Block a bike lane and you’ll get a fine – thanks to team Top Secret !

The Top Secret team didn’t let the end of last year’s FLL season stop them from continuing to work on their Smart Move Project.  Read about their great idea and how they kept it pedaling here:

(article reprinted courtesy of Andrea Downs, Globe Correspondent)
Boys’ lobbying nets $50 bike lane fine
August 11, 2010 12:40 PM

Top Secret Team 008.jpg
Top Secret Team members Guy, Jordan & Amit after learning that their proposal to impose a $50 fine for blocking a bike lane in Brookline had been approved.

Motorists beware: As of now you face a $50 fine for blocking a bike lane in Brookline.

Selectmen voted 5-0 to institute the fine Tuesday after being petitioned by four boys from various Brookline schools.

“It was a really fun experience; You really feel like you have an impact,” said Guy Levin, a 7th grader at the Devotion School, of the months of research and lobbying that preceded Tuesday’s vote. Levin teamed up with Jordan Safer, a freshman at Brookline High School, Amit Rogel, an eighth grader at the Devotion and Ori Kishony, a Driscoll School 5th grader, to push the fine through. He, Safer and Rogel presented arguments before selectmen that they had developed over six months. This spring the team successfully persuaded the Bicycle Advisory Committee and the Transportation Board to endorse the measure.

According to Ainat Rogel, Amit’s mother, the boys have competed in several First Lego League robotics competitions—most recently in the fall of 2009 . Dubbing themselves the Top Secret Team, last year they built a multi-armed robot, which qualified for the state-wide contest. A final competition requirement this time was to examine a local transportation issue and suggest a solution. Because they all use bikes to get around town, they looked at the challenges faced by cyclists. Two stood out: the lack of bike racks in many locations and cars stopping in bike lanes. “It is very dangerous for bikers when cars are parking in the bike lanes,” Levin told the board, describing several hair-raising scenarios.

The team’s Lego League run ended in December . But the Top Secret Team wasn’t finished with the bike lane challenge. “We decided to continue to try to solve the problem,” Kishony said in an interview Monday.  They interviewed town officials, asked police what level of fine they would enforce, and examined different paths to a solution—including a higher fine (Boston and Cambridge have a $100 fine for such offenses). They decided to advocate for the highest fine that could be implemented without going through a Town Meeting vote and state legislative approval.

“If you have a passion for something, it’s a long and serious task; you need to do big research and be serious, but you can get through,” said Amit Rogel. Still, the boys faced a few hurdles: including being taken seriously, Levin said. “Being kids, at the beginning people had more doubts,” he said. “But when they saw we were serious and had determination, they listened.”

The Board of Selectmen raised just one concern: after Selectman Dick Benka learned that the fine for double parking in a lane for automobile traffic was just $35 , he suggested that the Transportation Board consider raising it to match the fine for blocking a bike lane.

That said, the selectmen praised the Top Secret Team for persevering through the town’s bureaucracy, and cautioned them to remain careful when biking in Brookline.  Having learned persistence, the team will continue to monitor the issue—checking enforcement and where the town is investing the fine income. Their suggestion: add it to the budget for bike racks.

Andreae Downs can be reached at