So, here we are. Minneapolis gets recognition and awards for its bike culture. Bicyclists, woo!
And once again, the new year highlights that there is a very real differentiator between “bicyclists” and “people who bike.” This differentiator can be fatal, as in the case of Kerry Steven Baker. Mr. Baker was killed pre-dawn on New Year’s morning, riding northbound in the southbound lanes of the 4700 block of East River Road, near the Anoka County Riverfront Park. He was hit by a plow going southbound in those southbound lanes.
News reports are calling out that he had no lights and no helmet, but not calling out that much like lacking a headlamp in the dark, riding against the flow of traffic is contrary to Minnesota state regulations for bicycle use. Nope, it’s all about the helmet!
Further revelations (via Fridley Patch) indicate that the deceased had a long criminal record featuring many kinds of violations that would preclude driving a car legally, although nothing has outright stated that he lacked a driver’s license.
These sorts of accidents really call out the people who aren’t touched by “bicycle culture!” as is so frequently touted in mags like Bicycling, or on sites like Grist or Streetsblog, which speak to a certain level of audience. These people get lost in things like the annual bicycle counts for the Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program, because they don’t use “commuter” routes, and are often out at irregular times. Often, these people don’t speak great English, use sidewalks, don’t wear helmets, don’t have lights, etc.
There is much to be said that making roads safer for bicyclists also makes it safer for people who bike. But most communities remain stuck on the how of reaching many of the people who bike, because they are so outside of their experience. Some communities don’t even recognize/realize the need.
At the end of the day, the cycling movement really needs to work on empowering people beyond the spandex-clad, the hipsters, the young, and find ways to reach out to people who feel forced to ride, and people who think riding is out of reach, such as many women, people with kids, etc. It’s a hard problem. But the first step is recognizing the need, and not getting too caught up in congratulations, awards, and circle-jerking within the core community of bicyclists — a group who often look down on people who bike, and a group who people who bike often feel no kinship with. We’re all on these roads together.
Edit/Addition: The section of road where this cyclist died is highly bikeable, and there are several off-road routes that overlap, but are unlikely to have been passable immediately post-snow. A lot more of this accident is on wrong-way riding and a lack of lights — both of which can be taught. This accident was by no means a facility issue.