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):


This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

AHM December 07, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Don't expect much in the way of enything happening. Fo this to happen we have to wait until someone is actually killed before action is taken. Just have to be patient until this happens. Bikers are in right now so we don't want to be discourterous to thsi group.
Linda Sauer McSorley December 08, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Perhaps motorists can use the roadway the same as bicyclists...wrong way on one ways, blowing thru red lights, ingnoring pedestrians in crosswalks, etc. "Sorry officer, I thought bikes and cars followed the same rules." Register , insure and ticket bikes just like cars. More money for the city and state and maybe road rule compliance. Something has to give hopefully not a life!
AHM December 08, 2012 at 02:21 PM
They are already doing that now Linda. I live on a one way and they go faster the wrong way than they do the right way. Red lights are now like the old yellow ones where you speed up to go through. People just need more common sense and courtesy on both sides.
SomervilleGirl December 09, 2012 at 03:11 PM
ttt December 13, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Is this really that big of an issue? I live in union and I've seen plenty of bicyclists on the sidewalks and in the square, but have NEVER seen one traveling quick enough to pose a safety concern. Davis Sq is different with narrower sidewalks and greater retail density, but again, it just doesn't seem like that big of an issue. Those who ride on sidewalks are often those who are not comfortable riding in the street and typically ride much slower than the street cyclists who have no desire to ride on the sidewalks/square. Everyone is annoyed by something, people usually learn to tolerate these minor inconveniences - one of the great things about living in the city. Sounds like Greg Hill needs a hobby or a pet to occupy his time. My advice to him: go home, turn off your computer, drink a few beers and relax....
ttt December 13, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Read the comments, they're better than the article...
Greg Hill December 15, 2012 at 06:35 PM
So, ttt, you live in Union Square and “have NEVER seen sidewalk cyclists travelling quick enough to pose a safety concern?” Did you even LOOK at the video footage? And you can't tell me some of those cyclists aren't riding at hazardous speeds? And some at night. Union Square has blind corners that senior and disabled pedestrians must navigate, and sidewalk cyclists DON'T pose a threat to their safety—especially at night? But I guess they don't have the benefit of your flip and sophomoric posturing to light their way—reeking of put-upon City Hall flak-ness, by the way. If “it doesn't seem like that big an issue,” pray tell why is there a local ordinance prohibiting sidewalk cycling in the squares? Was the ordinance adopted on a whim? Tell that to Somerville residents who've complained to their aldermen about the cyclists! And to the alderman who said recently, “Yes, this definitely IS an issue.” And why have countless other cities across the country adopted such an ordinance? (Guess it was a slow day at city hall, hunh?). And there have been countless studies showing how sidewalk cycling in business districts is hazardous both to pedestrians and cyclists. Finally, given your patronizing directive about my lifestyle, I have plenty to occupy my time, engaged with local civics and concerns, other Somerville residents, friends and family—despite being partially disabled and walking with a cane... So, how's that City Hall gig working out for you, pally?
SomervilleGirl December 16, 2012 at 07:40 PM
ttt, If it was your grandmother or family member with a handicap being assaulted by a reckless bicyclist riding on the sidewalk, you would think differently. As a pedestrian who walks on sidewalks and crosswalks, I've had to dodge oncoming bicyclists almost daily. They are inconsiderate of those who sidewalks and crosswalks were made for--never before was it ever allowed. The bicyclist brigade has formed their own gang and they plan to eliminate as many motorists as possible, maybe it's with mommy and daddy's trust fund. But those of us who care about the safety of others, including bicyclists understand that everyone who uses our roadways must abide by the laws and use common sense. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable of all, especially children, elderly and those with limited mobility and handicaps. I think it's time our law enforcement and city officials begin implementing some much needed education for bicyclists--those who create dangerous roadway situations are solely responsible for these tragedies which could be avoided. Professionals of medical centers in our area and in surrounding colleges are aware of the spike of severe head injuries due to bicyclists who are not obeying the rules of the road and riding without helmets. They are already trying to bring much needed changes in the way the bicyclists have imposed their free reign upon our neighborhoods in surrounding cities. I hope our politicians will listen and law enforcement gets involved.
Sand Man December 17, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Gee, no response from City Hall about the videos showing numerous violations of a local ordinance? But always plenty of gushing about the latest and greatest for cyclists? All of us get taxed, but only some of us get represented....
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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