Report on Bike Crashes
This morning, the Council's Transportation and Public Works committee received a very informative report and presentation from Simon Blenski in the Public Works Bicycle and Pedestrian Office on bicycle crashes in Minneapolis. The report is drawn from ten years of crash statistics in Minneapolis, and provides three key takeaways:
- Most crashes are occurring at intersections along major arterials.
- Motorists are not seeing or yielding to bicyclists.
- Bicyclists are not riding in a predictable manner.
Item 1 is very interesting, and speaks to a need to do more projects like Public Works did on 15th Ave SE, where we clearly identified conflict areas between bicycles and turning vehicles. Most of the motor vehicles involved in crashes are making turns, especially left turns. This confirms my interest in the "Copenhagen Model" of cycle track facilities, in which bicyclists are physically separated from cars and intersections are treated very carefully to reduce conflict. In some cases, bicycle and vehicle traffic might need separate signal phases. I believe that we should build this sort of facility on Minnehaha Avenue when it is reconstructed starting in 2014. (This portion of Minnehaha is not currently in Ward 2, but will be the western border of the ward starting in 2014.)
Some of the intersections that show up on the list of the ten worst spots for crashes in Minneapolis are very familiar to me. The worst in Minneapolis, East Franklin Ave and Cedar Ave, is on the western border of the Seward neighborhood in the Second Ward. When the Seward Neighborhood Group did a pedestrian plan for Franklin, that area was referred to as "No Man's Land." Currently, this intersection has no formal accommodation for bicyclists; I'm hoping that the Native American Community Development Institute's (NACDI) project will help extend the bike lanes from where they end at Minnehaha over to at least 16th Ave or Bloomington. The fourth-worst intersection is also on the western border of Ward 2, at the Hiawatha LRT Trail and 26th Street E. This used to be a triple-threat intersection (where bicyclists had to cross three lanes of traffic in the same direction) and is now a double-threat. It's a complicated intersection with bikes and trains crossing a relatively high-volume street just before it crosses a very high-volume highway. Though it's been slightly improved, especially with a widened refuge island in the middle of 26th, this crossing continues to need special attention.
Other conclusions from the report are worth noting. The per-capita crash rate has declined as the number of bicyclists has increased. My hope is that this effect will intensify as we build better, more comfortable facilities like cycle tracks, and attract more riders. Other cities have shown that there is a real "safety in numbers" effect: as more people bike, there are fewer and fewer per capita crashes.
I strongly support the Bicycle and Pedestrian Office's plans to put together a targeted education campaign that will speak to both drivers and bicyclists. It sounds like they plan to use mostly bus shelter ads, which means they can choose ad locations near the most problematic intersections. This report is just the beginning of more focused work by the City to reduce motorist and bicyclists crashes, and I look forward to working on it further.