Bicyclists' death prompts new safety measures in Minneapolis

Crews painted a special bike lanes along 15th Avenue and 4th Street as part of an effort to make bicycling safer in the city -- that intersection sees more than 3,500 cyclists every day and has been the site of several bike accidents.

With an average of 3,500 bike trips every day, 15th Avenue in southeast Minneapolis is the busiest on-street bikeway in Minnesota.

This two-block stretch of roadway also receives around 12,000 car and truck trips a day. The combination raises the risk of collisions, particularly when drivers are not anticipating the high number of bikes. To help improve safety, the City of Minneapolis is making innovative enhancements to help make the road safer for bicyclists.

“Public safety is our top priority in Minneapolis, and that means becoming the number one bike-safety city in America,” says Mayor R.T. Rybak. “We’re taking another step forward today by making it easier and safer to share the road at the busiest bike intersection in Minnesota.”

The section of 15th Avenue connects the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus with the Dinkytown area of Southeast Minneapolis. Along with the bike traffic from students and faculty, delivery trucks heading to and from Dinkytown businesses frequently travel on this street.

The main improvement helps make the bicycle lanes on 15th Avenue more noticeable, particularly in intersections. The bike lanes are marked green in the middle of intersections: a first for Minneapolis. The goal is to make drivers turning at these corners more aware of bicycle traffic, and for bicyclists to better understand where to ride in those intersections. Also, countdown timers were installed at crossing points so pedestrians and bike traffic will have a better sense when lights will change.

“The biggest safety concern involves vehicles, especially trucks, turning onto the cross streets from 15th Avenue,” says Council Member Cam Gordon, whose ward has 15th Avenue as a boundary. “To turn, they need to cross bike lanes along the street. Four of the last six bicyclist fatalities in Minneapolis involved turning trucks. Making the bike lanes more noticeable in the intersection will remind drivers that they need to watch out for this bike traffic before turning.”

“You’ve really got to see the improvements to understand how well they stand out,” says Council Member Diane Hofstede, whose ward also shares 15th Avenue. “It’s clear to see where the bikes come through. This, along with new signs and intersection countdown timers will help make this a safer intersection for the many bicyclists who use this road.”

Harry Hull, the father of a student struck and killed while biking on 15th Avenue SE earlier this year, also believes these enhancements are a good idea.

“My family and I are pleased that the city of Minneapolis has taken steps to improve the visibility of bicyclists on these very busy streets and reduce the chances that other students will be injured or killed,” he says.

University officials have also made enhancements to campus streets. This includes green bike lanes and a bike box on Pleasant Avenue, which is what 15th Avenue becomes south of University Avenue. The modifications made to 15th Avenue were done after months of consulting with the university so street markings would be consistent and have some continuity on and off campus.

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