Grand Rapids ranks among state’s worst for bicycle fatalities
The high fatality rate in bicycle accidents in West Michigan has prompted the state to use a federal grant to set up a three-year bicycle safety education program in the greater Grand Rapids area.
The city of Grand Rapids received the $485,000 grant, along with a matching amount from local entities, from the Michigan Department of Transportation, because from 2008 to 2012, the MDOT Grand Region had the highest ratio of fatal bike crashes in Michigan — 50 percent higher than the state average.
MDOT said Grand Rapids, including East Grand Rapids, has the second highest ratio of fatal bike crashes among Michigan’s large cities.
A request for proposals from interested consulting firms was released April 18 by the Grand Rapids planning and traffic safety departments for the design and implementation of a program targeting both bicyclists and motorists. Responses to the RFP are due May 7.
The project has three primary goals: education and training on the safe use of a bicycle in traffic; increase the knowledge of the responsibilities of bicyclists and motorists; and promote a "share the road" culture.
Prospective consulting firms will be required to have experience creating similar programs and the resulting education program should be usable by other municipalities.
The RFP can be found at the planning department's website.
“People are using biking as a way to get to work, school and for recreation. Bikers are vulnerable road users. A targeted effort to educate bicyclists and motorists alike is needed to improve safety,” said Chris Zull, Grand Rapids traffic safety manager. “Oftentimes, motorists don’t understand that bikes are legal users of the road, and bicyclists don’t realize that they are safer in the street than riding on sidewalks.”
The project is financed by a Federal Transportation Enhancement grant, and the local match is provided by funding from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Dyer-Ives Foundation and the city planning and traffic safety departments.
Once received, the proposals will be evaluated according to specific criteria. A shortlist of firms will be produced, and the prospective consultants will make presentations to a 40-member steering committee, which is charged to select a consultant, provide input, monitor progress and seek input from constituents.
The greater Grand Rapids area was awarded the bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community designation in 2009 by the League of American Bicyclists.
“The goal of becoming a true bicycle-friendly community cannot be achieved without mitigating the disproportionally high number of biking-related crashes,” said Michael Smith, MDOT grants coordinator.