Bike Safety on the Fiedler Bridge

I’m concerned about safety on the Fiedler Footbridge, which I cross as a bicycle commuter. Very few of us observe the instruction, posted on a small sign on the Esplanade side, to walk our bikes. There is no sign at the Beacon Street end. I think that the command to WALK BIKES should be painted in big fluorescent letters on the concrete wall at each end, and on the walkway itself. There should be a fine for violation, and it should be collected. Sooner or later, a pedestrian is going to get badly hurt. I understand that there may be all sorts of regulatory and jurisdictional hurdles, as discussed at . The third photo on that site shows the lack of signage at the Beacon Street end, and the fourth (from 2003) shows the sign at the Esplanade end, although the sign is much less apparent in most lighting than the photograph suggests.

8 replies on “Bike Safety on the Fiedler Bridge”

  1. I go that way every day and I have to plead into being part of the problem. I do ride over that bridge. But I think the issue is not whether one rides, but how one rides — I ride very slowly when there is any possibility of pedestrian conflict, leaning against the wall and sliding around the blind curves, which are especially tight in the away-from-the-river direction when one winds to the right on the inside of the curve. Anyone riding fast over the bridge is doing something very irresponsible — I’m inclined to think that that is the offense to be punished. Away from the peak times and seasons, there is often no one on the bridge and it hard to imagine consistently forcing people to get off and walk across 100 feet of clear concrete over the body of the bridge.

    I’m open to hearing more on this and being influenced.

  2. Will, I’ve been on that bridge exactly once, and I was also part of the problem. My vote is for a prominent “cyclists must yield to pedestrians” sign, and perhaps “please ride politely”. I take up more space walking my bike than I do riding it; I don’t see how it improves things to have me walking instead of riding slowly, though I also know that not all cyclists are comfortable riding at a walking pace.

    I think I would be happiest if there were a general rule that said that if you are traveling at a walking speed on a bicycle, then you can pretend to be a pedestrian (but you must still yield to pedestrians). This might complicate enforcement, since “riding on the sidewalk” is a nice yes/no thing, whereas “slowly” is subjective, and I don’t think we have radar guns tuned for speeds in the 6-15mph range. Or, we might suggest/require a 3 foot passing clearance for pedestrians, in the same way that many states have a 3 foot clearance rule for cars passing bicycles.

    There are other safety rules that make sense, but I cannot see encoding into law. One I use is (roughly) “if sum of children and dogs is three or larger, ride at a walking pace”.

  3. “Yield to pedestrians” and “ride politely” are good; the second is very evocative. For the Footbridge, “ride politely and slowly” is I think really the message.

    1. How about “ride politely, and slow down for pedestrians”? It’s hard to get people to ride slowly when they don’t see a need (no pedestrians); what we need is to convince them that pedestrians are a need. If nobody’s around on the Minuteman Bikeway (a multi-use path despite the name) I don’t want to be guilted for going as fast as I can (over 20, in the downhill direction), even though that’s not slow.

      I think the hard problem is that we need something that will reach the worst cyclists. I’ve videotaped cars approaching from the rear — the overwhelming majority are fine-to-great, but every once in a while you encounter someone who is just on distracted hasty autopilot and does rude/dangerous stuff. I think it’s pretty much the same on bikes — you see people who get the idea that they should not need to slow down, and that if it causes other people a little discomfort, that’s not as important as not slowing down.

      There is one other thing that might help explain how we get conflicts here. People riding bikes on our streets are comfortable passing relatively close to moving things that weigh 3000lbs. To any of them, passing a pedestrian at a similar distance and speed under 20mph is going to seem completely sensible — after all, bikes are slower than cars, and lighter than cars, if those passes are good enough for cars passing bikes, why aren’t they good enough for bikes passing pedestrians? And of course one reason to not ride a bike is if someone is not comfortable with such close passes, either by cars, or by bicycles. I have no idea how to fit that on a road sign.

  4. I spoke with the with the DCR legislative liaison about the “walk bikes” signs on the Fiedler Bridge. His initial thought was that they are required for liability purposes but DCR is trying to track down a more detailed answer for us. I’ll post here when I receive a further update.

    Andrew Bettinelli
    Legislative Aide
    Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

  5. DCR and the Esplanade Association have heard from people on both sides of the issue; cyclists who feel they shouldn’t have to walk their bikes and pedestrians concerned about bicycles riding on the bridge. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus opinion regarding the bike policy for the Fielder Bridge.

    DCR does stand by the current signage, they feel that some of the blind downhill corners on the ramp make riding dangerous.

    Andrew Bettinelli
    Legislative Aide
    Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

  6. Andrew, (speaking as a cyclist, obviously I have some bias here) I think that asking cyclists to walk is unreasonable, you will not get compliance from the very worst (impolite) offenders, and you will merely guilt, delay, annoy, and inconvenience the good citizens, who might prefer to ride carefully, but will instead walk, with no actual benefit to anyone since they were not riding in a careless fashion to start with. Speed is much more important than the act of cycling versus not, and you could *easily* get some bad-attitude cyclists (a remark I sometimes resemble) not riding, but jogging along with their bike and making no effort whatsoever to minimize their width. Who can then complain about that, if they are meeting the letter of the law?

    Another way to look at this is in potential deaths/injuries avoided. Compared to what we cheerfully tolerate from automobiles, harm from cyclists is a rounding error.

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