By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)
This is supposed to be Bike to Work Week, but they plan these things ahead of time not knowing what the weather will be. It has been a little too wet and miserable at the beginning of this week for many to consider riding a bike to work every day.
Yet this is why in Somerville we pay more attention to bicycling than just during one week or month of the year. We’ve all surely noticed the increasing number of cyclists on the roads these days.
The world has changed. More and more, people ride bicycles to get around. And complaining about it or ignoring it is not going to stop it from happening. From here to end of your life motorists will be sharing the road with large numbers of bicycles.
Yet we also see a number of benefits from all these bikes out on the roads. So I want to explain why we care about bicycling.
We care about bicycling because our residents ride bicycles. More than 40% of our city are young adults aged 21-35 and roughly 30% is foreign born. These are two populations that frequently ride a bicycle for basic transportation. The expense and hassle of a car does not appeal to them. Instead they try to live close to where they work so they can get there on two wheels or via public transportation, sometimes a mix of both. As a Mayor, it is a basic public safety issue to make sure they are not in harm’s way on our streets. That is why we are increasing our network of bike lanes up to 30 miles this year.
We care about bicycling because we are committed to building a health-conscious city. We do not just pay lip service to healthy living; we consider it in everything we do in city government. In order for people to get out the door to play and exercise, they need places to play and exercise. If you can bike to work or to school, or while running your errands, that makes exercise part of your normal routine. And healthier people tend to be happier and more productive. If a little bit of planning on our part can help people be happier and more productive, then shame on us if we don’t do it.
We care about bicycling because it is good for the environment. Every time you see a bicycle on the road, that is one less car burning fuel and spewing exhaust into the atmosphere. It also means one less care to back up traffic, causing even more fuel to be burned and more exhaust to be spewed. And don’t even get me started on noise pollution. I’m not saying cars are bad and bicycles are good, but if you want fresher air, less background noise and cleaner rivers then riding a bike is one way to help get us there.
We care about bicycling because it is good for local business. A measure of the relative economic health of Davis Square during the recent recession was all of the bicycles parked at various locations in that area. When you bring in bikes, you bring in people with them. Bicycles are a feature of an active, livable community, the kind of place people frequent and spend lots of time. If you own a business, that is exactly where you want to be located. As we extend the Community Path, institute municipal bike sharing and open up new T stations (which will act as nerve centers for bicycle activity), cycling will flourish all around the city, making Somerville an even better place to do business.
We want businesses to invest and flourish in this community, and cycling is an excellent method of delivering people to your business’ front door. At the end of the day, bicycling keeps us fit, helps improve the environment and improves the local business climate.
So, as the weather improves make sure you get out on your bike. The city is doing its part to make sure you have a pleasant ride.
~This article first appeared in the May 18, 2011, edition of The Somerville News
Bike Parade and Bike-Pedestrian Safety Campaign Kickoff
Following the Kids to Parks Day celebrations, the Mayor and the Somerville Bicycle Committee invite community members to join them on the Community Path at Lexington Park to officially launch the City’s Bike-Pedestrian Safety Campaign, a poster campaign designed to educate community members about safe driving and cycling regulations. The launch will be held at 3:00pm and will include a brief speaking agenda, poster presentation, and bike parade along the path from Cedar Street to Willow Ave. The poster campaign launch will coincide with the end of Bike Week 2012.
The City of Somerville has been recognized regionally and nationally for its commitment to active living and parks and open space. Currently, there are 56 parks, playgrounds and/or community gardens located within its 4.1 square miles, of which more than 20 have been renovated since Mayor Curtatone took office in 2004. Additionally, the City’s commitment to active living can be seen in the more than 22 miles of bike lanes and sharrows that have been added in the last two years, along with 10 new bike corrals located throughout the City. Somerville was named the 8th most bikeable and 10th most walkable community in the United States in 2011 by walkscore.com. Residents and visitors may view a comprehensive parks list, complete with interactive mapping tool and photos, at somervilleresistat.blogspot.com.