Learning the lanes: How bicyclists and motorists should share the road

1:42 AM, May 18, 2012   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The City of Lakes might as well be called the city of bikes. Long known as a national leader in bikers per capita, city workers have recently doubled the amount of bike lanes on streets. There are now more than 81 miles of bike lanes.

David Peterson is a bike ambassador for the city. He's charged with making sure those paths are safe for bikers and motorists.

"For bicycle car crashes, it's 50 percent responsibility for bikes and 50 percent for cars. So it's not one particular party making poor choices," Peterson said.

There are several different kinds of bike lanes in the city and Peterson says he's getting calls from confused motorists and bikers.

KARE 11 met him on Bryant Avenue, which is one of three designated "Bike Boulevards" in the city. It's a road shared equally between two-wheelers and four-wheelers.

"We want to put these on roads where we want to direct bicycle traffic. It's also telling the cars that they're likely to see bicycles out here," said Peterson.

There are very visible bike lanes that are painted bright green. There are lanes marked with solid white lines and dashed white lines. Peterson says drivers shouldn't cross solid lines unless they're going to park or turn. Dashed lines warn both drivers and bikers.

"As you approach an intersection, you should see dashing and that indicates to the cars and to the bikes that that's a share space now," Peterson said.

The city has gone through exhaustive lengths to educate the public, including producing a pair of slick videos that explain the bike lanes for cyclists and car drivers. In general, drivers should leave at least three feet between their vehicles and the bikes.

"I think it's a major work in progress still," Minneapolis Police Sgt. Brad Simonson said about the relationship between the gas guzzlers and the pedal pushers. Simonson runs the city's traffic investigation's unit.

"Nothing against bicyclists, but I don't see most of them driving defensively. Most of them have that bicycle lane and they believe that bicycle lane is theirs and they occupy it," Simonson noticed.

Motorist Ray Hughes said he's noticed more bikers on the road. "I would like to see more hand signals and especially obeying the law, especially when it comes to stopping," he said.

On these issues, everyone agrees it's a two-way street.

J.D. Stevenson pedals dozens of miles in downtown Minneapolis during a typical work week. He delivers Jimmy John's subs by bike over the lunch hour averaging 20 deliveries on a typical day.

"People downtown are pretty cognizant. They're aware of us and they're respectful, but there's still a stigma about cyclists; the whole get-out-of-the-road attitude," Stevenson said.

Stevenson appreciates the city's efforts to add more bike lanes, but is a bit perplexed by the 1st Avenue lane, which puts the cyclist in a lane between the sidewalk and a row of parked cars. "It's kind of hectic, I avoid that bike lane," he said, before comparing it to the old school video game "Paperboy."

"It's called a cycle track," Peterson explained. "What this ends up doing is creating a barrier from the moving traffic for the bikes."

Whether you're an officer, a bike ambassador, a driver, or a bicyclist, everyone agrees that one has to watch out for the other.

"I've had people turn into me and it's really just awareness. And know that we're told to be in the road. It's what's designated for us," Stevenson said.

The city of Minneapolis is the midst of a 10-year study that is examining the relationship between bikers and motorists; they're trying to figure how, why, and where crashes and confrontations occur.

"Bicyclists are not your enemy. They're just other users of the road out there," Peterson concluded.

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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