Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yes, We Do Need a Bicycle Safety Campaign

Biking is on the rise in Somerville--and the need for a bicycle safety campaign is too. Over the past two years, we've added more than 21 new miles of bicycle lanes and sharrows, and proved that it's true that if you paint it, the bikes will come. During our Spring 2011 Bicycle and Pedestrian Count, 52% more cyclists were spotted commuting in the morning compared to in 2005 during the same hour (see graph below).

As an integral part of our efforts to make the city welcoming and safe for cyclists, last spring the City also began preparing materials for a Citywide bicycle safety campaign. Recently we were called out for moving too slowly on this by the Somerville Pedestrian Group. We welcome the nudge. But we would like to clarify: We see bike safety outreach as critical.

How critical? A recently released MassDot report found Inman Square in Somerville/Cambridge to have the highest incidence of bicycle crashes in the Commonwealth for the period from 2002 to 2009. During that time 106 bicycle crashes at the intersection resulted in 71 injuries (see map from the report below). Meanwhile, eight out of ten of the most dangerous intersections in Massachusetts for cyclists (including Inman Square), are in Cambridge, where many Somerville residents also ride. 

Bike Safety Campaign Ramping Back Up
But while behind-the-scenes efforts continued for the launch our safety campaign, the project itself slowed due to the changeover of four key staffers involved (three in transportation planning including the bike program coordinator and also the director of communications for the schools). We are now back to full staffing and are eager to ramp up this program.

We worked last spring with the help of the Somerville Bicycle Committee, Groundwork Somerville, CYCLE Kids, Tufts and the Somerville Public Schools. Our new Senior Transportation Planner and bicycle program coordinator, Sarah Spicer, who is an avid bike commuter herself, is raring to go. She is overseeing the installation of Somerville's new bike corrals and will soon turn her attention to the Safety Campaign along with Deputy Director of Communications Jackie Rossetti and other city staffers.

For an update on the program, please come to the Board of Aldermen's Public Health & Safety Committee meeting on Thursday, Nov. 3, at 6 p.m., at the VNA, 259 Lowell St.

Getting the word out on traffic regulations (including no bikes on the sidewalks and following the direction of traffic) and safety measures (such as proper signaling or using bicycle lights and reflective clothing at night) are key if cars, pedestrians and cyclists are to share Somerville's streets safely.

Via posters, school backpack flyers, press releases, social media and more, we will get the word out on how to be safe on two wheels on our heavily trafficked roads. If you have suggestions or concerns we should address, feel free to post them here. And always feel free to nudge us about this or other issues that matter to you.

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