Menino proposes to increase fines…

My son brought home a copy of the Metro newspaper on Monday, January 26. He picked it up on the T, and the front-page headline was that Mayor Menino has introduced a bill to raise the fine for for bicyclists’ traffic infractions from $20 to $150.

There was a spirited rejoinder by Massbike Executive Director David Watson on page 2, to the effect that Massbike’s efforts have just given police the tools to enforce the law, and why not see whether it works with fines as they are.

The story is online here. I thank isolatecyclist for providing the permanent link.

The bill would be effective statewide.

My two cents on this: having repeatedly witnessed Boston police officers riding on the wrong side of the street, see for example

this Web page,

and for no apparent law-enforcement related reason, and as I have read accounts by Paul Schimek and others of improper police commands based on nonexistent laws, and directly contrary to law, I wonder whether the Mayor understands what a can of worms he has opened.

The timing is exquisite too, shortly before the annual bicycle program update presentation, which will thereby become more interesting.

The best outcome I can see from this development would be that the police will have to learn the law that applies to bicyclists, after repeated embarrassment due to attempts to enforce laws that exist only in the officers’ imagination.

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One Response to Menino proposes to increase fines…

  1. Boston goes from one extreme to the other. Raising the fine to such an outrageous amount will serve two purposes: it will discourage cycling and it will provide prejudiced police a means of retaliation against cyclists as a class. Enforcement will not be objective.

    The new law does nothing to increase safety. Increasing safety comes from education, not threats. The law says:

    “An offender who refuses to state his true name and address may be arrested without a warrant for such refusal but no person shall be arrested without a warrant for any other traffic law violation committed while operating a bicycle. A police officer shall use the ticketing procedure described in chapter 90C to cite a bicyclist for a traffic law violation.”

    A cyclist can also be fined between $20 and $50 for not giving his/her real name and address to the officer. That’s on top of the $150 traffic law violation fine.

    Other than running a red light or failing to yield to a pedestrian, what sort of violations will cyclists be cited for? Speeding? As the law reads, whether a cyclist’s actions constitute a violation is at the discretion of the officer. Most officers know little about bicycling and can’t determine whether a cyclist’s move was made for safety reasons (e.g. going through a yellow light to avoid being rear-ended) or because he/she has committed a “traffic law violation.” Even cyclists under the age of 16, who may not understand all of the traffic laws, can be fined. Fines will be handed out arbitrarily, depending on the whims of particular officers.

    None of this will change the behavior of cyclists who don’t care about following traffic laws. They’re already risking their lives by riding recklessly. What’s $150 compared to a human life? Mayor Menino’s decision to introduce this bill is yet another example of our elected officials acting before thinking.

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