The Minneapolis safety record for bicycles is suffering right now. First, a driver jumped a curb near Dinkytown and hit several pedestrians. Today, a right-turning dump truck killed a cyclist near 4th Street and 15th Avenue, again near the U of M.
Minneapolis police are looking to better enforce vehicular and pedestrian laws to help prevent life-changing accidents, but also ask “pedestrians and cyclists to watch out for themselves.”
One of the filthy truths about “sharing the road!” is that most of the responsibility for doing so ends up being assigned to cyclists, rather than it being a more community effort. And it’s hard to say to cyclists that they shouldn’t make these efforts to protect themselves — even with the protection of law, dead is dead, and cyclists are a more vulnerable road user than a car or truck. Complete Streets and other road calming measures are one response to this, as they can prompt more considered driving by heavy vehicle users on roadways.
Today’s accident, while the details are not yet clear, also serve as a reminder to cyclists that roadway facilities like bike lanes are recommendations, but not necessarily edicts. By this, I mean that if there is a safer place on the road for you than between the painted lines, use THAT place and not the bike lane. On streets like 4th Street and University near the University of Minnesota, the roads are 3-5 lanes, one-way, with narrow bike lanes that do not necessarily allow for actions like safe left turns, or dodging broken beer bottles in the gutter. While I’ve not gone out with a tape measure, I am fairly sure the painted bike lanes are narrower (and predate) current AASHTO standards for bike lane width.
Look out for yourself out there, and remember that sharing is really great, but sometimes you do need to control a lane or other part of the roadway for your own safety. You’re a legal user of the road as well, and “sharing” will do you no good if it leads to injury. Use good sense, and be careful out there.