Sunday, June 16, 2024

The display on the Eco-Totem device on Broadway. (Photo: City of Cambridge)

Bike ridership is up and crash rates are down in an annual Bicycling in Cambridge Data Report posted last week by the Environmental & Transportation Planning Division of the city’s Community Development Department.

Bike lanes and bike operation enforcement have been hot-button issues during municipal elections to be decided Nov. 7. The report focuses on cycling metrics but does not address associated matters such as drive times and effect on businesses where a protected bike lane has been installed – which is getting study of its own.

“People are bicycling more and more in Cambridge,” according to the report, while adding qualifiers to why “the total count of people bicycling in our citywide program overall was somewhat lower than 2019.”

Among the factors for the uncertainty was the growing use of micromobility devices such as scooters and roadway construction such as in Inman Square and on Broadway. “Construction projects can have significant negative impacts on bike trips,” the report says. “Pavement quality, noise and exposure to construction are all factors people consider when choosing routes; preexisting facilities may also be removed during a major construction period.”

The percentage of Cambridge residents bicycling to work is at an all-time high of 9 percent, with that number close to 10 percent for those commuting to Kendall Square, according to the report. The posted numbers for Kendall reflects a trend from the Covid era, when working remotely or from home increased, driving down the numbers of commuters in general. The Cambridge Redevelopment Authority data for Kendall Square showed mass transit use down 30 percent – with the MBTA’s woes being an obvious factor – in 2022 from 2018, while single-occupancy car commutes were up 23 percent, as were people arriving by bike at 34 percent and by walking at 15 percent. 

Examining barrier-separated bike lanes for safety and frequency of use, the report noted that for North Cambridge ridership was up 68 percent and that riding on sidewalks was down 80 percent  from 2016 to 2022. Crash data for the the newer barrier-separated bike lanes was iffier because of lack of accrued data, but for Southern Massachusetts Avenue (approximately Lafayette Plaza to MIT and Memorial Drive) there were nine bicycle-involved crashes for the four years before the separated installation (2015-2018) and two since. 

Bike count data from 2002 to 2022 shows a nearly fourfold increase in ridership. The report also says the number of children riding increased by 3.5 times for the shorter period of 2014-2022. Looking at injuries and crashes, the report showed a steady decline in the number of crashes from 2003 to 2022 per million bicycle miles traveled: to 9.3 from 28, down 67 percent.

Injuries also dropped in severity, according to the report, with incapacitating injuries among riders down nearly 84 between the periods of 2004-2012 and 2015-2022.

The report touched on finding better ways to collect data, including using automated sources similar to an “Eco-Totem” in Kendall Square or infrared sensors installed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council on the multi-use path in North Point along Morgan Avenue. Planners said they hoped to have better data that could be broken out more meaningfully, including accounting for devices such as scooters and one-wheels.