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Grants Will Help Fund Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Upgrades

Four cities—Norwood, Plymouth, Lawrence, and Westford– recently received grants from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation as part of the Shared Streets and & Spaces program. These grants will enable these municipalities to implement or make design changes to streets, curbs, parking spaces, and parking lots. Its aim is to promote the public health, to facilitate bicycle and pedestrian mobility and safety, and make it easier to access businesses. 

Norwood received $120,000 to build four parklets (a small green space along a sidewalk or former parking space) with more walking areas and opportunities for outside dining and recreation. 

Plymouth received $173,000 that will be used to widen sidewalks and create bicycle lanes with buffers between riders and motor vehicle traffic. 

Other cities can apply for the $5 million set aside for the program, which will be accepting applications through September 29, 2020. 

Safe Pedestrians Means a Safer City

According to Vision Zero, 680 pedestrians were struck by vehicles in 2018 along with 425 cyclists in Boston alone. Across our state that year, there were 78 pedestrian deaths. The majority of fatalities were among males who were 55 and over. In this time of Covid-19 and after several months of isolation, more people were streaming outdoors to enjoy the warm summer weather and to regain some semblance of normality. Older residents are less mobile and vulnerable since their hearing and eyesight are more likely to be diminished, or they are less cognizant of when to safely cross a street. 

Even in this time of lockdowns, social distancing, and unemployment, people want to get outside and enjoy the businesses that are open, so long as everyone adheres to safe practices including wearing masks, wiping down seats in eating areas, and keeping a safe distance from non-family members. Outdoor dining and recreation is safer than being indoors where the virus is more likely to spread since most infections appear to result from airborne droplets that are more contained in a closed environment. 

Wider crosswalks are more easily seen by motorists and can accommodate more pedestrians. Similarly, wider sidewalks allow for people to distance themselves more easily from others, and for strollers or those with limited mobility to share the walkways.

Buffered bike lanes are designed to keep bicyclists a safe distance from motorists and to prevent cars from unknowingly entering a bike lane when preparing to turn.

Laws Affecting Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Bicyclists are generally allowed on all roadways in Massachusetts except limited access roads with posted signs barring riders, and major highways. You can ride on a sidewalk so long as it is safe to do so and not in a business district. If the sidewalk has substantial foot traffic, then it less likely to be safe. Cyclists also need to ride slowly and cautiously if riding a sidewalk and to warn pedestrians when overtaking them. Cities are free to ban bikes on sidewalks at their discretion.. 

Two cyclists may ride side by side provided they are in the same lane. If riding at night, the bike must be equipped with a forward white light and a red light facing backwards and be illuminated from 30-minutes after sunset to 30-minutes before sunrise. Reflectors must be on both pedals, rear and back, or cyclists can have reflective material around their ankles. Riders under 16 must wear a helmet. 

A motorist cannot overtake and pass a cyclist unless there is adequate space so it can be done safely. Drivers must be cognizant of cyclists on the road and not turn in front of them, and to cautious when opening a parked car door into the path of an approaching cyclist (dooring).

For their part, cyclists must obey all traffic laws, to give proper hand signals when turning, yield the right of way to pedestrians, and to give a loud audible warning when passing someone. 

Pedestrians should use a crosswalk if available. If in a crosswalk, cars on that half of the road must stop if the pedestrian is within 10-feet of that half of the roadway. Even if someone is crossing against the light, a motorist is not free to keep proceeding and must take reasonable measures to avoid an impact. 

Liability in Bike and Pedestrian Accidents

It is not uncommon when a pedestrian or cyclist is struck by a car for the motorist to blame the accident on the victim. In many cases, a driver will say that the person or cyclist appeared out of nowhere, tried to run across the street or against the light, or was riding recklessly. 

In many cities, there are surveillance cameras on poles or outside businesses that often have footage of the accident. Witnesses may have seen the accident and can attest that a motorist suddenly turned in front of the cyclist or cut her off, or that the driver was using his cellphone when he failed to see a person crossing the street. In such cases, the experience of a skilled personal injury lawyer can mean the difference in whether you receive compensation at all. 

A dooring accident is nearly generally the fault of the person exiting the vehicle, especially if the car is parked next to a bike lane or bikes are ubiquitous in that part of the street. Cyclists should always be cautious when passing parked vehicles for doors opening as it can cause serious injuries. 

In cases where an at-fault motorist was uninsured, the injured pedestrian or cyclist can use the uninsured provision of their own auto policy or that of a household member for compensation. 

Damages in Bike and Pedestrian Accidents

Damages in any accident between a car and a pedestrian or cyclist can be substantial. They may include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income loss
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

Never ignore the fact that damages are often disputed in injury claims. Only a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer can obtain the necessary documentation and testimony needed to maximize your damages.

Retain a Personal Injury Lawyer from Burns and Jain

Liability in pedestrian and bicycle accidents are often contested. By retaining a skilled personal injury lawyer from Burns and Jain, you know that your case will be thoroughly investigated, and all avenues of compensation explored. Contact the law firm of Burns and Jain at (617) 286-3594 for a free consultation about your injury claim.