A 30-year-old bicyclist struck and killed by a truck in Minneapolis last week was the latest casualty in what ranks among Minnesota’s deadliest years for riders.
Alexander Wolf of Minneapolis, a bicycling enthusiast who worked in a bike shop in his adopted home city, collided with a semitrailer truck late Wednesday afternoon on 12th Street at Linden Avenue and died at the scene.
Eleven bicyclists have been killed on Minnesota roads so far this year, according to state Department of Public Safety data. A high of 13 deaths were reported in 2008.
“The death of Alex and others on our streets are a stark reminder that we have a lot more to do as a community to ensure that people biking, walking and rolling are safe,” said Ash Narayanan, executive director of Our Streets Mpls, a nonprofit organized around the idea that streets are for more than somewhere to drive a car. “We need to start making safety on our streets the single most important infrastructure priority in transportation decisionmaking.”
Narayanan said he’s encouraged the city has increased spending on protected bike lanes and pedestrian infrastructure in recent years.
Another advocacy group, Safe Streets Save Lives, played out one of those safety measures two days after Wolf’s death by creating a human-protected bike lane along a block of 12th Street, where Wolf had ridden moments before the crash.
Narayanan also wants to see speed limits lowered in the city “so all road users feel safe, rather than making car travel speed the top priority. This means reducing car speeds citywide by reducing the number and width of car travel lanes.”
Police said Monday they are still investigating the collision. Preliminary indications are that the truck stopped on 12th heading toward downtown and was turning right while the light was still red when he collided with Wolf, said officer Garrett Parten, a department spokesman.
Any decision about whether to cite the driver would rest with the City Attorney’s Office.
In concert with structural change, Narayanan believes people must think differently about how they move from place to place.
“Instead of measuring traffic delay, we should measure how many people are able to reach destinations through a variety of modes, and how comfortable the bike riders and pedestrians are using streets,” he said.
“This means investing in projects that reduce driving — and encourage people to bike, walk and take public transit.”
Wolf achieved much growing up in the northeastern Wisconsin city of Antigo and from there college and adulthood: He was an Eagle Scout; earned a degree in radio-television-film from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he entered postgraduate studies; and was a volunteer with the Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee and the Wisconsin Film Festival.
In Minneapolis, he worked for the Minnesota-St. Paul Film Society and was collaborating on a local film in production about bike messengers.
Wolf was a barista and cycling expert in training at One on One Bicycle Studio, a combination bike and coffee shop at Minnehaha Avenue and E. 45th Street in south Minneapolis.
“He was cautious and very attentive” as a bicyclist, Gene Oberpriller, one of the shop’s operating partners, said of his former employee. He described Wolf as a regular helmet wearer who had all the proper safety equipment, including lights.
“It should have been anybody but him,” said Oberpriller, 57. “I’ve taken my risks. I’ve been a bike messenger. But Alex? Not him. He was just getting ready to hit his prime.”
Wolf’s survivors include parents Keith and Kathy Wolf and sisters Amanda Olsen and Rebekah Wolf. A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. Wednesday at the Antigo United Methodist Church. Visitation starting at 10 a.m. will precede the service, with a lunch gathering planned afterward.