Cyclists, drivers blamed for bike-vehicle crashes
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A study finds that cyclists and drivers may be almost equally at fault when bikes and motor vehicles collide, at least in Minneapolis.
Bikers' actions contribute to 59 percent of the 270 bike-motor vehicle collisions that the city averages annually, compared to 64 percent for drivers, according to a new analysis of 10 years of crash data presented to the City Council on Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported. Sometimes the investigating officers faulted both sides.
Crashes often occur because drivers don't see or yield to bikes, the report said, or when bikers ignore signals to stop or use bike lanes incorrectly.
Nick Mason, who leads a panel that advises the city on bicycle issues, called the study "definitely the most thorough analysis we've seen of crashes."
"It's so great to know that our crashes are not all random ... and there are things we can do to prevent crashes," he said.
Minneapolis has been ranked one of the top bicycling cities in the country by various cycling publications and groups, as well as the U.S. Census Bureau. It has 81 miles of on-street bike lanes and 85 miles of off-street bike paths.
The report found similarities between bike-vehicle crashes in Minneapolis and across the rest of the state. Statewide data from 2010 show there were 898 bicyclist-motorist crashes in Minnesota. Minneapolis saw 273 that year, accounting for about one-third of statewide total. St. Paul had 110, or about 12 percent of the total.
Like Minneapolis, statewide figures show that the afternoon rush hour, weekdays and warm weather are when crashes are most prevalent. Most injured bicyclists are males and are aged 24 or younger. The report also found similarities with studies conducted in other bike-friendly cities, like New York City, Portland, Ore., and Seattle.
The report recommended that Minneapolis continue some existing practices, such as extending bike lane markings through congested intersections and using dashed lines to signal to drivers when they can cross a bike lane for a turn. It also urged continuing bike awareness training for truck and bus drivers, and wide use of online public service videos for other drivers and bikers.
It also called for even-handed enforcement for bikers and motorists alike.
The city's Public Works Department analyzed data from 2000 to 2010 on nearly 3,000 crashes for which accident reports were filed. Bikers were injured in 87 percent of those crashes, and 12 died over the 10-year period. One of five crashes was classified as hit-and-run, with the driver being the fleeing party 93 percent of the time.
The crash rate was lower on streets with high volumes of cyclists than those with fewer bikers, the study found. And while crashes were clustered on arterial streets where traffic concentrates, streets with designated bike lanes tended to have lower crash rates than streets with only partial or no markings.
"Cyclists are much more likely to ride in a predictable manner if they have a place to ride," said Ethan Fawley, president of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.
The report is available here.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.