City Hall Drops the Ball--Yet Again!

Somerville cyclists on sidewalks, Union Square and Davis Square, July - October, 2012

  No, there hasn't been a premature dropping of a local New Years Eve time-ball--City Hall has dropped the ball on long-promised bike enforcement and a companion public safety campaign—yet again...

At an Aldermanic Public Health & Public Safety Committee meeting in October, 2011, the Administration was queried for its failure to initiate both bike enforcement and a public safety campaign. Local cyclists had long indulged in reckless endangerment of pedestrians—especially seniors and persons with disabilities—in violation of public safety laws, especially with regard to the epidemic of sidewalk cycling in the central business districts—the city squares.

City Hall had earlier promised a “far-reaching campaign” to inform citizens, cyclists and pedestrians of cycling rights and responsibilities, to begin in the spring of 2011.

After initial meetings in early 2011, a group chaired by City Hall's Jaclyn Rossetti, and including the Bike Committee, Groundwork Somerville, CYCLE Kids, Tufts and the Somerville Public Schools, claimed to create a poster campaign. But no further efforts ensued during the summer, or that fall, hence the summons from the Public Health & Public Safety Committee, in response to constituent complaints.

Ms. Rossetti and her group then created colorful posters highlighting the need for bike/pedestrian safety, and the public safety campaign kicked off in April, 2012, with appropriate enforcement by Somerville Police. The campaign garnered local headlines and lots of publicity.

Come summer, the much-ballyhooed campaign evaporated, along with enforcement. Then the Hubway Bike Stations made their debut in the city squares—and still no campaign. All summer long and into the fall, sidewalk cyclists continued in droves to violate the local ordinance prohibiting sidewalk cycling, even as new bike lanes appeared in Union Square and other squares. (It's hard to fault the Police on enforcement, when City Hall is so loathe to pursue it).

So finally, yet again, the Public Health & Public Safety Committee, at a November 19th meeting, found itself querying both City Hall and Police Chief Pasquarello about bike enforcement and the flagging public safety campaign. Pedestrian advocate Greg Hill presented video footage of sidewalk cyclists in Union and Davis Squares in 2012, leaving no doubt that such violations were happening. Chairman White then asked the City Hall representative about reviving the public safety campaign.

Will this farce become an annual Somerville rite? When you're dealing with the laughable veracity of City Hall, it could very well become one. So public safety takes a holiday, and City Hall will drop the ball once again—just remember to look up—you won't get alerted...

The video footage of sidewalk cyclists may be viewed via this URL link to the Metacafe video-sharing web site (Double-click on the boxed video frame):


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Ron Newman December 19, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Most of the footage in your video shows cyclists riding on sidewalks of Bow Street and Somerville Avenue in order to avoid riding in the street against one-way traffic. The best solution to this problem is to make both of these streets two-way again, as they were before the 1970s.
SomervilleGirl December 19, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Ron, Who do you propose will pay to have those streets reconfigured? The same people who are paying for more bike lanes and widening of our roadways? The Taxpayers? How about another idea? That the bicyclists be held accountable for causing accidents and hurting people they run into. If they own a home, they should be subject to lawsuits as motorists, also be forced to buy insurance, register their vehicle and have it tagged for ID, like a license plate on the back. They should be forced to go to safety classes, as there is talk about implementing them throughout our region due to the number of head injuries our hospitals are seeing from bike accidents. A little self-awareness and responsibility for ones own actions can go a long way, Ron. We should not be baby sitters of bicyclists. If they choose to use the roads as the rest of us, they should be expected to take full responsibility of their own actions and face the consequences--not always leave others to clean up their mess. I've grown tired of their entitled attitudes. This carries over to some of the other people who have moved to this area. We all deserve to have a say in how our cities and towns operate. Just because someone has a trust fund, rich parents or a college degree, does not make them more intelligent. The only thing their self-concerned ignorance serves to do is to further alienate others into division and resentment.
Greg Hill December 20, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Making both of these streets two might be a solution, but for now there's no excuse for riding on the sidewalk in the squares, violating the local ordinance and putting pedestrians at risk, Mr. Newman...and you did notice all the senior and disabled pedestrians, too, in the video footage?
Sand Man December 21, 2012 at 11:35 PM
This was posted on the web site Zero Combustion, October 12, 2012 (edited): "Last week my dear friend Kathleen was run down by a cyclist while she walked home on Highland at 12am. She was on the sidewalk, and whoever it was hit her from behind. She fell so hard that she blacked out, and when she woke up she was covered in blood from cuts on her face and hands. This is the second time she’s been hit by a cyclist on Highland, while on the sidewalk, in a month. She’s not the only person I know to have been hit while walking on the sidewalk in the last month...."
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