Rules limit bicycle transit

Kevin Behr

Jim Rosvold stepped out onto the sidewalk in Stadium Village just as a man on a bicycle came “whipping by.”

“I dodged it, but he crashed,” said Rosvold, president of the Stadium Village Commercial Association and general manager of Campus Pizza and Pasta. “He was OK, but he kinda went flying.”

A Minneapolis city ordinance is designed to prevent these types of accidents from happening, but it’s rarely enforced, Rosvold said.

“I’ve seen people clobbered numerous times,” Rosvold said. “Some people think (the ordinance is) anti-bike, but really it’s meant to cause people not to get injured.”

The ordinance bans bicycles from riding on sidewalks in business districts like Stadium Village and Dinkytown and carries with it a petty misdemeanor fine.

Arrests are rare, however. Since the year began, the Minneapolis Police Department has cited only three people, according to police records.

In tandem with the Minneapolis ordinance is a University one banning bicycles from all sidewalks on campus property.

Deputy Chief of University police Steve Johnson said, “It’s a real safety issue for pedestrians.”

A bicyclist hit him in front of Coffman Union when he was on his way to a meeting a little more than a month ago.

The woman struck Johnson’s arm, causing him to drop a notebook – and she didn’t even slow down, Johnson said.

“In fact, I think she pedaled a lot faster,” he said.

Johnson said he was in uniform but didn’t have time to pursue the woman.

The incident is indicative of how often these accidents occur: Even the police are potential victims.

“It could’ve been way worse,” Johnson said.

Bicycles are only allowed to travel in marked bicycle lanes or on the street and must obey all traffic laws, Johnson said.

“If they do, that’s the behavior drivers expect to see. It’s when bicyclists do the unexpected that drivers have to react,” he said. “In a car and bike collision, the bike almost always loses.”

Bike thefts curbed

As warmer weather brings more bicycle riders to campus, it also increases the risk of bicycle theft.

Jordan Carley, an economics junior, locked up his bike on April 2 in front of Walter Library.

He said he went inside for about an hour, and when he returned, the bike and his coated coil bike lock were gone.

Bicycle theft has always been a problem on campus, but in recent years, police have reduced its incidence immensely.

A couple years ago, more than 300 bicycles were reported stolen to University police, Johnson said. In 2005, the number had dropped to 141, and the trend continued in 2006 with 131 reports.

Police have attacked this problem with increased focus on high-theft areas, bike rack monitors and getting the word out about bicycle theft through the media and meetings with groups around campus, Johnson said.

Increasing attention to bicycle theft won’t stop it, however. It takes preventive measures from bicycle owners as well.

Of the 131 bikes stolen last year, Johnson said 89 of them were locked with cable locks, while 14 were locked with U-locks and another 14 were simply left unlocked. The locking methods of the remaining 14 were unknown, he said.

To help prevent bike theft, Johnson advised parking the bicycle in a heavily trafficked area and getting a U-lock because they are harder to “defeat” than cable locks.

Bike ordinance

MINNEAPOLIS ORDINANCE 490.140

Riding on sidewalk
No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district or upon any sidewalk where prohibited by appropriate signage. (91-Or-065, §§ 6, 7, 4-12-91).

“If somebody is going to start cutting your lock and taking your bike, a whole bunch of people are going to witness the activity,” he said.

Calling police to suspicious activity is another way to prevent theft.

“If somebody’s checking out all the bikes on a rack Ö or trying more than one bike on a rack, that should be suspicious,” he said. “You should call police.”

And having the bike’s serial number can help police return it. Johnson said the number is entered into a national database that tells every police department that that particular bicycle was stolen.

Carley said he provided police with the serial number on his bike, but purchased a new one anyway.

He said he plans on buying a U-lock when he starts riding to campus.