Friday, October 26, 2001
Police prioritize road safety
While the Carlisle Police Department has reports of only six accidents in town involving cyclists over the past three years, chief Dave Galvin noted that the potential for more exists. Three of the incidents took place on Bedford Road, two on Concord Street, and one on North Road. Galvin attributed "inattention on the part of the bicyclists" as the primary cause of accidents.
The Carlisle Police Chief would like town selectmen
to empower his department to fine bicycle operators if they break the rules
of the road as allowed by
Massachusetts law. Cyclists are required to drive on the same side of the
road as cars, and follow all traffic laws. Adoption of the state
enforcement policy in Carlisle would enable town
police to award non-criminal citations to cyclists not following the law.
The fine would not exceed $20.
"Many of the bikers we have in town are 'serious' and keep their heads down," said Galvin, and added that as a result they crash into cars making turns into the street. An article by John Schubert in the September/October issue of Adventure Cyclist attributes failure of bicycle drivers to follow traffic laws as the reason for the majority of dangerous crashes. Cyclists sometimes drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid a tricky part of the road, and end up colliding with motorists making right turns. Schubert calls driving on the wrong side of the road, even just for a moment, "ill-advised." Due to the speed of bicycles today, the cyclist can very quickly drive into a motorist's blind spot.
Although cyclists are supposed to drive on the roadway, it's not uncommon in the busy town center of Carlisle to spot a bicycle on the sidewalk. The only place in town that has sidewalks is the narrow stretch of road in front of Town Hall.
"I don't have a problem with them using the sidewalk," said Galvin. "Any time we can get bicyclists and pedestrians off our main roadways here is a plus in terms of safety."
Pathway project coming up soon
The Carlisle Pedestrian and Bike Safety Advisory Committee met last week. The group will notify abutters on the proposed route of a pathway extending from the center of town to the school, and then down to the ball fields. The committee also will approach the town selectman to release $5,000 of allotted funds to put in a semi-circular pathway loop near the Spalding building to facilitate passage of students to the Gleason Library.
"We would like to have the children off the road when it snows," said Art Milliken, committee member. He said the group would also like to show townspeople the proposed pathway surface. The granite-based material, similar to that used on the Minuteman Trail in Concord looks "decent and holds up well," according to Milliken.
Superintendent of Public Works Gary Davis plans to install the pathway upon release of the funds, but does not believe the work will take place before the start of the winter.
Sue Struss of School Street favors the pathways. She belongs to a group of about a dozen women in town, known as the Carlisle Outdoor Women's Society (COWS). The group meets regularly on Friday mornings for exercise and conversation. Depending on the season and weather, they go bicycling, walking, or skiing. Due to safety concerns, Struss noted the women take their activities off-road. She added that her fourth grade son Tyler would like to make the one-mile bicycle ride to school, but she won't let him.
"I think it would be great if Tyler could bike or walk to school versus sitting four in a row on the bus," said Struss. She believes that riding the over-crowded bus is still safer that Carlisle's "narrow and winding roads." Struss, a Cub Scout den mother, recently organized a bike safety session for the fourth grade participants with Officer Barnes at the Great Brook State Farm on Tuesday, October 16.
Galvin makes his officers readily available for educating young bicyclists. He keeps the helmet pamphlets well stocked at the station. He has an officer in charge of monitoring bike treks that pass through town. Road safety is a town priority.
"We understand you're not going to get the professional bicyclists to use the pathways," acknowledged Galvin. "They want to be on the road. They're travelling at the speed limit many times. However, the pathways are going to be used by younger children and pedestrians. I'm 100 percent in favor of the pathways. I think they're going to relieve a lot of our anxiety."
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito