Drivers and bicycle riders in Minneapolis share the blame, almost equally, for crashes during the 10 years ending in 2010, according to a study presented Tuesday to the City Council.
Most of the crashes, 81 percent, occurred within 50 feet of an intersection. Inattentive driving or failure to yield the right of way accounted for 40 percent of the crashes in cases where motorists said they could not see the bicycle riders.
Bicyclists not riding in a predictable manner — failing to yield right of way, ignoring a traffic control device or improper lane use — accounted for about 40 percent of the accidents attributed to riders.
“Obviously there is a lot of room for improvement,” said Simon Blenski of Traffic and Parking Services.
Both riders and motorists often contributed to the cause of a crash with riders taking the blame for 59 percent of the incidents and motorists blamed in 64 percent of the cases. The total blame is more than 100 percent because blame was frequently shared.
There was some good news. Since 2000, the first year covered in the study, the number of bicycle commuters in Minneapolis has doubled, from about 3,000 in 1999 to about 6,500 in 2010, but the number of bike/vehicle accidents has remained steady at about 300 a year.
Bicyclist-motorist estimated city-wide crash rate, Minneapolis 1993–2011
“As bicycling has increased, the number of crashes has not,” said Blenski, who attributed that to motor vehicle operators who now also are bike riders.
Although intersections are the most common site for bike/vehicle accidents, there are only two Minneapolis intersections where bicycle traffic is controlled by a special bike signal light. One is in Northeast Minneapolis where Fifth Street Northeast crosses Broadway. The other is a major crash location near the University of Minnesota.
10 highest crash intersections
|Street 1||Street 2||Crashes|
|1||E Franklin Ave||Cedar Ave S||20|
|2||7th St N||Hennepin Ave S||19|
|3||3rd St N||Hennepin Ave S||17|
|4||E 26th St||Hiawatha Ave S||17|
|5||W Franklin Ave||Nicollet Ave S||17|
|6||W Franklin Ave||Lyndale Ave S||16|
|7||University Ave SE||I-35W NB Ramp||14|
|8||E 28th St||Portland Ave S||14|
|9||Vineland Pl W||Lyndale Ave S||14|
|10||E Franklin Ave||Chicago Ave S||13|
The intersection of two busy streets — East Franklin at West Cedar, near the University of Minnesota — recorded the highest number of crashes (20) during the 10-year period. Next was Hennepin Avenue South at Seventh Street North in downtown with 19 crashes.
Hennepin South at Third Street North had 17 crashes. West Franklin had 17 crashes at Nicollet and 16 crashes at Lyndale Avenue.
The crash statistics came from citations issued by the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minneapolis Park Police. During the 10 years covered in the study, 2,973 bike/vehicle crashes were recorded.
“The first thing bike riders can do is start riding predictably,” said Shaun Murphy, the city’s bike and pedestrian coordinator. Murphy said common offenses include weaving through traffic, ignoring stoplights and failing to signal turns. “Riders need to let motorists know what they are up to,” he said.
The perceived risks of riding in traffic and the possibility of a crash have combined to keep more people from becoming bicycle commuters, according to Blenski.
“People are fearful of riding in traffic,” he told City Council members.
“Something about the weight of a car, compared to the weight of a bike?” said Council Member Sandy Colvin Roy, who chairs the Transportation and Public Works Committee.
There have been 14 fatal crashes, always with the death of the bicyclist, between 2000 and 2011, according to statistics that covers an additional year.
“Eight … involved a truck, and one involved a bus,” Blenski said.
A spring safety campaign will include reminders for bicyclists and drivers of trucks and buses about the dangers of blind spots – that drivers can’t always see bikers, who might not be visible in mirrors when right next to a vehicle.
The corridor with the highest number of crashes (226) is all of Lake Street, from Lake Calhoun to West River Road. Next highest (205 crashes) is Franklin Avenue, from Hennepin to West River Road.
Weekdays are the most dangerous for crashes with 79 percent of the accidents.
The worst months for crashes are June, July and August with about 44 percent of the crashes. Winter months (December through February) accounted for only 5.6 percent of the accidents.
The time of day with the greatest risk of a crash is the afternoon rush hour, with 29 percent occurring between 3 and 6 p.m. Only 1 percent of the crashes occurred between 3 and 6 a.m.
Hit-and-run accidents account for 20 percent of the bicycle/vehicle crashes.