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It’s time to study distracted biking in Minneapolis

Bike Route sign
MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson
On average, in Minneapolis, a bicyclist is killed or severely injured every 24 days, and a bicycle crash is reported every 36 hours. There are many issues that cause these crashes, plenty of which are not bicyclists’ fault. However, everyone who uses Minneapolis streets and roadways has a responsibility to ensure the safety of themselves and others. Bicyclists continue to be killed and severely injured in our city despite increases in bike lane infrastructure and a new hands-free law that only applies to motorists. It’s time to start talking about distracted biking before it’s too late.

Meredith Gingold
Meredith Gingold
There are approximately 243 bicycle-vehicle crashes reported per year in Minneapolis. That rate is likely higher because many crashes go unreported. These crashes affect Minneapolis bicyclists of all ages, genders, and races. Further, bicyclists are disproportionately represented among fatalities and severe injuries due to traffic crashes: In Minneapolis, people make 5% of their trips by bicycle, but bicyclists comprise 16% of severe traffic injuries and deaths. In the United States, the total cost of bicycle injuries over a 16-year period was $237 billion for both bike-related injuries and deaths. If Minneapolis’ share is proportionate, bicycle-vehicle crashes cost Minneapolis somewhere in the neighborhood of $18.5 million per year. These injuries and deaths are entirely preventable with proper policy interventions.

There are several issues that cause these crashes, many of which are not bicyclists’ fault. However, a contributing factor that can and should be investigated further is distracted biking. Distracted biking includes auditory distractions (wearing headphones), visual distractions (looking at a cellphone), and tactile distractions (object in hand). Multiple studies show that reduced attention can place bicyclists at greater risk of sustaining an injury. A recent study conducted in Boston found 31.2% of bicyclists were either auditorily, visually, or tactilely distracted. If Minneapolis is at all similar to Boston in this regard, then distracted biking is a major issue here as well. These distractions cause approximately 7 crashes a year in Minneapolis, all of which are preventable.

Weaknesses in Minnesota law

Current policies that could address distracted biking do not do enough. Minnesota law does prohibit bicyclists from carrying any “package, bundle, or article” in a way that prevents cyclists from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars of their bicycle. However, Minnesota’s new hands-free law applies only to motorized vehicles, so cyclists can legally hold and operate their electronic devices while riding. Additionally, the Minnesota law prohibiting drivers from operating a motor vehicle with headphones in both ears does not apply to bicycles, so cyclists can legally ride with headphones in one or both ears.

In 2017, the Minneapolis City Council adopted the Vision Zero Resolution, which aims to eliminate traffic deaths and severe injuries on Minneapolis streets by 2027. Reaching toward that goal, the Minneapolis Department of Public Works completed the Vision Zero Crash Study. This study has provided useful data, including many of the statistics used here. However, additional research can help the city target interventions to reduce traffic deaths and severe injuries.

Study distracted driving’s prevalence

Local lawmakers could address distracted biking by funding a study of its prevalence here in Minneapolis. A study of the prevalence of different types of distracted biking would allow local policymakers to target policy proposals more specifically toward the unique features of distracted biking here. In a phone conversation with the researchers from the Boston study mentioned above, they emphasized how low-cost their study was. They did not apply for any grants, and instead partnered with their local hospital’s level 1 trauma unit for funding, as level 1 trauma units are required by law to conduct research. Minneapolis’ Hennepin Healthcare Level 1 Trauma Center would be the perfect partner. Further, a study like this would go hand in hand with Minneapolis’ Vision Zero initiative.

As the number of cyclists in Minneapolis continues to rise, it is increasingly important to ensure that preventable fatalities and severe injuries do not continue to occur. Appropriating a small amount of funds for a study now can save abundantly down the road in the form of an informed, targeted, local solution to the problem of distracted biking.

Meredith Gingold is a dual JD/MPH student at the University of Minnesota.

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Comments (80)

  1. Submitted by Eric House on 12/10/2019 - 08:46 am.

    According to the author there are at least 240 bicycle crashes yearly in Minneapolis, but only 7 of them could be traced to distracted bicycling. Rather than focusing on the less than 3% of accidents that could be attributed to the error of the injured, maybe we should continue to focus on the causes of the other 97% of crashes.

    This article makes a strong case, but not for the author’s sub rosa contention that cyclists are the guilty party on our streets.

  2. Submitted by Bill Lindeke on 12/10/2019 - 09:21 am.

    Though I wish people would not bike with headphones, most bicyclists are not distracted for very personal and visceral reasons: it’s almost untenably dangerous. And this is particularly the case in busy spots and along busy roads, where even the most stubborn moron pays closer attention.

    That said, by itself, carrying a bag on a bicycle is not a big deal. You might fall down and scrape a knee or break an egg, but without dangerous streets to contend with, the risk is minimal. I have texted many times while biking on the Midtown Greenway with zero risk or consequence, because its an incredibly safe route. I’ve seen many times people bicycling with their dog on a leash, and without dangerous drivers around, it’s a safe practice, fun for the whole dog-walking family.

    Meanwhile, there are thousands of crashes caused by distracted *driving* in Minnesota each year, and unlike the bicyclist with a bag, these result in carnage, especially for those on foot or bicycle. This huge problem should be the focus of safety efforts.

    Anything else is a distraction.

    • Submitted by Dave Carlson on 12/12/2019 - 08:06 pm.

      Actually, the only accident I have ever had biking was on the Midtown Greenway, where a young adult wearing headphones did not hear our “on your left” call and swerved right into our path bringing us both down. The Greenway can be quite busy at times with a variety of bikers so I’d welcome the idea of more focused biking! I don’t see how texting while biking is not a serious distraction, even if it is on an off-road trail.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/13/2019 - 08:50 am.

      I knew there would be the a whole lot of comments about how everything that happens to a cyclist is a motorist’s fault. Even if that was true 98% of the time, is that a justification for not putting in place rules and guidelines that address the other 2%?

      For the record, the stat almost certainly isn’t 98%–it’s probably 60%. And for every time a cyclist gets hurt while blowing a stop sign or light without a glance or a pause (I almost NEVER see a cyclist stop, or even slow down most of the time, at ANY metered intersection), it’s 100%.

      While I agree that we should try to reduce our automotive transportation in this metro, it’s simply not possible to eliminate it. And there is NO WAY I’m ever going to bike to work in the winter. Full. Stop. So, I highly recommend that cyclists stop being the same passive aggressive jerks as the motorists are in this state, and recognize that they’re very squishy and should be extra cautious.

      TL;DR – Cyclists are not anywhere close to completely innocent, and there’s nothing wrong with saying so (and making rules to prevent their injury).

  3. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/10/2019 - 09:25 am.

    To add to Eric’s point, looking at the executive summary of the Vision Zero Crash Study, bicycling is getting safer, while pedestrian crashes are increasing. On average, pedestrians are killed or severely injured every 13 days; while cyclists’ rate is every 24. Is distracted cycling really a problem that requires fixing?

  4. Submitted by Steve Samuelson on 12/10/2019 - 09:35 am.

    It’s honestly baffling that someone would publish this.

    *IF* the author is correct in extrapolating from Boston to Minneapolis with no evidence to support the extrapolation, we’re talking about 3% of all bike crashes in Minneapolis.

    Even if we were to do a simple cost/benefit analysis, I’d be willing to bet distracted cycling is, in the aggregate, still better than the alternative for public health. 7 incidents a year vs obesity, diabetes, and heart diseases–wonder what’s worse?

    If our future public health officials are focused on the fringiest of fringe cases (strongly implying that cyclists are to blame, rather than victims of car violence) with no real understanding of the big picture then we’re in big trouble.

    • Submitted by Chase Johnson on 12/10/2019 - 02:24 pm.

      How big does an issue need to be before you stop belittling people for studying it?

      • Submitted by Dave Nagel on 12/10/2019 - 08:42 pm.

        Idea. Use the time and resources it would take to study a 3% issue and reallocate to research, plan and implement a solution for addressing everything else (hypothesis: current mpls road infrastructure is sorely outdated and puts pedestrian traffic at high risk of interacting with motor traffic). Can we study THAT please?

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/10/2019 - 10:01 pm.

        A good start would be an actual issue, which is a level this piece fails to meet. But the well-deserved “belittling” it is getting is based on the bad faith arguments made here.

  5. Submitted by Alex Schieferdecker on 12/10/2019 - 09:45 am.

    I scoured the article and I can’t figure out the thing that is actually killing or injuring these bicyclists?

  6. Submitted by Patrick Steele on 12/10/2019 - 09:46 am.

    “These distractions cause approximately 7 crashes a year in Minneapolis, all of which are preventable.”

    Okay.

  7. Submitted by Bill Viestenz on 12/10/2019 - 10:10 am.

    The study performed by scholars at the University of Valencia that the author links to is only in small part focused on “reduced attention” of bicyclists by things like technological devices but rather focuses more broadly on road distractions, including: *distracted drivers*, road design, and weather conditions, all of which would seem to constitute far more important factors to consider in considering policy interventions to ensure the safety of cyclists.

  8. Submitted by Alec Werning on 12/10/2019 - 10:30 am.

    There is a lot of toxicity among some of these comments. Yes bicycle crashes might not be the biggest problem for large cities, but it is still important to call attention to issues, especially preventable issues. The author suggests that a low cost study could be conducted to help understand bike crashes in Minneapolis better. I think the author is trying to point out a possibly easy way to improve bike safety from the side of bikers. I doubt the author disagrees with comments that drivers cause the majority of accidents, and I don’t think that is the point of the article.

    As someone who relies on biking as my main form of travel year round (yes I am bike biased), I believe that programs promoting bike safety benefit everyone in the city. If biking is viewed as a safe activity, more people will feel comfortable biking which can reduce traffic congestion in a sustainable fashion.

    The internet is a great tool, but it also distances us. I think a lot of the main discussion points are valid but not constructively delivered. Before you send your next comment or response, pretend to say it to your coworker or friend. Would you still phrase it the same way?

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/10/2019 - 12:08 pm.

      The piece itself was far more toxic than any of the comments.

      • Submitted by Alec Werning on 12/10/2019 - 01:43 pm.

        When I said toxic I was referring to the non-constructive nature of the comments. I understand that the article may not be discussing the bigger problem, but I don’t find it toxic personally.

    • Submitted by Eric House on 12/10/2019 - 12:22 pm.

      It seems to me that most of the comments are pointing out the obvious logica flaws and ‘bang for the buck’ limits in the proposed study. I, and others, are addressing the substance of the article.

      If the author wants to run a study into distracted bicycling, then that is fine, but if they want to spend public monies on it then they need to bring evidence to show that the study has a positive cost-benefit analysis. My contention, and that of others is that further research into what the article notes to be a single digit percentage cause of accidents does not appear to have a positive face value.

      we need to be able to speak to the facts of proposals- If you feel this is worth pursuing further, in lieu of other projects, would you be willing to outline your thoughts?

      • Submitted by Alec Werning on 12/10/2019 - 01:45 pm.

        I agree with you, Eric. I believe we should be discuss holes and present facts. I think the previous comments could have been delivered with more respect. We’re all people hoping for improvement at the end of the day.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/10/2019 - 10:39 am.

    I think there’s a difference between lack of situational awareness and being “distracted”. I see a lot of cyclist ignoring their or oblivious to the scenarios they’re riding in, but I don’t see a lot of cyclists holding phones and talking while riding, or texting and riding.

    When I see “reduced attention” among cyclists what I’m usually looking at is riders who are focused on their speed rather than the traffic, pedestrians, etc. that they’re riding in. They’re not “distracted” as much are they are focused out of situational awareness.

    The nature of cycling itself makes distraction less likely than driving a car or walking. The motor skills involved are more demanding, and cycling if far less forgiving of lapses of attention than walking or driving. Maybe I’m inept but I can’t text and ride at the same time, although I have managed to answer my phone on occasion.

    From a scientific perspective if we have 7 distracted accidents a year, while 37% of the cyclist are “distracted”, there wouldn’t seem to a strong correlation between distracted riders and accidents.

    Having said that, it’s hard to be “against” further study. If you can find someone to sponsor the research, have at it.

  10. Submitted by Benjamin Osa on 12/10/2019 - 10:48 am.

    There is something called the laws of diminishing returns. Just like the above comments say, the Cities should focus the other 97% of cyclist injuries/deaths by making the infrastructure safer and design the roads so drivers aren’t able to drive in a unsafe manner.

    Everybody in the cycling community knows a design similar to Copenhagen and Amsterdam (bike lanes separated from car lanes) have would both prevent deaths, increase the cycling population, and reduce car emission.

    Let’s get on it. Let’s start this process for Lyndale between Franklin and Lake St.!

  11. Submitted by Adam Miller on 12/10/2019 - 10:49 am.

    There isn’t even an argument here. It’s literally, “we don’t know if there’s a problem but let’s study it.” There isn’t even an argument someone who is biking while distracted is a danger to anyone other then themselves.

    Instead, let’s worry about things that actually cause harms to others – like our dangerous and deadly car infrastructure and driving habits.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/11/2019 - 08:57 am.

      Well, the reason we ended up with separate bike paths around the lakes is a pedestrian was killed by a cyclist back in the 70’s. You CAN make the case that distracted cyclist is dangerous to others.

      • Submitted by Adam Miller on 12/11/2019 - 11:41 am.

        By citing one crash at least 40 years ago? Not really.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/13/2019 - 02:21 pm.

          Yes Adam I’m sure there has only been ONE crash 40 years ago where a cyclist injured a pedestrian. Dude a 100+ pound person on a bike traveling 10mph or faster can be a hazard to anything they run into, that’s physics, not auto-centrism.

  12. Submitted by Ward Rubrecht on 12/10/2019 - 10:55 am.

    Just wait until someone tells Ms. Gingold that cyclists are also allowed to bike completely smashed out of their minds, but still somehow manage to kill infinity percent fewer people in Minneapolis than motor vehicle operators.

    • Submitted by Alec Werning on 12/10/2019 - 01:40 pm.

      I understand that you are saying bikers don’t kill people like drunk drivers but I don’t think that is the point of the article. I think your comment might be off topic, Ward. While bicyclists get away with biking drunk, driving under the influence laws apply to bicyclists as well.

      • Submitted by Benjamin Osa on 12/10/2019 - 02:24 pm.

        “While bicyclists get away with biking drunk, driving under the influence laws apply to bicyclists as well.”

        Not in Minnesota. There are no laws that prevent doing a brewery tour for hours on end. It is a completely legal form of transportation. So is canoeing or kayaking while drunk (no motor).

        Things move much more slowly when you’re on a bike and it’s actually pretty easy to bike when drunk due to only having to deal with a reaction time of going 15 mph vs. 60 mph.

        It’s a ton safer for the bicyclist behind the handle bars vs. driving a car and much safer for society. In fact, I have never heard of a drunk bicyclist killing another person while biking.

        It’s not a public safety issue (hence there no law prohibiting it in Minnesota). In fact, knowing you are going to drink and having the option to bike, is probably safer since the individuals aren’t alternatively driving a car.

        • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 12/10/2019 - 02:52 pm.

          You might be surprised:

          https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/cite/169.222

          “2019 Minnesota Statutes
          169.222 OPERATION OF BICYCLE.

          Subdivision 1.Traffic laws apply.

          Every person operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle by this chapter, except in respect to those provisions in this chapter relating expressly to bicycles and in respect to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature cannot reasonably be applied to bicycles.”

          You might want to think twice before blithely cycling past your friendly neighborhood cop, beer in hand.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/13/2019 - 02:23 pm.

      Yeah, actually you can get arrested for cycling under the influence, you’re not “allowed” to do that.

  13. Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/10/2019 - 11:08 am.

    This might actually be the worst thing Minnpost has ever published.

  14. Submitted by Matthew Becker on 12/10/2019 - 11:56 am.

    “These distractions cause approximately 7 crashes a year in Minneapolis.”

    “Distracted driving was the reported cause of death of 3,450 people in 2016.” (source: https://www.thezebra.com/distracted-driving-statistics/)

    Let’s keep our eye on the ball here, eh?

    • Submitted by Chase Johnson on 12/10/2019 - 02:31 pm.

      We can work on more than one problem.

      • Submitted by Patrick Phenow on 12/10/2019 - 03:12 pm.

        Indeed, we Can work on more than one problem. And the “how can you worry about THIS thing when there’s THAT thing!” argument is generally tiresome and of little value. But someone does have to pay for it. The organizations likely to fund this type of research DO have limited funds and it would be extremely easy to come up with an issue that “someone” should study that would produce greater value. But those who insist on blaming bicyclists for being killed by drivers will continue to search for ways to do so, so sure, let’s go study the scourge of distracted biking.

        • Submitted by Chase Johnson on 12/10/2019 - 04:50 pm.

          Certainly, there’s only one pie, and funding agencies have difficult decisions to make when reviewing proposals. The impact of each problem is weighed against the funding that problem tends to receive. This article describes a problem, points out that it receives virtually no funding, and argues that a small, cheap study could impact things for the better (it would cost peanuts, by the way, even compared to the meager budget of a county medical center).

          This article does not assign blame for bicycle accidents, it’s about policy. `Current policy allows for distracted bicycling. Maybe that’s not such a good idea. Would changing that policy have a positive impact? We should do a study to find out.`

      • Submitted by ian wade on 12/10/2019 - 04:59 pm.

        If in fact this constitutes as an actual problem.

  15. Submitted by Anton Schieffer on 12/10/2019 - 12:07 pm.

    We could study is how much drivers are contributing to unsafe conditions. One possibility is to ban cars from the city (or maybe a smaller geographic area to start) and see how that impacts crashes and fatalities. This has the added benefit of helping the city reach its climate goals and reducing the effects of toxic auto emissions on residents (asthma, cancer, birth defects, etc.).

    • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 12/10/2019 - 02:33 pm.

      Great idea. There are usually multiple fatalities of people bicycling and walking in Downtown Minneapolis each year. I suggest we remove cars from downtown and see if this has an effect on safety.

  16. Submitted by Michael Hess on 12/10/2019 - 12:41 pm.

    As a project proposal this article has some significant gaps. I am unable to reconcile any of the statistics presented leading to a projected 7 distracted biking crashes a year in Minneapolis, taking into account the number of crashes, the number of injuries, assumptions on underreporting, and the 31% statistic from Boston.

    Also the suggested method of determining the rate of distracted cycling is fundamentally flawed by focusing on hospital admissions – all that can be concluded is the % of crashes where distracted cycling could be blamed.

    Imagine the following scenario: over the study period the ER sees 20 crashes, and in 10 of them we see that distracted cycling was a factor. So 50% seems like an important number – but you don’t know if there were a total of 10 distracted cyclists out there, or 100. or 1000. So did 1% of distracted cyclists crash, or 10%, or all of them? Similar math is missing on the other side – how would you process the data if there were more “distracted cyclists” than non on the trails and the 10 crashes was actually a LOWER percentage? Would distracted cycling be concluded to be safer?

    If someone wants to understand the prevalence of distracted biking a better first approach might be to park some summer work study students on the bike routes of interest to try and census the riding population the way they do auto traffic counts. I don’t know what the results would find and if it’s feasible to spot earbuds etc…. on a fast moving cyclist but it would be a low cost low tech way to put a real data driven % next to the question of how many cyclists are biking “distracted” and from there maybe more interesting questions would be generated.

  17. Submitted by Jeff Christenson on 12/10/2019 - 12:41 pm.

    I’m honestly sad that the person who wrote this was allowed admission to the University of Minnesota Law School.

  18. Submitted by John Barnett on 12/10/2019 - 01:23 pm.

    This is really, really bad.

  19. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 12/10/2019 - 01:41 pm.

    I have to conclude that none of you men considers seven bike crashes per year–all preventable–to be a public health problem of any importance for Minneapolis (there are no doubt more, unreported). Who cares, right? Such a tiny number of crashes, a tiny percentage of rides involved. And, the crashes are probably the fault of some dumb-ass automobile or truck driver, not a “distracted” biker who’s not paying attention to his [sic] surroundings. Or maybe it was some stupid pedestrian who moved suddenly to their left, and . . . . Bikers, we must remember, are perfect, by definition.

    Even if they wear earbuds and can’t hear what goes on around them and are carrying a phone they only sometimes make calls on while riding, and even if they’re riding at dusk without a shred of night-time markings so they’re semi-visible in traffic, and even if they injure some old lady who’s walking home from a store, well, . . . they’re still perfect, by definition. Even if 31% of them are riding distracted.

    Pointing out that biking in Minneapolis might need some policy attention is just not acceptable. Right? The goal is to make sure that all bike discussion stays focused on how terrible cars and trucks are.

    • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 12/10/2019 - 02:35 pm.

      Biking in Minneapolis does indeed need a policy adjustment. A policy to significantly reduce the presence of motor vehicles and thus the danger that motor vehicles cause to their operators, people walking, people biking, people standing at bus stops, children playing at parks, storefronts, stoplight poles, and countless other things.

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 12/10/2019 - 02:36 pm.

      Nearly all discussion of bikes in the media – Strib or here – or social media – go check out Nextdoor – is about how bikes are scofflaws stealing road space, but sure, go off like there’s some sort of alternative reality happening.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 12/10/2019 - 02:58 pm.

      Love the way these replies are proving Connie’s point!

    • Submitted by Theo Kozel on 12/11/2019 - 03:56 pm.

      It’s pretty clear that a reasonable person would first focus on the 97% rather than the 3% if lives lost really matter to them.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/13/2019 - 09:03 am.

      This. The idea that cyclists can do no wrong is preposterous. But many of the commenters here hold that view and so can’t possibly see any benefit of analyzing an issue that affects the safety of cyclists (and others). Don’t get me wrong, I’m intrigued by the idea of banning cars from Downtown. I’ve been a pedestrian there, and I simply don’t see why everyone has to take their car into Downtown rather than parking nearby and busing or walking. BUT…cyclists are often at least partially responsible for accidents that involve them. Maybe distracted biking is only a small fraction of that problem, but when cyclists get into accidents with motor vehicles the results can be disastrous, regardless of the cause.

  20. Submitted by Pat McGee on 12/10/2019 - 01:44 pm.

    A far greater danger to bicyclists is that most wear no reflective safety gear, have no headlights or tail lights as they bicycle in the dark. They (like dog walkers) are literally invisible, at times, even after they’ve been hit by a car.

    That’s a discussion I could get behind before distracted bicycling.

    • Submitted by Adam Miller on 12/10/2019 - 02:37 pm.

      Please provide any evidence that what you say is true of “most” people using bikes at night.

    • Submitted by Matthew Steele on 12/10/2019 - 02:40 pm.

      Motorists routinely run over yellow stoplight poles, pylons covered in reflective tape, well-lit buildings that haven’t moved in a century or more, and plenty of people walking and biking who are well-lit or highly reflective.

      Just a few days ago, a motorist hit a large DOT dump truck on the shoulder of a highway in Canonn Falls, a large orange-colored vehicle with blue and yellow strobes flashing on top, a large brightly-lit arrow board, and a large yellow crash cushion suspended off the back.

      These examples aren’t hard to find. The problem is not visibility.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/13/2019 - 09:04 am.

        Yes, traffic cones are EXACTLY like cyclists. We all just run them over willy nilly regardless of whether we can see them.

        Seriously. Stop.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/12/2019 - 10:54 am.

      It’s not uncommon to come across black clad cyclists who have actually removed all of their reflectors, (presumably for personal esthetic reasons). Nor is it hard to come across cyclists at night with no lights, or reflectors, AND wearing dark clothing. In fact there was an article here on Minnpost a few years by someone who collided with a such a cyclist at night.

  21. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 12/10/2019 - 02:28 pm.

    Researchers, any luck so far identifying what objects keep mysteriously killing so many people biking and walking?

    Seriously though, this drivel is making me consider canceling my MinnPost membership.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg since 2011 on 12/11/2019 - 06:00 am.

      “Seriously though, this drivel is making me consider canceling my MinnPost membership.”

      Why? Because someone was allowed to publish their opinion?

      You DO realize that this article is in “Community Voices” and is, therefore, an opinion piece:

      “MinnPost’s Community Voices section operates like an op-ed page at a newspaper: People submit opinion pieces”
      https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices-guidelines/

      Do you now want to start policing and prohibiting people’s opinions (rather than simply disagreeing with them)?

      • Submitted by Pat Terry on 12/11/2019 - 11:21 am.

        Newspapers do police and screen out what they print in their editorial pages. I’m not sure where this idea that every opinion has value and deserves a forum comes from. This piece is so awful and utterly bereft of value, that it has no place in a reputable news outlet. Maybe in the Onion as satire

  22. Submitted by Vincent Lawrence on 12/10/2019 - 03:27 pm.

    Auto drivers START SEEING BIKES,
    Bikers you and your bike weigh less than 250 pounds, don’t compete
    with a 3000-pound auto for the same space, you will lose!
    Bike lanes need signs.
    Not everyone knows about BIKE LANES, some drivers come from out of state and out of the city.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/13/2019 - 09:08 am.

      Maybe if they put loud pipes on their bikes, we’d start noticing them. (Definitely sarcasm–I hate loud motorcycles. If my car sounded like many of those, I’d get pulled over and ticketed.)

      I appreciate your comment, honestly. All vehicle operators (and cyclists are operating a vehicle under MN law) need to do better. And street designers need to do better, too.

  23. Submitted by Colin Brownlow on 12/10/2019 - 04:21 pm.

    Pretty poorly researched Meredith. Might refer you to a very good analysis in Bicycling Magazine – November, 2019. They list five factors for the increase in bike deaths starting in 2011 and do a very nice job backing them up with solid data:
    1. Vehicles are getting bigger – the rise of the SUV. More mass more damage. Higher grills greater chance of being knocked under the vehicle.
    2. Rise in smartphone use and distracted driving.
    3. Rise in driving miles since the end of the great recession. 35% increase since 2010.
    4. More cyclists on the road, primarily in larger cities. So more potential victims.
    5. Stalling out of Vision Zero and safe streets initiatives. It’s tough to implement safe multi-modal transportation systems when the original transportation system was designed around one dominant form of transit – automobiles.

  24. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 12/11/2019 - 03:58 am.

    Lots of bicyclists ganging up on someone raising a valid concerns cut it out, please. First, using earphones and texting while riding should be banned. Second, riders should be required to wear helmets. Third while distract drivers cause most accidents and fatalities, heightened awareness can help you avoid being a statistic – and that involves wearing light clothing and a bike strobe at might and slowing down on wet and icy conditions. Fourth major bike paths should have shelters for bathroom stops and weather. A little more reflection cannot hurt. It is a tough way to get organ donors.

  25. Submitted by Eric House on 12/11/2019 - 08:07 am.

    As I read the comments this morning it struck me that for the most part, the people who felt the article was flawed were talking about facts, statistics, limited resources and logical gaps in the article. however, by and large, the people who felt positively about the article were focused on tone policing and worries about how other commenters were being mean.

    reminds me of the old lawyer saw: If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts. If you have the law on your side, pound the law. If you have neither on your side, pound the table. It seems to me that there is a fair amount of table pounding going on.

  26. Submitted by John Villerius on 12/11/2019 - 09:27 am.

    The information that is rarely included in the bicycles versus motor vehicles discussion but is the most important in practical terms for their co-existence is the one about kinetic energy, determined by the mass and velocity of objects. (The averages for a motor vehicle at 30 mph, a bike at 15 mph and a pedestrian at 3 mph are 163,000, 2,700, and 80 joules respectively).

    We can all easily understand why separate infrastructure called sidewalks exists for pedestrians. We don’t want cars driving on sidewalks or pedestrians walking in the middle of streets. They cannot co-exist safely in the same space.

    That practical understanding needs now to extend to the co-existence of bicycles and motor vehicles. The large difference in the kinetic energy produced by each means that safety only exists when they also have dedicated infrastructure. Absent that, there needs to be an incredible amount of safe behaviors and mutual respect exhibited by both bicyclists and motor vehicles for them to co-exist in the same space. But regardless of infrastructure, behavior or respect, the motor vehicle prevails in bicyclists-motor vehicle collisions. It has 60 times more kinetic energy than the bicycle.

    Improved laws would help also. If Minnesota adopted the Idaho Stop, then bicyclists could safely clear intersections prior to motor vehicles. Statistically, intersections are where a lot of bicycle-motor vehicles collisions happen.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/13/2019 - 09:11 am.

      Tell us about the Idaho Stop, please.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/13/2019 - 11:41 am.

        The Idaho stop is the practice of slowing down and evaluating the scenario in the intersection, and riding through if safe to so without coming to a complete stop. It’s easier and safer to this on a bicycle, and stopping and starting on bicycle can be a lot more strenuous depending on how you handle your gears.

        On one hand the Idaho stop simply recognizes common practice, but in real terms it also sanctions common sense. And it’s important to remember this only applies to stop signs, not stop lights. We should all stop for red lights.

        Interestingly though, state law does allow a cyclist to stop for a red light, and then ride through if is safe to so. This acknowledges the fact that bicycle may not trip the light change mechanism, and it’s not practical for a cyclist to reach over the light change button if they’re not riding on the sidewalk.

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 12/13/2019 - 03:05 pm.

          Does this apply to all stop signs? If so, I’m not sure I see the benefit. With a single stop sign or a 2-way stop sign, cross-traffic is not required to stop at all, and may be travelling at significantly higher speeds. So, slowing down and not stopping at all may be a hazard, especially if visibility is impeded prior to reaching the stop (which is often intentional to promote more caution from traffic). However, if it applies to 4-way stops, I’m all for it. Not that Minnesotans can do 4-way stops correctly using any vehicle.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/14/2019 - 10:48 am.

            Again, it applies to intersections controlled by signs, not lights. And it’s only lawful if it’s done safely. If you cause an accident you’re still liable. The Idaho Stop doesn’t sanction reckless riding, no one sanctions reckless riding.

            There are also some scenarios where it’s actually safer (as apposed to being simply more convenient) for a cyclist to be able to clear an intersection while other traffic is stopped. For instance you’ll see and hear drivers complaining about cyclists who “run” stop signs while they’re stopped: “why don’t they have to stop?” Well, riding through the intersection when no one else is moving is much safer than cuing up amongst moving vehicles.

            Almost none of our intersections are designed for bicycle traffic, and existing “traffic” rules can create hazards for cyclists. As a cyclists you have figure out how negotiate intersections safely almost on an intersection to intersection basis for variety of reasons, you can’t just ride the way you drive.

            I actually wrote a blog about this a couple years ago. You can check it out if you’d like: http://pudstrand.fatcow.com/blog/?p=905

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/11/2019 - 09:33 am.

    One irritating characteristic of the cycling “culture” is the high level of white male privilege that can be pervasive. You see it in the demographics of cycling, and you see in the attitudes and riding styles. How many accidents have resulted from aggressive and confrontational “bike driving” or vehicular riding? Go out and compete for equal space in traffic with cars and trucks, take lanes, avoid the bike paths. The tell us how many collisions or near collisions you have with cars and bemoan the “car culture”. Whatever.

    So of course whenever we talk about anything cycling related we have to turn it into conflict between cyclists and drivers.

    Regardless of the merits of Ms. Gingold’s thesis she’s not attacking the cycling community. All Ms. Gingold is doing is making a research proposal. You may note she’s seeking a Masters in Public Health at the U of M. Cycling accidents are clearly a legitimate public health concern.

    This open hostility towards Ms. Gingold for merely proposing research, and towards Minnpost just for publishing her opinion is just another expression of white male privilege within the cycling community. ANY suggestion that cyclists aren’t ENTITLED to ride as they wish to ride, wherever they wish ride; or that cyclist may be responsible for some of their own crashes and injuries, is interpreted as an “attack” of some kind that must be confronted.

    I have a hard time taking 7 out of hundreds of accidents seriously, but I ALSO know a guy who crashed his bike and banged up his face because he was trying to talk on his phone while riding… so whatever.

    (By the way Ms. Gingold if you’re reading, the guy who banged up his face was a professor in the School of Public Health!)

    At any rate, I’m saying I endorse it, but I will say that this definitely NOT the worse idea I’ve ever come across either as a research proposal or community voices article.

  28. Submitted by Joe Musich on 12/11/2019 - 07:14 pm.

    I went through the comments after the article the day it was posted. Quite astonishing. I biked for years. And as I got older scootered. Now it is the car. I get biking but there is something I do not get which can be best viewed in this funny and playful cartoon. Watch out for the Jetfs…https://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2013/01/13

  29. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/12/2019 - 10:40 am.

    I don’t try to use my phone while riding. You’d have to use one of those phone cradles they sell, and I don’t trust them, I’m too afraid my phone will pop our! I suppose if you use a blue tooth that let’s you answer without actually handling the phone you could pull it off.

    I see some folks with their phones in one of those cradles using the mapping feature, but I’m not sure that’s dangerously distracting, and again, you could use the voice feature.

    Listening to something with ear-buds requires some consideration. I’m not sure that qualifies so much as “distracted” riding as it might be described as perceptual interference. If you’re listing to something at too high a volume it’s more like an obstruction than a distraction per se. You’re not necessarily distracted by what your listening to as much as you’re unable to hear noise other than what you’re listing to. It’s more like wearing sunglasses at night and reducing your visual acuity rather than reading and driving or riding.

    My recommendation is don’t use noise canceling ear-buds or head phones while riding, and keep the volume low enough that you can hear the cars tires on the road as they pass you. My rule of thumb is if I can’t hear cars or fat bike tires I need to turn my volume down.

    My biggest issue with ear buds is pedestrians who wonder around the bike path with their backs to cyclists. If you have to issue an audible because they’re wondering in front of you, they don’t hear it.

    I think maybe part of the reason this research proposal provokes a negative response is that cyclists will worry that it might lead to restrictive legislation of some kind- i.e. no earbuds while riding, or hands free requirements. Situational awareness is a cyclist biggest and best safety asset. You can do this stuff safely, but you can’t do it mindlessly AND safely.

  30. Submitted by Jean Sazevich on 12/12/2019 - 09:16 pm.

    I think serious study as proposed by the author is essential. In the meantime, let’s not pretend that cyclists wearing headphones is not an issue. As an avid cyclists who calls out when passing others on their left side, I KNOW that headphones are a problem. There have been countless times when I call out my presence and intent to pass only to have the cyclist with headphones not respond in any way and worse yet move over to their left because they did not hear. Many close calls and needless frustration.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/13/2019 - 11:26 am.

      I’m not disagreeing but most of the cyclist have trouble passing are riding side by side instead of single file, and they’re not wearing headphone of any kind, they’re just not paying attention to the scenario. It can be hard to tell if someone is hearing an audible or just ignoring it for some reason. Typically someone who doesn’t actually hear it will be startled when they do finally hear it. I tend to run across senior riders who wander all over the path, but they may just be hard of hearing.

      Sometimes we just don’t all agree how much space we need. A few weeks ago I was walking my dog across the Lake of the Isles bridge over the channel to Cedar Lake. A cyclist came by shouting “left” and he was obviously upset with a couple pedestrians that he didn’t think were giving him sufficient space. We all heard his audible and I actually overheard the two women he was upset with say: “What’s his problem? He had plenty of space.” And so it goes.

      When you ride on some of these paths you just have to slow down on occasion, some days more frequently than others. Things always get more tense now when we have to share the same paths. I think MPLS should clear the snow on the pedestrians paths we can have separated paths year round… but what do I know.

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