Bike safety a concern at U

Groups on and off campus are working to address the issue of bicycle safety.

Jerret Raffety

When students ride their bicycles, area groups are looking out for their safety.

Bicycle safety is a concern on campus, and University and other metro area groups are working together on the issue.

The University Police Department receives complaints from both bicyclists and motorists about bicyclists not following traffic laws, said Steve Johnson, deputy police chief for the University Police Department.

One bicyclist rode the wrong way on a one-way bike lane, which sent the bicyclist into the traffic lane after nearly colliding with another bicyclist, Johnson said.

“Violating the laws of physics, i.e. a car and a bicycle occupying the same space at the same time, could prove fatal,” he said.

Students also have concerns about bicycle safety.

“Some motorists are inconsiderate, and that makes me nervous,” first-year student Rachel Jaunich said.

Despite some close calls with pedestrians, Jaunich said, she feels safer riding on the sidewalk.

“It’d be nice if there was a separate trail on the sidewalks, like there was on the Washington Avenue Bridge,” Jaunich said.

Many bicyclists in the Twin Cities area complain that motorists do not share the road, said Eric Thompson, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the St. Paul Bicycle Advisory Board. With the growing

number of bikes in the area, both groups need to share the road, just as the law states, he said.

His group, along with the City Bicycle Advisory Committee of Minneapolis, functions as an advisory board appointed by the mayor to ensure the Twin Cities area remains “bicycle friendly,” he said.

“Bicycle friendly” means that his group oversees public works plans to keep pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in mind while planning building projects before construction.

It also means minimizing hazards for bicyclists. Hazards include bike lanes that are cluttered with debris and shrubbery, or other obstructions blocking signs.

The two groups serve another purpose – to hold meetings where Twin Cities area bicyclists can voice their concerns, said Andrew Koebrick, president of the Minneapolis Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance.

The alliance works to keep the Twin Cities, including the University campus, safe for bicyclists. Bicyclists can log on to the alliance’s Web site or subscribe to its electronic newsletter to find meeting dates, times and locations for meetings addressing bicyclists’ concerns, Koebrick said.

Initiatives include offering helmets at a discount to the public, providing a forum for discussion of dangerous intersections and consulting with the Twin Cities governmental advisory boards on the construction of bike lanes, Koebrick said.

In addition, the alliance offers an online form to report the license plate numbers of dangerous drivers. The form is forwarded to the Department of Public Safety, which sends a notice to the driver that the license plate number is registered. The alliance also maintains a database of dangerous drivers.

“The goal is to shame bad drivers into noticing cyclists,” Koebrick said.

Bicycle Advocates is another group that allows students to get involved with bicycling conditions on campus.

The group is in charge of anything that affects cyclists, said Steve Sanders, executive assistant for Parking and Transportation Services, and campus bicycle coordinator for the University.

The group divides the West Bank up in sections and the East Bank up in streets, to monitor cycling conditions. Bicycling conditions can include, but are not limited to, obstructions in bike lanes, parking shortages, missing signs and potholes.

“It helps having people out looking for these problems,” Sanders said.