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City tries to bolster its biking penalties

Boston’s transformation in the last several years from one of the country’s least-friendly cycling cities to one of the friendliest is largely thanks to Mayor Thomas Menino’s efforts.

Boston’s transformation in the last several years from one of the country’s least-friendly cycling cities to one of the friendliest is largely thanks to Mayor Thomas Menino’s efforts.

That’s why cycling advocate David Watson of MassBike was scratching his head last week when he learned Menino filed legislation at the State House to sharpen the teeth of a law enacted on Jan. 1 allowing police to ticket cyclists who commit traffic violations.

“We had a situation in which it was effectively impossible for police to enforce the laws and now we’ve given them the tools to begin enforcement,” Watson said of the current law written by MassBike and passed in 2009. “So why not wait and see if that works before filing legislation that dramatically increases the penalty when you don’t even know if the law that has come into effect will serve its purpose?”

While the current state law fines bikers $20 for infractions such as running red lights, Boston’s proposed legislation increases those fines to as much as $150.

“If a biker runs a red light and it’s only a $20 dollar fine, they think: ‘no big deal,’” Captain Jack Danilecki of the Boston police said. “But $150, you are going to pay more attention.
“The mayor looks at it as another law-enforcement tool, not as punishment by any means.”

 
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