WORCESTER – In what could be the calm before the storm before next week’s tax classification meeting, the city council has a very light pre-Thanksgiving agenda. District 5 City Councilor Gary Rosen has submitted an order that once again looks to curb the bike “swerving” issue that has taken on the city.
Rosen is asking City Manager Edward M. Augustus, Jr. to take steps to ensure that bicycle riders abide by Massachusetts law that requires any person 16 years old or younger to wear a helmet. Rosen specifically calls out riders using Worcester’s bike sharing program Ofo.
“For good reason, Massachusetts has a mandatory helmet law for minors,” Rosen said in an e-mail to This Week In Worcester on Sunday, Nov. 19.
Massachusetts law requires any person 16 years old or younger to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.
“While not required, adult bicyclists should do the same. Helmets save lives but only if they are worn,” Rosen said.
In September, the city, along with the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, rolled out a bikeshare program with Seattle based company Ofo. The Ofo service is affordable for almost all budgets with a set cost of $1 per hour.
However, since Ofo’s inception the city, there has been an uptick in unsafe cycling. A practice where cyclists taunt motorist known as “swerving” has increased in the city. Although not all cases of swerving are done with Ofo bikes, there have been documunted instances of Ofo bikes being involved.
“I am surprised that Ofo, the largest bike-share company in the world, makes no suggestion or provision for the use of helmets by the riders of its bikes. To ignore both the law and sensible safety precautions might even open them up to some degree of liability,” Rosen said.
Rosen also cites that many adults not wearing helmets while riding a bike does not help promote proper bike safety.
“Young riders see other youth and even adults riding without wearing a helmet, they start to believe that it is OK to do so,” Rosen said. “It’s incumbent upon parents, our schools, youth agencies, the Worcester Police Dept., representatives from Ofo and appointed and elected officials, among others, to see that the mandatory helmet law for minors is publicized, enforced and abided by.”
District 3 City Councilor George Russell sees this as an opportunity to have a wider discussion on bike safety.
“I think the best thing to do with it is to refer it to the Administration for comment especially the WPD,” Russell said “The whole concept is is a good idea, but the details certainly need some thought.”
Tuesday’s meeting will start at 7:00 PM and will be held in the Esther Howland Chamber in Worcester’s City Hall.