Expert says more bikes on the road makes cycling saferby Cathy Wurzer, Minnesota Public Radio,
Ken Paulman, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Despite an increased number of cycling fatalities on Minnesota roadways in 2008, it may actually be getting safer to ride a bike.
"When we compare the 1990s to the current decade ... the number of crashes between bicyclists and motorists is actually going down," said Shaun Murphy, who coordinates non-motorized transportation for the city of Minneapolis.
Murphy said in an interview with MPR's Cathy Wurzer that the increased popularity of cycling is a likely factor. The number of cyclists grew by about 30 percent last year.
"Our best guess is that there's safety in numbers, and that motorists are actually expecting bicyclists more often than they're used to," he said.
When it comes to avoiding crashes, Murphy said cyclists and motorists share equal responsibility.
"It's about half and half," he said, when asked who's usually at fault in a crash. "Motorists tend to make mistake at intersections when they're making turns, particularly left turns, and bicyclists tend to not always follow the rules of the road that they would typically follow in a car."
Murphy said that Minneapolis will be doubling its miles of bike lanes in the next two years from 40 to 80.
"When we give bicyclists a place to ride on the street, it tends to make them more visible," he said.
He said a lot of cyclists stick to the sidewalk, which isn't necessarily safer.
"That tends to be a less visible spot -- motorists often aren't expecting a bicyclist to be riding quickly on a sidewalk," he said.
Minnesota law allows cyclists to ride on the sidewalk, except in business districts, he said.
One Minneapolis bike lane -- the infamous route down the center of Hennepin Avenue downtown -- will soon be going away, Murphy said. It will be replaced by lanes on First Avenue, and shared bus/bike lanes along the sides of Hennepin.
"That bike lane is really a love-hate bike lane for bicyclists in Minneapolis," he said.
Cathy Wurzer is the host of Morning Edition for MPR News.