City of Grand Rapids pushing bike safety

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids and driver’s training companies are partnering to reduce the number of crashes involving cars and bikes.

It’s the launch of the second annual “Driving Change.” The city launched the campaign in 2016 with a new ordinance which requires drivers, when passing a bicyclist, to make sure there is at least five feet between the right side of the car (including mirrors) and the cyclist.

“What’s new for the motoring public is… by giving them enough room, they may be in that bike lane but maybe something comes up in that lane and they have to swerve. That’s why we want to give them a wide birth when we are going around them as much as we can,” said Grand Rapids Police Deputy Chief Dan Savage.

According to the city, the number of crashes between cars and bikes went down in 2016 versus 2015. Police reports show that in 2015, there were 11 fatal or serious-injury crashes between bikes and cars from May through September. In 2016, that number was down to just two.

The total number of crashes involving bicyclists in Grand Rapids was also down 40 percent. In 2016, there were 42 crashes involving bikes between May and September – the lowest number since the city started keeping track in 2004.

“The reductions that we’ve seen [are] substantial enough that we’re very proud of the effort,” Savage said. “Our campaign at the level of the officer [has] primarily been education, as opposed to enforcement.”

Driver’s training classes already talk about sharing the roads, but they will now incorporate materials provided by the city to help.

Grand Rapids has historically had the state’s second-highest crash rates involving bikes.

“It’s more so getting the word out to the community and letting them know how bike lanes work and what the responsibility of the drivers are,” said Century Driving School President Dave Muma.