Biker safety is a concern amid heavy construction

U officials say shortcuts through construction areas are dangerous.

Construction continues around the University, making the area dangerous for bikers. One biker was seriously injured Sunday on University Avenue Southeast.

Brian Butterfield

Construction continues around the University, making the area dangerous for bikers. One biker was seriously injured Sunday on University Avenue Southeast.

Jake Stark

University officials are warning bikers to play it safe while riding near construction zones.

The construction across campus has made biking more difficult because more traffic has been pushed to side streets, said University of Minnesota police Deputy Chief Chuck Miner.

But Miner thinks the biggest threat to biker safety is the bikers themselves.

Reckless biking has been a problem on campus “for a long time,” Miner said.

In most cases, University police find bikers are at fault when they are involved in an accident on campus, Miner said, because they often think they don’t have to follow the same rules as motor vehicles.

“We have a problem with bicyclists thinking they are invincible,” Miner said. “They always want to take a shortcut.”

The most recent biking accident on campus occurred Sunday afternoon.

A University student was injured while biking near Huron Boulevard Southeast when he steered into a construction zone, according to a University police report. His bike fell into a 2-foot ditch, and he flew over the handlebars.

The biker sustained “significant” facial injuries and was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by paramedics, the report said. The report went on to say the biker was riding in a well-lit area blocked off by barrels and a “Do Not Enter” sign posted nearby.                       

Although Miner called the accident “unique” and said it was one of the more serious accidents to occur on campus this year, he cited the incident as another example of dangerous biking on campus.

Jacqueline Brudlos, spokeswoman for Parking and Transportation Services, said both bikers and construction crews are responsible for ensuring biker safety.

She also said she believes construction crews have done their part to warn bikers about dangerous construction zones, and it’s up to bikers to make sure they follow these warnings.

University officials are not the only people on campus worried about bikers not obeying the rules of the road. Students are noticing it, too.

“People are not very courteous on bikes,” said biology junior Zach Zelickson. “You have to spool through people just to get around them.”

Zelickson also said the return of so many students this fall has made the problem worse and added that he had no issues with bikers on campus during the summer.

Dan Bakke, a chemical engineering and sociology sophomore, said while bikers can be “a little annoying” on campus, he doesn’t think there are enough bike lanes on the streets to compensate for the construction zones.

“You have to skirt past a lot of drivers and parked cars,” Bakke said.

Both Miner and Brudlos said the University is taking steps to make biking on campus a safer experience.

Miner said increased enforcement of biking violations and campaigns such as the University’s “Safety is Easy. The Pavement is Hard.” campaign, are the primary ways UMPD is working to ensure biker safety.

Once Central Corridor light-rail construction is completed, the University will also add more bike lanes, Miner said.

Despite his concern about biker safety, he said he remains optimistic that the University’s efforts will lead to fewer biking accidents this year than in 2011.

“Last year was one of the busiest years for biking accidents I can remember,” Miner said. “We’re not off to as bad a start so far this year.”