New lanes, five months too late

City officials dedicated new bike lanes to Audrey Hull, who died in April.

Harry Hill, father of University student who was killed while biking through the intersection of Fourth Street and 15th Ave last April, speaks about risks bikers face when sharing the road on Tuesday at the scene of the accident.  Audrey Hull was struck by a semi truck turning right through the bike lane.  The city recently installed high-visibility green bike lanes along the stretch of 15th Ave.

Harry Hill, father of University student who was killed while biking through the intersection of Fourth Street and 15th Ave last April, speaks about risks bikers face when sharing the road on Tuesday at the scene of the accident. Audrey Hull was struck by a semi truck turning right through the bike lane. The city recently installed high-visibility green bike lanes along the stretch of 15th Ave.

Nick Sudheimer

Harry Hull stood feet away from the intersection where his daughter was killed five months ago.

He spoke Tuesday to a crowd of the 20 or so gathered at the intersection of 15th Avenue and Fourth Street Southeast, choking up as he recalled his daughterâÄôs death in April and discussed the new bike lanes meant to improve safety near the University of Minnesota campus.

âÄúItâÄôs tempting to look back and say we wish these improvements had been made six months ago and then she would still be with us,âÄù he said. âÄúBut I want to praise the mayor and city council for installing these improvements to increase the visibility of bicyclists on this very, very busy corner.âÄù

One of those new, neon green lanes extends through the intersection where 25-year-old Audrey Hull was struck by a semi truck April 21.

 Designed to highlight areas where accidents between drivers and bicyclists are common, the enhanced lanes are the city of MinneapolisâÄô newest measure to ensure bicyclist safety on the busiest bikeway in the state.

The two block stretch of 15th Avenue between Fourth Street and University Avenue Southeast that leads to the gateway of campus receives roughly 3,500 bike trips a day, according to the city.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak  said Tuesday that while itâÄôs a wonderful thing that there are so many bicyclists along that stretch, much more work is needed to keep bikers safe.

âÄúWeâÄôve come very far in creating more opportunities for bikers, but we have to do much more to protect them,âÄù Rybak said.

While there have been many improvements to bike infrastructure around campus, construction projects have created a congested and dangerous environment for all commuters, University police Chief Greg Hestness said.

âÄúWith the closing of Washington Avenue, weâÄôve really concentrated all that vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle traffic into even fewer streets,âÄù Hestness said. âÄúHonestly itâÄôs pretty dangerous right now, so itâÄôs not something to really ignore.âÄù

A University student was struck by a car while biking Saturday morning at the intersection of 15th and University Avenues. The student was taken to the hospital with a possible broken hand, and the driver was cited by University police for failing to yield.

Jim Swagger, a sub cyclist for Jimmy Johns, said while he believes the enhanced bike lanes will help improve bicyclistâÄôs safety, bikers will still need to be aware of vehicles.

âÄúWe had a guy last week get hit by a car. There are a lot of really bad drivers in this area,âÄù Swagger said. âÄúIt definitely helps to have a bike lane.âÄù

The city of Minneapolis recently designed a master plan for future improvements on bicycle infrastructure in the city and also created a bicycle coordinator position to help manage the changes.

âÄúWe hope, as a result of this installation and future installations elsewhere in the city, that there will be fewer accidents, fewer injuries and fewer deaths,âÄù Hull said before leaving the podium, âÄúso that other families are spared the pain that we carry in our hearts forever.âÄù