Bike commuting up in Minneapolis

The number of Minneapolis residents who bike to work increased last year, but not without a cost. Biking-related fatalities have more than doubled since 2007. The number of Minneapolis residents who said they bike to work went up almost 50 percent between 2006 and 2007, according to the U.S. Census BureauâÄôs American Community Survey. But Nathan Bowie, spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said this year there have already been nine bicycling fatalities statewide this year âÄî last year there were just four. Greg Kassmir, data manager for Hennepin County Medical Center, said up until July the hospital admitted 88 bicyclists needing treatment for crashes. The hospital treated 115 biking injuries for all of 2007, but this yearâÄôs number is expected to exceed that when data for the final two months of summer are calculated. Additionally, all of the fatalities at HCMC were people who were not wearing a helmet. Katherine Lust, associate program director at Boynton Health Service, said a huge issue with bicycling safety on campus is that student bikers arenâÄôt wearing helmets. Mary Sienko, University Parking and Transportation Services spokeswoman , said programs have been developed to get more students to wear appropriate biking gear. In 2005, Parking and Transportation Services created the Helmets and Headlights Program, which sold 5,765 helmets and headlights between 2005 and 2007, Sienko said. However, some students still arenâÄôt wearing helmets. A 2007 Boynton survey found that among students who ride bikes, 57.9 percent said they donâÄôt use a helmet, Lust said. Dr. Andrew Topliff, who works in urgent care at Boynton , said he sees a variety of bicycling-related injuries almost every day, including road rash and fractures. He has also seen several fatalities. All of them had significant head injuries. âÄúYou are at a disadvantage if you meet up with a car and you are on a bike,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs just that simple.âÄù Topliff added that he has seen aggressive biking practices around campus. âÄúPeople arenâÄôt paying attention to traffic rules,âÄù he said. âÄúCutting through traffic or holding onto a vehicle are obviously very dangerous practices.âÄù University police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner said the police get a lot of complaints that bicyclists are not obeying traffic laws. âÄúCyclists could be using more caution when they are riding around,âÄù he said. One area where Miner has noticed safety issues is on University Avenue . Along University there are one-way bike lanes that go in the same direction as the motor vehicles, Miner said. âÄúWe have been getting complaints that bicyclists are going the wrong way down these lanes, which causes safety hazards,âÄù he said. âÄúSome bikers have the mentality that the laws donâÄôt apply to them, and that is not true. They must obey all the same traffic control devices that motorists must obey.âÄù