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Project doubles Somerville bike lanes

Posted by Matt Byrne  September 30, 2010 10:04 AM

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The length of Somerville streets marked for bicycling has more than doubled after a string of summer re-lining projects, the city said this week.

bikes.jpgTen new miles of roadway was marked for two-wheeled travel in recent months, bringing the total length of marked pavement up to 18 miles, according to a statement released by Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone's office. 

The projects were either stand-alone line painting efforts or came attached to other larger repaving or redesign projects, said Michael Meehan, spokesman for the city.

New bicycle markings were installed along 2.3 miles of Somerville Avenue, 1.7 miles of Powderhouse Boulevard, 1.4 miles of College Avenue, 1.3 miles of Cedar Avenue, 4/10 of a mile along Cameron Avenue, and along Washington Street between Somerville Avenue and McGrath Highway, the city said.

The announcement comes ahead of the second systematic count of bicyclists in the city, which is set for Oct. 5-7, Meehan said. 

Curtatone said in the statement that many residents, particularly the city's young adults, pedal a bike as their primary form of transportation. About 43 percent of residents are between 20 and 34, according to the most recently published population estimates released by the US Census Bureau.

"To a degree this is a public safety issue," Curtatone said. "We need to make sure cyclists aren’t in danger as they ride around Somerville."

Somerville's large population of young people flock to bicycling for not just lifestyle, but financial choices, Meehan said.  

"We have a young population who may not even want to own a car," he said. "And if they can get places by riding a bike and using public transportation, that's real money back in their pockets."

The study conducted by the city in May counted more than 5,000 bicyclists at 35 locations during a three-day period. The study also showed that the busiest intersection for morning commuters was Mossland Street and Somerville Avenue, while Beacon Street -- which has had marked bike lanes since 2008 -- was found to be the busiest bicycle thoroughfare.

The same 35 locations will be examined again in October, Meehan said, with the hope of adding more measurement points throughout the city if volunteers come out in force. 

“What the data from Beacon Street tells us is that cyclists will gravitate to well-marked streets,” said Monica Lamboy, director of the city Office of Special Projects and Community Development.

A complimentary component to the new lanes was the installation of more than 100 bike racks throughout the city, according to the mayor's office, and the city is preparing to solicit for bids to complete the design of an extension of the Community Path from Cedar Street, it's current end point, to Lowell Street. 

The community path is a multi-use paved trail that currently terminates near Davis Square. Local activists have advocated for the extension of the pathway to the Charles River near Lechmere.

Meehan said he was unsure if data exists for the number accidents involving bike-vehicle collisions, but he expects safety to improve for riders who use the new lanes. The cost of the lanes was not available, Meehan said. 

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