2008 deadliest year for bicyclists since 2000

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009 at 5:15 am

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Following the deadliest year for bicyclists in eight years, state traffic safety and transportation officials are urging motorists to drive alert as warm weather arrives and bicyclists return to the road. Last year 13 bicyclists were killed, the most since 2000 (14) and a significant increase from the four bicyclist deaths in 2007.

More bicycle commuters last year was a factor the increase in deaths. A similar number of bicyclists is expected this year and safety officials urge caution for those who may be new to bicycle commuting.

“The spring and summer months bring new challenges for motorists as bicyclists join traffic, so it’s critical that everyone share the road,” said Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel. “During May, National Bike Month, we want motorists to recognize bicyclists as people, not obstructions, and bicyclists to recognize and obey stop signs and traffic signals, not ignore them.”

Each year, an average of eight bicyclists are killed and more than 950 are injured in crashes with motor vehicles, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. More than 60 percent of bicycle crashes occur from June through September. Most bicycle crashes occur during afternoon rush hours.

The major contributing factor in bicyclist-motorist crashes is failure to yield the right of way. Both bicyclists and drivers are at fault for this. For bicyclists, another crash factor is disregard for traffic control devices. A crash factor for motorists is failing to see bicyclists and driving inattentively. People under age 25 are at greatest risk; they represent more than half of all bicyclists injured annually.

Minnesota’s “Share the Road” bicycle safety program was created in 2005 to educate bicyclists and motorists about how they can travel safely and help reduce crashes.

Sorel said that the law is clear: bicyclists and motorists share the responsibility for bicycle safety. Eight “rules of the road” to improve bicycle safety are:

1. Bicyclists may ride on all Minnesota roads, except where restricted.
2. Bicyclists should ride on the road, and must ride in the same direction as traffic.
3. Motorists must at all times maintain a three-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist.
4. Bicyclists must obey all traffic control signs and signals, just as motorists.
5. Motorists and bicyclists must yield the right of way to each other.
6. Bicyclists must signal their turns and should ride in a predictable manner.
7. Bicyclists must use a headlight and rear reflectors when it’s dark.
8. Bicyclists should always wear helmets and bright reflective gear.

For information about the “Share the Road” bicycle safety education program, bicycle crash statistics and 2009 bicycle events statewide, go to www.sharetheroadmn.org/index.html.

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