The Rapidian

City of Grand Rapids launches new bicycle safety education campaign

The new campaign, Driving Change, is aimed at educating both bicyclists and motorists as to how they can safely share the road.
Underwriting support from:
Bicyclists Must Obey Signs and Signals

Bicyclists Must Obey Signs and Signals /Driving Change

Watch for Bikes when Turning Rights

Watch for Bikes when Turning Rights /Driving Change

Yesterday, the City of Grand Rapids launched Driving Change, its largest effort to educate motorists, bicyclists, and the community on how everyone can share the road safely.

“Grand Rapids actually has a crash rate [between cars and bicycles] twice as high as the state average,” says Suzanne Schulz, City Planner for the City of Grand Rapids. “Driving Change is really all about getting motorists and bicyclists to know what the rules of the road are.”

“Bicyclists are legal road users, and cars need to know how to interact with them.”

But it’s not just motorists that need to know the rules of the road – it’s bicyclists, too. After looking at crash data from the past 10 years, the city and the Grand Rapids Police Department noted that bicyclists and cars were equally at fault in causing accidents.

“A lot of the crashes are happening from cyclists riding on the sidewalk,” says Officer Ernie Stafford, Bike Officer from the Grand Rapids Police Department.  “Another big [source] of crashes is the major intersections, where motorists making a right turn don’t see a cyclist, and the crash occurs at that point.”

“When you’re on a bicycle, you have to assume that you’re following the same rules as if you were driving a car. You have to stop at a stoplight; you can’t just stop and then go through. I see that a lot. These are traffic violations,” Stafford continues.

“As the police department, we want to make sure that everyone that travels the road is safe.”

Residents will start seeing the education campaign in a number of outlets – Facebook posts, TV and radio ads, even billboards. The billboards are placed in targeted areas where the city and police department know that certain types of crashes are happening.

The campaign messaging focuses around some of the newer bicycle-related ordinances that the City has passed. For example, cars cannot park or drive in the bike lanes, and bicyclists must have a white light on the front of their bike and a red reflector on the tail of their bike when riding at night. There’s also the five foot passing rule.

“The Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition really advocated for five foot safe passing. So cars should give cyclists, even if they’re in a bike lane, wherever they are, sufficient space.” said Schulz.

It’s important to note that the Grand Rapids Police Department will not be issuing tickets during the first year of these new ordinances.

“If a police officer makes contact, our goal is education, not necessarily to write tickets.” said Officer Stafford.

Driving Change is funded by a grant from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

“The best thing about this is reducing crashes so that no one gets injured. That’s our goal, to have all motorists and cyclists ride on the road in harmony.” said Office Stafford.

“I think we can change the culture in Grand Rapids. We have some pretty aggressive car drivers, and some bicyclists that don’t follow all the rules. So I think that combination has really impacted cyclists in particular,” said Schulz. “They’re vulnerable road users, and we really just want to build a safer community.”

Learn more about Driving Change in GRTV’s NPO Showcase interview above, or catch it airing on GRTV and LiveWire. You can also visit the Driving Change website, the Grand Rapids Police Department’s website, or the GRPD Facebook page for more information.

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