Transportation roundup

Spotlight on bike safety

Minneapolis bike numbers are hard to look at in more ways than one.

More riders should mean more data, but recent cyclist deaths have local analysts playing catch up.

“Not unlike the economy, for crashes, data takes so long we often don’t get to see the trends while they’re happening,” said Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) analyst Tony Hull.

Hull has only been at TLC for three months, and said that due to a lag-time in data analysis, TLC “can’t really say anything” about whether more cyclists will equal more crashes.

But crash numbers that do exist are apparently hard to qualify on a local scale.

City bike analyst Shaun Murphy said reported crashes involving cyclists are, on average, going down. But recent U.S. Census data regarding the number of bikes on city streets also has a high margin of error, making it difficult to know whether more bikes means more accidents.

But he added: “I can pretty clearly see we have a general increase [in ridership] going on.”

TLC spokesperson Katie Eukel called bike/pedestrian counts and data collection “laborious and frequently undervalued.” However, she did point to local and national transportation efforts already underway to uniformly collect and analyze bike data.

Murphy said he is heading efforts to make the bike-vehicle crashes that are filed by Minneapolis police more detailed.

“We’ve definitely had several deaths in the metro area compressed into a short amount of time this year, and it has certainly raised awareness about this issue,” Murphy said. “Our goal is to reduce those fatalities.”

However, Hull said Minneapolis cyclists’ death rate is comparatively low and that most major cities see about a dozen fatalities annually as a result of vehicle-cyclist crashes.

Nationwide, 785 people were killed as a result of vehicle-bicycle crashes in 2005, and 773 in 2006, the most recent numbers available. National Transportation Safety and Highway Administration (NTSHA) numbers show a 6 percent decrease in bicycle fatalities between 1995 and 2006. And bicycles injuries were down 26 percent over that same time period.

City Council Member Gary Schiff (9th Ward), a distance cyclist, said that the recent deaths are an indication that there is a need for comprehensive bike safety plan.

“This year has been horrible,” Schiff said of bike safety. “More people are riding their bikes. And I think drivers are unprepared, as well as cyclists who are not following the rules of the road.”

Schiff said his own anecdotal observations of cyclists not following fundamental rules on the Midtown Greenway are a clear indication more work must be done.

“If were going to be the premier biking city we have to fulfill the promise by making sure a biking plan is in place,” he said.

10th Avenue Bridge ‘back to normal’

The 10th Avenue Bridge has a new addition and has switched back to is configuration before the Interstate 35W Bridge collapse.

The bike lane and fourth lane of traffic have been restored. The only pedestrian access to the bridge will be the sidewalk on the east side of the bridge, as it was in the past.

For the next several weeks, drivers on the 10th Avenue Bridge may encounter some temporary lane restrictions as crews carry out additional bridge inspection work, according to a city update.

Marquette & 2nd Avenues closures

On-going roadwork will force temporary lane and street closures throughout October during the reconstruction of Marquette and 2nd Avenues between 1st and 12th Streets.

Bus stops along 3rd and 4th Street will remain open. Pedestrian and parking garage access will also stay the same during paving.

The reconstruction is part of the Marq2 Project, which will create dual bus lanes and add pedestrian facilities. Work is being done to speed up bus routes Downtown and take all non-electric buses off Nicollet Mall. Work should be completed by November.