A bicyclist struck by a truck last week in downtown Minneapolis is expected to live, police said, but faces a long road to full recovery.
The man was riding in a bike lane along 3rd Avenue S. near 2nd Street during the afternoon rush hour April 25 when a produce truck took a right turn and hit him, said Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder. Investigators on Tuesday were still working to determine how the crash happened and have not released the victim's name.
As National Bike Month begins and warmer weather puts more bicyclists and scooter riders on city streets, the downtown crash serves as a reminder that drivers and cyclists must remain mindful and alert and follow the rules of the road, Elder said.
"We have to be situationally aware and protect ourselves and each other," Elder said, adding that it's common to see an uptick in these types of crashes in the spring. "It's unfortunate that drivers get angry at bikes. We have to share the road."
In 2018, seven bicyclists died in crashes with motor vehicles, according to preliminary totals from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The year before, six bicyclists died and 738 were injured in more than 800 such crashes statewide.
City officials and cycling enthusiasts are trying to bring those numbers down through research, education and law enforcement.
Dorian Grilley, executive director of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, said about half the crashes are the fault of motor vehicle drivers and half are the fault of bicyclists.
"By no means are bicyclists doing everything right," he said. "When you have a motor vehicle and bicycle crash, even if the bicyclist was right, the bicyclist loses."
Grilley said bike vs. motor vehicle crashes are more common at intersections. That means bicyclists must anticipate that a vehicle may turn in front of them without looking or yielding. If cyclists need to pass a right-turning vehicle, they should pass it on the left, he said. At traffic signals, bicyclists should position themselves away from the curb in order to be seen — and motorists should wait behind them.
State law requires drivers to give at least 3 feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist. And if there's a bike lane on the road parallel to regular traffic lanes, a driver should merge into the bike lane before making the turn instead of turning across the bike lane.
The Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota has brought its "Walk Bike Fun" curriculum to more than 70,000 students across the state, Grilley said. It also offers a free "Minnesota Bicycling Handbook: Tips for Riding Legally and Safely" and a traffic safety 101 class for anyone age 16 and older that covers riding laws, skills necessary to ride in traffic and crash-avoidance techniques.
Though Minneapolis and St. Paul have installed miles of facilities for bicyclists over the years, "biking and walking education for kids and adults is perhaps the most cost-effective part of that equation, teaching people to use our existing infrastructure safely," Grilley said.
Fear is the No. 1 deterrent to cycling, Grilley said.
Cyclists can improve their visibility by wearing light or bright clothing and using lights and reflectors at night. They also should ride in the direction of traffic and use hand signals to indicate turns rather than darting into traffic or "making movements that would put yourself in danger," said Sgt. Jeremy Ellison, who reviews bicycle vs. car crashes for the St. Paul Police Department.
Motorists, he said, should slow down and take extra time to scan intersections before making turns.
In St. Paul from January through March, there have been four crashes involving bicyclists, leading to two injuries. Each crash had different circumstances, but they were all preventable, Ellison said.
The city last month began a review of all bicycle and pedestrian crashes in the past 10 years. It plans to use the findings to identify corridors and intersections with high frequencies of crashes for bicyclists or pedestrians.