Tom Sweeney, Star Tribune
Minneapolis police officers investigated the wheel area of a commercial truck involved in the fatal bicycle accident today.
May 20, 2009 - 9:04 AM
Cyclist crushed near downtown Minneapolis
A bicyclist was killed early this morning near downtown Minneapolis when a truck driver turned into the cycling lane on Park Avenue, crushing the rider.
Police were questioning the driver about the accident, which occurred about 7:40 a.m. at the intersection of Park and E. 14th Street. They also blocked off the street as they tried to reconstruct the accident.
Police said both streets will remain closed until late this morning.
The one-way street has heavy bicycle traffic during the morning commute.
The identity of the rider and other details of the accident weren't immediately available.
-- BOB VON STERNBERG
I don't enjoy posting these stories, but it MUST be understood that this cyclist died not just because he was run over by a truck, and not just because he was in the truck's blind-spot and the cyclist and the truck driver both failed to show proper caution. No, this cyclist died because of a bad facility design, a design that defies the logical operation of road systems, one that set up the mechanics of this tragedy. The cyclist died because of the toy-vehicle mentality that believes magic paint segregation is the best protection for cyclists, as opposed to educated integration, as shown here.
Had the cyclist been in front of the truck making the left turn (controlling his lane), the truck would have simply slowed down, waited for the cyclists to clear the intersection, and then turned. Because the cyclist was next to the curb on the truck's right, he fell into the driver's left-side blind spot. By segregating cyclists from other traffic, cyclists are too often removed from the environment that other vehicle operators function in. We become like pedestrians on the sidewalk... an under-viewed sideshow.
Here's the collision location.
- The truck driver should have been aware of where the cyclist was, and acted appropriately.
- The cyclist should have known he was in the truck's blind spot, and been prepared for the truck turning left by giving it extra leeway.
- The planners, engineers, and city officials who approved this bike lane should have rejected a traffic design with such obvious safety defects.
I am not blaming the cyclist. He was simply trusting in the design he had been told gave him priority and provided him with safety.
I do not know if Minnesota has a "Safe Passing/Vulnerable Users" law. It makes no difference. Not only would it not have prevented this collision, I can almost guarantee you that the truck driver will not be charged. Why not?
Because the cyclist failed to yield right of way to the turning truck.
You want to eliminate right-hook collisions (left-hook in this case on a one-way street with a left-hand bike lane)? Get rid of bike lanes and the gutter-riding mentality that promotes them. The illusions of safety that bike lanes and gutter riding present are just that, illusions. However, the dangers they present are all too real... and final.
The annual "Ride of Silence" in honor of cyclists who have lost their lives on roadways is being held at White Rock Lake tonight (ironically, on the trail and not the street). No doubt, there will be appeals made by some cyclists for (some/more) bike lanes to protect them from automobiles. Truly informed cyclists should instead be demanding that such designs be eliminated in the name of bicyclists' safety.