The City of Somerville will finish 2014 out front among cyclists. But Cambridge, Boston and Newton are close behind.
The League of American Bicyclists recently recognized Somerville as the Top Bike Commute City in the East. In Somerville, 7.8 percent of people now commute by bike, a larger share than anywhere in the East, including New York City or Philadelphia. In Massachusetts, Cambridge, Boston and Newton also made the Top 20 list.
The League of American Bicyclists’ calculated the figures based on U.S. Census Bureau Statistics, taking into account a city’s population and number of cyclists. The League of American Bicyclists concentrates on counting everyday bike commuters who ride as their primary mode of transportation, not those who only commute a few days a week or those who ride bikes to other transit.
Nationwide, Somerville reported the fifth highest share of bike commuters. Davis, California had the largest share, with 24.5 percent. Boulder, Colorado was second with 11 percent.
In the East, Cambridge came in a close second to Somerville, counting nearly 6.5 percent of residents as bike commuters. Combined, the two neighboring cities have a population of 186,090 and 7,467 bike commuters.
Still Boston is the larger city, with nearly 645,000 residents, and has the highest number of actual bike commuters in the region. It was listed seventh on the American League of Bicyclists’ list, with nearly 2 percent of residents counted as bike commuters. This works out to roughly 6,660 people. Among U.S. cities, Boston is the ninth fastest growing spot for cycling, with commuters up 122 percent from 1990 to 2013.
Cycling is also growing across Massachusetts. The number of people commuting by bike here has increased over 100 percent since 2005, compared to 46 percent for the average U.S. state. We are eager to see what 2015 brings.
Cycle Tracks For Somerville, Cambridge and Boston
We expect to learn a lot more about cycle tracks in 2015. Boston and Cambridge both have cycle tracks, which go a step beyond traditional bike lanes and separate cyclists from traffic with curbing, shrubbery or flexposts. Many bike advocacy groups see these as a critical tool in reducing bike accidents and injuries.
Somerville is planning cycle tracks along Beacon Street, through to the Cambridge border. In recent years, the state Department of Transportation has reported the highest number of bicycle accidents in Massachusetts in this area.
Cambridge was one of the first communities in the country to build a cycle track and now has one on Vassar Street and Concord Avenue from the Alewife Brook Parkway to Blanchard Road. The recent Western Avenue reconstruction project plans also incorporated a cycle track, as well as special bicycle traffic signals.
Boston built cycle tracks on Western Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue. The city’s 5-year action plan calls for the construction of 21 miles of cycle tracks. High priority areas include the streets around the Boston Public Garden, Boylston Street in Back Bay and Malcolm X Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue in Roxbury.
Hubway. We are always watching to see what comes out of Hubway. The City of Boston launched the popular bike share program in July 2011 and each year it has expanded and gotten residents, workers and visitors excited about cycling (and encouraged bike helmet use, which is important). The program now has 1300 bikes at 140 stations in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge and Brookline, more than doubling its original size in just a few years. Many stations have closed down for the winter, except in Cambridge. But we will watch for the bike program next Spring.
Boston Truck Ordinance. A few weeks ago, the Boston City Council approved a truck safety ordinance requiring city-contracted trucks to be outfitted with side guards, convex mirrors and blind-spot awareness decals. This first-in-the-nation measure was passed to reduce pedestrian and cycling accidents. Many locally and nationally are watching as the city begins enforcement.
Community Bike Programs. Boston has an active network of cycling groups and committees. If you are a cyclist, we encourage you to seek one out in 2015 or attend an event at Bay State Bike Week in the spring. Here is a list.
Bike Helmet Donations. Watch for us in 2015 too. Breakstone, White & Gluck will again partner with local organizations and committees to donate bike helmets to local children. In 2014 we donated over 2,000 helmets to kids and programs around the state. 2015 will be our third year of making these donations through Project KidSafe, our community service program. Read about our partners.
“Where We Ride,” American League of Bicyclists.
If you are a property owner, today is a good time to inspect your driveway and walkways. Even if you worked hard to clear all the snow yesterday, go out and take a second look. The deep freeze is setting in and more snow is forecast for tomorrow, creating the potential for slip and fall accidents.
Why is this important? In addition to making it easier for your family to come and go from your home, you have a duty to use reasonable care to clear snow and ice under Massachusetts law. If you neglect this, you could be liable for any injuries that result.
Massachusetts Law on Snow and Ice Removal The law for clearing your property is more strict than in past years. It changed in 2010, with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation, SJC-10529 (July 26, 2010). View TV interviews from 2010/2011 in which attorney David White explains the law.
Prior to then, property owners were liable for injuries sustained on what was known as “unnatural accumulations” of snow or ice. Examples of this are gutters leaking onto sidewalks or snow piled on sidewalks.
The state’s high court changed the longstanding law so it falls in line with other states. Massachusetts property owners now have a responsibility to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition and clear all snow and ice, whether it is a natural accumulation by Mother Nature or pushed there by a plow.
This law applies to homeowners as well as commercial property owners.
A few points to remember when it snows:
- You have a responsibility to clear your driveway, sidewalks and other areas accessible to the public.
- If you are using a snow blower, remember a shovel for narrow and hard-to-reach areas.
- Do you have the physical ability and time to clear your snow this year? If not, consider contacting a snow removal company.
- Cities have responsibility for clearing sidewalks, but some have ordinances requiring residents to clear their own. These include Boston, Worcester and Newton.
We all have to balance our legal responsibility to clear the snow with safety. It is hard work and tempting to take shortcuts at times. Remember a few basic safety rules. Do not start your snow blower in your garage or other covered areas. Before you shovel your driveway, clear your home’s heating vents so carbon monoxide does not build up in your home. Then, make sure you dress in layers and take breaks as needed.
Snow removal law may face test, Boston Globe, Dec. 25, 2010.
Sept. 30 will mark three years since the state of Massachusetts strengthened its laws for teen drivers.
Under the Safe Driving law, which took effect in 2010, teen drivers age 16 ½ to 18 are banned from all cell phone use and there is no texting while driving for operators of any age. The Junior Operator Law, which was passed in 2007, bans teen drivers from carrying passengers under the age of 18, except siblings. They also cannot drive between the hours of 12:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., unless accompanied by a parent.
Massachusetts is not alone; most states now have Graduated Licensing Laws restricting teen drivers in some way. In 47 states, novice drivers have passenger restrictions and 48 states limit nighttime driving. Teens are banned from all cell phone use in 37 states.
There is good reason for the laws: For each mile of roadway, teens age 15- to 20-years-old are three times more likely to die in a car accident than other drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Now is a good time to observe how well your teen driver is obeying the laws. Every year, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reports June, July and August see the largest number of teen driving deaths. But one nationwide company, State Farm Insurance, reports October is another dangerous time. It sees the most claims from 16- and 17-year-old drivers in this month, up 15 percent from other times.
Teen drivers get into auto accidents because they lack experience, are sensitive to distractions and do not always follow the rules. A few tips for helping your Massachusetts teen driver:
Say No to Teens Using Their Cell Phones. Many teens are texting while driving, despite the laws. In a 2011 study of 8,500 U.S. high school students age 16 and older, 45 percent admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving in just the past 30 days. The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and was published in the June issue of Pediatrics Journal. These teens were more likely not to wear their seat belt.
Encourage your teen to turn their cell phone off or put it in the backseat while driving. Taking a peek at text messages, e-mails or their Facebook page is not allowed. That includes while sitting at traffic lights and intersections where they need to look out for other traffic, as well as pedestrians and cyclists.
Limit Teen Passengers in the Car. Drivers under 18 in Massachusetts are not allowed to carry passengers under the age 21, except siblings. Be vigilant on this point with your teen. Among 16- and 17-year-old drivers, there is a 44 percent higher chance they will be killed in a crash with even one passenger under 21 years old, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The number multiplies with each additional passenger under 21, but decreased over 60 percent for each passenger age 35 or older.
Test Drive School Zones. Let your teen observe from the passenger seat as you drop them off to school and pick them up. You will encounter traffic, bicyclists and children walking, which will be new and potentially stressful for them as a driver (even if they traveled this area during their Driver’s Education practice hours). Point out how you adjust to the activity and decrease your speed.
If you do not drive to school, take this ride outside school hours and then let them drive. The goal is to make them aware of the challenges and make them comfortable in case they have to drive at some point.
Cyclists and Pedestrians. Remind your teen of what they learned in Driver’s Education class. Make sure they stop well behind the crosswalk at intersections and always let pedestrians pass. Remind them that cyclists can travel the full width of the road. Remind them to make sure cyclists are not approaching when they open any doors in the car.
Other Driving Safety Tips. These are the foundation of all driving safety tips, but always worth a reminder for safety’s sake: Talk to your child about always wearing a seat belt, following the speed limits and never using drugs or alcohol while operating.
The most important things are to talk to your children about driving and to set a good example yourself when they are in the car with you. Visit this web page for additional suggestions.
Teen Driver Safety Week
This is National Bike Month, when cyclists gather for events and rides all over the country. In Massachusetts, the busiest time is during Bay State Bike Week, which began last weekend. Cyclists from Boston to Springfield to Cape Cod are being encouraged to pedal to and from work in the name of fitness and reducing traffic congestion on the roads.
But along with the fun, Bike Month is a time to ask ourselves and lawmakers if we can make the roads safer to prevent personal injury to bicyclists.
While Boston has been called a world-class cycling city in recent years, safety advocates say we can do better. This month, the League of American Bicyclists dropped the state’s ranking from third to sixth in its 2013 Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, offering these and other suggestions to state officials:
Safe Passing Law. Adopt a safe passing law with a minimum distance of three feet to address bicycle safety.
Vulnerable Road User. Adopt a vulnerable road user law that increases penalties for motorists that injuries or kill bicyclists or pedestrians.
Cell Phone Ban for Drivers. Pass a cell phone ban for all drivers. Currently, Massachusetts bans all drivers from texting while driving but only bans drivers under 18 from talking on their cell phones and driving.
Bicycle Riders Manual. Create a statewide bicycle riders manual with laws, state bike routes and laws for cyclists.
MassBike, the state’s leading advocacy group for cyclists, has been seeking passage of a vulnerable road users bill that increases penalties for drivers who injure or kill a bicyclist or others defined as a vulnerable road user. MassBike first filed a bill with the Massachusetts Legislature in 2011 and refiled a few months ago for the start of the new legislative session.
Under the bill, drivers found guilty of crimes such as motor vehicle homicide or hurting or killing a person while driving drunk would face double the normal fines if the victim is considered a vulnerable road user.
The bill defines vulnerable road users as “a pedestrian or a person operating a bicycle, handcycle, tricycle, skateboard, roller skates, in-line skates, wheelchair, non-motorized scooter or any non-motorized vehicle, or a person riding a horse.”
Additionally, the bill would require violators to take a traffic class and perform 100 hours of community service related to road safety. There would be special penalties for drivers who harass vulnerable users with their vehicles. Meanwhile, victims would be given guidelines for filing civil lawsuits against drivers who assault or threaten them.
Another bill proposed by MassBike is the Bicycle Lane Bill, which would make it a violation for a car to park or stand in a marked bike lane. Boston and some other communities have bans, but MassBike seeks a statewide ban.
Read about other bills filed and supported by MassBike.
After a snow storm that buried Massachusetts with record-setting strength, many of us are slowly making our way back to our daily routines.
Massive snow banks, narrow roads and giant icicles are now the challenge. Governor Deval Patrick has lifted the weekend’s driving ban, but the State of Emergency remained in effect this morning. Many schools cancelled classes for another day and Boston Mayor Tom Menino encouraged businesses to let their employees work from home today.
Our tips for staying safe and avoiding injuries as you travel:
Community Websites. Check your community website for information about snow plowing and closed streets, as well as power outages and school closures.
Public Transportation. Use the MBTA if you are traveling into Boston. Mayor Menino is urging the public to stay off the roads to make room for cleanup.
Store and Pharmacy. Choose merchants close to home if you are heading out to restock up on food, medications and other supplies. Travel in daylight if possible.
Pedestrians Use Caution. Stay indoors today. Over the next few weeks, limit outdoor walks until the snow melts. If you must walk, wear a neon-colored vest.
Drivers. If you do drive, beware of the tall snowbanks and avoid roads which may not be fully cleared. Remember some roads may not have enough space for two-lane traffic.
Parking. Call ahead to ask about parking, even to your employer. Parking may not be available or be limited. Looking for spaces can lead to frustration among drivers and car accidents.
Gasoline and Vehicle Supplies. Keep your gas tank full over the next few days and equip your car with supplies such as a first aid kit, snow brush, small shovel, blanket and an extra hat and pair of mittens.
Take a Minute. Driving in these conditions can be stressful and accidents can occur. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, pull over at your earliest opportunity. Take a minute to think about your options and if necessary, call the local police or fire department on their non-emergency line and ask for their direction.
If you have children, your car probably has at least one car seat buckled in at all times. But when was the last time you checked its positioning or if your child is using the right model?
A good answer is right now. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is observing Child Passenger Safety Week from Sept. 16 – 22. Sept. 22 is National Seat Check Saturday. Parents can click here and find a full list of sites throughout Massachusetts offering free car seat checks by certified and trained professionals.
The right car seat and positioning is critical because motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death among children ages 3 to 14. A car accident can come suddenly without warning and a child passenger safety seat is essential to keeping young passengers safe.
Child passenger seats are generally divided into four categories: infant carrier seats, rear-facing seats, forward-facing seats and booster seats.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia require child safety seats and all but two – Florida and South Dakota – require booster seats or similar devices for children who have outgrown safety seats.
The Massachusetts Child Passenger Safety Law requires all children riding in passenger motor vehicles be in a federally-approved child passenger restraint which is properly fastened and secured until they are 8 years old or over 57 inches tall. The number of children increased substantially with the passage of the Booster Seat Bill in 2008.
About Child Passenger Seats
Infant carrier seat. These are for children up to 1 year of age who weigh 20 pounds. The height limit is up to 26 pounds.
Rear-facing convertible seat. These are for children who are 6 months to 1+ year of age, who weigh under 30 pounds.
Forward-facing seat. These are for children over 1 year of age who weigh more than 20 pounds and under 40 pounds.
Booster seat. These are for children age 4 to 8. When students turn 8 and stand taller than 4 feet 9 inches, they can transition to a back seat belt. It is recommended children travel in the backseat wearing a seatbelt up until the age of 13.
- Enhanced Child Passenger Safety Law, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- State Child Passenger Safety Laws, Governors Highway Safety Association.
The all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) have returned for summer. If you ride, remember the state of Massachusetts has specialized rules for your operation designed to protect you and others.
ATV riding comes with risks. Each year from 2004 to 2010, the U.S. saw an average of nearly 700 ATV-related deaths and about 136, 000 emergency department-treated injuries, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). So far in 2012, the CPSC has received reports of 130 adults and 28 children under age 16 who have died in ATV accidents. The agency received reports 17 adults and children died in accidents over Memorial Day weekend.
Riders can benefit from taking a safety course and reviewing the laws. The Boston personal injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck offer these guidelines and resources:
Safety Course. The Massachusetts Environmental Police offer training classes.
Helmets. Wear a protective helmet specifically designed for ATV riding. Make sure the helmet is approved by the Snell Memorial Foundation or the Department of Transportation (DOT) testing labs.
Register Your Vehicle. You must register your ATV with the Massachusetts Environmental Police if you operate it on private or public property. You must carry proof of registration when riding. Click for more information.
Passengers. If your ATV is a single-operator model, do not carry passengers. For all other ATVs, limit yourself to the passenger capacity.
Public Roads. Do not operate on a public way, unless it is marked and approved for recreational vehicles.
Paved Roads. ATVs are not designed for use on paved roads and their solid rear axles increase the chance of tipping over when you turn.
Young Riders. Sean’s Law took effect in Massachusetts in 2010, banning children under 14 from operating ATVs. If you let your children operate, learn the specialized rules in Massachusetts. But also consider having them wait. The CPSC advises that children under age 16 lack the developmental skills to operate.
Training for Riders Under 18. These riders must complete an approved training course on safety. They must carry certification of this course when riding.
Youth on ATVs. Children should never ride an ATV designed for an adult. This is how 90 percent of injuries to children occur.
No Alcohol. Drinking and driving increases your chance of causing an accident and like motor vehicle drivers, it is against the law for ATV drivers.
Safe Riding Areas. Massachusetts offers state forests and parks designated for ATVs and off-road-vehicles. Click here for the list.
- Snapshot: ATVs per Massachusetts Community, Boston Globe
- Does the new Massachusetts child-ATV ban go too far?, Boston Globe
- Annual Rise in Summer ATV Deaths Prompts CPSC to Urge Safety on the Trails, Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Massachusetts Environmental Police Urge Safe Off-Highway Vehicle Use
A Haverhill teenager was sentenced to jail time this week for causing a fatal accident by texting while driving, raising the issues of painful consequences, criminal punishments and civil liability families can face for what is becoming an all-too-common practice.
The case was the first of its kind in Massachusetts, where a ban on texting while driving took effect in 2010. As the 18-year-old driver was sentenced this week in Haverhill District Court, the public learned what criminal punishments violators can face. But the public should also be aware of what they did not see in the media: If a teen causes a car accident, they and their parents might also be sued civilly and may have to pay their victims significant financial damages.
In cases involving injury and death, a parent who negligently entrusts a car they own to a teen who they have cause to know is texting behind the wheel may be found liable for negligent entrustment. If so, then the parent might be sued and forced to pay damages to a victim.
Case of Texting While Driving
On February 20, 2011, Aaron Deveau, 18, was driving in Haverhill and crossed the center line, striking a car driven by a 56-year-old New Hampshire man. The man died of his injuries a few weeks later, while his passenger, a 59-year-old Haverhill woman, was severely injured and left with physical disabilities.
After the man’s death, Deveau was charged with motor vehicle homicide and texting and causing injury. The motor vehicle charge carried a maximum sentence of two and a half years in jail and the texting and causing injury was punishable by up to two years. A Haverhill District Court jury found him guilty of both charges and Judge Stephen Abana sentenced him to the maximum penalty. However, Deveau will serve a year concurrently on both charges and the balance of the charges is suspended for five years. His license will be suspended for 15 years on the motor vehicle homicide charge.
Prosecutors have been able to charge negligent drivers with texting and causing injury since September 30, 2010, when the Massachusetts law banning texting while driving took effect. The law banning use of electronic devices while driving is M.G.L. Chapter 90, Section 13B. If drivers cause injury or death, they can be criminally charged under M.G.L. Chapter 90, Section 24(2)(a).
The law applies to all electronic communications, including sending and reading texts, sending and reading emails, and any sort of internet browsing. For non-criminal charges (if there is no accident or injury), the fine is first $100, then $250, and then $500. Insurance surcharges do not apply to the civil penalties.
While it is the most wonderful time of the year, the holiday season is also a prime time for home fires.
In Massachusetts, from 2002 to 2007, Christmas Day saw the second most number of residential fires of any day while Christmas Eve ranked ninth, according to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. The majority of these fires can be prevented with planning and awareness.The Boston injury lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck offer these tips to help you and your family enjoy the season safely:
Christmas Tree Watering
- Do not pick up your Christmas tree immediately after Thanksgiving.
- Make sure you have an adequate size tree water stand.
- Learn how much watering your tree needs. In general, you should use one quart of water per day for each stem diameter. Ask your local fire department for more instructions.
- Remove your tree in a timely manner to avoid letting it dry out. Many communities offer special Christmas tree pickups after the holiday.
- Another option is to cut up your tree branches and place them over a garden.
- Do not leave your tree outside unattended overnight for teenagers and vandals to find.
Christmas Tree Holiday Lights
- Keep your tree at least three feet away from flame or heat sources, such as fireplaces and radiators. These pose a fire risk and will dry out your tree faster.
- Never put candles on or near your tree.
- Check your Christmas tree lights for broken bulbs. If one is damaged, remove the whole string to avoid a fire accident.
- Make sure your Christmas tree lights are designed for indoor use.
- Unplug Christmas tree lights when you leave the house or go to bed.
- Check if your Christmas tree lights have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized laboratory. If they have, they will be marked ETL, UL or CSA.
- Do not put too many lights on your tree. Check the box for the appropriate number of strings.
- Place your tree near a power outlet to reduce use of extension cords. Make sure extension cords have been marked UL to show they have been tested.
- If you have an artificial tree, check to see if it has the label “Fire Resistant.”
- Use sturdy candle holders with flame-protective and non-combustible shades or globes.
- Never leave burning candles unattended.
- Place burning candles in the center of tables.
- Place burning candles at least four feet away from curtains, bedding and other flammables.
- Keep candles and matches away from children.
- When lighting candles, secure hair and clothing away from candles to prevent injuries.
- If you are lighting multiple candles, make sure you are aware of how much heat they generate.
Each September, thousands of college students in Boston, Cambridge and across Massachusetts settle into campus life. And many students enjoy the extra freedom of bringing a car from home to school.
But students often make one costly mistake in the transition to college life. Students who have Massachusetts car insurance policies are required to inform their insurance companies about where the car is primarily kept. Otherwise, if there is a car accident, the insurance company might disclaim coverage, leaving the accident underinsured or uninsured completely. Students who fail to report their change of address and get into a car accident can be denied the Optional Insurance coverages on their policy.
Even if a student relocates a short distance, such as from Dedham to a dorm in Boston, he or she must inform the car insurance company where the vehicle will now be kept. The reason? Car insurance companies rate the coverage — and therefore the cost — on where the car is principally kept. If the car moves from a low-rated area (with fewer accidents) to a higher-rated area, the cost goes up. And if you are not paying the premium for the place where the car is principally kept, the insurance company has the legal right to disclaim coverage. And that can be harsh.
Optional Insurance Coverages Potentially At Risk Include:
Bodily Injury: This protects you from claims against your personal property if you cause a serious car accident.
Uninsured Auto: This coverage protects you and the people in your car if the person who causes the motor vehicle accident has no insurance.
Medical Payments: The first $8,000 in medical bills and lost wages are covered under the Personal Injury Protection (PIP), part of the Compulsory Coverage all Massachusetts drivers must purchase. Medical Payments provides policy holders extra protection for medical and health insurance.
Collision Comprehensive: If you are involved in a car accident, this coverage insures the damage to your vehicle.
Insurance issues can be very complicated, and you should not hesitate to call your agent if you have any questions.
Click here to read our article, “Understanding and Buying Massachusetts Car Accident Insurance.”
Another resource is, “Frequently Asked Questions on Auto Insurance,” by the Massachusetts Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation office.