According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Minneapolis bicycle commuters have grown by a little over 31% in the five-year period between 2006 and 2011, making us the #4 city for biking in the nation. However, those numbers only reflect those who choose to commute to work on their bikes. In 2012, Minneapolis Public Works and Bike Walk Twin Cities released bicyclist traffic count results that showed that bicycling in Minneapolis has increased by an overall 56% in the period between 2007-2012.
With all these cyclists hitting our roadways in ever-increasing numbers, the question becomes: Can Minneapolis provide a safe riding experience for all?
MINNEAPOLIS BICYCLING PROGRAM
The Minneapolis Bicycling Program seeks to do just that, by not only encouraging those who live and work in the city to use bicycles as an eco-friendly and cost-effective way to travel, but also working to increase cyclist safety through education and creation of off-street biking trails. Ranked as one of the best bicycling cities in the country by both Bike Score and Bicycling Magazine, Minneapolis’ 92 miles of on-street bikeways and 85 miles of off-street bikeways have resulted in the city being awarded the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community Award.
NOT ENOUGH TO KEEP BIKERS SAFE
Despite such accolades, car vs. bike accidents continue to be of serious concern for most Minneapolis cyclists. That’s why the city came up with 2011 Minneapolis Bicycle Master Plan, looking for a 10 percent annual reduction in the number of bicyclist vs. motorist crashes. Their first objective was to analyze the past, looking at 2,973 cyclist-motorist accident records from the ten years between 2000-2010.
What they found was very telling – cyclists and motorists were nearly equally at fault for their accidents, with the most common cause of accidents from both parties being failure to yield.
Other primary conclusions from the data were:
Most crashes occur at intersections and along busy roads
Motorists are not seeing or yielding to bicyclists
Bicyclists are not riding in a predictable manner
One piece of good news to come out of this analysis was the direct correlation between the number of bicycles on the road and a decrease in the crash rate. As our cycling numbers have increased in Minneapolis, our crash rates have decreased – this is on par with findings in other cities where the increased numbers of cyclists work to make drivers more aware of their overall presence.
NEW STYLE OF BIKE LANES AND MARKINGS SEEK TO INCREASE CYCLIST SAFETY
The City of Minneapolis notes that in the past two years, they’ve doubled the miles of on-street bikeways, employing new types of bike lanes and markings in an effort to increase cyclist safety. But the question is, will these new markings do any good if drivers, as well as cyclists, are not well versed in their meanings and usage?
SHARED LANES, BIKE LANES AND CYCLE TRACKS
Two new videos produced by the City of Minneapolis target both bicyclists and motorists in order to cultivate a better understanding of the rules of the road, new markings, and how to coexist on Minnesota roadways without ending up in an accident.
The American Journal of Public Health’s study recently found that cycle tracks were the safest bike route available, and that cyclists prefer to ride in them as compared to bike lanes on major streets. To learn more about cycle tracks, visit https://www.minneapolismn.gov/bicycles/cycle-track.
So, are new bike lanes and markings making Minneapolis safer for cyclists? Only time will tell. For now, it seems that the sheer numbers of cyclists joining Minneapolis roadways may help to keep car-cyclist accidents down, as the city does its best to protect cyclists and keep both drivers and bikers informed and aware.
For more on bicycle lane markers and what they mean, visit the city’s web page Understanding New Bicycling Markings.