen by motorists. I was struck recently by an effort by Volvo to protect bikers with a product they've branded as LifePaint. It's visible only by night when light shines on it and reflects as a bright white glow. It's certainly not going to solve all the crashes, but it's a car company creating products for bikers.

Maybe bike companies should think about a product for vehicles to enhance the relationship between the two? If you're a driver or a rider, you know a certain hostility and inconvenience is felt for the other. For now it seems there is an opportunity for local startups to focus on the bike community. Companies like Superpedestrian, which focuses on making your bike electric with their Copenhagen Wheel. Or Fortified Press, which has created a theft-proof bike light. But you have to wonder if the race to the next best bike innovation isn't for bikes at all, but instead for motorists? Maybe then we can consider a solution that might save injuries and even lives.