Boston is doubling down on biking, but are suburban commuters safe? Flickr/Fiona Wong

Bike accidents are on the rise in suburban Boston, according to The Boston Globe.

Nearly a decade ago, former Boston mayor Thomas Menino launched the Boston Bikes initiative, an effort to revamp the city's second-rate cycling infrastructure. At the time, only 60 yards of bike lanes were accessible within the city. And Menino's ambitious plan created much-needed improvements.

Boston's bike lanes have since grown from less than one mile in 2007 to more than 60 miles today. Over 22,000 people bike to work each morning. Yet, in Boston's surrounding suburban communities—those with many city commuters—town officials may need to rethink their own cycling infrastructure: Cyclists traveling the outskirts of Boston are being struck by vehicles at alarming rates.

Commuting by bicycle is most popular in towns adjacent to Boston, such as Brookline, Somerville, and Cambridge. Darker areas represent more cycling commuters. (U.S. Census Bureau)

In greater Boston, collisions involving bicycles increased by 9 percent between 2010 and 2012, The Boston Globe reported over the weekend. (Massachusetts as a whole saw a dramatic increase in incidences of vehicles striking bicyclists.) The Globe, which relied on figures from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, reported that 66 percent of the accidents involved a passenger car and that 70 percent resulted in injuries.

The region's recent boom in cycling itself may partly explain the uptick in bicycle-involved collisions. Citing U.S. Census Bureau figures, The Globe reports that the number of Boston commuters traveling by bike increased by 75 percent between 2000 and 2012. But an influx of bicyclists doesn't inherently translate to more collisions. CityLab's Sarah Goodyear wrote recently that bicycle accidents in New York City fell between 2008 and 2011 despite the volume of cyclists increasing. In the case of NYC, a "compelling explanation ... is that improvements in bike infrastructure have led to streets that are safer for all users," Goodyear writes.

Rapidly urbanizing areas of greater Boston—such as Somerville, where 100 cyclists were struck over just a two-year period—have benefited from the larger city's biking initiatives. Boston's expanded bike lanes offer its residents the ability to traverse the city in a healthy, eco-friendly way. Ensuring safe bike travel beyond the city limits and into the suburban corridor needs to be the next priority.

Top image courtesy of Flickr user Fiona Wong.

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