Poll: Are cyclists and drivers doing a good job sharing the road?

Minneapolis has been named one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. But when you are out cycling, how friendly does it feel? And when you are in a car, do the bikes seem more like a hazard than a welcome addition?

How we could we make it work better?

We’ll take about bike safety and the rules of the road on Thursday.

–Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Toeser

    50% of the drivers in Minnesota still have no respect for crosswalks. A Ramsey County sheriff’s SUV even blew through a crosswalk with my wife in it.

    Far too many bikers still ride in the road with a perfectly good trail next to the road. Some even ride side by side. That is just plain arrogant.

    There is plenty of fault on both sides. We need to get better.

  • Joey
  • Longfellow neighbor

    Whenever I actually see a bicyclist obey a traffic law (ARE there traffic laws for bicyclists??), I feel like stopping to congratulate them. I would like to see more cyclists take responsibility for their share of good traffic-awareness.

    On the other hand, “Toeser” is completely right about crosswalks. Living by West River Parkway/M’haha Falls area, while I see a lot of courteous car drivers who DO pay attention to crosswalks, there are plenty who are oblivious of them. Stay off our beautiful Mpls Parkways if you don’t plan to watch out for peds/dogs/kids/bikes!!

  • Stephanie

    That trail statistic is really interesting.

  • Matthew

    I would agree that the biggest problem is bikers not following the traffic rules. While as a biker I will make concessions to physics at quiet stop signs in my neighborhood, I always stop if there is a vehicle around. Drivers will not respect bicycles on the roads until they act predictably like every other vehicle.

    Commuter cyclists who ride at high speeds should be on the roads for everyone’s safety when the trails get crowded with pedestrians and amateur pleasure cyclists like myself.

  • Paul Ranum

    As a bike commuter I have adopted a couple of habits that i hope diffuse some of the tension between drivers and cyclists. I try to ride on paths (the greenway, the transitway and river road), I avoid riding on busy roads without shoulders, I signal with my arms well before turning or merging and I always give a thank you wave to cars who stop to let me cross a street. By being predictable and polite on the roads and paths cyclists can do a lot to improve our relationship with Minnesota drivers.

    Even though I do these things, I encounter about 2 cars a week who are obviously very angry with me. Sometimes I feel safer riding my motorcycle.

  • Amy H

    It’s better here in the Twin Cities than a lot of places, but could always be improved. BOTH drivers and cyclists need to be more aware of the rules and more respectful of each other.

    Drivers: Cyclists belong in the street, both according to safety statistics and traffic laws. We are traffic, NOT targets, and not giving us 3 feet of passing space is VERY scary to us. You also need to LOOK before opening your car doors. The world does not revolve around you and your metal box of death. Also, if we have a stop sign and you don’t, please proceed instead of confusing us by waving frantically.

    Cyclists: DO YOUR PART as well. Please…STOP running lights when there are cars sitting right there that will trip the signal for you. If more of us would quit riding like jerks, maybe the drivers wouldn’t be so angry at us.

    Both sides need to do better.

  • Lee

    I agree that EVERYONE needs to do better. If you’re riding at a recreational pace (i.e., enjoying the clouds and the flowers), then the trail is right for you. But, if you are riding 18-22 mph, the street is right for you. On trails, fast riders should either slow down or get onto the street.

    Bike riders need to ride predictably and with respect for other road users, including yielding to pedestrians, other cyclists, and drivers that have right of way.

    Drivers need to drive predictably and with respect for other road users, including yielding to pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers that have right of way.

    And rolling stops? Really, everyone does this (drivers and cyclists). It makes sense to do it to save on energy and time etc… but BLOWING stops? SCARY and RUDE – no matter what kind of vehicle you are operating!

    The bottom line is that cars going 5 mph can kill people… So, at the end of the day, I feel that it is car drivers that should make the biggest efforts to improve safety.

    My last thought is leave a few minutes early! That way, you won’t feel additional stress that you’re going to be late. Obviously, this doesn’t always work… but leaving even two or three minuters earlier than you think you need to can result in a much more calm and pleasant commute for all.

    Hope everyone has a lovely day!

  • Joe

    It’s a state law that bicycles have as much right as a car or truck to ride in the street, even if there is a path next to the road. I can appreciate that it’s frustrating for drivers to get “caught” behind a bicycle, but it’s no more trouble than waiting for a traffic light. When it’s to pass, give the cyclist at least 3 feet (that’s also a state law) and go around them.

    That said, I agree that scofflaw cyclists are a major problem. I would warmly support more bicycle education in schools and on campus because I think a lot of riders genuinely think that MN vehicle laws do not apply to them. In fact, those same laws apply to cars and bicycles.

  • Stu

    Just respect each others space and be patient. It takes me 45 minutes to bike home and 30 when I drive when I use the same route. That’s not a huge difference. That cyclist that’s in your way isn’t impeding you as much as you think they are.

  • gentlestove

    I think that for the most part that drivers and bikers can and do get along. I ride my bike every day and drive sometimes, too. There are a few careless people on both sides who skirt the traffic laws and do not make good choices when it comes to sharing the road. The idea of sharing the road is that everyone gets to their destination safely.

    I see a lot of people commenting here about perceived “no rules” for cyclists and how bikers “never” obey traffic laws, and that’s just not true. Drivers ignore traffic laws as much as bikers do (if not more), but it’s so commonplace that it goes unnoticed. Examples: not stopping _before_ a stop sign, turning right on red without stopping, surging across a crosswalk at a stop sign and _then_ looking for peds and bikes, running red lights, lane changes without signaling, not checking blind spot and then merging into someone, failure to yield, etc. It’s just more noticeable when a cyclist does it, because there are fewer cyclists.

    I think that people also need to become better-informed about the laws regarding bicycles. Cyclists are allowed full use of a lane even if there is a “perfectly good trail next to the road”, to quote toeser. Bikers are also allowed to ride two abreast in a traffic lane (but not 3!) on any street. You may be witnessing what is called “the last mile”, when a cyclist has just left a trail and is getting to his/her destination, which can’t be accessed by a trail. Or it might be an hour of day when a cyclist would not like to ride on a “perfectly good trail” alone for safety reasons. Regardless of the reason, cyclists are legally allowed to ride on city streets any time.

    There is a common misconception that cyclists should ride on the sidewalk. It is actually much safer for a biker to ride on the street, because drivers don’t expect someone to be entering a crosswalk going 15+ mph. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalk in a business district.

    A point to ponder is that most cyclists are also drivers, so in the “us vs. them” debate, there isn’t a clear us or them. I’ve had drivers cut me off while I’ve been biking who then yelled out “I’m a biker, too!” as if that is an excuse for rude driving or illegally idling your car in a bike lane. If you’re the little guy, you’ve got to make sure you look out for other little guys when you’re the big guy.

    Finally, I know that this post is meant to spark discussion, Stephanie, but framing the conversation with a slanted “do the bikes seem more like a HAZARD [my emphasis] than a welcome addition?” is careless. Bikes are neither an “addition”- they preceded cars on streets- nor a hazard- in a contest between a vehicle that weighs 100-200 lbs and one that weights thousands, it’s obvious which vehicle poses a hazard.

  • karlissimo

    Bicycles on arterials without a significant paint scheme or physical barrier is a bad idea. They should be diverted to parallel side streets.

    Bicycles on neighborhood streets should behave politely, but not with the same rules based system that doesn’t work that well for cars either. Every time one of these public forums comes along there are hyperbolic remarks made about both sides – it’s kind of a predictable phenomenon.

    Remembering that bicycles have exceptionally light mass, and move slowly, cut them some slack. They are not the lethal weapons that larger vehicles can become when they collide.

    Remember that cars have poor visibility and impair hearing, and cut them some slack. They are under a lot more stress (with the potential for lethal collision), they’re not breathing particularly well in a seated position, and they probably aren’t going to the health clubs they’re paying for….

  • suestuben

    I tried biking to work in downtown Mpls in the 70′s. I had so many close calls that I quit after 2 weeks. Today is so much better as the gov’t has come to understand that cyclists really can improve traffic and pollution problems. Still we have a long way to go to get drivers to give bicyclists the same respect they would give a car.

    I would love to see MN adopt ‘no car’ policies a la Europe; it would increase bike use and respect for cyclists. It could start with a small area in the middle of busy towns and grow slowly. If Hennepin and Marquette would join Nicollet in Mpls to ban autos, it would be so much safer for pedestrians and would increase cycling.

  • Ken Paulman

    Whether or not cyclists obey the law is a red herring.

    I’ve been commuting by bike for 12 years now, and I can assure you, obeying traffic laws (which I do) provides exactly zero protection from being harassed, threatened or assaulted by motorists simply for minding my own business.

    The “cars vs. bikes, can’t we all just get along?” frame is tired and counterproductive. When cities are designed to favor one mode of transportation at the exclusion of all others, of course there are going to be conflicts. Try driving a car across an airport tarmac sometime to see what I mean.

    I am not a “cyclist,” not am I a “driver.” I am a person, who uses a bike, a car, a bus, a train, an airplane, or my own two feet to get places depending on the situation.

    When people choose to ride bicycles over driving cars, there is a net benefit to others in terms of lower pollution, lower costs for health care and infrastructure, and an improved social fabric. That ozone that’s making it difficult to breathe today? Did not come from bicycles.

    City streets are a public resource paid for largely by property taxes. So why is it, then, when I drive a car on these streets, I’m presented with an infrastructure tailor-made for my convenience, but when I ride a bike, I’m treated as a pariah – or at best, an afterthought?

    Wouldn’t that be a more interesting question to explore?

  • http://www.hiawathacyclery.com Jim Thill

    I’m a committed year-round cyclist, have been since 2004. In my opinion, things are pretty great, if not Utopian, for cyclists in the Twin Cities…until we read the comment sections of major news outlets when they stir the pot on this topic!

    A lot of the animosity about cyclists seems to come from the “misery loves company” camp. From this perspective, cyclists are out engaging in a form of recreation in a public space! They’re not buying gas or insurance or vehicle license fees or paying $500 a month for car payment! Heck, I wonder if they even pay taxes! Plus a lot of them are getting to exercise for free…and I bet they’re looking down on me because I burn fossil fuels! Disgustingly smug! And after all that THEY have the animosity to get in the way of the real people, the hard-working tax payers who drive cars! Make them pay!!

    Of course, we cyclists are not born with bikes attached to our butts, nor are the bikes attached 24 hrs a day. Most of us look like normal, taxpaying humans who are gainfully employed when we’re not out riding our bikes on the roads. Most of us are riding bikes to get somewhere – work, home to our families, the store, a restaurant, or heck, maybe even joyriding. Most of us are pretty careful to not get killed, but often drivers don’t understand our safety strategies. Most of us ride to the right and impede motorists’ progress minimally, if at all. If we take liberties at a stoplight, it’s often to put some distance between us and the cars waiting to accelerate or turn at that intersection, which is safer and more convenient for everyone.

    As for taxes, I’d be all for a tax on vehicle weight or another meaningful measure of the wear and tear on the roads. Why should I as a taxpaying bicyclist (gross vehicle weight 215 lbs) subsidize those who choose to tear up the roads with 2500-7500 lb vehicles?

  • Randall

    People just aren’t paying attention. Minnesota needs to ban cell phone use like many other states have and embrace speed enforcement by cameras.

  • fishbreath

    As a daily commuter and avid cyclist, i get just as upset with bikes when they’re acting dumb as cars. however there’s a much more serious threat to my safety when i almost get hit by a car.

    there also seems to be a bit more angst from auto drivers.

  • JBL

    Cyclists, I am the driver you hate. I come down to the cities from the suburbs from time to time and have no idea how to share the road with you.

    I really want to treat cyclists well, but I learned to drive in the country. I know all about staying out of a semi’s blind spot, I flash my lights to help cement trucks merge, I can get around a combine, I know exactly what to do when hydroplaning or in a skid, I will give your car a jump or pull you out of the ditch, I can avoid deer at 70 mph – but when I see that little helmet pop in front of me, I feel like I’m back in driver’s ed.

    Add to that, I am usually kind of lost and you ripped up every road I want to use last week.

    I’m not sure what the solution is, but know that not every bad driver is malicious – some of us are just a little clueless. I will listen on Thursday so I can learn how to drive better when I’m in the cities, if you city kids will learn how to spot black ice when you go up north.

  • Toeser

    This is a follow-up to all the people who have posted about riding on the street versus a trail. For clarity, I was not talking about bumpy sidewalks or tar paths with a 3 inch curb cut every 100 feet. I was talking about asphalt trails that are well constructed with occasional street crossings.

    I will ride somewhere between 5-6,000 miles this year, and 80% of that will be on trails. I have no problem with street crossings as I simply look first. Often when I am riding on a roadside trail during rush hour, I will see bikers in the street holding up cars trying to get to work or home with little chance to pass. I’m sorry, bikers, when you do that you are rude and a little brain-dead, whether or not it is your legal right to be there. You create a lot of bad attitudes with drivers that affect the rest of us.

  • Ken Paulman

    @JBL: Pretend every bike you see is a combine and you’ll be fine.

  • Ethan Fawley

    I bike and I drive, and honestly I don’t have a lot of problems with either. I wish drivers wouldn’t speed so much (which they do more than cyclists break the law) and wish a few of them would be more considerate that bicyclists are people too when passing. But most drivers are just fine. And I wish more bicyclists would obey stop lights, but most of the time it isn’t particularly dangerous or rude.

    But what I wish more than anything is that we could stop having this debate every few months. People drive. People bike. Some people do dumb things while biking and while driving. Some people are jerks. Let’s move on to providing more streets where both can coexist just fine and recognize that the minimal problem of periodic disagreements is puny in all that happens in life. Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy riding my bike legally while trying to be considerate to those around me. And do the same when driving (although I find that harder to enjoy!).

  • Maria

    Some of the better, faster, fitter cycists on higher quality, lighter bicycles ignore, cut off, or even express contempt toward, fatter, older, slower cyclists on heavier, cheaper bikes.

  • Jack Burklund

    Our family spent some time in Europe and we saw the integration of bicycles and autos on city streets. The larger cities have provided bike-specific lanes, paths and streets in their down-towns and are handling many bikes and many cars in a much tighter environment. Everything seems to flow smoothly and both transportation modes work well. The key is that the system design has been modified to accommodate both modes. the bikes are not just an afterthought on car-designed roads but are actually provided with a parallel system designed for them.

  • Scott

    In general I’d say that cars and bikes do fairly well in the Twin Cities. I’m a daily rider and bike commuter. Most of my in town trips are by bike. Most of the time riding in the Twin Cities is great. My other thoughts are on things that can be improved from our current place, which is actually pretty good.

    One problem is that having most drivers treat cyclists with respect is that it isn’t enough. A few aggressive or oblivious drivers create more than enough dangerous and unpleasant situations to go around. More cyclists on the streets help this situation, and over time I think most people figure out that cyclists are here to stay and that it’s utterly inappropriate to direct their anger towards us.

    Distracted driving is a huge issue for me. I’ve nearly been run down by people talking on phones, texting, applying make up and reading a novel. Yes, reading a novel. This isn’t malicious, but it is profoundly thoughtless and dangerous. What might be a minor fender bender between two cars is almost certainly going to be an injury accident with a car hitting a cyclist. Because of this, I do feel like we need to hold drivers to a higher standard when it comes to protecting vulnerable roadway users. This is part of sharing the road. I know I’m very aware when I drive knowing that I’m moving around in 4,000 pounds of metal that could kill someone. Driving is a responsibility, not just a thoughtless activity.

    Ultimately we need to design the kinds of complete streets that promote and manage multi-modal traffic flow. We need designs that encourage traffic calming and slower speeds in urban areas. We can use transit design to drive behavior. We need to recognize that walking, cycling, mass transit and cars all have their place as transit options. We also must have the vision to create facilities that encourage people to use efficient and appropriate means to get to their destination.

    Finally, I honestly wish that a few bike rides in town were a mandatory part of drivers education courses. Most cyclists are also car drivers. We experience both sides of the streets. What we need is for most drivers to be cyclists, even occasionally, for them to be able to understand the road from multiple perspectives and act accordingly to share the road.

    When I get out on my bike I have fun. I enjoy the trip going to the grocery store or to work. I want more and more people to be able to have that experience because our roads are safe and people feel welcome. That’s something we can make happen together.

  • Ginny

    Many bicycle activists and bike promoting orgranizations promote the false idea that bicyclists have the right to the entire traffic lane. They do not. Read the statute. They are required to ride as close as practicable to the side of the road, except in certain circumstances. However, there are many who ride right down the center of the lane, say on Lyndale Ave S., when there are no cars parked on the side and they are not turning. It’s like they are doing it to make a point. They even have “bumper” stickers on their bikes proclaiming that they have this right (it is an ABRIDGED excerpt of the statute).

    169.222 OPERATION OF BICYCLE.

    “Subd. 4.Riding on roadway or shoulder.

    (a) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

    (1) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

    (2) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;

    (3) when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including fixed or moving objects, vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow width lanes, that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge.

    Also, they are not supposed to ride two abreast, yet do, block the lane, and act self-righteous if you mention they are not supposed to do it. Here again, the statute:

    “(c) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway or shoulder shall not ride more than two abreast and shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.”

    They are alienating people who might otherwise be their allies. I am a long time bicyclist who lived without a car for 10 years.

    https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=169.222

    Far too many self-righteous bicyclists proclaim PARTS of this law, while not respecting the others.

  • Ginny

    I also agree that the bike “racers” are a huge problem. This goes back many years. It is often too dangerous to bring children for a bike ride on the paths around the lakes in Minneapolis due to bicyclist racing at high speeds.

  • Scott

    @ Ginny: “Also, they are not supposed to ride two abreast, yet do, block the lane, and act self-righteous if you mention they are not supposed to do it. Here again, the statute:

    “(c) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway or shoulder shall not ride more than two abreast and shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.”"

    You’re misreading the statute: “not ride more than two abreast”. The statute is NOT saying you can’t ride two abreast. It’s saying you can’t ride MORE than two wide. “More than” is the operative word here.

    On a laned roadway you have to ride in a single lane according to the statute. No disagreement there. In other words you could ride 2 abreast in a single lane according to this statute.

  • Lillie

    I was so disappointed to see that University Ave in St Paul didn’t get bike lanes on it, with the reconstruction because of the new light rail. This just means that biking along this road will be more unpleasant for bikers and drivers alike! I won’t stop biking on this road – it’s the beat E-W route in that part of the city – but I am 100% certain that motorists are going to be upset about my presence there.

    Is therwas point, at this point, for bikers to lobby for bike lanes, or at least share the road signs, if nothing else?

  • Ginny

    Scott, you forgot: “shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic”

  • GregX

    I’ve ridden in the metro area for 30 years. Seek out the “safer” alternate routes when possible. Learn their peculiarities – know the road. Assume you are invisible. Ride better than the traffic around you and don’t hope for lucky results. Luck will the kiss you get from the pavement.

  • Jen

    Bike lanes need to be wider to ensure there is enough room for all motorists and cyclists to be safe. Many bike lanes are too narrow.

    As a casual cyclist with children, it is difficult to know where we can ride casually without endangering ourselves and other cyclists. It would be great to have slow and fast lanes on the trails that attract a variety of cyclists.

  • Ali

    I used to feel very supportive of bicyclists, but ever since the more aggressive riders have taken over the road, I am far less secure about how we share. Some bicyclists seem to feel that we drivers should obey all the laws while they need to obey none of them. They ride between 2 lanes of traffic, they dart out when the light is red, they ride the wrong way down a 1 way bike lane, and veer from riding in the bike lane over into the car lane and back again without any signaling. All the perks, none of responsibility.

  • Chet

    The same idiots who don’t obey traffics laws on bicycles drive cars the same way. 3ft passing space? Are you kidding? I often don’t get any space from cars even though these is another empty lane beside them. I have been yelled at, flipped off and had beer cans, cigarette butts and other things thrown at me. Yesterday some jerk threw a firework at my son. I DO obey traffic rules. There are two issues here. One, people on they road don’t always follow the rules regardless of what they drive. Two, people on the road don’t respect each other. This is not a bike vs car issue, this is idiot on the road with no respect issue. My uncle is in the hospital with a crushed femur. He was driving a truck and some 16 year old punk pulled around a car and hit him head on. It’s a respect issue and less people respect each other today.