Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Bicyclist Protection Ordinance

Chicago has enacted a new ordinance protecting bicyclist safety from some things that car drivers do all too frequently:

- turn left or right into or in front of bicyclists continuing straight (known as the "left hood" and "right hook," respectively).

- open doors into passing bicyclists (known as "dooring").

- pass bicyclists without maintaining proper distance.

The Chicago ordinance makes the above actions punishable by a fine of $150 if they interfere with a bicyclist's progress, or a fine of $500 if they result in an accident.

This Friday, I plan to give intent to introduce a similar ordinance. It's not certain that we'll be able to enact all of the above restrictions, due to possible redundancy with or limitations imposed by State law, but I feel it's important for the City to do as much as it can to protect bicyclists.

Since publicly taking this position, I have heard from a few people that the City should focus (as well or instead) on bicyclist misbehavior. I agree that we need to focus on both, but also want to offer the following points to consider:

1) The dangerous actions bicyclists most often take are already against the law: running stop signs and stop lights, swerving without signaling into a traffic lane, riding without lights, etc.

2) The City is focusing on bicyclist behavior in a variety of different ways. Bicyclists can be and are cited for violating traffic laws, especially when they lead to accidents. The City website devotes a whole page to encouraging safe and legal riding. The City is hiring a set of "Bicycle & Pedestrian Ambassadors" to help inexperienced bicyclists gain confidence and learn how to ride safely and legally.

3) The majority of car/bike accidents are caused by drivers. In 2006, motorists were responsible for 60% of car/bike accidents for which fault was clearly determined. (Here's the data: out of 223 accidents, 120 were caused by drivers, 80 were caused by cyclists and fault for 23 was undetermined.)

It's clear to me that drivers are not excercising due care when interacting with cyclists on our streets. I hope that the debate on this ordinance proves a teachable moment for cyclists and drivers alike.


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