The 51-year-old Brainerd man who was killed when the bicycle he was riding collided with a pick-up truck Tuesday in Baxter was the fourth bicycle fatality so far this year in Minnesota, Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, regional public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol, said.
“Our hearts go out to the family,” said Mowers.
“It’s sad as most of these types of crash can be avoided,” Mowers said. “We are very concerned about bicycle safety in Minnesota and we want to educate the public as much as possible about the laws and safety issues concerning not only bicyclists, but with motorists encountering bicyclists. Bicycle riders need to obey the same rules and laws as motorists and we need to have motorists watching out for bicyclists, especially as we now see more and more of them on the road.”
Mowers said bicycles are subject to the same traffic laws as motor vehicles. According to recent State Patrol data on bicycle crashes, there were 10 bicycle fatalities in 2009, compared to 13 fatalities in 2008. Mowers said the 2009 data does not represent all the bicycle crashes, as bicycle crashes that involves a collision with a motor vehicle are reported only to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Since 2002, Mowers said Minnesota has seen more than 73 fatalities involving bicyclists.
Mowers said nearly two out of five bicyclists involved in crashes were riding with traffic; less than one out of 20 bicyclists were riding against traffic; and two out of five bicyclists in fatal crashes were riding across the road.
According to the State Patrol on Tuesday’s fatality, the bicyclist was traveling east on Excelsior Road in Baxter and the truck was north in the left lane of Highway 371, proceeding with the green light when a collision took place.
Mowers said contributing factors to bicycle crashes in the state is failure to yield the right-of-way most often for both the bicyclists and other motor vehicle drivers. Failure to yield the right-of-way was attributed to one out of four bicyclists and two out of five other drivers. Bicyclists also have disregard for traffic control device and were cited the next most often. Driver inattention or distraction was the next contributing factor cited most often for other drivers.
According to state law, Mowers said motorists need to know that bicyclists have all the rights and duties as other vehicle operators, except the ones that by nature don’t apply to bikes. That law also says that a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway shall leave a safe distance, but in no case less than 3-feet clearance, when passing the bicycle and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.
Some of the laws for bicyclists include: Only one person can ride on a bike, except ones with baby seat properly affixed; they can’t cling to a vehicle, they have to ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, unless passing, preparing for a left turn, to avoid objects on road; bicyclists have to travel in the same direction as adjacent vehicular traffic when riding on a shoulder or lane of traffic; and they can ride no more than two abreast and ride within a single lane on a “laned” highway.
Mowers said bicyclists also have to yield to pedestrians and give an audible warning if passing a pedestrian on a sidewalk, across a roadway or shoulder on a crosswalk. Bicyclists also can’t carry packages, bundles or other articles which prevent the operator from having at least one hand on the handle bars or from operating the brakes of the bicycle.
Mowers said bicycles have to display lights and reflectors at night, signal turns at least 100-feet ahead and the bike has to be equipped with adequate brakes.
“Minnesota does not have helmet law for bicyclists, although there may be some ordinances in larger cities about helmets,” said Mowers. “Of course, we highly recommend wearing a good fitting quality helmet when riding a bicycle, as well as wearing light colored or reflective clothing at night, with the proper lighting and away from vehicle traffic as much as possible.”
Mowers said so far this year there have been 178 fatalities on state highways, among them 24 were motorcycle related and 14 were pedestrian related. In 2011, there were 368 fatalities, which was a record low, said Mowers.