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City Council Passes Truck Side Guard Ordinance

Today the Boston City Council voted unanimously to pass a Truck Side Guard Ordinance, filed by Mayor Martin J. Walsh in conjunction with At-Large Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and the Boston Cyclists Union this past September. The ordinance mandates all large city-contracted vehicles to be equipped with enhanced safety measures designed to prevent fatalities and further reduce the risks of a collision with pedestrians and cyclists.

“We’re seeing more Bostonians choosing bikes as their primary mode of transportation, but with this increase in use, we’ve also seen an increase in crashes between cyclists and vehicles,” said Mayor Walsh. “Truck side guards are a low-cost feature that can be installed on trucks and that have the potential to save a life. Councilor Pressley has been a leader in this area, and I’m proud to partner with her on this ordinance.”

“I am thrilled to have partnered with Mayor Walsh and the Boston Cyclists Union to make Boston the first city in the nation to require side guards and other safety features on city contracted vehicles. These measures will make our roadways safer for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Councilor Pressley. “This ordinance will save lives; I call on the private companies operating large trucks on our city’s streets to follow suit.”

The Truck Side Guard Ordinance is the first of its kind in the country. The ordinance requires vehicles over 10,000 pounds (for tractor-trailers a combined weight over 26,000 pounds) and awarded a contract with the City of Boston to have side guards, convex mirrors, cross-over mirrors, and blind-spot awareness decals. Vehicles associated with an awarded City contract will be inspected for side guards by the Inspectional Services Department and issued a permit, certifying the vehicle for 2-years. For those vehicles not in compliance, businesses will face a fine, escalating from $100 for the first offense, to potential termination of the contract. The Boston Police Department will assist with enforcement of the regulation. The Boston Transportation Department and Boston Bikes will assist with education, content expertise on best practices, and as the point of contact for constituent reporting. The ordinance only applies to future contracts, and there are some exemptions to the ordinance, such as trucks used exclusively for snow plowing or emergency vehicles.

Although a report by Smart Growth America ranks the Boston region as the safest for pedestrians in the nation, Boston EMS responded to over 750 pedestrian traffic incidents in 2013. Since 2010, 11 cyclists in Boston have died as a result of crashes with motor vehicles, and seven of those fatal incidents occurred between a cyclist and either a truck or a bus. Mandated side guards on large trucks reduced deaths by 61 percent and serious injuries by 13 percent for cyclists in the United Kingdom according to a study completed by Transport For London. Convex blind spot mirrors and cross-over mirrors, similar to those found on a school bus, will allow drivers of large trucks to see the areas in-front of, and to the sides better, preventing “right hook” incidents with cyclists.

Since her first hearing on increasing roadway safety for cyclists in December 2012 (in the wake of a series of cyclist deaths following collisions with vehicles), Councilor Pressley, in partnership with the Boston Cyclists Union, has been pushing for increased safety mechanisms for Boston’s growing cyclist population. In addition to expanded funding for dedicated bike lanes, an extensive crash data report was released as a result of the 2012 hearing.

In 2013, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics and the Public Works Department undertook the largest municipal pilot of truck side guards in the nation. The Truck Side Guard Ordinance is a result of this pilot, which included more than a year of testing three different types of side guards on 16 large vehicles, reviewing data from external studies, and from field observations. In the City of Boston pilot, each vehicle cost about $1,800 to outfit and will last the lifetime of the vehicle.

The ordinance goes into effect 180 days after passage.

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