Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

Fearmongering in Duluth


Share the RoadThere’s nothing quite like headline writing expressly designed to freak people out, while not necessarily matching article content.

Duluth’s Northland News Center, which is a site for Duluth’s CBS, NBC, CW and ‘MyNetwork’ affiliate television outlets, provokes today’s big headsmack with their article “BICYCLE RIDING DEATHS UP IN MN.”

While the article does include some fatality statistics for the state, I’m relatively sure that the safety message being put out by Susan Koschak, the chair of the Statewide Non-Motorized Advisory Committee, didn’t include the OMG YOU WILL ALL DIE tilt. The DPS official quoted also is quoted on safety, although the fatality figure (average of 8 cyclist deaths/year) is a DPS number.

Just as a comparison, DPS reports 72 motorcyclist deaths in 2008, and 416 car accident deaths in 2009. Obviously, working towards 0 in all columns is important, but you rarely see the attachment of OMG DANGER! attached in the same way to these other modes of transport.

Northland News also inserts a “use bike paths!” comment, even though DPS and MNDOT share the 8 principles of the Share the Road Minnesota campaign, all of which focus on appropriate and legal use of roadways by cyclists.

I’m blaming this all on Northland, as the state agencies quoted are typically right on and supportive of the Share the Road principles and Minnesota statutes on bicyclists. Education of all roadway users – and not breathless sharing of noncontextual fatality statistics – is the key to cyclist safety on the roads. All a headline of this nature does is forward a not-especially-subtle bias against cyclists’ road rights.

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Author: julie

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005. She is a past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association. She has 2 children and 4 bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations.


  1. This (and other articles being published around Minnesota) is taken from a news release at DPS:

    I talked with the author Nathan Bowie, who says he is a bike commuter, and I am not sure he really understood my complaint. I pointed out to him that bike fatalities are holding roughly steady even though bike riding is up throughout the state. He countered by saying that the state didn’t have stats on vehicle-miles-traveled for bicycles.

    He did offer to discuss with biker groups in order to help improve the message for next year’s news release.

  2. Sigh. That’s good to know.

    I understand the idea of using the POW headline to get attention in PR. It’s a basic. On the other hand, it’s a completely tilted view of affairs, and what it does is freak people out about safety.