The Grand Valley Metropolitan Council recently launched a safety education and outreach campaign to inform pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers on how to stay safe when sharing the roadway.
The campaign includes an informational tip card for bicyclists and pedestrians that is available in English and Spanish, a webpage with videos and resources for all users of the transportation system and a variety of free promotional items that help bicyclists and pedestrians stay visible, especially at night. These items include bike lights, reflective wrist bands and reflective safety belts that adjust to fit children and adults.
The Grand Valley Metro Council (GVMC) began giving out the bike lights late last summer by partnering with several member communities; local charitable bicycle shops that serve low-income residents, including refugees; the Kent County Sheriff’s Office; and other organizations that helped distribute them to the local community.
To date, GVMC has given away more than 2,600 bike lights through these partnerships. In late October, GVMC launched a new webpage, developed tip cards and purchased the reflective wrist bands and safety belts for pedestrians.
As daylight savings time has ended and days are continuing to get shorter, GVMC said staying visible on the roadway is increasingly important to stay safe and, for bicyclists, to follow the law, which states a bicycle operated between a half-hour after sunset and a half-hour before sunrise must have an appropriate white lamp on the front of the bike and a red reflector on the rear.
GVMC’s safety education and outreach campaign was developed in response to a community need for more education about safe driving, walking and biking to reduce crashes caused by human error.
According to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, although traffic crashes involving pedestrians and bicyclists only accounted for 1.66% of total crashes from the last five years in the GVMC area, which encompasses Kent and eastern Ottawa counties, nonmotorized fatalities and serious injuries represented 19.88% of total traffic fatalities and 12.74% of total serious injuries during the same five-year period. There has been an average of 400 nonmotorized crashes per year over the last five years in the GVMC area.
New federal requirements also mandate metropolitan planning organizations (MPO), like GVMC, incorporate performance-based planning requirements into several areas of their transportation planning process, including safety. The current transportation bill, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, requires MPOs to set their own targets or support the state’s for the following safety performance measures yearly:
- Number of fatalities on all public roads
- Rate of fatalities on all public roads
- Number of serious injuries on all public roads
- Rate of serious injuries on all public roads
- Number of nonmotorized fatalities and nonmotorized serious injuries on all public roads
GVMC has historically opted to support MDOT’s safety targets and will do the same for 2021. GVMC’s safety education and outreach program is expected to enhance MDOT’s efforts to achieve their safety targets and further assist with their Toward Zero Deaths initiative by reducing crashes in the MPO area through community education and the distribution of lights and reflective gear to nonmotorized users of the transportation system.
GVMC is continuing to partner with local communities, businesses and other organizations to help distribute free safety items to the public. Businesses and organizations wishing to participate can fill out the form at gvmc.org/safety-outreach.