Bicycle-count data enables better safety measures

Minneapolis has the second highest bicycle usage, behind Portland, Ore.

Anna Ewart

An estimated 3,450 bicyclists pass through University Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast, on 15th Avenue Southeast, each day.

More bicyclists pass through this stretch of road than through any other part of Minneapolis, according to the city’s Department of Public Works.

The Department recently conducted bicycle and pedestrian counts at 41 mid-block locations across the city.

Shaun Murphy, a public works employee who worked on the report, said the data shows bicycle use is increasing across the city. However, this is the first time Minneapolis has done such an extensive bicycle count.

“When we talk about accommodating bicycles and pedestrians we have a more difficult time because we don’t have numbers like we do for vehicles,” he said.

Murphy said one of the goals of the count is to make bicycle and pedestrian traffic less abstract.

Transit for Livable Communities, an organization that advocates transportation alternatives, conducted 37 similar counts at around the same time, during the first few weeks of September.

Other locations that topped the city’s list include Midtown Greenway between Hennepin and Humboldt avenues, University Avenue over Interstate 35W, and the Stone Arch Bridge. According to the report, the counts were conducted during two-hour, 12-hour and 24-hour periods, depending on the location.

The report includes results from 11 of TLC’s counts and two counts conducted in 2006.

Murphy said the city counted to measure the effects of projects it will be implementing in the next several years. After their completion, the counts will be done again.

Minneapolis will be adding 20 miles of bike lanes during the next two or three years, he said, and some of those bike lanes will likely be in the University area. According to the city’s Web site, bike lanes will be created along Como and 10th avenues Southeast.

According to a TLC press release, surveys conducted during the count show bicyclists choose their routes based on the availability of bike lanes and direct access to destinations.

Seventy percent of bicyclists choose their routes based on the availability of bike lanes, the release stated.

Areas with the highest rates of bicycle crashes are usually locations without special bike facilities, such as bike lanes. For example, the Central and Lowry avenues intersection has six times more crashes than the University and 15th avenues intersection, but 20 times more bicyclists.

Steve Clark, program manager for TLC, said bike use is increasing in Minneapolis, but crash rates are decreasing. He said this might be because of safety in numbers.

“Motorists are used to seeing bicyclists in this area,” he said. “You can’t help but pay attention to them because they’re everywhere.”

Brian Kozicki, who works at the Varsity Bike Shop in Dinkytown, said he thinks the city does an excellent job with bike lanes, but people still need to be careful.

“You have to be defensive,” he said. “Assume people don’t see you.”

According to the Census Bureau’s 2005 American Community Survey, Minneapolis has the second highest rate of bicycle use in the United States. Portland, Ore., has the highest.