Minneapolis cyclists battle for a place in traffic

Categories: Bicycle

cp-bike-cover-82014-560.jpg
Benjamin Carter Grimes
Special thanks to Schmit Towing for the location and Chad Padelford, Ramsey Louder, and Sara Abdelaal for modeling.

Last summer, David Briscoe got the call that every parent dreads. It was a nurse. We have your daughter.

Shaina had left her home in south Minneapolis that Saturday, a hot one punctured by rain, and joined her friends for an impromptu race headed north through downtown. Around 3 p.m., lagging behind the pack, she hurried through the intersection of Washington and Hennepin avenues against a red light.

The driver of an ice-blue SUV paused as the first group of riders passed, then tapped the accelerator into the clearing. Shaina hurtled head-first into the driver's side of the car, smashing the mirror. The bike's front tire was ripped from the frame.

Though she was wearing a helmet, Shaina suffered a severe brain injury. Her jaw snapped. As the internal pressure mounted, she lay motionless on the asphalt, with blood pooling around her mouth.

Shaina was rushed to the Hennepin County Medical Center and would spend several weeks in a coma. David spent the next eight months documenting the recovery process on CaringBridge, a blog for sharing updates on sick or injured loved ones. He watched as Shaina strained against the wires on her jaw, strained to speak and to touch people's hands.

Today, Shaina is conscious but confined to a wheelchair, unable to talk. For hours, she looks at her own Facebook page trying to piece together what happened. Hundreds of people, mostly fellow cyclists, have visited her in the hospital in the last year and keep coming — friends and strangers bound only by the instrument that they use for travel. They've made T-shirts and spoke cards and a bicycle in her honor.

Some were, and still are, motivated by anger. At 28, Shaina was considered the model of responsible riding. She criticized others for taking chances, for not wearing helmets or lights, and for biking while drunk. But the question of who's right and who's wrong in this seemingly endless war between bicyclists and drivers is beyond David's concern.

"Unfortunately, it's seeing somebody broken on the side of the road that brings us back to our sense of frailty," he says, "that reminds us we're all capable of wiping the smugness and arrogance off our faces when we're using the road."

On a snowy day in January, Betsy Hodges stands at a south Minneapolis street corner and removes her gloves. Although the temperature hovers around -5 degrees, the new mayor needs a better grip on her paper proclamation — a celebration of the city's bicycling community.

Those who ride year-round, she says, "are more resilient, more hearty, more Die Hard gritty, just plain tougher, and much better looking than the bicyclists from all those wimpier cities."

A small crowd of supporters smile beneath their helmets. It's only her second day in office, and already the mayor is reaffirming the city's campaign to increase the share of bicycle commuters from 4.5 percent to 15 percent by 2025 — an increase of 42,000 riders.

It's an ambitious goal, but only the latest declaration of rights for the city's bicyclists.

Until 1976 it was illegal — yes, illegal — for Minnesotans to ride in the street if a bike path was nearby. Those paths, however, were confined to parks and often poorly designed, some ending in random places, at least one obstructed by a light pole. Phil Voxland, a competitive cyclist who helped rewrite the law, remembers a bike path that ran along the back of a tennis court. "If someone stepped out of the court to fetch a ball," he says, "wham!"

Ask anyone who biked the streets in those years and you're guaranteed to hear stories of fear and loathing. Consider the extreme example of Joe Hoover, who works for the Minnesota Historical Society. As a teen, he rode in south Minneapolis while attending the Academy of Holy Angels. One day, he recalls, a boy opened a school bus window on Lyndale Avenue and pissed on him.

Rocks, bottles, even crutches — such flying objects became part of many a cyclist's commute. Chris Kvale, a well-respected frame builder who lobbied alongside Voxland, says, "I learned to be invisible."

The next generation has been less inclined to let the harassment and violence go unchecked. Ward Rubrecht, a writer and former City Pages staffer, faces the problem head-on, lecturing drivers when he's not blowing an air-horn in the offending car's window.

The city isn't sitting on its hands either. Minneapolis has been investing in protected bike lanes for years, though the risk of injury has not diminished. On First Avenue, for instance, one is forced to navigate the tiny space between a curb and a parked car. If the passenger door suddenly opens, the rider has two options: break his face, or dive onto the crowded sidewalk.

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244 comments
jgrovum
jgrovum

@ABBruns and they still haven't quite figured how to snow plow without basically eliminating bike lanes/pathways, especially on small roads.

jgrovum
jgrovum

@ABBruns thanks, hadn't seen this. As great as the Twin Cities are for bikes, there are still issues, especially on St. Paul side.

Liliana_Gracie_baby
Liliana_Gracie_baby

I just wrote an article last week about how irresponsible bikers are. I actually found this article because my editor posted a link to it in my comments section. Mine is more for anti-cyclists, while this article is definitely pro.



 http://secretlaboratory.org/?p=10312

John Bunch
John Bunch

It seems to me that the bike lane is a total joke. You take an entire lane of traffic and dedicate it to bikes. So the 2% of people who bike get 25% or even 33% of the lanes. Makes no sense. I ride neither a bike nor a car, so I don't have an axe to grind here either.

Matt Odegard
Matt Odegard

Kieth, clearly you're an idiot. Nice false equivalency. I suppose you beat your woman just because other douche bags do too. Keep up running stop signs and red lights. Hopefully Darwin will introduce himself to you. And stop beating your woman just because other do too.

Marc Spencer
Marc Spencer

you want government to restrict my use of a public road due to winter?? i think not......

Jillian Alison
Jillian Alison

I can tell you that in my neighborhood, it is not a small percentage of the riders that are breaking traffic laws. Literally every night of this summer I have seen bikers riding at night with zero lights on their bikes (and usually wearing all dark colors). I live at a 4-way stop and I could count on one hand then number of bikers I have seen actually stop at those stop signs. They do not signal when they turn, they weave around the road, and do not watch where they are going. I have had cyclists knock my car's side mirror off twice in the past two years. If they want to be on the road, they need to follow traffic laws. I also think they should have to register their bikes with the city and have license plates on their bikes. If I see a biker breaking the law I should be able to report it just as easily as I could with a car.

Marc Churchill
Marc Churchill

@A Scott: Many of us here would be more likely to acknowledge your point if you'd present it using some proper spelling and punctuation... Just saying.

Jesse Meyer
Jesse Meyer

As someone who stops for lights and stop signs while commuting, I really disliked an article that started with a cyclist getting killed for running a red, and ended with a cyclist being so drunk they crashed their bike. Really? Especially since we've had notable cyclist fatalities where the cyclist was operating legally - the person killed by a semi on Portland, Virginia Heuer in St. Paul who was killed by someone running a stop sign (and lied about it), Jimmy Nisser who was killed in a hit & run, Marcus Nalls who was killed by a drunk driver, Thomas Mallory also killed in a hit & run, etc.

chasmosaur
chasmosaur

If Mr. Marx was trying to write an article that inspired a measured discussion of how drivers should share the road with cyclists, he was quite off the mark.  (Though if this was click-bait, then well-done.)  All I am is confused with his choices of featured subjects.


Of the four specific cyclists featured, only Dr. Paule was sympathetic, and we need more people like him in general, not just as a cyclist.  It is horrible that people throw items and debris onto the Greenway, let alone the Molotov cocktails (which is beyond belief - so much for that fabled Minnesota Nice).  That he takes his spare time to make the space safer is admirable.


Ms. Briscoe's accident was a tragedy for certain and my heart goes out to her and her family. But she seems to have ignored safety for her own preference to race on streets not closed for the purpose - it was a completely preventable accident, and all the more tragic for her advocacy for cycling safety.


Mr. Davies entrepreneurial spirit is harder to admire when you recognize he's flouting traffic laws and grabbing onto cars to improve his speed.  One of the reasons I am afraid to cycle in this town is it seems the bike lanes were specifically devised to create incidents of dooring...but grabbing onto a moving car's door is okay if it means someone gets their delivery food order while it's still hot?


Mr. Marx's personal story is also not one to make me think well of him, even if it was a pothole that caused his accident.  I have no sympathy for someone who has too much to drink but gets behind the wheel of a car, but I'm supposed to think it's okay to hop on your bike and get on the road in the same state?  This is especially so if I interpreted the narrative of his projected route correctly...because if I did, he was cycling the wrong way down a one-way section of Colfax at midnight.  I also don't buy that cyclists are only taking their lives into their hands when they get on the road.  Of course if they are hit by a car - either full on or by dooring - they will sustain more injury than the driver of a car.  But car accidents caused by drivers swerving to avoid hitting a cyclist are not unheard of.  If you are on the road, you have the capability to cause an accident that can seriously hurt or kill another individual, even on a bike.


I'm not anti-cyclist or anti-driver - everyone has places to go and ways to get there, and we all need to share the road.  I moved to the Cities in the past year or so, and in that time I have pretty much come to the conclusion that both drivers and cyclists consider traffic signs and signals to be nothing but some decorations for their amusement. There's blame on both sides of the car vs. driver argument, and there are days I think some cyclists and drivers are working quite hard to be intentionally antagonistic to each other. But this article isn't really doing Twin Cities cyclists any favors to look like they are always responsible in their habits.

Mike Pichot
Mike Pichot

Hello tiffany how are you doing your such a beautiful woman coz I keep looking at your pics over and over again I will like to know more about you please send me a friend request for better conversation

Mike Pichot
Mike Pichot

Hello anne how are you doing your such a beautiful woman coz I keep looking at your pics over and over again I will like to know more about you please send me a friend request for better conversation

Edward Brian Johnson
Edward Brian Johnson

I've had beer bottles, big gulps, and crap thrown at me...just out riding. I had a guy pull up, and throw a flippin egg at me! a dad slowed, and his kid shot me with a bb gun and "just" missed the jewels. Work trucks who have swerved over to try to get me with the side mirrors. People pull up along side me...and without warning, pullover to parkand put me into the curb. Lay on the horn that is deafeningly loud, scream at you till their face is crimson...and I drive, so I don't have this inane 'cars v bikes' drivel...here's one for you "entitled" car owners. On the parkway at Cedar ave, you're not supposed to turn left from 3 to 6 (rush hour) yet daily mr or ms I Am a Bigshot, blatantly ignore it, AND don't even pull up enough to let other vehicles get around em. I want to have a push bar and shove em down the parkway. I'm done . Peace everyone ♡

Keith Morris
Keith Morris

Motorists break the same laws and kill people too. Cognitive dissonance is a fascinating phenomenon.

Christine Brown
Christine Brown

Uh, this may come as a shock, but some people bike not to prove themselves, but because it's legitimate transportation. Restriction of winter cycling? You know, while you are at it Maria, maybe we can also just make all those poor people stay home. Someone as important as you should never be inconvenienced for a moment for someone so lowly as a person getting around by bike.

Christine Brown
Christine Brown

Uh, if a bike hits you it's *not* your fault. No one is saying it is. I agree, talking about a bike running a red light with oncoming traffic isn't a good example to use. A friend of mine just got hit by a bike. Very odd, and she was horrified. And it was clearly not her fault. The end. Not an issue. You will never sell me on the idea that it's equally important for bikes to wait for a green light as it is for cars. I get it, but your fight really isn't about justice. it's because you are jealous that a bike can make better time. There are some really dumb cyclists out there, but mostly they run red lights and do more of a 'pause' at stop signs because they have much better ability to see all around them and frankly the red light thing is often getting out of the way, or in my case on Hennepin, the one chance I have to get three lanes over to make my left turn on Washington. I would love to see the solution proposed by the "bikes are not traffic" people for making a left turn when you are stuck on the far right in the bike lane. Cars just don't have to deal with logistics the same way.

Amanda Scott
Amanda Scott

Im really tired of cyclist wanna wine about the dam vehicles but sure the hell dont wanna follow traffic rules like thete suppose that means stopping at a dam red light and not running when u feel like it or stopping at stop sighs like there suppose to get the dam point start following the laws or quti your dam bitching

Mc'Real Dtj
Mc'Real Dtj

thanks for making my night, you took a joke into a serious thing.. they even made lanes for you assholes but yet, you dont obey laws and think you're a fucking car.

Mc'Real Dtj
Mc'Real Dtj

its Minneapolis! or was that to big for you to spell HIPSTER!! and Yes, I will run you over as well. I skateboard downtown for years.. I stay on the sidewalk and grind

Keith Morris
Keith Morris

Or you have the freedom to just stay in the burbs or podunk wherever: you don't have to be amongst us intellectual, educated folk. Are you going to run your car into motorists who run red lights or slow you down?...And it turns out you live in the pinnacle of cultural centers that is Burnsville, what a surprise. This is one instance where a "loss" for Mpls (if you ever did actually reside within city borders as a true Minneapolitan) is actually a positive thing.

Keith Morris
Keith Morris

And between the two anyone would rather it be a bike, so your point I take it is to replace those cars with bikes.

Keith Morris
Keith Morris

Motorists routinely break traffic laws (it's a speed "limit" not "minimum") and kill people in the process. I'll have my cake and eat it too. And slowing traffic?We are traffic. Whenever we're slowed down by another vehicle 99% of the time it's a car.

Ron Williams
Ron Williams

This article continues the utter arrogance of SOME cyclists and complete stupidity of SOME drivers. All it takes is a few of both to destroy the balance. Realistically, if none of us follow the rules, it is chaos. If just a few don't, it's a tragedy for someone in the making. I will always feel sorry for the innocent victim who cripples a cyclist after they blow a Stop Sign/Light and get run over. Not the cyclist who chose their fate, the driver who has to live with the nightmare for the remainder of their lives through no fault of their own.

Mc'Real Dtj
Mc'Real Dtj

Actual animal tracks paved the 1sr roads

Mc'Real Dtj
Mc'Real Dtj

You wish clown ass, I will run you over

Craig Viknx
Craig Viknx

In Orlando Florida they build curb outs & put trees, bushes, & flowers in roadways to make bicyclist use roads to endanger them plus give them tickets for anything, Orlando city & Orange county HATE bicyclists on roads. You are lucky

Jimmy James Checkers
Jimmy James Checkers

re: drunk cycling, operating a 30lb vehicle at 12mph has very different consequences than driving a 2500lb one at 30+. they're both irresponsible, but they aren't morally equivalent.

Jimmy James Checkers
Jimmy James Checkers

In all this debate, let's remember that, statistically, the fault in car/bike collisions is 50/50, and while scofflaws are obnoxious, cyclists are far less likely to cause fatalities. We all have to be better, but I find it unsettling that conversations like this almost always devolve into anti-cyclist vitriol based on the actions of a small percentage of riders. The laws and infrastructure are out of date and I think it would be good if we could all try to keep in mind the functional difference between the vehicles when arguing over which laws people ahould follow and which they shouldn't (cyclists run reds, so do cars. cyclists roll stop signs, so do cars. cyclists turn without signalling, so do cars, etc, but cyclists are primarily risking their own lives with these actions).

Jimmy James Checkers
Jimmy James Checkers

bikes were around before cars and were the main impetus for paving roads in the first place. you get outta my lane.

Anne Castro
Anne Castro

We need to make room for cyclists. Minneapolis doesn't do a very good job of urban planning. The SLWRT is a perfect example. And so is the "clustercuss" design on First Ave. Bike lanes inside the lanes where cars park. Hello? A passenger opens their door and boom! Cyclists need to obey the rules of the road but so do drivers.

Chris Truesdell
Chris Truesdell

I would imagine it's a combination of those who do or don't follow the rules of the road on both sides.

Christine Brown
Christine Brown

It's weird how all these people claiming that 'bikes should follow the law' seem to think that cars do. I would love to invite anyone to join me on my commute home down Hennepin and see just how inaccurate that assessment is. Just sit outside Whole Foods for a few minutes if you think cars yield properly, watch for others, and stop at red lights.

Brian Hoffmann
Brian Hoffmann

Every cyclist needs to be a diplomat for biking culture. Not only are we doing something "new" we have a much greater risk of getting seriously injured or killed. Granted, drivers do a lot of stupid and dangerous things ( tailgating, California stops, generally not paying attention) but people have been dealing with bad drivers for ever and simply expect it; also, it's fairly natural to blame "the other" so bikers get a worse wrap. Stay alert, obey traffic laws, be extra courteous. For example: one of the most annoying things about driving with bikes on the road is having to pass them (and as a cyclist I can say it's also one of the scariest parts of biking: to have cars passing you). When you're biking on a road with no bike lanes and you come up to a line of cars at a stop sign or red light, stop behind the car in front if you, that way they don't have to pass you again (and again, and again).

Chris Truesdell
Chris Truesdell

Actually if you don't enter a plea the judge will enter a not guilty on your behalf and the case will continue.

Brian Hoffmann
Brian Hoffmann

This is one of the worst and most irresponsible articles I've ever read, and the cover picture only serves to make cyclists look like they're out to get drivers. Glorifying "S.K." for riding like an inconsiderate prick is one of the last things bikers need to help end this "war". If City Pages was something I had to buy I would boycott it after this article.

ABBruns
ABBruns

@jgrovum that's kind of a problem for bikers everywhere it snows, right? Wyoming legislation could be great if they pull it off.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

City of Minneapolis is run by total morons. They hired some wussy yuppy to design the bike lanes. He collected big bucks and moved on to sell his fruity talents to other stupid cities.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

Go down Hennepin Avenue after dinner and the wussy bikers cut right in front of you doing left turns. It's all part of the atheist/homosexual/pedophile conspiracy.

jpinmn
jpinmn

I hear you. I live in Bryant (the bike boulevard) and I bike and still rarely see bikes stopping for traffic signs/signals. About the only time bikes stop for a stop sign is when they have to cross Franklin in heavy traffic and only if the cars are not slamming on their brakes for them.

pbeaulieu3205
pbeaulieu3205

@chasmosaur  Well said.  I am a bicycle courier, and we don't all act like clowns on the road.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

Anyone with three names, like you, is a whinny yuppy homosexual and deserves to get smacked. 


P[iss] eace on You!

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

Thou shalt not bike on city streets made for cars and trucks.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

yeth. it thertianly iz, you spandex wussy

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

Only wussy spandex homosexual bikers have three names.

tishkinoyzer
tishkinoyzer

That's why it is basically a free fag rag.

jgrovum
jgrovum

@ABBruns Yup. In MN dealing with snow *in a car* is tough..sometimes impossible on bike. But yeah, bike lobbying in places WY is fascinating

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