Catching up on biking and walking news

It’s a great time to take a walk or a bike ride with trees changing color, cooler temperatures and new bike facilities!

Recent weeks were full of big announcements about biking and walking: a number of new facilities were unveiled, census data showing bike commuting is on the rise was released, the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition announced it is expanding its mission to include pedestrian advocacy work and more.

If you missed the stories, keep reading for a roundup on the latest news about biking and walking in Minneapolis.

The dust is beginning to settle after a summer of record-setting street construction.

The Franklin Avenue Bridge reopened with widened sidewalks, a protected bike lane and the first automatic bicycle counter. Ride across to see your transportation choice acknowledged and counted.

West River Road has reopened after two years of construction following a landslide in the summer of 2014.

Protection has been added to the bike lane on Blaisdell Avenue South from 29th to 40th streets.

Protected bike lanes are open on 3rd Avenue downtown from 1st Street South to 16th Street East.

Downtown residents and workers should check out a recent post on the Coalition’s blog about the frustrating gap emerging on Washington Avenue from the end of the new protected bike lanes at 5th Street to the University of Minnesota’s West Bank campus.

As if to validate these new investments in infrastructure, new census data released last month shows bike commuting has increased 155 percent since 2005. The city is maintaining its second place lead (after Portland) for bike commuting in large U.S. cities.

Another positive statistic revealed bike commuting among women is up 177 percent from 2006. Forty-three percent of bike commuters in Minneapolis are women, which puts the city way above the national average of 29 percent.

The census data is based on surveys that ask people to report their primary travel mode, but responses may not tell the whole story. A University of Minnesota report from 2005 found that bicycle commuting is probably higher than the 5 percent uncovered by the census, since seasonal commuting shifts are not counted. Read more here.

Unfortunately, pedestrian fatalities are up in Minnesota and in the metro area. In September, the Star Tribune reported that 34 pedestrians have been killed in traffic crashes in 2016 — compared with 20 in the same period last year — and this may be the deadliest year for pedestrians since at least 2005.

Nevertheless, walking remains an important mode. Everyone is a pedestrian. Clearly, it is time for increased efforts around pedestrian advocacy.

Community members who wish to share feedback about biking and walking advocacy work should watch for upcoming events on the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition’s website. The Coalition is currently seeking new board members, including those with a passion for pedestrian advocacy.

The Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) recently announced they will begin tracking the race and/or ethnicity of people who are stopped, including people on foot or bike. The change was encouraged by organizations like Neighborhoods Organizing for Change and the American Civil Liberties Union as a means to help uncover any underlying racial bias related to policing in our city.

A report recently compiled by Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition volunteers analyzed data about bicycle citations given between 2009 and 2014 by the MPD. Volunteers working on the report found that men receive more bicycle citations than women. A small subset of reports analyzed included race and gave an idea about how people of color are treated — as did anecdotal evidence — but the data was not able to fully show the impact of race. For more information, check out this blog post.

While it’s true that demand for bicycling is increasing and new facilities are improving conditions for people on bikes, more work is still needed for people who travel without cars. The increase in pedestrian fatalities, even as walking remains an important mode for a subset of commuters, illustrates this point.

New leadership at the city and more accu- rate counting methods — for example on the Franklin Avenue Bridge and the tracking of race and/or ethnicity on police reports — are steps in the right direction.

Keep up with these stories and more bicycling news on the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition blog.

Annie Van Cleve is a freelance writer, blogger and volunteer with the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.