Stop honking at me and support bike infrastructure

I see you back there. I see you out the corner of my eye. I feel the tension radiating from your car. I read your posts on Star Tribune and Facebook. Yes, I’m in your way and I know it.

I’m not trying to be in your way. Like you, I’m just trying to go somewhere. Unfortunately, there aren’t great bike trails or lanes in this area. Instead of honking at me, maybe you should do something about it. There are two things I recommend: relax, and then take action to support bike infrastructure.

One: relax

There’s a lot of animosity between bikes and cars and people get fired up on both sides. Can we just all take a big, deep breath?

When you honk at me and startle me enough to make me unsteady, do you forget that I’m also just trying to go about my day? When you buzz me so close I can feel the warmth of your engine on my leg, do you forget that I’m a human being? Do you forget that you are?

It sometimes seems like people forget their humanity when behind the wheel, or in the saddle. If we could just look at other people as people trying to do their best, if we could decide to give those we interact with the benefit of the doubt, could we stop thinking of them as just being in our way?

Two: support bike infrastructure

If you want cyclists to get out of your way, support funding for dedicated bike lanes. Bikes cannot ride on the sidewalk, so don’t assume that’s an option. The street is all we have, and the only option is to share the road. I don’t want to feel your wrath as I’m trying to enjoy my morning commute; I don’t want to inconvenience you. I’m sorry you’re frustrated, but I don’t have a choice.

If you’re thinking something along the lines of, “Those freeloading bikers don’t pay for anything!” Let me enlighten you. I have a car, so I pay licensing and registration fees just like you. I have a job, so I pay income taxes to the general fund that pays for the majority of roads. But, even though I have a car, I hardly ever use it or get my money’s worth out of those roads I’ve helped build. Same goes for all those other cyclists out there. Would you rather them drive and add to congestion on your commute? No, I’m sure you wouldn’t.

If you want cyclists to get out of your way, contact your city to support biking infrastructure. Having separate spaces for bikes and cars makes sense. Not only does it make cyclists feel more safe, it prevents traffic from being impeded by slower vehicles.

What should you do then? If you live in Minneapolis, join the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition and support their work, contact your city council representative and tell them you support funding for bicycle infrastructure, and talk to your friends, family, and coworkers about why bike funding makes sense. Oh, one more thing, treat the cyclists (and pedestrians, and other motorists) you come upon on the street with basic human decency.

This post was written by Lindsey Wallace and originally published on Biking in Mpls. Follow Lindsey on Twitter: @bikinginmpls.

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Comments (106)

  1. Submitted by Bob Shepard on 06/05/2015 - 09:09 am.

    Nice piece, Lindsey!

    Dedicated bike infrastructure would take us all a long way towards a peaceful coexistence out there. I also think that more education would help everyone, too. The resentment towards bikers is somewhat deserved when cyclists don’t follow rules of the road and other good habits like being predictable (easier to see and anticipate a cyclist on a roadway versus a sidewalk or bike path structured like a sidewalk) and visible (I wear bright colors and have front and back blinky lights on regardless the time of day). I’m shocked at the behavior I see in fellow cyclists sometimes: Using crosswalks like a pedestrian, blowing stop signs or lights when it’s not safe, not signaling, etc.

    Sharing the road is a great idea, but not always put into practice. Smart motoring AND cycling habits have a ways to go before there’s harmony on the roadways, methinks.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/05/2015 - 11:36 am.

    Actually you can ride on the sidewalk in some places

    Sidewalks are an option in some places, and it is legal. Sidewalks are only prohibited in some business districts. Common sense for instance dictates that you don’t want to ride on sidewalks Downtown, or Uptown for instance, and you can’t buzz along on a sidewalk at high speed, but in some instances given the lack of bike infrastructure, a sidewalk might be a safe option. I’ve written a blog entry about this, you can look at it here:

    I think one thing that frustrates drivers is bikers that use narrow roads and parkways when a dedicated path is ten feet or less away. Sure, we can build bike infrastructure but if bikers don’t use it what’s the point?

    You’re preaching to the choir, I get it and I ride a lot. But cyclists make poor choices sometimes for goofy reasons. For instance riding on the street because the there’s 10mph speed limit on the path? In fact the MPLS police recently admitted that they don’t have single record of issuing a speeding ticket to a cyclist and really had no idea how fast people are going. If you’ve gotten a ticket more than likely it’s not just your speed that caught the cops attention.

    Then there’s the complaint that the bike path is crowded somehow. Well, the street or the parkway isn’t necessarily less crowded. you just need to accept the fact that you can’t pretend you’re racing, you can’t always go as fast as you want to. In a race, the course is cleared and traffic is blocked, unlike rush hour traffic.

    And then we have the notion of defending our lanes. The law requires cyclists to ride as far to the right as is practicable unless there’s dedicated lane. When you ride further out in the street because you’re trying to modify driver behavior in some way you’re just interfering with traffic, and that’s obviously going to irritate drivers. Sometimes finding a different route that minimizes exposure to traffic, like a parallel street or something is a good idea.

    Absolutely if you cycle in the US you have to be something of an anarchist because we don’t have the lanes, or the lights, or the rules we need. Sometimes we do apparently goofy things because we’re in caught in a place where we’re balancing safety with existing conditions. Drivers honk at us and scold us… whatever. So thanks for this blog entry.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 06/05/2015 - 12:10 pm.

      Hitching a Ride

      People who ride on the street when there’s a trail nearby are perfectly legal to do so. In fact, they’re required by law to be on the street if they want to go faster than 10 MPH, which even an old out of shape guy like me can do. I believe they recently tried to get the speed limit raised, but in the end the proposition was voted down and it failed.

      So where does that leave a biker who wants to do the right thing and follow the law? Out in the street.

      One of the things bikers are fighting is the misconception that roads are for cars and cars alone. And anyone else who is out there, be it biker or pedestrian, is intruding on the car domain and really doesn’t belong there in the first place. How dare you inconvenience a driver!

      At the end of the day it all gets down to humanity: people need to share and share alike, just like they learned in kindergarten. Be nice to your fellow humans and treat them with respect, just like you would like to be treated. Eventually we’ll get separated lanes and all this brubble will go away, but that’ll take another thirty years as lanes and connectors are slowly added into the mix.

      Until then, people need to relax a bit, drive a little slower, and enjoy the view.

      • Submitted by Hugh Gitlin on 06/05/2015 - 01:29 pm.

        Don’t get me started on the Park Board

        They seem think to only options on the trails are 10 MPH or no speed limit.Raising the speed limit to 15 MPH will get a good percentage of bikes off the road and onto the trails. Then they can keep revisiting the speed limit every few years, eventually getting rid of it.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/05/2015 - 04:30 pm.

          I’m not saying we shouldn’t raise the speed limit…

          I ride on those paths around the lakes, as well as the Greenway, river road trails, and the north and south cedar lake trails, 4-5 times a week. I’ve ridden next to and behind bike cops who usually go around 13 – 15 mph. I don’t think most people riding on those trails even know there is supposed to be a speed limit. For the most part around the lakes the majority of riders on the streets are going the opposite direction of the one-way path. I think 15 mph would just recognize the speeds people are biking at anyways which wouldn’t be a bad thing. Most riders don’t even know how fast their actually going anyways. It’s actually difficult to keep a modern bike at 10 mph or below, you’ll coast faster than that on even a slight decline.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/05/2015 - 03:31 pm.

      Bikes on sidewalks

      Come on dude. Stop infantalizing bicyclists. They have every right to be in the street. No one questions if a motorist is in the street for a Sunday drive or because she’s late for work. Bicyclists don’t have to subject themselves to a 10 mph speed limit or eternal vigilance for pedestrians if they don’t want to. It’s really not your place to question why a bicyclist is in the road.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/08/2015 - 11:01 am.


        Now, just drive a car and then you’ll be in the vehicle that most people assume are the aggressors in the scenario of bikes vs cars. It’s not about somehow treating cyclists like babies. It’s about how best to interact. Acting like you can’t use bike trails because there’s a (stupid) speed limit when there’s pretty much no way to enforce the (stupid) speed limit is an argument for…what? And is it really appropriate to say that it’s ok because there are motorists that drive like they own the streets? Trust me, I get irritated and angry at people who drive their cars like idiots (holy Moses, do I), and they should also get off the road. If you want to drive badly, you should find yourself a nice video game. But for safety’s sake, drive well and drive smart–in cars and on bikes. No one owns the roads and it’s perfectly ok to question why a bicyclist is in the road if there are better options.

  3. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/05/2015 - 02:34 pm.

    Here’s why I use the sidewalks whenever possible –

    I have never heard of a cyclist being run down by a car on the sidewalk.

    But on the roads, it most definitely happens. It is dangerous to cycle on the streets, not so on the sidewalks.

    So to me, this is purely a safety issue – especially with so many of those drivers on the road who see red every time they see a cyclist. These folks are scary. But I can understand how drivers get frustrated and angry – there IS a small subset of cyclists on the street who act out with a loud mouth, give the finger to motorists, and generally act to heighten conflict.

    Also, on the sidewalk, it is possible to simply toodle along at a slow pace and ALWAYS stop and step aside with the bike for any pedestrian, unless they have previously moved so as to share the sidewalk as you pass. If following someone, either stop biking and walk along behind them, or veer out of the bike path to go around them. In other words, think of the pedestrians using the sidewalk, and consider that they come first.

    • Submitted by Lindsey Wallace on 06/05/2015 - 03:51 pm.

      I see your point but…

      Cyclists are much more likely to be hit by a car when riding on a sidewalk. Cars can see bikers when they’re in the road, not so much if they’re crossing an intersection. Those who ride on the sidewalk are much more likely to be hit by a turning car.

      It’s not practical to use the sidewalk as a bike, especially if it’s your main form of transportation. If it works for you to bike slowly, dismount regularly, etc. then that’s fine for you. But for people who use their bike as main form of transportation, it’s impractical to go that slowly, especially when you’re biking even moderate distances daily.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/05/2015 - 10:42 pm.

        The assumption underlying your rebuttal is false,…

        …that is, your statement about the greater risk to bikers using the sidewalk – “much more likely”, as you say – ASSUMES that despite recommending all the care and mindfulness I’ve mentioned above, our biker is going to mindlessly and stupidly barrel into an intersection with no awareness of oncoming traffic in all directions.

        If our biker brings awareness and mindfulness to crossing an intersection, he is going to avoid doing stupid things. Assuming he is ignoring the evident risks in an intersection is no support at all for your argument. The same biker ignoring evident risks in the street faces greater and more frequent risks, where numerous speeding cars are close to the biker.

        But that brings up another matter – your statement of your opinion as fact. I’ve claimed no more than my opinion above, and given the underlying reasons – mainly, I’ve never heard of bikers being run down by cars on the sidewalk, although I’ve read plenty of cases where a biker gets killed or injured on the roadway.

        Your blanket statement that bicyclists are “much more likely to be hit by a car when riding on a sidewalk” is unsupported by any facts I’m aware of. So enlighten me – and with facts, not your opinions. See below.

        Another person commenting here raises the risk of a car booming out of a blind alley or driveway. THAT is a risk BOTH to bikers on the sidewalk and bikers on the roadway, so it is not a valid argument uniquely applied to one or the other, as though it favored one or the other. Bikers on the street or the sidewalk have to put an attentive eye on any blind approach.

        If what you say here is true, then surely you can show some accident data wherein the number of accidents involving bikers on sidewalks and/or the actual consequences of those accidents WEIGHS MORE THAN the number involving bikers on the streets, or those consequences. Otherwise, it’s just a baseless opinion – based on a faulty assumption, at least in this particular case. Please spell out your facts here rather than your opinion.

        Except for the above, I agree entirely with the appeal in your column – we can afford and will benefit from enhanced bike infrastructure. Who knows ?? If it’s a safe environment, it might even get me off the sidewalk !!

        • Submitted by Adam Miller on 06/06/2015 - 08:57 am.

          Let me Google that for you

          Here are two studies offering evidence that riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous:

          Considering these are the results of a few minutes of internet searching, I’m not claiming they are definitive, but they are more than mere opinion.

        • Submitted by Jeremy Werst on 06/06/2015 - 03:27 pm.

          There are actually a lot of studies about the fact that the most dangerous place to cycle is the sidewalk unless you’re basically going walking speed. Even then, it can be a bad idea. It breaks up all the site lines, and cars just simply do not see you. Especially when a lot of the uneducated riders that don’t know about the dangers are *also* riding against traffic.

          Here’s the results of just one study, there are many more out there.

          It’s not just a little more dangerous, it’s MUCH more dangerous. In the example of a car coming out of a blind alley, they’re going to typically cross the sidewalk and then out partially into street before having a good view of the street or stopping. If you’re on the sidewalk, you’ll probably tbone them, or they you. If they’re making a right hand turn, they’re not looking at the corner and sidewalk to their right, but at the traffic to the left. If you’re on a sidewalk even with a light and crosswalk, they’ll be expecting pedestrian speeds and not bikes, and any blind spots that are checked won’t include the bicycle.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/05/2015 - 04:52 pm.

      Don’t get me wrong…

      I didn’t say people “should”ride on sidewalks, I’m just pointing out that it can be done legally, and sometimes it’s a viable alternative. Given the inadequate nature of infrastructure I think we just need a lot of tools in the tool chest, and sidewalks are just one option on occasion.

      • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 08:24 am.

        A better idea to go to a parallel street where there is less automobile traffic. Bike on Bryant Ave, say, instead of Lyndale.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/05/2015 - 07:13 pm.

      I’ve hit a car when I was biking on a sidewalk

      It happens when a car pulls out of a parking lot and doesn’t look to see if there are oncoming bikes. A minivan pulled out right in front of me and I couldn’t stop in time. Sidewalks are not a safe place for bicyclists; just as they are not safe places for cars.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/06/2015 - 07:57 pm.

        What does your experience in this case teach you?

        Is it ONLY that there are minivan drivers who fly out of parking lots, mindless, paying no attention, and because of that, they collide with bicyclists ??

        Let me test your candor here: can you see ANYTHING AT ALL that YOU could have done differently that would have avoided hitting the minivan ?? Like slowing and watching with exceptional care when approaching such an intersection ?? Isn’t your speed in spite of the risk at that intersection the reason you couldn’t stop in time ??

        Or is all this lost on you ?? I am not trying to be a smart aleck here – the example you cite appears to be an excellent example of the point you’re trying to refute.

        • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/06/2015 - 11:41 pm.

          Yes I learned a valuable lesson

          I was a teenager. And ever since I’ve biked in the street.

        • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 09:33 am.

          A parking lot exit that meets a sidewalk

          Is not engineered to vehicle intersection standards.

          Above you say that you’ve never heard of a bike getting hit by a car on a sidewalk. When I pointed out that it happened to me many years ago when I was a kid, you chose to blame the victim instead of updating your world view that cyclists can and do get struck by cars when they are riding on the sidewalk.

          • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/07/2015 - 04:12 pm.

            I don’t see you as a “victim”, but rather as a participant…

            …in an accident which could have been avoided by more mindfulness and good practices on the part of either the vehicle driver or the bicyclist. You can change only the bicyclist’s behavior, however.

            How you see yourself as purely a victim is beyond me.

            I have indeed learned from the various links cited in the comments here as well as your story, and in fact I’ve thanked those commenters and acknowledged those papers – I’m the one who asked for them.

            • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 08:15 am.

              Well you have no idea what happened

              But yeah the problem on my end was I was in a sidewalk where a car couldn’t see me instead of in the street where a motorist is trained to watch for oncoming traffic.

              After my accident, once my injuries healed, I took a free bike safety class run by a local bike safety org. They admonished me for riding on a sidewalk and to this day I’ve attempted to use the lessons I learned in that class. Haven’t had an accident since.

              You can choose to continue to bike in an unengineered sidewalk environment against the advice of virtually every expert out there. I wish you the best of luck. But when one day you are struck down by a motorist entering an uncontrolled “intersection” of a driveway and sidewalk and shatter your leg, I hope you remember that you’re not just a victim but a participant. After all you chose to bike in a place that is not recommended.

            • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 07:48 pm.

              might want to read the law

              169.222 Subd. 4.(f) A person lawfully operating a bicycle on a sidewalk … shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.”

              So, um, yeah… if you are a pedestrian on a sidewalk and you’re struck by a car driving through the sidewalk to get to the street, who is legally at fault?

              But I do take your point that I was an idiot for biking in the sidewalk in the first place. That’s why I’m not an 100% victim here (even if I was in the eyes of the law)

      • Submitted by Mark Byrnes on 06/08/2015 - 12:11 pm.

        I have also been hit by a car while on the sidewalk. It was very similar to your accident. I was not legally at fault, but I take responsible for my part in the accident. In this case it was riding on the sidewalk when it was safer to be on the road. That was about 12yrs ago, Since then I’ve been avoiding the sidewalks and put in about 40K miles commuting by bike without an accident.

    • Submitted by Jebediah Lightfield on 06/06/2015 - 12:30 am.

      Here’s an example.

      This July 16th, 2014 article pertains to a girl who died riding on a sidewalk:

      The sidewalk is an impractical location for transportation bicycling.

      • Submitted by Pat Berg on 06/06/2015 - 08:20 am.

        Just a note

        The “girl” referenced in your article was 22 years old.

        Somewhat ironic considering the plea further up in this comment thread to “Stop infantalizing bicyclists.”

        Maybe in this case it should be “Stop infantilizing female bicyclists.”

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/05/2015 - 02:44 pm.

    10 mph

    “In fact, they’re required by law to be on the street if they want to go faster than 10 MPH, which even an old out of shape guy like me can do.”

    Depends what you mean by “required”. At that same hearing where they voted down the speed limit increase MPD also admitted that they weren’t enforcing those speed limits and had no plans to do so. Since no one is actually enforcing that speed limit, and 95% of us routinely ignore it, it’s hard to tell anyone they have NO ALTERNATIVE but to ride on the street. If you want tor risk getting hit by a car rather than exceed a speed limit that’s not enforced you CAN do that if you want.

    Read the statute by the way, you’re also “required” to ride as far to the right as practicable, give verbal warnings when you pass people, ride in single file, have lights on your bike at night, Obey ALL traffic laws (like stopping for through-stops when there’s no traffic at all in sight) etc. Why cherry pick the speed limit as the ONE law we’re going to follow no matter what? Do we WANT these laws enforced?

    Having said that, speed is a factor in terms of safety. On some of the bike paths, like the ones around lakes and creek, you probably don’t want to go more than 15 mph for the most part (except for some stretches and hills). Most cyclist rarely exceed and average of 13-16 mph anyways so the paths are going to be a plenty good choice for the majority of riders. A lot of speed demons staying off the paths for the sake of speed are rarely making more than 19 mph. So a very small percentage of riders could make the claim that they need to be on the parkway instead of the path for speed and safety reasons. And then of course a guy like me is going say: “Look, if you have that need for speed you shouldn’t be looking for it on city parkways anyways.” Your advice to slow down and enjoy the view can also apply to cyclists.

    No one’s arguing that cyclists don’t have a right to be on the street of course they do. Until we have separated lanes, wider streets, and drivers who have become accustomed to the traffic mix we just have work around the existing infrastructure in order to be safe.

    There’s also something to be said for the difference between commuting somewhere and taking a bike ride. Commuting, going work, the grocery store or pharmacy etc. obviously requires street riding so this talk about the paths may be irrelevant to such a rider. We do have an extensive enough path system that there may be a path you use for at least part of your commute, but if not you’re on the street.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/05/2015 - 05:00 pm.

      double standard

      “There’s also something to be said for the difference between commuting somewhere and taking a bike ride.”

      Is there something to be said for the difference between driving to work and taking a leisurely drive? If you wouldn’t question why a motorist is in their vehicle, please don’t do so for a bicyclist.

    • Submitted by Jeremy Werst on 06/06/2015 - 03:33 pm.

      I’ve had a lot of jobs where the safest and most direct route included paths and parkways. Where (during some parts of the day) it might not be possible to go over 12mph with all of the strollers, dog leashes, etc. When I’m out for speed, 18-23mph is quite normal, and I’m slow compared to a lot of cyclists I know.

      The speed limit on the parkways is 25mph, right? So the cars shouldn’t be doing more than that, and if the ‘speed demons’ are closer to car speed than the children with training wheels, where should they be?

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/06/2015 - 10:44 pm.

        Where should they be?

        Kind of depends on the trail. Like I said above, if your close to 19 mph or above some of the trails might not be a good choice, although I hit 29 mph on my old Gitane behind the the Nordic Ware on the South Cedar Trail a few days ago. Around the lakes I think 15 mph is doable. I think you’re average of 12 mph is a little slow, the trails are separated although you do have to slow down on occasion. But you have to slow down for stuff on the streets as well. I’m just saying that narrow curvy parkways may not be a good choice unless you have to ride there for some reason.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/05/2015 - 02:58 pm.

    The statute by the way…

    Here’s the MN Cycling statute by the way:

    Here’s a couple things a lot of riders don’t know about MN cycling law:

    You are NOT required to dismount in order to cross a street or use a crosswalk, you can ride through but you have to give pedestrians right of way… duh.

    As long as you come to a complete stop at a red light, you can proceed through the intersection so long as no traffic is approaching within a dangerous distance. Lawmaker’s realized that a person on a bike may not trigger the light change mechanism, and may not be able to reach the beg-button. subdivision 9. “Affirmative defense relating to unchanging traffic-control signal.”

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/05/2015 - 04:46 pm.

      That statute starts with

      “Every person operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle by this chapter….”

      Riding on a sidewalk is so much more dangerous for everyone involved, and it’s unnecessary because bicyclists have every right to be in the street in Minnesota. Whether you like it or not, this is a fundamental attitude that needs to change if you want to see cars stop hitting bikes.

      When an automobile turns right out of a driveway, are they going to look right to see a bike heading toward them on a sidewalk? They should, but they all too often just look left to make sure there’s no oncoming traffic. I’ve been hit before when I was a kid. And no, I wasn’t going dangerously fast. The minivan just appeared into the sidewalk. Pedestrians move slower than bikes so one casual look is going to stop a car from plowing into a ped but they’re not expecting a bike traveling against the flow of traffic on a sidewalk.

  6. Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/05/2015 - 03:34 pm.

    Ride as close as practicable to right hand curb

    Sometimes riding in the middle of the street (where, by the way, Minneapolis is putting their shared lane markings) is “as close as practicable” because bikers don’t want to get doored. The fact that you’re sitting in your vehicle and judging cyclists for “trying to modify driver behavior in some way” when you really have no idea what’s going on in their minds is quite telling.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/05/2015 - 03:58 pm.

      Around the lakes

      You’ll also see some riders on the left hand side of the roads around the lakes as a way of dealing with the “doored” potential. That’s fine but you have to mind the intersections. I’ve seen two near collisions with Sir Speedy cyclists on the left side who blew through a stop sign by the bridge on Lake of the Isles where you cross over to Calhoun. Again, if you’re not in a race… don’t ride like you’re racing.

      • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/05/2015 - 04:48 pm.

        sure but now you’re talking about something different

        Cyclists should obey the law. But they should also be in the street. You did some armchair investigating of the state statute and I applaud you for that, but that doesn’t mean you’re an expert on bicycling best practices. There are professionals and safety orgs who have mapped this all out, and your advice frankly contradicts theirs.

  7. Submitted by Patrick Tice on 06/05/2015 - 03:49 pm.

    It’s a cooperative activity

    Getting around, that is. We all benefit when we more or less work as a team to help everyone else (and us!) get where we we want to go. It can be frustrating when everyone is not traveling at a uniform speed, but that is simply a given when we share spaces like roadways and biking/walking/running paths. As the author suggests, dedicated infrastructure can help, but we are never going to have a perfect world where bikes, cars, and pedestrians never cross paths or share spaces. I’ve never liked so-called “defensive driving” because it implies that others are out to get you and you always have to be on guard. Instead, how about “cooperative driving” which implies that you have some responsibility for everyone else – including pedestrians and bicyclists – getting to their destinations safely? And bicyclists and pedestrians – we expect the same of you.

  8. Submitted by Claude Ashe on 06/05/2015 - 04:17 pm.

    I admit it. I am probably part of the problem.

    I’m an old fogey of 50 and I grew up in a more rural area. I confess that I have a bad attitude when it comes to bike riders but I’ll say one thing in my defense: Twin Cities biker riders are in partial denial about their own behavior on the roads.

    I worked in downtown St. Paul for 20 years and in that time saw cyclists blow through stop signs and intersections without a pause, zip the wrong way on one way streets, and on one memorable morning cut diagonally across a busy intersection, threading between cars without a care in the world.

    So here’s what I’ll do: I’ll make an effort to read up on current bike laws so that I’m judging your choices on a fair basis. I’ll work on giving you the benefit of the doubt without being so crabby. I’m not being snarky— that’s genuine.

    But would you consider publishing a list of directives to the cyclists too? Maybe suggest that while the drivers are working on “relaxing” the cyclists open their mind to the possibility that *they* come off sometimes as entitled because they’ve chosen a politically correct mode of transportation?

    I know this is not what you want to hear, but there are too many BAD cyclists out there for us to take up your cause wholeheartedly.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/05/2015 - 04:38 pm.

      too many bad motorists

      There are a lot of bad motorists on the road. Some even kill pedestrians and cyclists. What are the stats on bodily injury, property damage, and death caused by motorists vs. cyclists? Is there any comparison?

      25,000 motorists in Minnesota get DWIs each year. Perhaps you’re thinking, don’t blame the millions of law abiding motorists out there for the deaths caused by a few bad apples. Perhaps that will help you understand why cyclists are unsympathetic when you tell them that there are “too many BAD cyclists out there for us to take up their cause wholeheartedly.”

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/06/2015 - 08:47 am.


        I would suggest that you are doing your best to prove his point. Nobody enjoys cooperating with folks whose only edict is “my way or the highway” be they motorists or cyclists. One is free to act as they will, but as always, being a jerk about it is unlikely to get the response or change in behavior one is looking for.

        • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/06/2015 - 05:10 pm.

          Maybe I wasn’t clear

          My point is more along the lines of if you’re a bad motorist you kill people. You could mess yourself up pretty badly on a bike but as a general rule a car can be a deadly weapon but a bike can’t.

          I drive and I bike. I don’t look at either mode of transport as a class of people that I can make sweeping generalizations about. If your attitude is that BIKERS NEED TO GROW UP and you can’t treat people as individuals, then maybe you aren’t mature enough to be piloting a 2000 pound metal projectile on city roads.

          • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/06/2015 - 09:09 pm.

            Mass generalizations

            Aren’t the issue. I am well aware that there are plenty of bad motorists and plenty of good cyclists. The holier than thou attitudes of what is probably a small minority of cyclists, and the indignant bluster of what is probably a small minority of motorists is what for the most part drives this debate. If both groups would stow it, its far more likely that the former will get the improvements to bike infrastructure they would like and the latter would bet the improvements to cyclist behavior. Both groups drown out what is the largest group of players, rational and pragmatic cyclists and motorists, and their belligerence drives the acrimony that might prevent any progress being made. The short version, to both sides, don’t be a sanctimonious “Richard”, and maybe you’ll get more of what you want.

            • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 09:15 am.

              there’s actually only one group

              …people. The jerk driving on Monday is often the same jerk biking on Tuesday. It’s a bit of a false dichotomy to say there are “plenty of bad motorists and plenty of good cyclists.”

              • Submitted by Adam Miller on 06/08/2015 - 01:15 pm.


                I rather doubt that’s true. I’d think that there is a huge set of people who drive regularly but never, or nearly never, ride a bike.

                There is also definitely a non-trivial set of people who do not have a car but regularly bike.

                Certainly nearly every recreational biker is likely also a driver, and while you would hope they’d be especially courteous in either capacity because they experience the road from both perspectives, that’s sadly probably not entirely true either (which was perhaps your point).

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/06/2015 - 10:49 pm.


            The reason MPLS created the separate bike and walking paths was a cyclist struck and killed a pedestrian back in the 70s I think it was.

            • Submitted by Matt Haas on 06/07/2015 - 07:25 am.


              But 1970 was also the year my parents graduated high school. They’ll be 65 this year. Whatever the debate might have been about 4 decades ago, its not necessarily the driver now. Perhaps one could argue that safety is the paramount concern for that large group of rational drivers and cyclists I mentioned, but its one of the issues drowned out by the outrage minorities of both sides of the debate. Take for example the whole of the commentary. Do many of the comments on safety actually strike you as concern about actual safety? To me the commentary of both sides positively drips with vitriol for the other, bringing up safety is simply an easy way to play gotcha by pointing out the bad acts of the opponents. I would argue that’s its not the subject matter of the conversation, but the indignity behind it that’s controlling the debate and impeding better progress.

              • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 09:33 am.

                I think that’s your imagination

                Go back and re-read the comments. We talk about how we are both drivers and bikers at different points in our day, and the comment section is loaded with links to traffic safety studies.

                You can choose to see people yelling at each other if you’d like but this is a well-tred area for policy makers and traffic engineers. There are best practices that have emerged over the years. In fact it’s pretty close to a consensus within the policy realm. Commenters here have done a pretty good job of pointing that out despite what your subjective impression seems to be

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2015 - 07:48 pm.


                ” Take for example the whole of the commentary. Do many of the comments on safety actually strike you as concern about actual safety? ”

                Yes. It can actually be quite difficult to get people talking about actual safety. If you try to talk to drivers about the cyclist’s problems using infrastructure designed for motor vehicles they get hung up on whether or not you’re obeying all the traffic laws. If you try to talk to cyclists about safe ways of dealing with traffic they think you’re trying to take their streets away from them.

                People want to make rules that EVERYONE has to follow instead of cultivating the experience and expertise they need to ride safely. Look at this business about sidewalks, people are actually googling studies about sidewalks and it’s like: “dude, you have options, look at the street, look at the sidewalk, make a decision.”.

            • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 07:58 pm.

              Excellent point

              All the more reason for bikes to stay off the sidewalks as a general rule

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/08/2015 - 11:11 am.

        Bad motorists

        The difference between a bad motorist and a bad cyclist is who gets killed when they interact while motoring or cycling. Otherwise, they’re the same. No one is interested in defending bad motorists any more than bad cyclists.

  9. Submitted by Adam Miller on 06/05/2015 - 05:10 pm.

    Some cyclists cycle dangerously

    Just as some drivers do. You get a better sense of just how much drivers don’t strictly comply with things like stop signs, speed limits, signaling lane changes, rights of way, stopping before the cross walk, stopping before a right turn on red, staying in their lane and the like when you spend some time watching them for a bike saddle (or on foot).

    And yet no one ever says “I hate drivers” or “drivers are so annoying” or “why don’t drivers get out of the road” nor does anyone usually get angry or annoyed with drivers as a class of people, the way people very much do about bikes. It seems we can figure out that the individual driver who cut us off is not a proxy for all drivers, but we can’t do that for reckless bikers.

    I can’t make other cyclists not ride like idiots, and its kind of unreasonable to ask that I do as so a condition to being taken seriously.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/05/2015 - 07:22 pm.

      yes exactly

      It makes me wonder if people think bicyclists all sit around together dreaming up ways to make life hell for poor motorists. Bicyclists come from all socioeconomic strata and everyone has their own reason for biking. Some are commuters, some are getting exercise, some can’t afford a car, some got their license revoked because they got a DWI. Some have criminal backgrounds; some are honors students. It’s absurd to think that there is just one type of bicyclist. But the absurdity becomes tragic when a motorist travels 75 feet in a 2000 pound hunk of metal during their split-second flash of anger at a stereotype.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 06/08/2015 - 11:16 am.


      Ride with me for a bit. You’ll hear all of those things along with some very choice words for those entitled drivers who are so special that they do all the things that some entitled cyclists do. I think you’re trying to justify poor cycling behavior because poor driving behavior exists. While you can’t make other cyclists do what you do, you can encourage positive behavior and quit defending poor behavior. I will not make a single excuse for poor drivers, and I fully believe that more than half of Minnesotans should have their driving licenses taken away, too. Perhaps the answer is better policing, but I won’t hang my hopes on that.

  10. Submitted by Steven Bailey on 06/05/2015 - 08:45 pm.

    This is going to get worse

    I’ve been saying for a long time if you want to wreck something just add more people. I totally stopped riding my bike last year. I have ridden in my fifty some years way more than you. Some years in my past city I would do over 8,000 a year and I rode many years and I didn’t bike commute. Cyclists here suck as bad as car drivers here. I was hit and twice almost hit by cyclists last year all doing the just the same thing, running a stop light or stop sign when I had the right of way on my bike. My nice bike just hangs off it’s bike hook and every time I feel sad when I look at it I like Minneapolis cyclists less. I have gotten used to watching for idiot self-absorbed car drivers but jerk cyclists are different, I can hear a car.

  11. Submitted by jody rooney on 06/05/2015 - 11:21 pm.

    Bikers are free loaders there is no doubt about it

    and they demand something for nothing.

    Gas tax , income and property taxes pay for roads and that’s fine use the roads make them safe.

    But if you are going to put petroleum based products in the woods they you ought to have to buy a bike trail pass.

    The Brown’s Creek Trail runs past my house with a road intersection nearby. If I get bored someday I think I will sit out there with my camera and a good book counting and photographing the folks who run the stop sign. Any guess on what the percentage might be of riders that don’t stop?
    Hmmm I suppose I could do a sampling plan and do an actual count.

    • Submitted by Lindsey Wallace on 06/06/2015 - 07:15 am.

      Biking is a economic benefit

      Cycling reduces healthcare costs and pollution, and thereby reduces unnecessary deaths:

      Investments in cycling infrastructure can have very beneficial returns on investment.

      Not everyone can afford a gym pass. Not everyone lives in a neighborhood where it’s safe to get exercise at all times of day. Many people would be unable to afford a license for using certain trails, and money would need to be spent on enforcement. Providing walking and biking paths as a public good is good policy. It promotes public health and equality for everyone.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/06/2015 - 11:24 am.


      You’re joking right?

      For one thing, surely you’re not suggesting users who pay for a road or trail are entitled to ignore stop signs whereas “freeloaders” are required to obey them? I live right next to a stop sign on the corner of my street, were I to get bored someday I could grab my camera and take photos of all the cars that blow through it, this is not a “bike” thing. Finally, the Brown’s Creek Trail is part of the Gateway State Trail system that was built and maintained by the DNR using state money, so no, those cyclists are not actually freeloading, they probably paid just as much as you did for that trail. You can join the Gateway Brown’s Creek Trail Association if you want however.

  12. Submitted by Lindsey Wallace on 06/06/2015 - 07:01 am.


    The risk of being hit as a cyclist on the street is very low, especially when following the rules and making efforts to be visible. Many collisions between drivers and bikers occur at intersections and biking on the sidewalk can be a significant contributing factor. Cars are often not looking for bikes on the sidewalk, and there may be trees or other obstructions blocking the view of both parties. Sure, you could say bikes should only go as fast as pedestrians if on the sidewalk, but then what’s the point of biking at all? Some studies suggest the risk is almost double for biking on the sidewalk (see the Cornell link below).

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/06/2015 - 08:48 am.

      This is simply false at this point

      “The risk of being hit as a cyclist on the street is very low, especially when following the rules and making efforts to be visible. Many collisions between drivers and bikers occur at intersections and biking on the sidewalk can be a significant contributing factor.”

      98% of all bike fatalities occur on the roads, that’s simply a fact. Now, the risk of getting killed on a bike period is low, biking is a very safe activity. The biggest contributor to any accident is poor judgement, it’s not a function of where your ride, it HOW you ride.

      NO ONE is saying that all bikers should be on the sidewalks instead of the streets or roads. And no matter where you ride, you need to ride safely. If you can’t ride safely on a sidewalk, you can’t ride safely on a road. Obviously you have to use good judgement and adjust your riding according to the conditions regardless of where you’re riding. If you don’t get that, you don’t know how to ride safely anywhere. If your even thinking that anyone is saying that all bikers should move onto the sidewalks, and that they should ride on the sidewalks the same way they ride on the streets, your either not paying attention, or your incapable of good judgment. No matter where you ride there are factors that contribute to accidents, and you need to be aware of those factors, sidewalks and bike paths are no different than streets in that regard.

  13. Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/06/2015 - 09:22 am.

    Not the same risk

    Cars barrel forward all the time into the sidewalk then stop and wait to turn into the street. If you’re in the street, going with the flow of traffic, they see you. If you’re on a sidewalk, especially if you’re moving against the flow of traffic, they don’t. Sidewalks are not just meant for moving vehicles.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/06/2015 - 05:31 pm.

      Not the same, more.

      Again, I’m not saying everyone should be on the sidewalk but if you go to Lindsey’s link you see that in every scenario the majority of collisions with cars are associated with street riding, not sidewalk riding. The highest accident rate is for cars coming out of driveways and alleyways and that’s 48% for sidewalk riders, that means it’s 52% for street riders.

      That doesn’t mean YOU should be riding on the sidewalk, it simply means wherever you ride you need be careful about driveways and alleyways.

      Cars barrel forward in any event, and the drivers never see the bikes they hit. Neither the street nor the sidewalk eliminate this danger. I know two people who’ve rolled over hoods when cars pulled out too far, both of them were riding on the street, not the sidewalk. Does that mean cyclists shouldn’t ride on the street? Of course not.

      Street, bike lane, or sidewalk you have to approach all intersections with with caution; mindful of the fact that motorist frequently fail to see cyclists and frequently roll out further than they’re supposed to before stopping or looking.

      • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 12:03 am.

        Yeah I get that

        I am just trying to tell you that when you’re on a sidewalk biking against the flow of traffic (e.g you’re going south on the sidewalk on the northbound side of the street) you’re going to be less visible to cars.

        Add to that the fact that in the street there are clear traffic laws and engineered roads that have demarcated intersections. Now not everyone follows the rules of the road, and both bikers and motorists need to do a better job. But at least there are rules and engineered solutions that people generally navigate without issue.

        A sidewalk on the other hand does not have clearly demarcated and engineered intersections. It is a free for all of pedestrians (and yes bikes although I don’t think that’s wise) going in both directions with no engineering to manage flow. There are no “intersections” but just driveways and alleys and store fronts that aren’t marked according to any master plan or engineering spec.

        Maybe you can find studies that show most accidents happen in the street, but that doesn’t surprise me because most bikes are in the street. You need a numerator and a denominator to get a probability and as above comments show there is lots of data to back up the assertion that your probability of an accident is higher on a sidewalk than a street. For the reasons I’ve outlined above (lack of clear rules of the road and lack of vehicle-grade engineering standards for sidewalks) this really shouldn’t be surprising. If it is surprising, maybe you’re thinking of bikes as a toy and not as a vehicle.

        • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2015 - 08:02 pm.

          It’s not just about engineering

          “”A sidewalk on the other hand does not have clearly demarcated and engineered intersections.” Sure but what kind of demarcation do you wan’t? You can’t see driveways and alleys when you’re on the sidewalk? You should be able to see and recognize an intersection no matter how it’s demarcated. Obviously all those design advantages aren’t making streets “safe” for cyclists.

          Look, you don’t need to look at any studies, just look at the sidewalk. The problem with sidewalks is that they’re designed primarily for pedestrians. The problem with streets is they’re designed primarily for motorized vehicles. The problem with sidewalks is they can be too narrow and crowded, and you can’t ride as fast on them as you could on the street or bike path. You recognize those problems and make adjustments if you need to ride on a sidewalk, it doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t EVER ride on any sidewalk anywhere.

          • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 09:02 am.

            Streets are actually very safe for cyclists.

            Safer than the sidewalk. That’s why our laws, policymakers, and bike safety educators overwhelmingly recognize you stay in the street.

  14. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/06/2015 - 10:40 am.

    This is almost comical

    Ms. Wallace has written very nice piece that very few bikers would dispute. There is in fact tension between cyclists and motorist, and it’s perfectly reasonable to ask motorists for a little more understanding and less animosity. It’s also a fact that better bike infrastructure reduces tensions and conflicts between motorists and cyclists and that makes things more pleasant and safe for everyone. So yes, if you want to reduce that tension calm down support bike infrastructure. I only see one comment here that actually disputes this by claiming that cyclists are freeloaders, and I’m not really sure if that comment is meant to sarcastic?

    Now it’s also a fact that tensions and conflicts often arise from two or more perspectives. In the case of cycling in America one cannot place all of the blame on motorists alone. Some cyclist contribute the tension and conflict in a variety of ways. You can ask for more understanding from motorists but living in a society means that you then have to extend understanding as well. This is not “infantilizing” bikers, on the contrary it’s expecting them to act like responsible adults. The infantile attitude is the one that assumes everyone else will adjust to your demands and needs without any reciprocity. The infant assumes that they are the center of the universe around which all else revolves and that there are no other meaningful perspectives.

    It’s also a fact that that cycling infrastructure in the US is woefully inadequate even in places like Portland and Minneapolis. The roads and streets in this country were simply not designed with cyclists in mind, and many of the motorists who drive on those streets are not accustomed or inclined to accommodate cyclists on the streets. However, I remind everyone that motorists are not particularly good at accommodating ANYTHING or ANYONE on the streets let alone cyclists. Motorist smash into EVERYTHING from sign posts, to pedestrians, to each other thousands of times a day. No cyclists should enter that environment with the attitude or assumption that they will get or are entitled to special consideration.

    Like it or not we’re stuck existing levels of bike infrastructure and that means if we ride our bikes in this environment we have to adjust to inadequacies. We have to find a way to be safe in an environment that is not optimally designed for our safety and activity. In other words we have develop and use “good judgment” and think outside the box on occasion.

    Motorists will often look at cyclists who are “breaking rules” with disgust but they don’t understand that there are many instances where the rules are inadequate and even dangerous for cyclists. The danger of getting “doored” is a perfect example, or debris on the side of the road. This things can drive a cyclists further out into the road than drivers think they should be. Likewise because no intersection in America is designed for bicycles, getting though them safely and efficiently on a bike is not the same practice as doing so in a car. When you drive a car you have to far more pedantic about things like stop signs for instance.

    This brings us to sidewalks and bike paths. No one is saying all cyclists should be on the sidewalks. And no one is saying all cyclists should be on the bike paths. And no one is saying cyclists have no right to use streets and roads. We have one commentor who says he prefers to ride on sidewalks most (but not all) of the time. No one is saying everyone should jump onto any sidewalk anywhere any time and ride like you’re on velodrome, that would be stupid. The suggestion here is not that you be stupid, on the contrary the suggestion is that you develop and deploy good judgement. No matter where you ride your bike good judgment is a necessity.

    All anyone has said is that there may be circumstances where a sidewalk is a legal and viable alternative typically for a short distance. This is simply a fact. No one said anything about drivers having a right to expect all cyclists to be on the sidewalk instead of the street. And no matter where you ride you need to ride safely, at appropriate speeds, with appropriate levels of awareness and foresight.

    Yet another fact is that motorists get frustrated with cyclists who ride on narrow parkways instead of dedicated bike paths that are just feet away. That doesn’t mean cyclists don’t have a right to be there but if the ONLY reason you’re on the street instead of the bike path is because you’re worried about about unenforced speed limits you may be contributing to unnecessary frustrations. That doesn’t mean there are NO good reasons for cyclist to be on the parkway instead of the bike path, but for the vast majority of cyclists the bike path is the best and safest option.

    The ability to cope with ambiguity and complexity is feature of maturity. As a cyclist in America one is confronted with an imperfect infrastructure that requires problem solving and good judgement. No single option is perfect for every situation, in many situation there are multiple options available. The ability to choose the best option and use it safely is simply the definition of a good cyclist. A good cyclist can ride almost anywhere safely and recognize where and how to ride and where not to ride given the circumstances.

    As for myself, I’ve been riding on streets, paths, and sidewalks for 45 years and the only accident I’ve ever been in is when I was rear-ended by another cyclist on the Lake of the Isles bike path. I spent years riding as a commuter, and more recently I mostly ride for exercise and recreation. As a general rule if you tell me about your accident I can tell you what you did wrong. If you run into stuff it’s usually because you weren’t riding safely, not because where you were riding wasn’t safe. Our poor infrastructure can make riding safely a challenge, but for the most part it can be done.

    It might be for instance that in order to ride safely on a given sidewalk, you might have to go 2 mph, so if you want to go faster than that obviously you should be in the street. However if you’re an adult riding a bike… I shouldn’t really have to tell you any of this.

    • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/06/2015 - 05:34 pm.

      “A good cyclist can ride almost anywhere safely”

      You’ve underscored the point I’ve tried to make above. I haven’t answered these folks directly because basically, they’re not listening. Trying to get bicycle “experts” to listen to alternative views is like peeing into a hurricane. For example, we’ve heard the implication here that an auto driver mindlessly barrelling across a sidewalk and into the street is a risk to the sidewalk biker, but implicitly, not a risk to the biker passing by in the street. This is nonsense. That auto driver poses a risk to both, yet the fallacy is put forth here that it weighs against only one of two similar risks.

      The studies some readers have cited above all have their problems, but rather than quibble over these issues, here is some data that NONE OF THESE STUDIES have ever collected:

      “What is the accident and injury rate for bikers who are mindful, attentive, focussed on safety at all times, use a 360 degree awareness, do not assume that autos are going to do what they are supposed to do, bring special care to every kind of intersection, act respectfully towards others, and finally, are in no blazing hurry and therefore willing to slow down at times when it is wise ??”

      Instead, the bike accident data they cite are drawn from bicyclists who in the main, obvioiusly DO NOT practice these maxims, else the accidents they got into likely would not have happened in the first place. So there is an implicit but unstated assumption in those study conclusions: if you bike like the folks represented by this data, here’s an estimate of your risk. But what if you DON’T bike like those folks ?? What if you are thoroughly conscious of safety issues when biking ??

      In a more positive vein, I’d like to thank the people who responded here with citations of studies on the matter of sidewalk biking, as I was simply unaware. I agree with them that these studies are a not unreasonable basis for public policy and advice to the public, and cannot be dismissed out of hand.

      But the first and foremost advice to the public should be something like I’ve quoted above – but I’m sure someone here can say it better. Bikers who bike stupidly can get into an accident anywhere.

      The accident stories are always heartbreaking, because in virtually every case, they could have been avoided – by EITHER the auto driver or the biker’s behavior.

      One more thing. I know quite a number of people who bike because they have difficulty walking or pain while walking – that they don’t have when biking. From the comments of some of the enthusiasts here, you’d think there is one and only one kind of bicyclist, but that is completely wrong. There are many different reasons and ways people are drawn to bicycling. We are not all robust, healthy, young people who are worried about how fast we can go.

      • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 12:08 am.

        If you want to bike on a sidewalk that’s ok

        But it’s not a smart policy idea for most people simply because sidewalks are not designed for traffic flow. Yes if everyone was mindful and completely perfect we could even maybe allow cars on sidewalks too. But they aren’t so we don’t. We engineer streets to minimize risk and mitigate problems that we know will occur. We don’t do that for sidewalks.

    • Submitted by Elsa Mack on 06/08/2015 - 09:43 am.

      Sidewalks and intersections

      I think part of the reason cyclists react strongly to your suggestion to use the sidewalk in certain situations is that many of us have had “Get on the sidewalk!” yelled at us from passing vehicles, sometimes passing too closely and sometimes with more colorful language. There are a lot of people who think bicycles belong on sidewalks, as if cyclists were children going around the block for fun. So I think there’s a reflexive reaction to the sidewalk idea.

      And while I agree there are a few situations where the sidewalk is the best option, I think these situations are rare and require extra caution: very slow speed, very clear eye contact with motorists at intersection, etc. This is largely for the reasons that Nathan has brought up, that motorists do not expect and do not look for something coming into the intersection at above walking speed.

      I’d note that I also really dislike separated bike tracks like those on 1st Ave downtown for the same reason. I suspect these look or even “feel” safe to people who don’t ride often, while actually making cyclists less visible at intersections, where most accidents happen. Plus how are we supposed to merge prior to a left turn? I’d like to see more bike infrastructure, but I’d like that infrastructure to treat cyclists as part of traffic in the street, rather than separating them.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2015 - 02:34 pm.

        Thank you

        Elsa, I realize we get yelled at, but this isn’t about turf, or space, or ideology. And it’s not about asserting our “rights” to be on the street. It’s simply about recognizing options and listening. You make suggestions to cyclists and they react like your trying to take their streets away or somehow subjugate them. Using a sidewalk here and there doesn’t mean you’re surrendering the streets.

        I think sometimes people get stuck thinking of themselves as part of some kind of “movement” rather people who are just riding their bikes. the “movement” has all of these objectives that can obscure common sense and dialogue. The “movement” says we have to assert our right to use the streets, well fine, but we still have to ride safely and responsibly.

        I don’t think there’s an intersection in the United States that’s properly designed to accommodate cyclists. Left hand turns are the worst. I agree, the practice of putting cyclists on the other side of parked cars provides separation but also inhibits visibility and I’d agree that one way or another visibility is probably the most important safety factor. The other problem with those 1st Ave. bike lanes is that now people getting out of their cars HAVE to cross the bike lane to get to the sidewalk, so they’re constantly stepping out in front of bikers. AND I think you’re much more likely to get doored by someone on the passenger side because they NEVER check a mirror before opening a door.

  15. Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 12:45 am.

    Evidence from research literature on sidewalk biking

    The evidence that bicycling on sidewalks and similar facilities is more hazardous than bicycling on streets is overwhelming.

    Need to see that evidence? Here are some graphs, and links to studies posted on the Internet on this site and others:

  16. Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 12:53 am.

    From the current AASHTO guide for bike path engineering

    (The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is a standards setting body which publishes specifications, test protocols and guidelines which are used in highway design and construction throughout the United States.)

    pages 8-9: general warning against designating sidewalks as bicycle routes:

    Sidewalks generally are not acceptable for bicycling. However, in a few limited situations, such as on long and narrow bridges and where bicyclists are incidental or infrequent users, the sidewalk can serve as an alternate facility…

    page 20: another, similar warning:

    In general, the designated use of sidewalks (as a signed shared facility) for bicycle travel is unsatisfactory. (See Undesirability of Sidewalks as Shared Use Paths, page 58.) It is important to recognize that the development of extremely wide sidewalks does not necessarily add to the safety of sidewalk bicycle travel, since wide sidewalks encourage higher speed bicycle use and increase potential for conflicts with motor vehicles at intersections, as well as with pedestrians and fixed objects….

    page 58: And yet another similar warning:

    Utilizing or providing a sidewalk as a shared use path is unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons. Sidewalks are typically designed for pedestrian speeds and maneuverability and are not safe for higher speed bicycle use. Conflicts are common between pedestrians traveling at low speeds (exiting stores, parked cars, etc.) and bicyclists, as are conflicts with fixed objects (e.g., parking meters, utility poles, sign posts, bus benches, trees, fire hydrants, mail boxes, etc.)

  17. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/07/2015 - 08:21 am.

    A few words from a pedestrian

    I moved here from Colorado to be a grandpa. I couldn’t afford the housing for sale in my grandchildren’s neighborhood in NE Minneapolis, so I ended up across the river in the far NW corner of the city. Depending on the route I take, it’s either 5 or 8 miles to the grandkids’ and most of my auto mileage since moving here has been accumulated making that round trip.

    For several reasons, including the brevity of that “grandpa commute,” I seriously considered buying a bike to make the trip, going so far as to visit multiple bike shops in the area, trying out several bikes. I discovered that, unlike the older folks Steve Titterud refers to above, I can walk just fine, but my aging knees won’t tolerate the flexing that cycling requires. So I drive. Or I walk.

    Because I’m a pretty aware driver, I’m not typically caught by surprise when a cyclist or motorcyclist is in the vicinity, and that goes for pedestrians, too. I’m a pedestrian more often than I’m a driver here, and I make use of city-provided paved trails whenever they’re available. Based on my 6 years of driving and walking here, I’ll make two general observations:

    First, far too many Minneapolis drivers are oblivious to their surroundings. Whether they’re texting, daydreaming, or the ice cream just fell into their lap, too many drivers not only don’t notice cyclists, they also don’t notice other drivers, and, except at major intersections, aren’t aware that there *is* such a thing as a pedestrian. Once aware, Minneapolitan auto drivers are generally pretty polite, but my point is that, too often, they’re not aware.

    Second, while the level of awareness for cyclists is generally far higher (and should come as no suprise, given the fragility of their cycles and the lack of protection common to every cyclist), and it’s also no surprise that there’s some tension between/among cyclists and drivers, I haven’t seen much from cyclists to indicate that they take the state statute very seriously when it comes to the “duties” part of “Every person operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle by this chapter….” I’m specifically referring to interactions between cyclists and pedestrians.

    In general, I’ve found Minneapolis cyclists to be just as arrogant and rude to pedestrians as their automotive counterparts are claimed to be to cyclists, based on several hundred encounters over my 6 years here, using some portion of the Shingle Creek Trail almost daily, and occasionally making use of the trail around the Columbia golf course in NE Minneapolis as well. In the course of hundreds of encounters, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times a cyclist has given me warning when approaching me from behind on those trails. If I’d had my camera with me, I could also have documented dozens of times I’ve seen cyclists cruise through a street intersection with a 4-way stop without even slowing down. They look left and right, of course, to keep from getting killed by an inattentive driver, but make no attempt to stop.

    I understand the physics involved, and yes, it requires much more energy from the cyclist to start up again from a stop than to coast through. It also requires more energy from the cyclist to start up again from a stop than it requires of a driver to do so. That doesn’t absolve the cyclist from observing those same “duties” we expect of drivers. “Freedom” generally implies responsibility as well, and “inconvenience” doesn’t strike me as a viable excuse for ignoring what is plainly the law.

    So, there are no innocents here. Too many cyclists behave as if “sharing the road” with pedestrians is something that doesn’t apply if the “road” is a paved trail and the other users are on foot. Too many drivers behave as if “sharing the road” applies only to other motorized vehicles with 4 or more wheels. And, while I’m at it, too many Harley riders are in a class of irresponsibility all their own.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2015 - 08:15 pm.

      Stop signs and verbal warnings

      Ray, I don’t always give verbal warnings. When someone is staying in their lane and I can safely pass by I will often forego the warning because I’ve needlessly startled people several times. I take it on a case by case bases. If someone or a group are wandering around, clogging the trail, or seem to be unpredictable I’ll give them an audible. Often I just slow down and give people audibles so they can mover over and let me by.

      As for stop signs and what not, it’s about safety AND efficiency. On a bicycle you sit up high (unless your on a recomb), you’re not inside a cabin of any kind, and you have virtually no blind spots when you approach an intersection. You’re also traveling much slower than motorized vehicles. This mean in a very practical sense that a cyclist can safely evaluate an intersection and decide whether or not it’s actually necessary to come to a full stop. And yes, if you were trying to get somewhere in a reasonable period of time at bicycle speeds you wouldn’t want to stop and go for no good reason all the way to work in the morning. When I drive my car, I can’t safely deal with intersections the way I do on my bike for obvious reasons. In a car my ability to safely evaluate every intersection as I approach it is dangerously limited so it would be reckless to ignore traffic control signs.

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2015 - 09:45 am.

    Nathan et al.

    I appreciate the google work you (and some others) have done but frankly I don’t know why anyone over the age of 14 or 15 would even bother to look up studies about riding bikes on sidewalks, the issues are rather obvious if you ride a bike or walk on sidewalks in America. Since no one is, or to my knowledge has ever argued that all cyclists should get off the street an onto the sidewalks there really isn’t an argument here.

    All I’ve said is that there are some instances where a sidewalk is a legal and viably safe alternative to a dodgy streetscape on occasion. I even provided an example with satellite photos and diagrams. It goes without saying that wherever you ride you have to adjust to the conditions. Steve says he personally prefers to ride on sidewalks and given his description of the kind of riding he does and where he rides it doesn’t look like a problem to me, obviously he’s adjusting his riding to sidewalk conditions. Clearly Steve isn’t zipping around downtown sidewalks going 20 mph. Steve has never declared that EVERYONE else should join him on the sidewalks and get off of all the streets. You understand the difference between specific and individual circumstances and generalities right?

    A lot of cyclist in the US have technical skills but lack real expertise. Since we have such a poor cycling infrastructure in the US (even in MPLS) expert cycling requires that riders have the ability to evaluate circumstances and devise safe options where none are built in. Our bike path system is not extensive enough to eliminate the need to ride on streets, and most of our streets do not have bike lanes built into them. Although it may be easier to ride in some places than others ultimately safe riding is almost never about where you ride but rather HOW you ride. Any attempt to impose a universal policy of only riding on streets, or dedicated bike paths would obviously be impractical and naive.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/07/2015 - 07:16 pm.

      Sure bike on the sidewalk if you dare

      just please don’t recommend it to others because it’s demonstrably more dangerous. The sidewalk was not engineered for vehicles and to suggest that it’s an option to unsuspecting readers is a disservice.

  19. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 06/07/2015 - 06:46 pm.

    A new one on me…driving to

    A new one on me…

    driving to the downtown post office on the 3rd Ave bridge, going to make a right turn. The bicyclist on the curb side of me has his head down, going about 10-15 mph, reading his cell phone–not watching me or my right turn, or the light.

    Now that is a quick way to end up in a hospital.

    Distracted biking?

  20. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/07/2015 - 07:32 pm.

    Cycling and research

    Not to drive us too far off topic but since a number people have googled “studies” I think a few things are worth mentioning.

    To begin with, it turns out that doing research on bicycle safety is actually a very difficult epidemiological problem because of the complexities involved. A lot of the studies done in the late 80’s and early 90’s have turned out to be seriously flawed. Some “studies” now appear to have been extremely flawed. For instance the whole “bike driving” or “vehicular riding” craze grew out of bogus observations that John Forester made back in the 70’s. Forester “concluded” that biking on bike paths was more dangerous than biking in the streets in traffic. Eventually people started noticing that despite Forester’s advice and the consequent bike driving movement accidents and fatality rates in the US continued to outpace those in Europe. When researchers went back and tried to replicate Forester’s work they found the exact opposite. The overwhelming evidence now from studies all over the world is concludes that keeping cyclist separate from traffic is the best policy.

    Early research on helmets was also similarly flawed, recent studies have a hard time concluding that helmet’s actually decreases the incidence of head injuries because injuries are the result of accidents, not helmet use. Helmets aren’t 100% effective at preventing head injuries and since 99% of cyclist aren’t going to suffer from a cycling related head injury anyways it’s hard to produce a safety trend. It’s more likely that we can reduce head injuries more effectively by reducing the number accidents rather than handing out helmet to people who get into accident. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t wear helmets but the early safety claims were wildly over-stated.

    Even if we just look at the link Ms. Wallace provides regarding sidewalk related accidents there are obvious problems. The article claims to establish that biking on sidewalks is dangerous but that claim is based on a basic collection of numbers rather any serious statistical analysis. We’re told for instance that 48% of some or another accident is related to riding on sidewalks for instance. The truth is such numbers are practically useless because we don’t the “n”, the number of cyclists using the sidewalk, or the street. Giving a simple percentage of accidents tell us almost nothing. What could tell us something is if we knew what percentage of cyclist riding on sidewalks had accidents compared to the percentage of cyclists riding in the street, but in order to calculate that we’d have to know the total number of riders using the street and sidewalks. This is basic basic statistic stuff yet you see this problems all over the place in bike safety literature. Listen, think of it this way: if EVERYONE rode on the streets, then 100% of all accidents would be on the streets and zero percent would be related to sidewalks. Would that mean that the sidewalks are safer to ride on than the streets?

    My thing is this: and I’m not trying to insult anyone, but if your looking at “research” and ‘studies” to figure out whether or not you should do something like ride on a sidewalk, you probably shouldn’t be riding a bicycle unsupervised in the United States of America. You ought to be able to look at a situation and make a responsible decision.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 06/08/2015 - 06:34 am.


      I don’t think people are so much looking at research to tell them what to do, but rather to see what’s best practices. It’s not always obvious what the give and take is in any given situation, which is why we rely on experts in their fields to study a given scenario and parse out what the pros and cons are.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2015 - 08:43 am.


        There are a few things going on here. Some people are just playing debate games, pointing to “research” in and attempt to win the “debate”. Debate games are a things unto themselves that actually have nothing to do with substance or cycling practices. Safe cycling isn’t a debate game.

        However other people are obvious making personal decisions based on “research” derived generalizations rather than real world observations. The thing that has struck me in this comment thread is that not a single person who’s complained about my sidewalk observation has simply said: “Look buddy, I’m just trying to get to work and I don’t have all day to do that!” Not one person. Everyone has produced “links” to research of some kind or another. We have one guy who’s had accidents on sidewalks but people have accidents in their living rooms, that doesn’t actually tell us anything. Obviously people have accidents in the streets. We also have one individual who prefers to ride on sidewalks and multiple people have been telling him not to do that and pointing to “research” to make their point… so yes, some people are obviously basing their cycling decisions on abstract generalizations derived from research. Not one person bothered to ask where he’s riding or what kind of riding he’s doing.

        My point is no matter why your looking at research you need to have a requisite degree of scientific literacy in order to evaluate it. This isn’t unique to cycling but there’s been a lot of sloppy research around cycling that has lead to some bizarre generalizations in the United States.

        The notion of “expertise” in cycling is also kind of weird sometimes. Researchers are not the “experts”, good cyclists are the experts. If you wanted to know the pros and cons of riding on sidewalks you could’ve asked, I’da told you 30 years ago the exact same things the research has “discovered”. Look at the street, look at the sidewalk, it’s not that hard to figure out. Do you really need to look at research to figure out that a sidewalk isn’t a street?

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 08:10 am.

      It’s an odd stance to take

      Would you tell motorists to forget what they learned in drivers ed and just do what feels safest in the moment?

      Roads are enginered spaces with laws that are taught through education and designed (hopefully) to complement the engineering. These engineered spaces and laws exist to minimize damage in a world of imperfect drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

      Biking on an unengineered sidewalk is less safe than biking in the street, going with the flow of traffic, and obeying traffic laws. I think it’s pretty clear that’s counterintuitive. I got in an accident & then took a bike safety class before I learned that lesson. I’m not sure why you are infantilizing people that look up best practices and safety studies (or even taking a biker’s ed class) to find out what the safest practices are. After all, there *are* counterintuitive facts when it comes to traffic safety.

      There are some things that truly are instinctual. But navigating traffic flow in a moving vehicle in a highly physically and legally engineered space is not one of them. People should be applauded for looking things up and figuring out what they’re not correct about. For me, it was biking in the sidewalk. Hopefully anyone reading this who once thought biking in the sidewalk was a safe alternative now knows otherwise.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 10:00 am.

      several studies beginning in 1996

      Use a measure called “Relative Danger Index.” They look at each type of environment where a cyclist can operate (e.g. major arterial roads, low-traffic residential roads, roads with bike paths, dedicated bike paths, and sidewalks). They attempt to calculate total kilometers travelled by bikes on each of these environments. Then they attempt to measure how many bike accidents happened on each of these environments.

      So your numerator is “crashes” and your denominator is “total bike kilometers traveled.” It’s a very similar statistic that the National Transportation Safety Board uses to determine the relative safety of air travel vs. train travel vs. automobile travel vs. bicycle travel vs. pedestrian travel.

      Ever since it was first used in 1996, it’s been replicated in study after study. The original study found that biking in the sidewalk was 8 times more dangerous than biking in the street. Later studies have found the RDI to be more like 2 to 1. But every single study has found that sidewalk biking is more dangerous than biking on the street. And yes, they take relative distance travelled on each modality into account.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2015 - 02:08 pm.

        RDI has no predictive abilities.

        Not to dwell but the RDI is an “index”, it’s a count, it tells you where accidents are happening but it doesn’t tell you why accidents are happening, and it doesn’t tell you where to travel or how. RDI’s fluctuate from year to year but the NTSB never tells people: “Don’t get on a plane this year because the RDI is kinda high”. That’s not the function of an RDI so if someone tells you’re such and what many times more likely to crash based on an RDI they’re not using the measurement correctly.

        Again, research on bike safety is just not state of the art. If you really wanted to figure something like this out you’d pick several locations, different types of streets, and different types of sidewalks. You’d count or estimate the number of riders using each mode and location, track the number of accidents, note the different type of accidents, the type of riders getting into accidents and those who don’t, and you’d do this all over a significant period of time to rule out weather and other confounding factors. For instance you’d expect to see more accidents on streets in the winter because the sidewalks may not be cleared, if you didn’t compensate for that you can end up concluding that sidewalks are safer in the winter because there are fewer accidents. Then you’d take all this information and you’d calculate odds ratio’s for the different scenarios.

        A simple correlation coefficient or, or percentage, or an RDI isn’t going to tell you why people are crashing on sidewalks or streets or where they should ride. Listen, it could be that reckless riders are more prone to riding on sidewalks. In that case all you’re going do is move more reckless riders out into the streets if you ban sidewalk riding. Reckless riders will then just have their accidents in the street instead of the sidewalks.

        No one is doing state of the art research on bicycle safety, but there’s a reason for that. Bicycling is an incredibly safe activity in general and for the most part any observations you need to make are pretty obvious. State of the art research is expensive and no one’s going to dump big bucks into trying to figure out if sidewalks are safer than streets because it’s obvious that you don’t want 20,000 cyclists riding around the sidewalks of downtown Toronto. No one’s dumping big bucks into bike safety because there are way bigger fish to fry.

        So these research problems MAY be interesting to some people but the fact is they are by an large irrelevant because none of this tells you where YOU should ride your bike in any given situation. RDI’s are useless to you when you’re trying decide if a quick jump up onto the sidewalk might get around dicey street problem safely. There’s no substitute for good judgement and poor judgement follows you wherever you go, street or sidewalk. We don’t need to look an RDI to know that riding a bicycle on the Nicollet Mall sidewalk is bad idea. Conversely if you’re looking a flooded road that has a high and dry perfectly clear sidewalk five feet away what do you think the smart move might be?

        • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 04:21 pm.

          ok but you’re already backpedalling here

          Just a few hours ago you said: “The vast majority of cycling accidents happen streets, and there’s no reliable data that people who ride on sidewalks are having twice as many accidents as those riding in the streets.”

          That’s the reason I pointed out RDI.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2015 - 08:12 am.

            No backpedalling

            I’m not backpedalling, look at what I said, I said there’s no “reliable” data, and then I went on at length to explain why the RDI data you’re pointing to is unreliable. For one thing, the US has no nationwide system in place to collect bicycle accident data on an annual basis. All you have a are a handful of studies that try to draw conclusions based on limited observations in select locations.

            But again, you don’t need much data, you just need common sense. We can reliably predict that if all cyclists were forced off the streets and onto the sidewalks the accident rates would increase. Thing is, no one is suggesting we do that. All I’ve ever suggested is that there are situations where a sidewalk can be a safer alternative. Apparently, according Nathan, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials agrees with me:

            “Sidewalks generally are not acceptable for bicycling. However, in a few limited situations, such as on long and narrow bridges and where bicyclists are incidental or infrequent users, the sidewalk can serve as an alternate facility…”

            In other words, riding on the Nicollet Mall sidewalk is probably a bad idea, but using the sidewalk on the Robert’s Street Bridge might make sense. Some people seem to be having trouble with the notion of: “context”.

            • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/09/2015 - 10:44 am.

              “data is unreliable” is the last refuge of those with no data

              Sheesh, this takes me back to my old days of arguing on Facebook with climate change denialists. Except at least they had websites they could link to that trumpeted the 2% of peer-reviewed science that agrees with them. So far, all I’ve gotten here is a general statement that “peer-reviewed studies don’t feel correct to me so they can’t be right.”

              I’ll ask point blank: Can you point to a single study that shows that sidewalk bicycling is safer than biking in the street? I have shown several peer reviewed studies that show sidewalk biking is 2-16x less times safe.

              And re: national statistics, yes the CDC keeps national, annual statistics on bike accidents that result in emergency room visits—and any researcher can access that data. Further, the AASHTO has made a set of recommendations based on data that strongly stress that sidewalk cycling should not be encouraged by policymakers. Yes, you found the one exception that proves the rule: “a few limited situations, such as on long, narrow bridges.” This is the epitome of a backpedal, and no one is going to disagree with that. Heck, I even quoted it myself two days ago.

              • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2015 - 01:08 pm.

                Sheesh is right

                Nathan, it’s not my job to negate your thesis, you need to prove it, and the studies your using are seriously flawed.

                One study takes observations made during a single 8 hour period and then grabs 4 years of accident numbers and claims to have calculated risk ratios. You can’t do that, it’s statistically incoherent. The reason they did it was because during the period of observation they didn’t see a single accident, anywhere. In order to have enough numbers to work with they went out and grabbed 4 years worth of accident reports, but they didn’t adjust their “n”, they didn’t even try. So you look at their tables and they tell you they observed 971 cyclists on the sidewalk and 41 reported accidents. The fact is they didn’t see any reported accidents during that observation period because there’s only something like 24 cycling accidents a year, and they don’t even tell you whether or not those reported accidents even occurred on the sidewalks or roadways they observed (for all of 8 hours). Then they conclude that the data shows a 200% increased risk factors but that conclusion doesn’t even match the data on their tables (table 5) which claims the sidewalk risk fact is 1.4 while the roadway risk factor is .08 ( a difference of .6, not 2.0). They even admit in their discussion that if all the cycling were on the road they’d predict 53 accidents and if everyone were on the sidewalk they’d predict 69 accidents, that’s not a 200% difference. They seem to realize that the data don’t really support their conclusion so they try to resolve it by claiming the disparity is the result of a “Simpson’s Paradox”, in other words it only “looks” like sidewalks are no more dangerous than streets when you look at the data, but trust us. Whatever.


                As for the CDC yes, they collect general data on accidents and deaths but you’ll notice that NONE of the studies you’re pointing to use that data because it’s not specific enough, and certainly doesn’t tell you anything about sidewalks.

                I agree, this is like arguing with a climate denier.

                • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/09/2015 - 01:26 pm.

                  So you can’t find a study?

                  I’ll lower the bar. Can you find any reputable policymaker or transportation engineer who argues that sidewalks are a safer alternative to biking in the street?

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/11/2015 - 08:09 am.

                    Once last time…

                    Nathan, the problem is your bar, not it’s height. The research being done is not reliable for a variety of reason I’ve already explained at length. This isn’t a high school debate game, it doesn’t matter whether or not you can find a study, or how many studies your find, if the studies aren’t reliable.

                    I’m not even looking for studies because: A) I just look at the sidewalk. B) Even if I find a study I’m not really proving anything if that study isn’t reliable am I?

                    In a debate game we could each score points by racking up studies or references regardless of their relevance or reliability, but that not what we’re doing here… at least that not what I’m doing.

                    Now I’m not saying that science is irrelevant or useless, just that there’s good science, not so good science, and junk science. For reasons I’ve explained at length, a lot of the science around bicycle safety is not good.

                    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/11/2015 - 09:52 am.

                      So not one policymaker or engineer says sidewalks are safer

                      Got it. Thank you for your time.

                • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/09/2015 - 02:09 pm.

                  You can’t dislodge rigid, fixed ideation from a closed mind.

                  Like yourself, I read research reports in full – not just the conclusions – as I worked for some years as a data analyst. I suspect you’ve done similar work. The cited research certainly has some problems, and you’ve pointed out some of these in your various comments.

                  This may be wasted on someone baiting you, but I think your point is coming across clearly enough – for those who are paying attention, that is.

                  The conclusions research are so simple and straightforward, they easily become fixed, rigid ideas of some here. It’s like reading only the headlines in news stories. Those who bask in the conclusions can never understand the basis for those conclusions nor whether they are valid, or even make common sense.

                  • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/09/2015 - 03:37 pm.

                    we’re talking about bicycle education for cyclists

                    At least I am. It’s great that you have the time to go line by line through studies. I admire the way you dig into research and going beyond headlines everyone should do.

                    However, the headlines are what we teach in drivers ed… and to cyclists, although that’s less formal.

                    Sure, we all laugh at the death porn they make us watch in drivers ed & most of us if we’re being honest roll a 4-way stop here and there when no one else is around. In cars and certainly on bikes.

                    The underlying advice seems pretty sound to me: sidewalks are more dangerous than the street to the average user. There is lots of user error, so that’s why we engineer roads and design education classes.

                    The law lets cyclists in some specific settings ride on the sidewalk. You can do it when you feel its best, and I’m not saying you’re going to meet certain death.

                    But I just want to be clear for people reading here for advice on biking best practices: the research is completely unanimous. Biking on sidewalks is not a safer option.

  21. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 06/08/2015 - 06:48 am.

    Bikes vs Cars

    There are a couple of items I noticed missing from the whole bikes vs cars narrative. People complain the bikers are rude, arrogant, run stop signs, and so on. Their conclusion is off by a country mile though. It’s not that there are entitled bike riders (or cars or pedestrians, for that matter), but rather that there are rude people in society. And sometimes those rude people ride bikes just like they drive cars or walk across the street.

    Which means people can rail on about rude bikers all day long and it’s not going to change a bloody thing. There will *always* be rude people and a certain subset of those individuals will ride bikes, whether we like it or not. Complaining about rude entitled people may feel good, but let’s face reality here folks: they’re just breeding more.

    But if it makes you feel good, by all means go on and on about how we need to teach bikers the rules of the road. While you’re at it though, toss in all the drivers too who run stop signs and red lights, speed, flip people off, drive slow in the left lane…

  22. Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 08:21 am.

    Bicycling is actually very safe

    …so you could bike on a sidewalk forever and never get hurt.

    The problem is when you start teaching people that biking on a sidewalk is a perfectly safe option. If you just tell your kids that, it’s probably ok because, again, biking is a very safe method of transportation and your kids are a small enough sample size that they’ll likely be OK if they take your ill-informed advice on through their adulthood.

    But statistically sidewalks are almost twice as dangerous as the road for bikes, so if you start teaching the general public that you’re going to slowly but surely start increasing the number of serious accidents that occur. In the aggregate, your incorrect advice is going to kill people who would have been OK if they had stayed in the street, flowed with traffic, stayed aware, and obeyed traffic laws. That’s why we rely evidenced-based education and policy to teach the masses. It saves lives and prevents needless injury.

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2015 - 09:23 am.

    Pedantic’s don’t make people safe

    “The problem is when you start teaching people that biking on a sidewalk is a perfectly safe option”

    The problem is if you eliminate safe options based on pedantic mindsets you unnecessarily eliminate safe options. That doesn’t make cycling safer. There are in fact circumstances where a sidewalk might be a safer that the street. You don’t make safe cyclists by “teaching” them pedantic riding rules. And you don’t make cyclists safer by pushing them into dangerous streets. You make safe cyclists by teaching them how make good choices given multiple scenarios, especially when we have a bike infrastructure that rarely provides the safest options. A cyclists needs to be able to recognize the safest option in a given circumstance and use that option safely. We actually decrease bike safety if eliminate safe options.

    “But statistically sidewalks are almost twice as dangerous as the road for bikes,”

    Again, not that everyone should be riding on the sidewalks but this statement is simply false. The vast majority of cycling accidents happen streets, and there’s no reliable data that people who ride on sidewalks are having twice as many accidents as those riding in the streets, on the contrary, in every scenario the majority of cyclists are getting injured while riding in the street.

    Obviously sidewalks aren’t streets, but cycling is cycling no matter where you ride. You have to travel at appropriate speeds, maintain awareness, anticipate traffic, and expect the unexpected. The main drawback on a sidewalk is speed. You can’t ride legally on some sidewalks at all, and you can’t ride safely on any sidewalks at the same speeds you could on the street. Obviously if sidewalk conditions would require that you ride no faster than people walk there’s no point in even being a bike. Likewise obviously a crowded narrow sidewalk with a bunch of kids playing hopscotch on it isn’t a good choice. But that’s not EVERY sidewalk is it?

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 01:01 pm.

      Per several commenters above

      There have been multiple studies since 1996 that all control for how many kilometers bicyclists are in the street vs sidewalk. Every single one of them has found that a cyclist riding 1 km on a sidewalk is at least twice as likely to be injured than a cyclist riding 1 km on a street.

      There are no studies that I am aware of that assess accidents per km travelled and show that the sidewalk is safer. If you have a study that shows sidewalks are safer when you account for distance travelled, I’d like to see it.

  24. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/08/2015 - 11:58 am.

    I sure hope no one – besides cyclists – is reading all this.

    If so, I’m betting they are less likely to support enhanced cycling infrastructure than before they tasted the oppressive monomania and insufferable pedantry on display here – and the flogging and beating of a whole herd of dead horses.

    The column is mainly an appeal for more public support. You’d think the author could expect to be joined in this plea by cyclists, but largely this is not true in this commentary. Some of the cyclists here are too busy squabbling and tit-for-tatting over lesser matters.

    By my count, of the 77 total entries here at this point, 28 are by one single individual – and almost all of these 28 reiterate the same opinion, over and over, over and over.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2015 - 02:14 pm.

      Well, that’s just it…

      If cyclists want to ride in the streets among the traffic… what kind of “bike” infrastructure do they want?

      • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 04:52 pm.

        is that a real question?

        The safest thing for everyone is to have dedicated bike lanes where only bikes travel. It’s safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and it doesn’t slow down or annoy motorists. The next safest thing is for everyone to calm down, obey the rules of the road, and work together on the street.

        Here’s another example of common sense bike infrastructure: when there is a travel lane less than 14′ wide, Minnesota now allows for the national standard sign: “Bicycles may use full lane.” You can check out the signs in action on sections of Marshall Avenue in St Paul. Yes, signs telling motorists to chill out are part of infrastructure too.

        The “Bicycles may use full lane” sign is a replacement for the previous “Share the road” signs, which were giving motorists the incorrect impression that cyclists needed to move over to let them pass. It’s in the newly revised federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, and is a big win for cyclists.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/08/2015 - 02:30 pm.

      A 50% decrease in your risk of injury is not a “lesser matter”

      I find your comment particularly perplexing because above you have thanked commenters for showing you research about why staying off of sidewalks makes you a safer cyclist. Despite commenters that point to multiple links containing valid research confirming this point, one person keeps saying that cyclists should ignore this advice and continue to use their own judgment.

      The best thing is obviously to get dedicated bike infrastructure, but until then staying off sidewalks is a good idea for two reasons:

      1. Cyclists are less likely to injure themselves and others.
      2. Motorists will get better acquainted with the idea that roads are not just for them.

      Indeed, stop honking at me (with your comments) and support bike infrastructure.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/08/2015 - 02:38 pm.


      I fear I’ve contributed to the flogging of horses and I offer my sincere apologies.

      • Submitted by Steve Titterud on 06/08/2015 - 04:04 pm.

        You’re the voice of reason here,…

        …and I don’t see you trying to dominate or hijack the conversation.

        But if your apology is necessary for reasons I don’t see, I’ll add my own apology if I’ve flogged the herd, too. Mea culpa.

  25. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 06/08/2015 - 08:35 pm.

    Bike Numbers

    An excellent article on biking in the Twin Cities. It says the number of bikers is about twice what other studies show.

  26. Submitted by Kate Brown on 06/09/2015 - 08:37 am.

    And everyone hates us pedestrians

    Not to throw oil on any fires, but as a downtown resident & worker and one who primarily walks everywhere, I’ve been nearly wiped out by both cars and bikes on far too many occasions to count. And flipped off by both. And screamed at by both.

    I have a car & drive occasionally. I try hard to be respectful of the bicyclists but am weary of hearing how cyclists have all the rights of way & should be treated as cars, only to see so many breaking every traffic law at every opportunity. Wanna be treated like a car? Act like a car. I’m not even suggesting that cyclists need to come to a complete stop at minor intersections but don’t weave through traffic on busy downtown streets or blow through lights at rush hour.

    Bad behavior (and the all-too-rare good behavior, at least downtown) can be found on any side of an issue. My plea to all is be courteous & pay attention. Those two things seem sadly lacking.

    • Submitted by Nathan Fisher on 06/09/2015 - 10:55 am.

      What do you think of cyclists on the sidewalk?

      Are they a problem for you as a pedestrian? And you definitely have a point about cyclists in the street. They need to obey all traffic laws. I think part of the problem there is that there is no mandatory biker’s ed like there is for cars. I’ve long thought that even making driver’s ed spend an hour on how to bike correctly would be beneficial, though obviously that wouldn’t encapsulate bikers without a license.

      There are some interesting pilot projects in California and elsewhere called “diversion programs.” Basically, police stop cyclists who break the law and offer them the chance to take a bike safety class instead of paying a fine. This makes officers more willing to ticket cyclists (who, after all, are often on their bikes because they can’t afford the cost of an automobile) and it funnels problem cyclists into cycling education programs.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 06/09/2015 - 07:07 pm.

      Walk Like An Egyptian

      Judging from the number of cars I see running red lights, I’m not sure you really want bikers to act more like cars.

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2015 - 08:39 am.

    The real question…

    OK so we’ve been having this back and fourth about sidewalk riding but setting that aside it’s interesting to look at the context behind the sidewalk “studies”. If you go look at the sidewalk studies themselves they seem to emerge from attempts to make infrastructure decisions.

    What we have are policy makers trying to decide where to put bike paths. The question being addressed is whether or not it’s a good idea to put dedicated bike paths on sidewalks. The question is never whether or not it’s ever a good idea for an individual cyclist to ride on any sidewalk anywhere.

    If you go to The Hague in Holland for instance you’ll see a lot bike paths on the sidewalks. I don’t know how that works out for them, but it took some getting used to for me as a pedestrian. People who live there seem to be accustomed to it.

    I don’t think it’s a good idea in most situations in the US because frankly, we’re not Holland. Cyclists have been tooling around Holland in large numbers for 100 years and their cyclists profile and style of riding is very different than ours. Basically I think American’s tend to have trouble sharing space so it’s the best policy to give them dedicated space, i.e. separate lanes. Although these studies tend draw dubious conclusions about accident rates on sidewalks they are correct when they advise against making bike lanes on sidewalks as a matter of policy or infrastructure design in the US.

  28. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/09/2015 - 09:49 am.

    colonial mindsets

    I mentioned elsewhere the fact that American’s have trouble sharing space in general. In a lot of ways this emerges from the American tendency to think in terms of colonization. Our entire history is colonial, it’s a history of taking over someone elses space. American’s don’t share space, they “own” it.

    In a very real sense what you see on our streets and paths and sidewalks are conflicts arising from different ownership claims. The cycling “movement” has been about “claiming” the streets as a space for cycling. You can see here just in this comment thread some cyclists reactions to any suggestion that they ride somewhere other than the street is met with protest that someone is nullifying their claim on the streets. Of course the motorist are meanwhile treating cyclist as if they’re encroaching on motorists space or territory. And then there’s pedestrian’s… whatever. It’s like the US and Mexico fighting over Texas.

    Of course the problem is that none of this has anything to do with riding a bicycle safely. Safety is a shared responsibility regardless of ownership. You can see how this colonial mindset and it’s attending sense of entitlement prevents the responsible sharing of responsibility and space. Time after time discussion about safety devolve into driver’s vs. cyclist or pedestrians’ vs. cyclists as apposed to drivers AND cyclists or pedestrians AND cyclists. You can ask American’s for more consideration but it’s like asking a dog to play a violin. Yesterday a woman actually charged me with her car in an intersection. Technically that’s a threat with a deadly weapon but I’m sure if you were to ask she’d just tell you she was defending her space, she would actually give a reason for doing that. Remember the Alamo.

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