Somerville ranks highly in League of American Cyclists’ annual report
based on U.S. Census Bureau data
SOMERVILLE – In his 2014 Inaugural
Address, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone reaffirmed his commitment to make Somerville the most bikeable, walkable and transit-accessible community in the nation. This month, Somerville got a whole lot closer as it ranked first among northeast cities in bicycle commuting and fifth in the nation overall regardless of population, according to the League of American Bicyclists’ annual report on bike commuting.
“Where We Ride: An Analysis of Bicycle Commuting in American Cities”—based on U.S. Census and American Community Survey data—reports that 7.8 percent of the City’s residents use biking to get to work. That puts Somerville in first place in the League’s East region, which stretches from Maine to Maryland, and fifth in the nation for commuter percentage. When compared to cities of similar population size (65,000-100,000), Somerville ranks third in the nation.
“This is a tremendous achievement that has a positive impact on our environment, our economy and our health,” said Mayor Curtatone. “We’ve worked hard at making it easier and safer to bike to work in Somerville. It reduces our residents’ reliance on cars, saves them money and helps them lead healthier lives, while also sparing the environment from more greenhouse gas emissions. It connects people to mass transit and jobs, while bringing more customers to local businesses, and spurs more private investment in our neighborhoods in squares from people who see a vibrant, active city with bustling streets. This is a great achievement and we’re inching closer to our goal of being number one in the nation.”
Under Mayor Curtatone, Somerville has set high goals for bicycle commuting. City and community stakeholders set a goal in SomerVision, the City’s 20-year comprehensive plan, of making 50% of all new trips in Somerville via bike, walking, and transit, and similarly the Somerville Bicycle Committee aims for a 10 percent commute share by 2020. Commuter trips account for 16% of trips in the city.
To achieve those goals, the City has invested in the infrastructure to make commuting by bicycle easier and safer. In the last three years, the City has installed more than 25 miles of bike lanes and sharrows and added over 200 new bike parking spots to city streets. The Somerville Community Path is being extended to where it will meet with a future Green Line station, and the MBTA has agreed to build the path the rest of the way to Lechmere Station in Cambridge. In 2012, Somerville joined the Hubway bikeshare system with 12 stations garnering thousands of rides monthly. Investment in infrastructure has been complimented by safety programming including an informational poster and PSA campaign, increased police enforcement, and cycling education in schools. Somerville has seen an 80 percent increase in bicycle commuting during peak hours from 2010 to 2013, according to data collected through the City’s annual bicycle and pedestrian counts.
“When we set out to increase cycling by making it safer and more inviting, we set ambitious goals. But an increase of this amount over such a short time period—over 50% in four years—is more than planners anywhere would have expected,” said Somerville Director of Transportation Hayes Morrison. “Somerville residents’ have made a shift toward bicycle commuting that is truly extraordinary, which makes me believe we will surely reach our next goal to increase the percentage of our commuters who bike to 10 percent by 2020. We want to be number one in the nation and create streetscapes that accommodate all forms of travel, and with a community this motivated and open to new ways of commuting, I believe we can do it.”
In recent years, Somerville has increasingly been recognized for its progressive transportation policies, including being the first community in Massachusetts to pass a Complete Streets Ordinance, codifying its multimodal approach to safe, friendly roadway design. In November 2013, The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) added the City of Somerville, MA, to its affiliate member, making Somerville one of just 18 member cities and 12 affiliate members nationwide. The League of American Cyclists also recognized Somerville in 2013 with a Silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community Award.