Somerville Police Crack Down on Bicycle-Riding Traffic Scofflaws

Police began "increasing enforcement of bicycle traffic regulations" in Union Square Wednesday, according to Somerville's police chief and the city's ResiStat blog.

Somerville police initiated a "bicycle enforcement" operation Wednesday, according to Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello, who spoke to seniors at the Wednesday.

Somerville's ResiStat blog has also announced the initiative.

In a statement on the blog, Pasquarello said, "Bicyclists have a right to share the road and they should command respect from other drivers … At the same time, they need to show respect for the rights of pedestrians and vehicle drivers."

Pasquarello explained Wednesday that a new change in law makes it a requirement that bicyclists, if stopped by a police officer for violating a traffic law, must provide their name and address.

If they don't, explains the ResiStat blog, they could be arrested and fined $50. 

One doesn't need a license or registration to ride a bike, and before the change in law, errant bicyclists could easily tell officers their name is "John Doe" and ride away, Pasquarello said. 

Police officer Maryann Manfra, also speaking to seniors Wednesday, said the initiative, in its first day, focused in Union Square.

Did anyone in Union Square see a biker get pulled over today? Or did anyone get pulled over? 

Matt C April 11, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I am all for bikers on the road provided they follow all the same rules as a car or truck or motorcycle. The rules about operating on the road - not what your "vehicle" is. I do think the standard $50 fine that Somerville puts on everything is a bit stiff and i am curious how they will enforce collection.
Deputy Chief Paul Upton April 12, 2012 at 02:06 AM
All bicycle fines are $20 except for providing a false name or no name which is $50 and possible arrest. This effort is about making the streets and sidewalks safer, not about revenue. So far, most offenders have been issued warnings. Deputy Chief
Lucas Rogers April 12, 2012 at 03:58 AM
Is the enforcement initiative balanced by an effort to address parked cars in bike lanes and dooring?
JSP April 12, 2012 at 11:44 AM
I am very happy that the Somerville PD is taking action. While I have friends who bike and understand the challenges, there are too many of those who think THEY can do whatever they want. It's ridiculous and casts a dark shadow on those who actually respect others.
Tai D. April 12, 2012 at 12:44 PM
I saw the end of a conversation between a biker and officer between Ricky's and the Police Dept. yesterday. Couldn't tell if the biker had been fined or not, and didn't see if he had run a red.
Tricia April 12, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Perhaps mandatory bike registration should be the next step. I don't mind sharing the road but far too many bikers assume they should be afforded more rights than a motor vehicle that pays registration fees, excise taxes and auto insurance. On a daily basis, I have been seen far more incidences of bicyclists not observing rules of the road, If they are, at the very least, forced to display "tags" perhaps they will be more responsible.
Ken Long April 12, 2012 at 01:49 PM
I have yet to see a cop pull a biker over for anything anywhere. I have never been pulled over for bicycling dangerously either. I would like to see them start issuing warnings to cyclists for riding recklessly and riding to endanger others, trying to pass moving vehicles without enough room for safety, cutting directly in front of cars making right hand turns, blatantly assuming that they have a right of way to be intentionally ignorant of common sense safety protocol. And rather than concentrating on Union Sq, they should look at Beacon St. Next that should really keep the motor scooters out of the bike lanes and stop them from weaving in and out of the bike and car lanes at will. This just seems to be common sense safety for everyone sharing the road. And rather than trying to hand out $50 tickets, unless they're really just trying to make easy money for themselves, they should concentrate on issuing warnings, learning who the repeat offenders are, and keeping the streets safe.
Ken Long April 12, 2012 at 01:51 PM
I see the comment from the deputy above. $20 fines and mostly warnings for satey's sake. thanks
Annie L April 12, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Great question! What about drivers who cut off cyclists, and pedestrians who errantly walk in front of moving bikes? I'm all for ticketing those who are doing it wrong, but I'd be more interested in hearing about a city/metro-wide education initiative and bike lane expansions.
Eve Griliches April 12, 2012 at 04:11 PM
I live on Bow St. and I see bikers riding opposite the traffic flow, against the one-way signs every day. One of these days someone will be killed. It's crazy. It should be stopped now.
J April 12, 2012 at 04:30 PM
If your going to fine them for anythiing it should be for NOT wearing a helmet!
Tom Walsh April 12, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Anyone on the road should have basically the same rights as anyone else, regardless of their vehicle or how much they pay. I'll try to address your other three points: Insurance is mandatory (in this state) for car drivers because of the sheer amount of damage that cars cause. Car crashes often cause thousands of dollars of damage to property, and they commonly seriously injure and even kill people. That's just not true for bikes. It's *possible* for a bike to do serious damage, but it's very rare, unlike with cars. I don't think collecting bike excise tax would be worth it. Bikes aren't worth anywhere near as much as cars. Even a brand-new extremely nice bike costs less than a 10-year-old clunker used car. The gov't would probably spend more collecting the tax than it would take in in new revenue. With registration, there is again there is the issue of cost. We'd need to pay quite a bit to manage such a new registration system. That might be okay, if there were some benefit. But, I'm not sure what the benefit would be... car registration doesn't seem to discourage car drivers from breaking laws routinely. Check out how often cars don't stop for people in the crosswalk, don't use blinkers, speed, don't stop behind the stop line, double-park, don't keep right on the highway, etc. Most car drivers break the law quite frequently, myself included.
Ken Long April 12, 2012 at 05:10 PM
As a city cyclist for many years and a driver I have seen both do a lot of dangerous things, but I dont often see cars come from behind a cyclist and intentionally cut in front of them inches from their front bumper, unfortunately I cant say the same for cyclists. As for pedestrians, they often walk across streets without looking properly, but they are easy to see and slower moving than bicycles. The only time I have ever seen a serious problem was when I was riding faster than appropriate and not able to slow down or react quickly enough. I think pedestrians, especially rollerbladers, are more dangerous on the designated bike trails, but even then its primarily a matter of how fast your going. Like skiing, the person approaching from behind is responsible for regulating their speed, so they can stop or maneuver to avoid collisions.
Ken Long April 12, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Excise tax and insurance are obviously not appropriate to bicycles, but registration is a great idea. In many states even a canoe needs to be registered and display its registration numbers to be put into a public waterway, and bicycles are not that much different. As you say, it would not eliminate a problem, but it might reduce it. With registration would come mandatory helmet laws and rules of the road. A potential city cyclist should have to fill out some sort of written questionnaire or test showing that they understood their responsibilities to yield to traffic at intersections, to stay on the right side of the road and observe one way streets, and that they understood the dangers of trying to pass cars, and that a drivers attention and focus should be in front of him, not watching out for the next cyclist coming up from behind.
Anne April 12, 2012 at 08:33 PM
That would be kind of difficult since it's not illegal - unless the cyclist is 16 or under.
KEN D... April 12, 2012 at 09:33 PM
Registrations, taxes, etc for bicycles? What about pedestrians, will you charge them to cross the street also. Why aren't they paying their "fare share". I enjoy riding my bike, but at some point I'll just gas up the car and head into the city.
mark April 12, 2012 at 09:47 PM
I am really excited that the City is doing so much for biking. Every year I see more and more cyclists on the streets-- that means less traffic, less parking issues, and healthier and happier residents-- not to mention the money saved not driving. That said we cyclists do need to have some rules (not necessarily laws) that we should abide by: Yield to pedestrians; not blow through red lights where drivers and law abiding cyclists (yes we do exist) have been waiting patiently and use lights at night. I do get annoyed when car-drivers feel we are the only ones breaking the laws. Vehicle speeding, drunk driving, and poor driving due to old age are much bigger problems than cyclists. We've seen so many deaths we we over look them. I obey pretty much all the traffic laws. For my car-driving friends, I ask them not to drive any faster than they have to reach the next light when it changes. I do that on my bike and I can say it's really lowering my stress level.
Lucas Rogers April 13, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I think it's fair to say that better infrastructure and reasonable rules for bicyclists go hand-in-hand with more enforcement of those rules. But we still have a lot of work to do on both hands. For example, most one-ways were created long ago to calm, or in some cases, speed motor vehicle traffic, without much regard to the needs of bicyclists, or recognition of the fact that bikes have relatively little impact on noise and air pollution. I don't support biking the wrong way up one-ways illegally, but creating legal, rational, visible counter-flow bike lanes on key one-ways are an essential piece of the bike infrastructure in bike-friendly cities like Montreal and Amsterdam. Scott Street off Beacon Street in Cambridge/Somerville is a good example here. So, enforce one-ways, but let's think creatively about ways to accomodate bike traffic legally in a one-way heavy city.
Joe Beckmann April 13, 2012 at 11:26 AM
Obviously this subject has "legs" and attracts enough interest. The weakness I see in this discussion is that we all share a common "ecosystem of traffic" where the consequences of bad driving and irresponsible riding can be death. Laws and law enforcement should recognize the mutual responsibilities we share in joint use of a single system of roads, signals, and enforcement - that includes pedestrians. Cars avoiding a pedestrian can kill a biker or damage a vehicle or destroy a wall, window or park. And those kinds of consequences and risks are actually equal on foot, bike or car. If I avoid blocking a bike to protect an irresponsible pedestrian and face a driver in the middle of an intersection, who gets a ticket? My biggest complaint is with bikers at dusk wearing black without lights. Next is with pedestrians who ignore stoplights that signal THEM to stop while autos cross slow moving intersections. It's the overt arrogance of snotty walkers, riders, or drivers that makes urban driving so awful. Rule #1, share.
scarlet April 14, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Bow St. is a teeny street that is less traveled than Somerville Ave. If you tell bikers to use it only one way then they will be tying up the intersections all over Union Sq! THAT would be far unsafer. The thing is, cycling in Somerville has serious problems -- there is barely enough room for the cars much less bikes. At least, if a cyclist can see the car coming, they can get out of the way. So, saying bikes should only go the direction of traffic is silly.
scarlet April 14, 2012 at 08:44 PM
Bikes are not cars, they can easily maneuver out of the way if they see a car. And, unlike drivers, cyclists don't collide with other bikes! If a cyclist can take a less-traveled street, going the wrong way, rather than stay on the main roads, going the same direction as traffic, that is better for the cars and for all our safety. (The bike lane markings on Medford St. and Highland are a joke, there's no room!) While younger bikers and these drug dealing bikers ride around unsafely, most people who use bikes are responsible, healthy, hard-working people trying to get their grocery shopping done or get to work and school, not joy-riding. It would help both sides to recognize this.
eric gieseke April 16, 2012 at 07:02 PM
i think its safer at night sometimes.. but drunk driving is bad regardless, proper lighting and focus is imorptant if you have the mental awareness to do it otherwise its zombie mode
Patch Patch February 22, 2013 at 05:54 AM
"Next that should really keep the motor scooters out of the bike lanes and stop them from weaving in and out of the bike and car lanes at will. " I'm not sure what you mean by scooter? That is not a registration option with the RMV. Motorized bicycles can legally be operated in bicycle lanes along roadways. When someone changes lanes they should signal and change only when safe; that goes for bicyclists, automobiles and all vehicles on the road. http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXIV/Chapter90/Section1B


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