Why we like bikes

On May 18, 2012, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

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.



23 Responses to “Why we like bikes”

  1. j. connelly says:

    Bikes are good. If I were not handicapped I would ride a bike in the city to shop, etc. I road a bike in my younger days, safely, with the flow of traffic. I walked it through the squares on the sidewalk as driving through the squares there was always the chance of a car pulling quickly out of a parking space.

    Unfortunately the mayor likes often to do on the taxpayers his P.T. Barnum theology – “ There’s a sucker born every minute”

    Judging from the number of bike accidents that have occurred in this city the past several months, the mayor’s idea of safety sux. Some streets are not safely compatible for both cars and bikes. Thus the mayor’s just addressing the wants of some and not honestly looking at the whole issue. His goals and visions are narrowed thus not looking at the whole picture and addressing the issues properly

    Municipal bike sharing. The citizens do not need the city getting involved in renting or ‘Sharing’ bikes. The mayor touts how the city is financially hurting and now wants to place a financial burden on the taxpayers with the liability of lawsuits that will occur if
    someone on one of these bikes hits someone or somebody. The BOA better squash this Idea. Let private businesses deal with it and the possible burdens.

    According to a federal study on bikes verses pollution done out west where the bicycle programs have been done for ten years there has been no reduction in vehicle emissions. So the rhetoric about good for the environment is false.

    Five days of the week a lot of the bikes in the square are there from people who use them to get to the square and take the “T” to Boston, makes good economic sense. Thus not all of the bikes are necessarily pumping up the economy.

    If the mayor was truly concerned for the business community he would not have driven business away as he did with his increased parking hours and fees in the business areas.

    I see smart families biking together [NOTE: all wearing helmets and ‘brite’ clothing] You see Some not wearing any safety gear at all. Though I noticed one man who for several years has not worn a helmet but has recently and wisely started wearing the helmet.

    It is interesting to note that Somerville foolishly have bike lanes pushing the bikes on to narrow, congested Rte 16 yet on the other side of Rte 16, right beside Alewife Brook the state has placed a bike path that runs from Cambridge thru Somerville thus a safer route for the bikes in this area.

    So there is nothing wrong with bikes. There is definitely something wrong with some of the routes and certain bicyclists who do not obey the rules of the road and drive through the squares on sidewalks, ride three or four abreast of each other covering the whole lane of traffic and speed without concern for others.

  2. Meme says:

    No. That is why YOU like Bikes. Much like how YOU like spending MY money. Please keep that in your mind next time you do a project YOU like financed by MY money.

  3. A Moore says:

    We bike less often now due to the city being worse for biking. I can only see it getting worse as we have many more people who will be moving in here once all these new aprtments are bullt. Sorry to say the city is not built for biking. Wish there was a way, maybe someone one day will have the answer. Just too dangerous. Silly signs on the road are not going to do it. Both myself and my wife would really like to use our bicycles more. Reality. One thing I saw one day was someone towing a baby behind them. I noticed how low to the ground the baby was and going past the stopped vehicles I would think this kid is inhaling all the fumes from the autos. Don’t know why it sunk into my brain that day but it would make me not want to do that anymore to my kid.

  4. Bill Taylor says:

    Most of the readers may depend on cars and most no doubt have had fun riding bicycles. We are not and have never been two “different” groups in Somerville. I applaud the Mayor and the City officials for their vision, helping advance the city into a healthier future everyone, for cars, bikes and pedestrians. Recent studies show that both fatalities and injuries on city streets decline dramatically when more people use bicycles. I am truly grateful for the City’s efforts to make cycling safer, as I daily commute to work by bicycle for the past twenty years. I am also grateful for all the driver’s that have accommodated me in traffic, and for those who fight for the share rows, bike lanes and the next stage, cycle tracks, which promise to open the door for the more cautious to shop, work and go to school and the park by bike in the city.

  5. JAR says:

    I’m not sure about studies showing greater or lesser amounts of pollution with or without bikes, but I would ask you to consider this…

    The marked “bike lanes” on each side of Highland Ave. are quite minimal in width. It is not unusual for me to see two people riding abreast–MOST annoying. Even when one person is riding along, many tend to stay as far from the parked cars as possible, meaning they intrude into what would be the normal driving lane for motor vehicles. If they are not doing track speed (25mph or so), and you are stuck behind one, you have to cross onto or over the double yellow line to pass them, which is, of course, a moving violation. You can’t really “coast” a vehicle under these circumstances either, so it’s often a matter of constantly braking, accelerating and decelerating. Also, In the winter, when there are snow banks and the street is not cleared clean to the curb, the roadway becomes even narrower.

    I was coming home from Foss Park last night up McGrath between Broadway and Pearl and there was a cyclist on McGrath. No marked bike lanes.

    Then there is the omnipresent annoyance of cyclists slowing down (but not stopping) and riding through red lights or riding out of side streets onto the bike lane but not stopping at the “Stop” signs before proceeding like they’re supposed to, or riding the wrong way on one way streets. A week or so ago I was going down Cedar St. from Highland to Elm and I counted fifteen bicycles coming the other way.

    However, trumping even that are the bicycle delivery vehicles which are nearly as wide as some compact cars. And the absolute WORST is the child trailers. In my opinion, using those on public roadways–even when they are marked for bicycle use–is courting disaster and should really be considered reckless endangerment. They are meant for RECREATIONAL bicycling on bike paths and the like… NOT to carry toddlers and young children to and from Day Care.

    Places like Amsterdam have roadways that are engineered for bikes, with delineated sidewalks and bike lanes that are separated by small piers every 4 feet or so. These help prevent vehicles from crossing onto the bike lane. Pedestrian portions of the sidewalks are distinguished with different brick patterns or similar means. There are no “curbs” per se.

    Our paved roadways are funded, to some extent, by gasoline and excise taxes. Automobiles have a RIGHT to be on them, provided they adhere to the rules of the road. Bicyclists need to do likewise if they expect to be treated respectfully.

    Oh, and one other thing… TIME THE LIGHTS ON HIGHLAND AVE!


  6. j. connelly says:

    JAR has a good point…Before any changes on any roadways are made the time must be set aside to study and time the lights appropriately. This includes the time for pedestrians to cross. All traffic/crossing lights should have loud audible/flashing signals to alert pedestrians when to cross and when not to cross. Not just ones that flash for a few seconds.

  7. Somerbreeze says:

    Cops may be issuing citations to cyclists violating traffic laws, BUT I still
    see plenty of sidewalk cyclists in Union and Davis Squares–and THIS dangerous practice is the primary one that prompted local seniors to complain to alderman about rogue cycling!

    So it looks like City Hall is still selective regarding enforcement of a dangerous violation of public safety–how bloody clueless can public officials get in this city, anyway!!!

  8. j. connelly says:

    Valid point “Somerbreeze” Unfortunately our anti-citizen/pro development mayor (a.k.a. Lego Joe) pursues issues for just certain people. So selective enforcement comes into play. When you take positions out of civil service (Chiefs of Police, Fire, etc), and they are appointed by the whims of the mayor. Those appointees [who want to keep their jobs], are answerable to only one person and not the citizens.

  9. Luke says:

    Thank you, Mayor, for your support of bicycling in Somerville. I appreciate your presence at today’s bicycle park tour. It was a great feeling being with another 50-100 bicyclists, getting to know parts of Somerville I’d never seen before, and getting to know fellow Somerville bicyclists. It was a crowd that was deeply committed to Somerville’s prosperity and well-being, and I was proud to be part of it.

  10. Winter Hill Barney says:


    Too bad Somerville Mayor isn’t an elected position! Lego Joe could never get away with being so anti-citizen if he had to face the voters every two years! Oh, wait….

  11. Robert says:

    How exactly can I put this? Motorists have NO place to criticize the traffic violations of cyclists. EVERY day I walk and/or ride my bike in Somerville, I see NUMEROUS motorists roll through stop signs JUST LIKE CYCLISTS and EVERY day I have to wait to LEGALLY cross the street until after the MOTORISTS decide to stop RUNNING THE RED LIGHT. So, shut the hell up about cyclists breaking laws. Get your damn house in order before you go criticizing the behaviors of cyclists that YOU do every damn day.

  12. Robert says:

    I should also add that cyclists have the legal right to use the traffic lanes just as much as motorists do. So, stop complaining when you come upon a cyclists in the lane.

  13. Somerbreeze says:

    @Robert – PEDESTRIANS, seniors and those with disabilities – have EVERY RIGHT to criticize the dangerous practices you and your freewheeling buddies indulge in with your violations of public safety with your sidewalk cycling in the squares. The local ordinance has been on the books for YEARS now, yet local cyclists PERSIST on ignoring it and putting pedestrians at risk…

    So before you go lecturing others about vehicular safety, shut your own arrogant pie hole and put your OWN house in order!

  14. j. connelly says:

    Yes they do provided;

    They dont drive helter skelter as SOME do and that they do not endanger the lives of everyone as then they are just as bad as motorists who do. SOME in fact are riding a bike because they lost their license for drunk driving.

    When the fines for erratic bicyclists are the same as they are for operators of autos. When they pay their fare share via licensing fees, excise taxes, insurrance, etc., as automobile drivers do. Then auto drivers will stop complaining. Otherwise the bicyclists free ride is discrimination. You use it… you pay for it… like automobile drivers do.

  15. A Villen says:

    Remember when we were kids, and we saw an adult riding a bike and wearing a helmet, and we thought they were retarded?

    Turns out we were right!!!!!

  16. Harry says:

    @Robert. Robert, agreed that cyclists have the right to use traffic lanes, but if they can’t keep up with the minimum speed limits then there is a pretty good chance that they become road pizza. It is what it is and your whining about it won’t change the laws of physics. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – when more of these nitwits try to win the bike versus car battle then we’ll continue to thin the herd. Which is not a bad thing.

    I also like that most of these Darwin nominees are “progressives” and leftwing kooks. It’s a win…. win for all of us when you display such stupidity as to believe that car drivers “see you” and even they see you care enough to not make you a hood ornament.

    I personaly like biking, but I’m smart enough to minimize my time on roadways around here. I use the bikepaths as much as possible. Years ago I had a nice motorcycle (loved it), but realized city driving is brutal even on a motorcycle… no one pays attention to anything smaller than their vehicles. Plus, most drivers that I know – if they’re not distracted by running late, texting, easting, drinking and/or cutting their toenails – don’t like cyclists on the roadways (why did we invest in the bikepaths anyway?) and aren’t going to be in any big hurry to let someone peddle by them.

    Hey, liberals around here like to regulate things, so since we already regulate guns, liquor, gambing we ought to regulate bicyclists. If you own a bicycle you neeed to take a mandatory 2 day class, get licensed, pay excise taxes and have inspections on your bike. Oh…. and for you to drive your bicycle in the city the police chief needs to interview you and decide if you’re worthy of becoming a human missle aimed for someone’s windshield. His discretion. If he doesn’t like your looks or you say something dumb then you can’t bicycle in the city. They do it for a License to Carry (LTC) and more people get injured riding bicycles around here than getting shot.

  17. Robert says:


    I’m not saying that cyclists don’t do those things. As a daily walking pedestrian for my work commute, I know fully well. I am saying that those exact same criticisms of cyclists apply to motorists. Motorists regularly run red lights. Motorists regularly roll through stop signs. Motorists regularly drive through the crosswalks that have big ole signs up saying STOP for pedestrians when pedestrians are standing right there waiting to cross. What I am saying is that the attacks should not go specific to one group. EVERYONE on the road is being reckless and commentors are making statements like their identified group is NOT.

  18. Robert says:


    Your issues with paying for roads, I think, doesn’t justify complaining. Paying more or less for the roads doesn’t make the law-breaking and dangerous behaviors of ANYONE acceptable. How the hell does paying a fine or insurance make it ok to risk someone’s life by running red lights and stop signs? That’s just ridiculous. It is NEVER ok to do those things. Do you seriously say that to the face of people who have been hit by motorists or know someone that has been? That’s just absurd. Issues about breaking the law and/or endangering the life of others should not be dependent on how much someone pays into some system. Where is your moral compass?!

  19. j. connelly says:

    Harry….you nailed it. There are SOME Cars and Bicyclists who fail to obey the laws.

    The politicians failed by allowing Bike Pathways on SOME streets that are too narrow to accomodate both autos and bikes, thus leading to accidents that should not happen. They create useless ordinances that they do not have the personnel to enforce properly.

    “Robert” misses the issue. We all agree that wrongful operation of an auto or bike is wrong. I never said “paying a fine or insurance make it ok to risk someone’s life by running red lights and stop signs”

    He doesnt mention bicyclists who run down pedestrians on sidewalks or the ones who do a suicide run into the sides of vehicles or into the doors of people who have their car door open way before the cyclists are near the car. Bikes do not pay for the roads. The fees and taxes on autos help pay for the roads.

    When a car is involved, the driver faces fines and it affects the cost of insurance for all. When a bike hits someone, they drive away with no costs or regulatory issue. They want the right to use the road, then they should have the same expenses to operate on the roadway as an automobile driver does, It is called equality. Thus if they hit a pedestrian they are just as responsible as a vehicle driver and suffer the same consequences.

  20. Somerbreeze says:

    j. connelly has a damned good moral compass that’s generally pointed the right way on Somerville matters down through the years…

    He also has a good BS Detector that starts twanging when the BS–City Hall, developer, or otherwise–is getting flung….

  21. Charlie says:

    Thank you Mayor Curtatone for your strong support of bicycling. Our streets are definitely getting safer and more comfortable for bicycling, and it is truly becoming an enjoyable way to get around the City. Some people here are clearly very cynical, and they do have some valid points about people behaving rudely (motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians), but that’s something we can all work on improving. Keep up the great work! I look forward to the day that Somerville becomes a Platinum Bicycle Friendly Community (up from the Bronze rating we have today)!

  22. Charlie says:

    j. connelly, it is state law that bicyclists may legally use any road in the Commonwealth that is not a limited access highway where signage is posted that prohibits bicyclists. The City of Somerville cannot legally ban bicyclists from any road (nor should they).

    Also, gas taxes and registration fees are all collected at the state level and only fund state roads (but even these funds are supplemented by federal funds and money from the state general fund). Local streets are funded by general taxes collected by cities and towns (mainly the property tax, although the excise tax plays a role too). Pedestrians and bicyclists pay for local roads the same way motorists do, through these local taxes.

    Sure, motorists do pay more in total towards roads, but this makes sense because cars and trucks cause far more wear and tear on the infrastructure than pedestrians and bicycles. But to say that bicyclists are not paying at all is simply not true.

  23. j. connelly says:

    “Charlie” READ what I said! There is nothing wrong with bikes. But anyone with “common sense & safety” would face reality that not all roadways are wide enough, nor safe enough to have bike lanes on.

    It is outright waste of taxpayers money to place bike lanes where bike paths exist, like along Alewife Brook Pkwy (Rte 16). Any bicyclist who rides on these hazardous areas is on a suicide mission and lacks good common sense.

    When bicyclists pay their true FAIR share to ride on the roadways then all is equal. The cost of having both bike lanes and bike paths they are not.

    Yet in times when finances are tough the politicians should have had the common sense not to waste needed dollars on bike paths when at the same time they were going to create bike lanes on the roadway.

    So down the line with the increase of bicycles and the bicycle rental programs trust me. The insurance industry, (which by the way a number of your state legislators either own agencies or are affiliated with), will
    make up the loss of insured cars by passing legislation to insure and tax bikes, both private & rentals. They are not going to lose money. Also the increase of bike accidents, hitting pedestrians, parked cars, will lead to mandated insurance and taxes. Because whether it be state or municipal government, you cannot lay off all of the employees and you sure as hell have not seen any elected officials take paycuts or layoffs like the rest of the public workforce has. Furlough Time is a reality for the average worker, the elected officials make it up with a “perk”.

    So “Charlie” remember there is always the “T” and it has a song in your name.

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