Mpls recruits cops to teach bike safety

The front image of a card that police officers are giving out to cyclists and motorists to promote bike safety.

Minneapolis officials are pushing forward their bicycling safety campaign by providing police officers with small cards they can hand out detailing laws around bicycling. The unique thing about the initiative is that it places equal responsibility on both drivers and bicyclists for creating safe streets.

Police across the city are receiving two versions of the cards

The card aimed at motorists, which was sized to fit in a ticket envelope after an officer suggested it, lists the main of causes of crashes with bikes, which includes turning across a bike lane without yielding. It also mentions other activities that are against the law, like opening a door into the path of a bicyclist or passing within three feet of a rider.

The bicyclist card lists causes for accidents like going through a stoplight or riding against traffic. It also mentions the law requiring bicyclists to have front and back lights.

A poster in Spanish that was put up across the city this summer.

The educational campaign kicked off this summer with colorful posters at 27 Minneapolis bus shelters. Each contained a single phrase like “More bikes, safer streets” in four different languages, and an illustration by local artist Bill Rebholz.

Minneapolis bicycle coordinator Shaun Murphy said the idea to create the cards only recently came out of conversations with the heads of police precincts around the city. He said the premise of the campaign stems from the results of a bicycle safety study released last year that found motorists and bicyclists were at about equal fault in accidents.

“Our campaign is very evenhanded because motorists and bicyclists are both contributing to crashes,” Murphy said. “We need the whole community educated.”

First Precinct Inspector Medaria Arradondo said his officers are given the cards during roll call, and that many officers carry them in their squad cars.

“When we’re out and about during our duties, we see moments which are teachable moments for both bicyclists and drivers that we can help educate them on bicycle safety,” Arradondo said. “They’re very colorful and they stand out — in terms of the information, it’s really pretty clear and concise.”

Arradondo said it’s also a good way for police, who are accused by both cyclists and drivers of not enforcing traffic laws for the other group, to stay on top of changes to law around bicycling.

“It’s still pretty new compared to vehicle and driver-type ordinances,” Arradondo said. “It’s going to take a little time, but there is that normal, natural educational gap that it’s going to take some time for folks to get caught up with it.”

He said police are also dealing with rapid changes to the city’s infrastructure as bike paths, lanes and boulevards have been added to the streets. But even though those changes have come rapidly, he said officers, drivers and bicyclists  are quickly adapting to the new situation.

“It’s happening at a good pace,” Arradondo said. “The more we can educate both bicyclists and drivers to enhance safety on the roadways in the Twin Cities, it’s a good thing.”

PDF: Enforcement Cards