BOSTON (CBS) – As Boston works to shake its reputation as among the least accommodating cities for cyclists, the Boston Cyclists Union is one of the newer organizations in town advocating for pedaling.
The Cyclists Union formed early last year and is holding its first annual meeting Aug. 25, a gathering of the organization’s 400 members and the election of its first board of directors.
The mission of the union, which charges a $35 annual membership fee, is to make everyday cycling easier and safer, said the organization’s director, Pete Stidman.
To that end, on its web site, the union has compiled what it calls a crash map – a schematic showing where accidents and incidents involving bikes have taken place.
The map is compiled with emergency medical services data and can be used to help shape public policy around cycling and transportation, Stidman said.
“What we¹d like to see is the city look at (cycling) more equitably. There are people in every neighborhood of the city who love biking or would love biking if they felt safe on the street,” he said.
When Boston was named the least friendly city to bicycles in a 1999 issue of Bicycling magazine, “that put it on the table,” said Steven Miller, who is on board of the LivableStreets Alliance and works at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Soon after, cycling enthusiasts launched statewide and neighborhood-based organizations, and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino began pushing for more bicycle-friendly programs and policies, including most recently a bike-share program.
“Those things changed the larger-scale climate,” Miller said. “(The Cyclists Union) saw an opening that needed to be filled.”
A key part of what the Cyclists Union does is to unite cycling organizations, such as those operating in Dorchester, Roslindale, Jamaica Plain, Brighton and other Boston neighborhoods.
Stidman said 2.1 percent of people in Boston cycle to work, according to 2009 census data.
The Cyclists Union operates on a budget of about $60,000, its revenue coming from a combination of membership fees, grants from city agencies and donations.
Lisa van der Pool of the Boston Business Journal reports
Stidman counts among the union’s early achievements its ability to work with Boston transportation and planning officials to leverage federal stimulus funds and extend bike lanes into Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.
In Allston, Stidman said, the union worked with the city transportation department to create a bike lane on Western Avenue protected by a buffer zone and that runs between the sidewalk and parked cars.
And two $5,000 city grants have funded the union to provide free bike tune-ups at neighborhood farmers markets, where the union also sells helmets and bicycle locks for a small fee.
In addition, the union has worked with the MBTA on how bus drivers deal with cyclists.